Monday, March 31, 2008

Openspace Survival Guide

The concierge team is still very swamped with Openspace orders, and the process for handling these orders is rather clunky and error-prone. Here are some tips for getting your tickets handled as quickly and problem-free as possible. I'm assuming that you already know what an Openspace sim is, and you're familiar with the changes in the program:

If you want your island to be placed near one of your existing islands, this is the most frustrating part of the process- for many reasons. First of all, even though you can't yet order Openspaces through the Land Store, you still have to use it to determine where it's safe to put your island. Unfortunately, the Land Store sucks in so many ways that I don't even want to get into it. I'll just tell you what you need to do:
  1. Go to the Land Store and click 'Manage Existing Reservations.' This should bring you to a list of islands that you've previously ordered from the Land Store. (If all your existing islands were bought from other residents, you probably won't see anything here, unfortunately...)
  2. Click the Location entry for one of your islands. This will center the map over the island you picked. Take note of the selected island's coordinates and look for any memorable 'landmarks' in the surrounding area that you can use to find your way back later on.
  3. Now click 'Return to the Land store' and wait a few seconds for all the reservations (the yellow blocks) to load.
  4. Before doing anything else, look for ANY blue (ocean) cell on the grid that isn't touching an existing reservation or island, and wait a few seconds to see whether you get the "This Space is Available" message. You may have to do this many times because the Land Store map is at least 9 months out-of-date, and many of the cells that look empty actually have islands on them now. (I own 12 islands now and only 3 show up on the Land Store map.)
  5. Take note of the coordinates in the "This Space is Available" message and use that as a guide to start navigating toward your desired location. Remember that the grid coordinates increase from Left-to-Right and from Down-to-Up (not Up-to-Down). If you've got really fast eyes, you can sometimes see the coordinates in reserved or already-built cells by watching the status bar at the bottom of your browser when you click on them. Otherwise clicking on those cells won't help, because the Land Store (infuriatingly) only reports coordinates for open cells.
  6. Repeat steps 4 and 5 as you make your way closer to your target coordinates, and keep an eye out for landmarks that might help you find your way. When you finally get to your desired location on the grid, center your map on your island and zoom in/out as needed.
  7. Once all the reservations are loaded, click around in the vicinity of your island(s) until you find an available space. You may be surprised at how many reservations are surrounding your islands today, and even more surprised that LL is still honoring them even though you'd think most would have expired by now if the reservation program were still active.
  8. Once you've found an available space, write the coordinates down. I also recommend that you pick 1 or 2 extra available coordinates to include in your order, because it takes so long for these things to process that someone else could claim your preferred space before the Lindens even look at your ticket.
You won't have the Land Store wizard to help you confirm the validity of your island name. If you pick an island name that's too long or is already taken, the Lindens will stop what they're doing and ask you to think up a new name, and this will delay the delivery of your island by 1 business day. Make sure that the island name you pick follows these guidelines:
  • No more than 3 words
  • A total of more than 3, but less than 20 characters, including the spaces
  • Only alphanumeric characters; no punctuation please
  • Not already in use
  • Do not use the names of real-world cities and towns
  • Cannot use "SL," "Second Life," "Linden Lab" or "LL" or other wording that could give the impression of direct association with Linden Lab
  • Must be PG
Note that I have noticed a number of brand new islands with names up to 24 characters in length. (The above requirements were quoted to me by Concierge staff.) I have requested clarification from Linden Lab about this, since I had to rename one of my own Openspace orders since the original name was 21 characters.

1. Go to and click 'Submit a Ticket.'
2. Once you're signed in to the support site, fill out your ticket with the following details:
3. SUMMARY: I gave mine descriptive names like: "Openspace order for (island name)"
4. TICKET TYPE: Land and Region Issues
5. REGION REQUEST: Openspace Order (this is new)
6. DETAILS: Be very clear and specific here, and be sure to specify all of the following:
  • ESTATE NAME. This can be one of your existing estates or a unique estate just for that island.
  • DESIRED GRID COORDINATES. I recommend either giving them a list of desired coordinates in order of preference, or giving them explicit instructions about what to do in case the coordinates you requested are taken by the time they get to your order. If you don't do this, they will stop and ask you where to put the island, delaying your order by one day.
  • DEFAULT TERRAIN TYPE (optional). You can request one of the default island shapes as specified in the Knowledge Base article, 'Default Private Region RAW Files.' If you don't specify an island type, your Openspace will be empty ocean with a flat seafloor. One of my new Openspaces was delivered as empty ocean, despite my request for an island shape. No biggie, as all the RAWs are available for download anyway.
It's been taking around 10-11 business days (up to 15 real days) to process island orders lately, assuming you don't make any mistakes in your order ticket. Resist the temptation to submit more tickets inquiring about status, because the time a Linden spends handling those tickets is time they could have spent setting up your islands.

