Vehicle Use in Second Life: Spatial Distribution

As part of an ongoing effort to understand vehicles and their users in Second Life, I created a series of maps that depict where users of the vehicle that I’ve designed, the Elemental, go while they’re using it.

Currently there are about 100,000 Elementals in circulation on the Second Life grid.  About a third of those, or 30,000+, have been active in the last month or so.  There may be a better way to understand how many Elementals/users are out there and active, but I will let LL, Massively,  and Terra Nova wrestle that out.  It isn’t my focus.

When you make a gridwide plot of where the vehicles have been (about a quarter million records), you get a map something like the following, composed in ESRI’s ArcMap:

Point Plot of Vehicle Use Locations in Second Life

Using the Elemental use as a proxy for vehicle use more broadly, we see interesting tidbits emerge.  The outlines of the “mainland” continents are clearly  in the lower right quadrant of the map.  Vehicle use on private estates, by contrast, is much much lower.  This spatial relationship becomes much more apparent when we use a smoothing algorithm to interpolate densities of use between known points:

Density Map of Vehicle Use in Second Life

Density Map of Vehicle Use in Second Life

View this like a thermal image: lighter equals more dense vehicle use.  Black means little or none.  This kind of spatial interpolation is something of a ruse, though in the SL grid; vehicle use must be zero in True Void, that is, those gaps in the grid where no simulator is happily simulating away.  In practice, so much of the grid is the True Void.  In RL, the surface of the Earth has no such gaps.  Still it provides a useful visualization of vehicle use on the grid.

Interestingly, it is apparent that only a few dozen private estates feature vehicle use as  densely as the mainland.  I would speculate that this is due to region contiguity, that is, it is more fun to operate a vehicle on the grid when you have lots of connected sims nearby– you cover a 256m square pretty fast in a vehicle.  However, I must underscore that my speculation is just that.  Unfortunately, I don’t have an automatic way to evaluate region contiguity yet, or other possible contributing factors.

Zooming in a bit on the mainland areas and cranking down the search radius for the density algorithm, a clear hotspot for vehicle use emerges.  Perhaps unsurprisingly, the sandbox and vehicle regions in the extreme southwest of the old original landmass are the most densely used areas for vehicle use:

Old Mainland Vehicle Use

It seems clear that several ingredients are necessary for heavy vehicle use, which also appear to be unifying factors among the sims most heavily used above: clear, open, gently terraformed terrain, powerful servers (except in the case of water void sims, where few collisions occur) , and contiguity.

Note the clear visibility of the marine strait connecting the old main continent to the Lepidoptera continent to the north (lepidoptera are butterflies and moths, etc.).  Also, note the small cluster of sims to the far east.  I believe those are water voids as well.

Unfortunately, this reveals a powerful quandary in vehicle design: proper enjoyment of this aspect of Second Life requires large open spaces with unmediated access which are very expensive!  Given the tight competition of the vehicle market, I would be surprised to see any vehicle makers easily able to provide this kind of resource for customers.   Pontiac, a huge RL carmaker, is closing up shop in Second Life, shutting down one of the most active and well-managed vehicle centers on the grid. Lacking these resources, vehicle enthusiasts are more or less forced to rely on the largesse of void sim owners for space to recreate.  Food for thought.