The first location I chose is a place called MeltingDots, which is a place built specifically to provide support for new and struggling Japanese users of Second Life.
Why I chose it:
I found this location by using the Second Life Destination Guide (http://secondlife.com/destinations) and then selecting the ‘International’ category. I had hoped to find a place like this because I thought it would be an excellent opportunity to make use of my Japanese skills and perhaps gain some insight on how Second Life is used over there.
I know from my own personal experience of spending time with Japanese people that Second Life has achieved a huge amount of success in Japan and in other parts of Asia. I was unable to find statistics more recent than 2007 (link) but these statistics show that 8% of Second Life residents are Japanese.
How it looks:
The location itself is quite beautifully designed (enhanced somewhat by my sunset setting) and is built to look like a traditional village in the Japanese mountains. It is complete with Japanese style bridges, gazebos, and cherry blossom trees (or sakura).
Shape and type of prims used: I think the more traditional aspects of Japanese design that are used here make for a very difficult time for the designers. The designs feature very irregular shapes and patterns but the creators of MeltingDots rose to the challenge very well. The location is fairly small, so there aren’t a great number of prims, but everything that is there serves a specific purpose (nearly all the prims have useful information written on them (helpful tips for beginners)).
Textures: The attention to detail is quite astounding with regards to the texturing, right down to the festival lanterns I noticed hanging up around the island. The scenery is almost an exact replica of the real thing. I almost felt as if I was there!
Interaction and scripting: For a complete novice like myself it isn’t easy to tell how much coding would have gone into building a place like this but the creator certainly has a keen eye for design. I didn’t take a screenshot of it but there is also a whale-type creature with giant lips that swims and dives around the island. It looked to me as though that took a fair bit of scripting!
What functionality it provides
MeltingDots is primarily a place where Second Life beginners can come to request support or to meet up with other users in the same situation as them.
Unfortunately at the time of my visit there were no other users in the area, but the location’s main attraction is its beginner’s tutorial which is undoubtedly easier to use whilst alone. I decided to try it, as I feel that I am still behind on mastering the basics of Second Life.
The tutorial turned out to be very cleverly designed. It begins by asking the user to fly over the low wall and then lower yourself in the direction of the pink arrow. The cards on the walls are brief explanations on (from left to right): camera controls, flying controls, and walking controls.
Upon jumping over the wall, you then fall to the bottom of the river which runs through the island. It then gives you a brief lesson on running before telling you to run straight ahead and around the corner.
Around the corner, you are greeted with a red square and a yellow arrow, with a sign telling you to use the flying skills that you learned earlier to get back into the building.
After walking through a hallway decorated with cards explaining how to change your avatar’s clothes, the tutorial ends by dropping you back at the front of the building where you began.
The tutorial didn’t really teach my any skills that I didn’t already know, but for somebody on their first day it would be a really fun method of learning your way around.
MeltingDots also contains a chat-room style area where users can ask each other questions or request general support from the MeltingDots team. But once again I found myself alone. I am planning on returning again to see if I can meet up with any new Japanese friends.
My overall impressions
Overall, I felt that MeltingDots was an incredible effort on the creators’ part. I felt really comfortable there and the surroundings are very calm. In a way I was quite glad that I was the only user there, as I was able to sit and relax after what has been an extremely stressful week!
I was also extremely impressed with the fact that MeltingDots is run entirely by volunteers who genuinely want to help people get started in Second Life.
Definitely a place I would recommend, even for those who don’t speak Japanese.
- Second Life Destination Guide: http://secondlife.com/destinations
- Second Life International Usage Statistics: http://gwynethllewelyn.net/2007/09/09/the-multi-cultural-second-life-and-penetration-rates/