Ignore the ticket status field in your support queue. Lately, peoples' tickets have been showing up as "New" until the day the island is delivered. Also, you won't be charged until the island is delivered either, so don't consider your USD balance an indication of progress either.

I also think it's wise that you keep an eye on your USD balance. I pay for new islands out of my in-world earnings, so I like to make sure that I've got enough USD there to cover both the island orders and my tier for all my existing islands. If your USD funds get drained away on existing tier while you're waiting for the order to be filled, the Lindens will have to submit a manual charge for the remaining balance of the island order fee, and you really don't want your credit card company to pick that day to deny your charge from this shady Linden Lab outfit. I have friends who have been long-standing LL customers for months/years and their credit card companies just arbitrarily decided to deny a SL-related charge out-of-the-blue. This is just one more headache you should try to avoid.

And remember, like all islands, the tier you pay on your Openspace will be monthly, on the date specified in your "Final Resolution" email that you get when your island is delivered.

The Reservation System: Then and Now

In September of last year, Linden Lab discontinued the ability for residents to order island "reservations." Until that time, it was possible for people who planned to buy an island in the future but weren't ready to do it right away to reserve a spot on the grid for 90 days for a (usually) low fee. The reservation program was at times controversial, because some residents used it for extortion, intentionally bidding on reservations that surrounded existing estates, thereby blocking the estate's expansion until the estate owner paid the reservation holder to sell the reservation. Many of us assumed that when the reservation program ended, all those thousands of reservations currently cluttering up the grid would finally expire, alleviating the expansion headaches of established estate owners.

Unfortunately, six months after the reservation program ended (and three months after all those existing reservations should have expired), this is what you see when you look in the Land Store today (hint: yellow = reserved):

Considering that the Land Store map is grossly out-of-date (it only shows three of my 12 islands, and one of them is in its old location), some of us assumed that maybe all that yellow was just vestiges of long-expired reservations- but we were wrong. Residents are still being extorted by reservation holders, and new sim orders are still being denied due to existing reservations.

It's important to note that a single reserved spot on the grid effectively blocks expansion into any of the cells immediately surrounding it, both adjacent and diagonal, so all those thousands of yellow cells on the grid are actually preventing expansion into many more thousands of cells than it would appear just by glancing on the map.

So what's going on?
Well, despite the fact that all mention of reservations has been wiped from the Second Life Knowledge Base, the reservations program is still alive and well (and making Linden Lab a lot of money). I spoke with someone on the Concierge team today and learned that some of the reservations that show up on the map are indeed expired, and will not be honored if an estate owner wishes to expand in their direction. However, the majority of reservations still registered in the Land Store are actively being maintained by paying residents. You see, once you have a reservation, it's yours as long as you keep renewing your reservation fee every three months. The existing (valid) reservations will only expire once the holder decides to let the "subscription" lapse.

What can estate owners do about it?
First off, if you are an estate owner and someone who owns a reservation near you offers to sell the reservation to you, don't feel compelled to take the offer unless you consider it reasonable. If they're offering the reservation at extortion-level prices, you should Abuse Report the individual and include any IMs or other correspondence with the person in your report. It's one thing to decide you no longer want to keep the reservation and offer to give it up, but another to use it to intentionally extract cash out of established residents.

If you wish to expand and there are reservation slots or built islands that might block your way (remember, reservations block diagonals now, too), contact Concierge or add a note to your support ticket about the reservation in question and ask them to confirm whether it's still valid. They will allow you to expand if the reservation holder's no longer paying for it.

If you determine that all the reservations surrounding you are, in fact, active and valid, you have the option of moving your entire estate- and lucky for you, if your estate is surrounded in such a way that expansion is impossible, Linden Lab will waive the $150 USD per-island move fee and relocate your entire estate somewhere that you'll have more breathing room for free. It's not documented in the Knowledge Base, but it's true, and has been done several times already. The $150 fee is not so much a profit center as it is a disincentive to moving islands around arbitrarily. They want to limit the amount of busywork they have to do on island moves, so they charge a fee to ensure you only move your islands when you really need to. It would be silly for them to charge $150 per island to a resident with 10 islands (who's paying Linden Lab as much as $35,400 a year on island fees), because if that resident simply decided "well, I don't want to pay $1,500 to move, so I guess I just won't buy any more islands," that would hurt Linden Lab in the long run.

So, next time you're in the Land Store and groaning over how hard it is to find anyplace to plant an island, know that you're not completely out of options.