Linden Lab’s next generation virtual worlds platform, code-named Project Sansar made the news in Second Life and in the media on Thursday, June 25th.
In the media, Bernadette Tansley, writing in Xconomy covers how Second Life Creator Linden Lab Prepares To Test Parallel VR Universe, delving into the forthcoming closed alpha testing for the new platform, which we know to be code-named Sansar.
In terms of Sansar news, the article specifies:
- It can already run at 75 frames per second
- The Lab plans to accelerate the platform to 90 frames per second to sync with specifications expected for the Oculus Rift and other headsets
- The initial closed alpha, involving a limited number of creators experienced in the use of Maya, will commence in July 2015
- If all goes according to plan, the programme will gradually be expanded to a more public beta testing phase around the first half of 2016
- A “version 1.0” of the platform might be ready by the end of 2016.
Outside of LL and Sansar, the article is interesting in that it suggests Cloud Party, which was acquired by Yahoo in 2014, is still in the running to develop a virtual world that can be operated with the upcoming new range of VR headsets, etc., alongside the Lab, Philip Rosedale’s High Fidelity and new start-up AltspaceVR.
You can read the entire piece by following the Xconomy link given above.
During an interview with Danger Linden, Sr. Director, Product, Virtual Worlds and Troy Linden, Senior Producer, held as a part of the SL12B Meet the Lindens series of conversations, the subject matter inevitably came around to Project Sansar, and the following tidbits of information were given.
Further confirmations of Known Basics
- SL users will be able to use there SL identities with Project Sansar if they wish
- Linden dollars will be the transaction currency / tokens on Project Sansar
- Both voice and text will be supported in Sansar for chatting / communications.
However, neither of the above mean you’ll be able to teleport directly from SL to Sansar or vice-versa; both are separate entities.
Users will be able to have a “master account”, under which they can then have multiple avatar accounts they can use.
- The “master account” will be known only to the user and Linden Lab, and will use an e-mail address as the main form of authentication
- Users can create multiple avatar accounts (or “persona names” as Danger Linden referred to them) under this “master” account, which they can use to access Sansar, and will be known to other users only by the avatar account they are using
- Inventory and account balances will apparently be associated with the “master account”, allowing them to be shared between the avatar accounts under the master account
- It is not clear what format avatar / persona names will take, and whether it will be a first name, last name format.
(The idea of having a “master account” with this kind of flexibility has long been on users’ wish lists for Second Life for a long time – see JIRA SVC-6212 and my own article from 2011 on the subject. As such, this is liable to be a popular move among those SL users interested in trying Second Life.)
Anonymity and Trust
Sansar users will be able to have as much anonymity as they wish. However, the more information that users provide to Linden Lab – be it wallet identity, a verified e-mail address or payment information – the more capabilities they’ll have in-world.
The idea here is to try to address the issue of griefing while still maintaining a relatively low barrier to entry – obviously, the easier it is to access the platform, the easier it is for muppets to run amok. So, the idea is that as more information is provided, the greater the level of trust established between user and Lab, allowing people to “do more” in-world and participate more. However, the exact relationship between platform capabilities awarded, and the information users will be asked to provide in order to access them, is still being determined.
Obviously, the content of the information you provide to the Lab remains private and confidential (i.e. if you supply a verified e-mail address, that e-mail address is not revealed to any other users). However, if a verified e-mail is required to, say, publish a Sansar “world”, then the fact that you have published that world will tell other users you have a verified e-mail with the Lab.
Mesh, Terrain and Building Tools
- Sansar content will obviously be focused on mesh – but not necessarily exclusively mesh
- The terrain will be voxels
- Subject to further confirmation, it should be possible to also build in-world objects using voxels
- Maya is the tool that is being used purely to assist with testing when the closed alpha commences. It will not be the only tool, and it will not be the sole tool for content creation (see Ebbe Altberg’s comments on alpha access and tools from the Virtual Worlds Best Practice in Education, March 2015)
- A goal for Project Sansar is for people to be able to build in-world and to share in collaborative building
- Sansar will include a full “professional” (in terms of its capabilities not in the need for people to have to be professional animators in order to use it) animation system, which will be based on Havoc animations (Havoc being the SL physical system), overlaid with additional capabilities / code directly from the Lab
- All objects in Sansar will be fully scriptable and animated; it is not clear whether on-the-fly modifications to mesh items in-world will be possible
- It is acknowledged that content creation tools can be a barrier to adoption / use; it is therefore a goal with Sansar to “make it easier to make things in Sansar than it is in Second Life”
Land and Tier
Speaking at the VWBPE 2015, Ebbe Altberg, indicated that the Lab would be pivoting revenue generation within Project Sansar away from land, with sales taxes being considered an alternative means of generating revenue.
During the Meet the Lindens conversation, Danger Linden expanded a little on this and revenue in general:
The other thing I can answer … is about tier. One of the things we’re trying to achieve with Sansar is lower the barrier to entry, as far as being able to get in-world [and] have land that you can work with …
So there will be a system which should allow non-registered guests to do limited things. It should allow you to create some things in-world, without having to “own” land; you get a certain amount for free. So that’s the idea, to lower that barrier to entry, so people don’t have to have this big jump to be able to rez something in-world.
Land “ownership” will also be possible in Sansar, although with the lower pricing, the actual dynamics of how land might be used in terms of rental estates, etc., might be somewhat different to how things are in Second Life. However, there is no reason why people should not be able to build things like shopping malls and offer them as spaces to lease for retail businesses, the value add being the infrastructure, traffic, etc.
It is not clear if there will be “Mainland” in Sansar, as “Mainland” in Second Life means a very specific thing, administered a particular way. Therefore the question cannot be addressed at this point in time.
Third-Party Viewer Support
While it is not clear what type of client / viewer Sansar will use, the following now appear likely:
- After originally being reported that the client will “initially” not be open source, it now appears it will remain close-sourced
- However, third-parties will have the ability to create add-in and libraries that can modify the viewer / client
- It is unlikely (at this point in time) that Linux will be supported
Other Points of Interest
Currency: The Lab’s Virtual world Advantage
One of the major advantages the Lab has in developing a new virtual worlds platform for the consumer VR age, other than having been running the world’s most durable virtual world to date, is that they already have an established virtual worlds currency / token.
The Linden Dollar has allows them to go through the extensive compliance and anti-fraud requirements – something which gives them a huge potential advantage over other players entering the field, who – should they wish to offer the same options and capabilities as presented by the L$ to their users (transactions, revenue generation, cashing-out, etc.), have yet to go through these processes.
Sansar Doesn’t Mean The End of Second Life
Danger Linden again re-iterated that any official opening of Sansar to the market does not spell the end of Second Life (unless, of course, people in SL are by that time so keen to be a part of Sansar we all opt to pack up and hop the fence permanently!).
Realistically, Sansar is going to take time to grow and establish itself, as Danger Linden again commented:
I anticipate a long life for Second Life … In order for Sansar to be as interesting as Second Life, you need a critical mass of people and social groups and stuff that you can get, and experiences that you can do. and there are a lot of people very comfortable in Second Life, and they are there for a variety of reasons, and they’ll continue to be there regardless of how successful Sansar is. So I see a long life for Second Life just because of its inertia and the investment in time and the social network [users] have built in Second Life.
That said, and as Danger points out, it would seem likely that if Sansar meets its goals and expectations, some of us in Second Life will likely use both as time moves forward.
The video of this interview will be available on Prim Perfect soon.