Friday, December 18, 2009

"A womb with a view" -- exploring the new Linden Homes

Inside a Japanese themed house in the Linden Homes. This one seems to have already been occupied and furnished somewhat.

Yeah, I know. Sorry about the title. But somebody had to say it, and I figured I might as well get at the head of the line.

Soooo, anyhow....there has been a good bit of discussion lately about the goals and perceived benefits--both for certain groups of residents and for LL--of the newly announced “Linden Homes” program. The idea of this project is to provide ready-made housing as a part of the benefits given to Premium Subscribers for their princely $9.95 per month.. It is currently in Beta, with the houses being offered to a limited number of Premium account holders, and if it goes well, they plan to make this a perk for all the Premies.

The "Japanese" area of the Linden Homes housing developments.

You can find out more about it here:

And you can see where Hamlet Au has posted about it, asking for people’s reactions:

Is it a good idea? Is it something that will really help facilitate new residents’ acclimation to life on the grid? Or is it just another way for the Labsters to try to squeeze some more blood from the turnips, by boosting the number of premium accounts? Is it maybe a little bit of all of that?

Some commentators have suggested that if LL really wants to make this program something that will help newcomers to SL, they should make it available to all newcomers for something like their first three months in-world, and not just run it as a perk for the Premium account folks. They do have a point there, though conceivably, that could require an awful lot of little prefab homes.

Many people so far do seem to agree with the idea that new folks would be helped by having a ready-made place of their own, to decompress, to talk to friends, to suddenly realize that you don’t have to completely undress before you put on a different outfit...

But what are these places like?

Well, let's just set aside the larger issues of whether this will work as intended, or will be another one o those experiments where in about 6 months everyone will be standing around a large, smoking hole in the ground, staring into the ashes and going, “My...that was interesting...”

What I wanted to do for this first post on the subject was to simply go and look at the actual builds. I wasn't planning on making any big judgments on the idea or its merits, I just felt a desire to see what the builds themselves felt like.

On the public lands by the Elderglen infohub.

So I took the trip the other night, using map numbers gleaned from Prok's blog, and by golly, I had a real interesting time. I found myself starting out at the Elderglen infohub:

It’s a nice, rambling elven-esque sort of visitor center, surrounded by some public park land with big colorful trees and huge toadstools, and just beyond the trees, the first in a series of themed housing tracts. The area closest to Eldgerglen has a “fantasy” theme, featuring what some of us in an unkind moment (and making a judgment based only on pictures rather than a live in-person visit) labeled as “Hobbit McMansions.”

Inside one of the Hobbit-style fantasy themed houses--kinda cozy!

In fact some of these are kind of cute. There are about four different models, some with grassy roofs, some like mini-castles, some with roof decks and some that are sort of stump-like. Scale is a bit odd, but they are not unpleasant. The way they are randomly distributed through the woodsy/toad-stooly environment makes it feel like it may have sorta happened in an organic way, rather than being built all at once like a Elven Levittown. But you know...I kept thinking, I bet a certain kind of new resident is gonna like this, and be happy for a few weeks or so until they figure out how to become a land owner or renter of something really cool. Or maybe they’ll just end up being enslaved by Goreans or Panther Women. Either way, it’s a place to start.

Fantasy themed home with a roof deck.
Obviously made for larger critters than me.

Surrounding the huge tracts of fantasy homes are three other themed housing developments. First I went to a modernist woodsy type place with about four different variations of big A-frames.

The forest of A-frames.

I think I liked these least of what I saw. They have a lot of wasted space, though I suspect it might encourage some of the new folk to begin learning how to play with prims as they find themselves driven to make wall partitions and lofts for these things.

Interior of an A-frame. Yeah. Kinda bleak.

Next, I went to the modernist suburban area, with lots of flat-roofed, large-windowed structures that are a paean to the rectangle.

In the suburban area, waiting for John Cheever.

I actually kind of liked this area, partly because the houses had these big plate windows which made them kind of less claustrophobic feeling, and also there were lofts or second floors in some of them. They just felt more interesting...and frankly, my affinity for these builds may also be a reflection of my innate affection for the square prim. You see, my most successful building efforts in SL have happened in the course of my exploration of the square and rectangular genre--rugs, windows, doors, chimneys, tables, benches, bunks, fireplaces and forges, cigar boxes and pictures, posters and dry sinks, etc. In fact, my friend September Blaisdale and I have been thinking about starting an in-world store called “Rectangles R Us.”

Inside one of the modernist suburban homes. Note this is on the second floor. In retrospect I am not sure if this second level was done by the Linden builder, or by the homeowner. I should check.

Anyhow, there again seemed to be about four different models, landscaped with rocks and trees in between them.

The last development is the “Japanese”-style housing tract. This was kinda fun, though I was struck that the houses were a lot less interesting on the inside than they were on the outside. Again a lack of second floors, no windows opening to the outside, and porches that had no access points--just a little odd. As a matter of fact, I came across a house that someone had furnished, and they seem to have done exactly what I thought people would want to do inside the A frames, which is to add their own loft or second floor.

The other thing about the Japanese area was that the trees in this development struck me as rather garish and cartoony.

Wandering the Japanese area and its bilious-hued foliage.

