There are two more important things for prospective and new Second Life members to consider: gateway communities and renting land.
Like our physical world, Second Life is a vast place, with much variety, and a wide variety of languages (Second Life members hail from over a hundred countries!). It can be very bewildering to a new member who doesn’t know people already here who can guide them around. Second Life’s Gateway Communities offer new members an opportunity to have their initial Second Life experience among people with common interests and a common language. When you first sign up and you’re choosing your avatar appearance and name, you can check a box that will give you a choice of communities to land in when you first log on. This doesn’t commit you to joining any groups; it’s just an opportunity to hopefully be with people who share some of your interests and speak your language. As of today, communities are available in thirteen different languages! You can find out more about these communities before signing up for SL by going to Second Life’s Community Gateway page wiki.secondlife.com/wiki/Community_Gateway. Some of the Gateway communities you can choose from are Dublin (Ireland), Australia, London, the Fashion Research Institute’s gateway for training & development entry for apparel industry personnel, steampunk, a faery world of dark forests, and a support community for people with disabilities or chronic illnesses.
It’s not necessary to have a premium account to have your own house or land in Second Life. If you want to buy land, then you’ll need a premium account, but you can save the expense of a premium account by renting a house, apartment, or land. A basic account also allows you to buy a house and place it on land that you rent. If you want to learn more about renting, a good place to start is Second Life’s “Land renting advice for new Residents” page, wiki.secondlife.com/wiki/Help:Land_renting_advice_for_new_Residents. This page gives some reasons you might want to rent rather than own, even if you have a premium account:
- You might want to open a business in a popular area where buying the land is either too expensive or simply not possible
- You want to live in a zoned community, that is a community with a defined set of rules
- You need or prefer to pay in Lindens (the Second Life currency) rather than dollars
- You want the flexibility of being able to move whenever you want without having to find a buyer for your land first.
Event though I’ve had a premium account since my second month of Second Life membership in 2004, I have sometimes rented land in addition to the land I owned. The reason was that I needed the land for building. Everything you build in Second Life consists of "prims" (primitive building blocks), and the number of prims you are allowed to put on your land is directly related to how large your land parcel is (there are some other details about how your prim allotment is calculated, but let’s ignore those for now!). The larger your parcel is, the more prims you are allotted. On several occasions I temporarily needed a lot more prims than I had available on my land, so I rented additional land for my building projects.
When renting, you need to be aware of whether the land is on the Second Life mainland or on a privately owned island. If it’s on the mainland, some considerations are:
- Is the land zoned PG, Mature, or Adult? These determine the kinds of activities you and your neighbors can and cannot engage in.
- How many prims will you need? Your house, your furniture, even trees and flowers on the property will eat up your prim allowance. Generally a 512 square meter plot is the smallest size people build on, and on the mainland gets you 117 prims (which isn’t as much as it might seem).
- Are there clubs, racetracks, or similiar activities in the area, it could enduce "lag", a situation in which response times can become very slow or erratic. They can also attract more visitors, which you may not want.
If you’re looking at rented land on a private island, the above considerations still apply, except that in some cases, you may get more prims than you would for the same size parcel on the mainland. An additional thing to be aware of on private islands is the covenant, which can restrict your activities. To learn whether there is a covenant for land you’re considering renting, and what the covenant contains, right click on the land and when the pie chart pops up, click "About Land" and then click the "Covenant" tab.
There are three ways to find land for rent:
- Ask friends. The best way to find a good place to rent is to ask your friends if they know of any good places to rent. Most of the time they won’t know of any good places, but occasionally they will. It’s worth asking.
- Use Second Life Search. The picture at the top of this column shows the result of a search for land rentals. Click "Search" at the bottom of the Second Life window, then click either the "All", "Classifieds", or "Group" tab, and then enter what you’re looking for in the box after "Find:". Depending on what you’re looking for, somethings you might enter are "land rental", "house rental", "apartment rental", or "shop rental". Then click "Search". A list of rentals like the one in the picture above should come up. Note: the search window in Second Life is by default smaller than in the picture above. You can enlarge it by left-clicking on a corner of the window and dragging it out.
- On the internet, use Google or another search provider. Enter a search term such as "second life rentals".
Be sure to read the Second Life land renting wiki that I mentioned earlier for information I didn’t have room to include here. For many or most new Second Life memebrs, renting land is the best option for getting started, and even for old timers, it often makes sense.