On Tuesday, August 18th, and running a couple of weeks behind schedule – such is the way with new projects – the Lab has officially announced they’ve invited a small number of content creators to try-out their Next Generation Platform for virtual experiences, currently code-named Project Sansar.
The announcement, which appears a press release on the Lab’s corporate pages, reads in part:
Slated for general availability in 2016, Project Sansar will democratize virtual reality as a creative medium. It will empower people to easily create, share, and monetize their own multi-user, interactive virtual experiences, without requiring engineering resources. The platform will enable professional-level quality and performance with exceptional visual fidelity, 3D audio, and physics simulation. Experiences created with Project Sansar will be optimized for VR headsets like the Oculus Rift, but also accessible via PCs and (at consumer launch) mobile devices. Users can explore and socialize within Project Sansar experiences through advanced expressive avatars, using text and voice chat.
Drawing on more than 12 years of unique experience running Second Life, the largest-ever user-created virtual world, Linden Lab will make it fun and easy for Project Sansar users to create social VR experiences, eliminating the complicated challenges that today limit the medium to professional developers with significant resources. Project Sansar will allow creators at all levels to focus on realizing their creative visions, without having to worry about issues such as hosting and distribution, multi-user access and communication systems, virtual currency and regulatory compliance, and other challenges associated with creating, sharing, and monetizing virtual experiences today.
As has been widely reported, the initial testing will be focused on Autodesk’s Maya® software for content creation and upload to Sansar, although the Lab have also announced that they intend the platform to operate with a wide range of content creation tools such as such as 3D Max, Sketchup, and Blender, with file format support for OBJ and FBX, and others.
During the alpha, the invited creators will be encouraged to “use each other’s games and other invented environments, trade feedback, and tweak their own work.” They’ll also have to be patient, with Ebbe Altberg having previously warned they may face having content deleted, removed or otherwise altered as the Lab continued to adjust, change, tweak (and bash?) what is still a very new platform that has a good way to go before it reaches something ready to have a lot of people pile on to it and play with it.
That said, if all goes according to plan, the alpha will slowly be opened out over time to include more creators, the Lab’s own announce noting:
In the coming months, Linden Lab will welcome additional creators and content partners to Project Sansar as new features are added to the platform and testing expands.
The emphasis on “content partners” is mine, as I do wonder precisely what it means for the direction Sansar will be taking, particularly given the differentiation given the term from “creators”. More thoughts on that to come.
In the meantime, The Verge has been quick off the press in following-up on the Lab’s announcement, with a short piece entitled The VR successor to Second Life is inviting its first testers, which is in some ways an unfortunate title, as it does carry a certain implication that Second Life is perhaps no more. This view is perhaps further enhanced by the use of the past tense when referring to the platform, even though there is a nod to the fact that Sansar will run “alongside” SL.
VentureBeat, to name one other following-up on the Lab’s press release, has a similarly brief article in its GamesBeat section, Second Life creator Linden Lab starts testing its virtual-reality world: Project Sansar, which focuses on the core points of the press release.
For those wishing to catch-up on what I believe to be the core statements and information around Sansar, as gathered from cited sources, please refer to my July Sansar Summary.
Also, be sure to take a look at uploadVR’s very excellent conversation between Nick Ochoa and Ebbe Altberg on Sansar, which I reviewed at the start of August, and am embedding here again for reference.