But was kinda fun. I could see someone new coming into SL, and going “wow, this is cool..I can LIVE in one of these?” And then later on, they will see some of the kickass Asian builds, and this will no longer stir their souls. But like the other forms of Linden Homes, it is a place to start.

Interior of a Japanese themed house--not bad really...well, other than the tree bits sticking through the back wall.

Yep, that is what these all felt like--starter homes, an environment to get your feet wet. A place to try to develop a certain level of comfort with functioning in-world, in an environment where most everybody is in the same boat, or perhaps just recently graduated from a dinghy to a Sunfish.

I just hope that part of the deal is that the Lab will make sure that this environment is not overrun by the egregious neck-biters, and griefers and griefing recruiters, and all those chinless bum-biters who seem to frequent many of the new folks areas, giving them a hostile and negative initial impression.

Signs saying don't be naughty. Everyone obeys signs, don't they?

I did see signage at the info hub that stated what was not permitted in this part of the grid, but I hope the lab takes a more pro-active stance in this matter, perhaps with some regular patrolling by Lindens or maybe even a sting op with ringers posing as newcomers, and then crushing and banning anyone who harasses them.

I would enjoy seeing that.

The only thing I am not too sure about is how long a Premium account holder would wish to hold on to this kind of property. Yes, if they decide after a while to use their 512 allotment to apply to something better, then their Linden Home would automatically go into the pot to once again be redistributed. But would some people hang on to it for sentimental reasons after they no longer need or use it regularly, provided they don't want to to use their tier for another property? I really have no idea how likely it is that someone might get this and stay just because they liked it. I would be surprised if they did so, because these builds do have such a starter home feel to them. Most people in all likelihood will not want them forever. And that would be good as it would be nice to maintain a sense that people in these areas are predominately a community of new folks, who can be mutually supportive of one another.

I hope the Labbites think that one through, rather than letting an unused stockpile of these build up as people move on, but don't necessarily cut loose of them.


  1. Yes, I suspect it will be VERY interesting to check back in about 2-3 months and see how it is going there :)

  2. Hey Miz Gray,

    well Hon, the encouraging thing about this is that they are approaching it as a test and involving existing customers to get their input. I think that's a whole lot better than, "hey, ya goobers! here's what we're doin!"

    I think one of the other issues, which I didn't get into, but which is still a pretty good question--will this be something that will have a negative impact on resident-run rental businesses that currently serve a lot of the new folks. After all, a lot of new folks never become Premium accounts, but they still rent. So will these two housing sources serve different niches? I think that will be part of what needs to be watched in the next 3 months as you say.

  3. That's a good question, how to keep the vultures and pervs away from a newb who wouldn't know how to manage them. Do the homes come with ban rights? 'Course that assumes the newb knows how to ban and mute.

  4. Never apologize for a pun - even a bad pun. (And what saves the title from being a bad pun is the "Premies" later on, so don't think that went unnoticed.)

    As for the concept...I don't know what niche this is supposed to fill. I'm too stupid/incompetent/lazy to build my own home, but there's no shortage of talented people who are happy to make a buck off me by selling a home, so I no longer have to dash behind a shed in a seedy industrial park to put on a fresh pair of bloomers. So is the target market people who (a) want to be in SL for some reason but (b) don't want to be bothered with even the smallest set of details regarding life in SL? Seems like a small set to me, but we'll see.

  5. Hey Planter,

    Yeah, as far as I am concerned there is a special level of the Inferno for the freaks who abuse and discourage newcomers. I think they are in that class of people who truly lack the fetchums and will to do something useful or interesting in SL. I suspect their lack of value as humans and the barren nature of the existence probably extends into (originates in) real life. Which makes it all the more ironic that these are the knuckle-draggin' oafs who most commonly are going on about people in SL having no lives outsdie of the platform.

    I really like the concept of the Lindens using ringers to catch these douchebags in the act and then ban them. They have set a precedent for this with the sting they ran to catch content thieves.

    But you know, getting started in SL is challenging enough without having to run a gauntlet of assholery.

  6. Hey Rhia,

    Well, I appreciate your giving me absolution for the use of the title, which I have to admit, I borrowed from another source. I cobbed it from art historian Robert Hughes, and he may have snagged it from someone else. But being the silly prat that I am, I loved the phrase from the first time I heard it, and I really thought this seemed like an appropriate situation in which it could be used.

    As far as who will actually use this particular incubator, I'm not sure it's fair to suggest that it will appeal primarily to dull-witted and unmotivated individuals--I suspect there is a population who are befuddled and cautious. I know working as an admin in Deadwood, I certainly find that to be true: I continually encounter people who just need some explanation and some encouragement to do "what needs to be done."

    Hell, when I started in SL I spent at least six months of wandering and mostly observing before I became a truly active participant. Of course partly that was because of a lot of rl distractions and situations that had an impact on the time and attention I could devote to the task, but I really could see how a newcomer might find this service comforting and useful for a little while.

    As to your point that it is probably a pretty small set who fit this bill -- the befuddled and cautious who are willing to cough up for a premium account -- I wouldn't be surprised at all if you correct that it's not real big. But this is another one of those things where I think the lab deserves some credit for trying out an experiment that could have some impact on the quality of the initital expericne in-world for new folks.

    But like I have been saying all along, I don't think it means squat unless they get serious and proactive about doing something about one of the worst aspects of the initial experience, which I think is the harassment...