New Horizons in Second Life

Image Courtesy of Linden Lab

Image Courtesy of Linden Lab

On Tuesday, November 15th, Linden Lab announced a new Mainland community initiative called Horizons. It’s been the subject of much speculation and debate since two blocks of 60 regions associated with it appeared on the main grid map for testing purposes in October. Patch Linden further stirred up interest by posting some teaser images to his Profile feed!

Picking up on the SL13B hints, I contacted the Lab with the idea of covering Horizons – not only what it is, but also how and why it came about. Patch and his team were very receptive to the idea, and as result, I had the opportunity to tour the regions ahead of the opening, and learn more about it from  Naughty Mole of the Linden Department of Public Works (LDPW).

In short, Horizons presents a new 36 region Mainland community residential environment open to Premium members. Associated with this are four identical info hubs and two community regions, together with twelve regions of open water. All of this has been built around a new, six region experience-based adventure / quest called the Horizons Experience, which is open to all residents.

As I’ve covered the gaming experience in Inside the Horizons Experience in Second Life, this article focuses solely on the residential aspect of Horizons, and the supporting info hubs and community regions.

The residential regions have 1024 sq m parcels with a 702 LI (x2 object bonus). The supplied houses do not count towards the LI per parcel, the limits of which are defined by the "inner" white boundary markers

The residential regions have 1024 square metre parcels with a 702 LI (x2 object bonus). The supplied houses do not count towards the LI per parcel, the limits of which are defined by the “inner” white boundary markers

As noted above, the residential regions are available for Premium members. Designed with a “retro futuristic” look (think The Jetsons and you’ll be getting close), with integrated road system and waterways, each of these regions offers a number of 1024 sq metre parcels which, with the increased land capacity for Mainland, coupled with a x2 object bonus, have a total Land Impact capacity of 702 each. But that’s not all.

Associated with each parcel is a “mailbox” control centre allowing parcel holders to select one of six different house designs which are provided “free” for their use: they do not count towards the parcel land impact allowance. The houses can be held individually or by a group, and can be used for residential or business purposes. In addition, the “mailbox” offers a resource pack containing textures and bits to allow the houses and parcels to be dressed, while each house design includes a built-in control panel for lighting, window shades  security, etc.

For those who don’t wish to use the six supplied house designs, there is an option in the mailbox to clear the parcel. Land holders can then put down their own choice of home / structure instead – although this will count towards the total LI capacity for the parcel. It is hoped that those who opt to go this route will select a design in keeping with the overall “retro futuristic” theme of the regions.

The six supplied house styles

The six supplied house styles

A couple of further points to note is that the Horizons regions are all Adult rated and are connected to the north side of the Zindra Adult mainland continent. I’ll get to why in a moment, but suffice it to say for now, this shouldn’t be taken to mean the environment is for purely adult activities. The second point is that terraforming, including parcel subdivision, is not allowed on any of the regions.

So how did this all come about?

“We decided to develop Horizons as a result of thinking about what we could do to give the Mainland something new and exciting for residents to both participate in and enjoy,” Patch replied. “We wanted to offer a structured residential experience, somewhat modelled after the success of Bay City,  together with a really unique six region gaming experience. However the basic idea is to give Premium residents the ability to purchase and own parcels that are all uniquely themed and intermixed with the gaming experience itself.”

“It’s been a very big project for us,” Naughty Mole, of the Linden Department of Public Works, added. “It’s something we’ve been working on for the last seven months. We have the thirty-six residential regions, the info hubs and community regions, rezzing zones for boats and flying vehicles, which we hope residents will find attractive. All of the waterways can be navigated, and the roads are suitable for driving along.”

“We wanted to give people maximum flexibility,” Patch continued. “Making the houses opt-in or opt-out offers that kind of flexibility. We also have a lot of little neat features and attributes scattered throughout the regions for people to discover. Then there’s the Info hubs as well. They’re designed to tie-in to the current info hub system that’s out there, but are different to the traditional info hub in that they have different areas residents can visit to find out more about Horizons. So people can explore them, watch videos, visit the gaming experience from them, and so on.”

All of the residential regions have navigable waterways - rood bridges will automatically retract as boats approach. Rezzing areas for craft (and aerial vehicles) are available at the info hubs and community centres

All of the residential regions have navigable waterways – rood bridges will automatically retract as boats approach. Rezzing areas for craft (and aerial vehicles) are available at the info hubs and community centres

It is through the four identical info hubs visitors coming to Horizons via the Destination Guide will gain their first introduction to the regions. “Each one has a landing point,” Naughty explained as we teleported into one. “Spread out around that, are the rezzing zones for boats and flying vehicles and the land information area, where people can find out about obtaining a parcel on Horizons. This has an introductory video and a link to the Horizons wiki page which has everything you could possibly need to know.

“There is also the demo area where people can preview the available free houses. This is split between individual and group owned units; the house options in both are the same, but group owned have an additional controller for group access. The info hubs also include an area for the Horizons Experience, which includes videos, a link to the wiki page, a prize display and a teleport portal to the game regions.”

An infohub, with the house rezzing areas visible top left and right. Like the new Social Islands, these encourage visitors to explore and learn

A Horizons info hub, with the house rezzing areas visible top left and right. Like the new Social Islands, these encourage visitors to explore and learn

The two community regions comprise three social areas open for use by residents: a bar – the H(orizons) Bar, a more chilled-out lounge, and a meeting facility. “These are spaces where you can socialise,” Naughty explained as we toured the regions. “You can have a formal meeting, an informal meeting, or go hang out in the bar, where we have music and dance balls, so will hopefully be a place for people to hang out, meet friends and so on.” As well as the social spaces, the community regions also include their own rezzing zones for water and aerial vehicles.

“All of the community regions, the experience regions and the info hubs have their own soundtracks and windlights,” Patch added. “It’s something we’ve been doing a lot of lately; offering dedicated songs and soundtracks that mate with the experience.”

As we paused for a rest at one of the bars – with Patch, as barman, craftily slipping Ancient Mole a glass of vodka rather than the requested water and which resulted in a degree of singing in the background (it was a big glass for a Tiny) – I asked about the decision to make Horizons Adult rated and linking it to Zindra.

“A lot of people think that the Adult rating and the Adult continent are purely just to allow people to partake in those types of activities,” Patch replied. “But ‘Adult’ is just another capability, right? Just like ‘General’ and ‘Moderate’ are capabilities. It just happens to be the one that gives residents the widest choice to express themselves.

“So we look at the Adult rating differently to how a lot of residents might perceive it. We want to put Horizons out with maximum flexibility for residents, and the Adult rating offers this. We’re hoping the land and the overall theme will help to form a sense of community like Bay City, and that the approach will be positively received by residents for that reason.”

One of the two identical community centres, featuring (clockwise from the top), a social lounge, a bar and a meeting centre, as well a rezzing area for water and aerial craft

One of the two identical community regions, featuring (clockwise from the top), a social lounge, a bar and a meeting centre, as well a rezzing area for water and aerial craft

So how, I asked, do Premium members go about obtaining a parcel at Horizons?

“Parcels will be offered for auction to Premium residents through the normal land auction channel from Friday, November 18th.” Naughty replied. “Of course, they can also put their free 512 sq metre tier towards offsetting the monthly land fee, and groups can combine their tier to own a parcel if they wish.”

“We like to think of the houses as Linden Homes on steroids,” Patch added. “People can use them as a house, as a group or club facility, a small business location. It’s their choice.”

I wondered if the reference to Linden Homes was indicative that if successful, the initial Horizons build might be replicated.

“Well, everything is designed so that it could be expanded in the future, if it was decided upon,” Naughty said. “But Horizons isn’t intended to be grown like the Linden Homes regions. It’s intended to be a community like Bay City, that’s why we’ve themed it.”

The infohubs include land information kiosks, videos on both obtaining a parcel in Horizons and on how to play the Horizons Experience, together with links to the Horizons wiki page

The Horizons info hubs include land information kiosks, videos on both obtaining a parcel in Horizons and on how to play the Horizons Experience, together with links to the Horizons wiki page

Horizons presents an interesting approach to providing something “different” and more “themed” with a Mainland environment. While there was initial concern over Bay City’s development, not to mention a certain amount of land-flipping in the early days, things did ultimately settle down and Bay City has grown into a thriving community. This being the case, there is no reason Horizons shouldn’t also go the same way, depending on, among other things, the overall appeal of Horizons’ “retro futuristic” approach.

For my part, while I like the overall concept, I’m not – with full and with due respect to the folks at the LDPW – particularly enamoured with the offered house designs. The flip side to this is, of course, that no-one taking a parcel at Horizons has to actually use the supplied designs; the 32x32m footprint, 702 LI capacity parcels present plenty of room for putting down a suitably themed place of your own and still having lots of overhead for furnishing it.

Overall, Horizons is an interesting experiment. It is small enough and contained enough so as not to threaten the larger land market, while at the same time it offers sufficient attractions so that Premium members currently using Linden Homes might be tempted to flip over to it (again, initial land auction prices, etc, allowing). As such, it will be interesting to see how things develop.

Related Links

All regions are Adult rated.

With thanks to Pete Linden, Patch Linden and Naughty Mole.

10 thoughts on “New Horizons in Second Life

  1. James

    I like the idea of having residential space connected to public space. But if I understand right, this is just a handful of quests. Once finished, people would probably not take them again. It would have been better to create an open ended game, for example a space that would allow for role playing besides the quests (a second life for Insilio would fit here) or something like the Blake Sea sailing community. Some people sail every day and it never gets boring. Or something like a residents vs residents game, like the snowball fight area.

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    1. Inara Pey Post author

      Think it depends on your mood. I’m into my third run-through of Horizons. The prizes don’t interest me, but running against the clock does (I’m keeping a note of best times through each region🙂 .

      Role-play is an interesting idea, but would probably suffer its own issues: how do you keep people engaged (look at the number of RP sims which start out strong, but then slowly lost impetus)? How do you ensure it appeals to a broad enough audience? How do you determine rewards, etc., to encourage people to come back? Having a game is perhaps the most straightforward approach.

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  2. Pingback: More Horizons | Thar She Blows!

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  4. Sue W

    When I read “rezzing zones for boats and flying vehicles, which we hope residents will find attractive. All of the waterways can be navigated, and the roads are suitable for driving along.” I liked that pretty much, but I must confess I expected something different.
    Flying vehicles. Maybe I missed it, but it would be nicer with a couple of airstrips or floating scifi mother-ships. If they took Bay City as inspiration, there was an airport there. All you get in Horizons is a small pad on the infohub, that may work for small helicopters or sci-fi hovering vehicles (I rezzed a Jetsons pod indeed, it fits given the theme). At most I could rez a seaplane in the boat rez zone. However there aren’t so many places to go. Essentially you could fly around the game area (if you fly hover it, the warning says to not go below 50m and to not land).
    Road vehicles. Ok, so we have that small pad for crafts and all those roads, but… the pad and infohubs/community-center aren’t connected to the land. D’oh! So, unless you are a resident there, the only way to try those roads seems to rez a car or bike with a flight option and then to land on the roads. So my suggestion here would be some kind of bridge or a rez spot somewhere in the central parks. Mainland roads have rez spots. BTW they could get inspiration from London in SL: the social area there is a large enough square and other areas where people can have even a party etc.
    Boats. The waterways are too small for sailboats, but there is plenty of water in the central area. The scenery isn’t so amusing though: it’s mostly the same everywhere. Maybe a couple of tiny islets, a small beach under the walls of the game area… things like that. And all that water may be nice for mermaids or scuba divers if there was something to see.
    The waterways are better suited for smaller boats or motorboats (like the Littlebee in your picture). I used my Littlebee as well. You have to go slow as the bridge open just when you are really close, but in general it’s nice.

    I see good ideas and I really liked that they cared for boats, roads and flying vehicles, but it could be more attractive. The same as with houses, kinda cute, but i felt the same as you. The customization and flexibility as well with the clear parcel option is clever though.

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  5. Bet

    You said : The houses can be held individually or by a group, and can be used for residential or business purposes. The video says Residential – top left — are businesses allowed?

    Skyboxes — allowed ?

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    1. Inara Pey Post author

      The comment on businesses came from both Patch and Naughty. Skyboxes: tbh, that question fell off my list for some reason.

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