Lab announces Sansar’s closed alpha officially under-way

Th obligatory Sansar promo image :) (please can we have some new ones?) - Linden Lab
Th obligatory Sansar promo image 🙂 (please can we have some new ones?) – Linden Lab

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.

Sansar alpha testing is focused exclusively on Maya - however, the Lab intend the platform to support a wide range of 3D content creation tools as work progresses
Sansar alpha testing is focused exclusively on Maya – however, the Lab intend the platform to support a wide range of 3D content creation tools as work progresses

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.

 

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13 thoughts on “Lab announces Sansar’s closed alpha officially under-way

  1. Linden Lab has not many options. Linden is losing so many sims and money these days they would go bankrupt. When all these opensim users would be in Second Life the grid would be double in size compared to what it is now. With a new platform that is closed source Linden will be able to make money if the platform is any good of course.
    Also worth to mention is the competion Linden Lab will have this time. There are many companies building platforms for VR this time, most likely some will launch at the same time Linden Lab opens Sansar. Since people have to start over on the new tech they might compare and look around before they settle.

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  2. The more I look at this, the more it seems to me like Sansar is intended not to be a general-purpose virtual world like SL, but rather a series of games/environments, not really connected to each other, but instead sharing a tech base provided by LL and each having its own backers, producers, and so on. By this reasoning, LL’s right when they say they’re not looking to do another SL.

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    1. Sansar never was intended to be a virtual world as we view SL. Hence why the Lab has, by-and-large referred to it as a platform for virtual “experiences” or “spaces”. The concept is entirely different to SL.

      However, from what has been said, individual experiences / spaces can be either stand-alone or interconnected, depending upon the operator’s desire. In this respect, think of Sansar spaces as somewhat analogous to private islands in Second Life, where we teleport between places. The difference here is, assuming I’m understanding what has been said on this matter in the recent past, rather than teleporting, you pass through a “fog” or “tunnel” when moving between connected experiences, thus providing something of an illusion of them being in some way “contiguous”.

      In this way – and again, this is my own assumption based on absorbing all that has been said on the matter – Sansar offers huge flexibility in that it can offer individual spaces which are effectively, as you say “owned” and “run” by their operators / creators, completed with dedicated gateways into them from the outside world (web pages, existing authentication systems operated by the creators / operators, etc.) and / or can be linked together to form much bigger communities. And all of this can be branded directly by the creator / operator(s) rather than being a “centrally” accessed environment like Second Life.

      The general approach being taken to Sansar, to me, is somewhat suggestive of a Platform as a Service: the Lab provides the hardware and software environment and delivery mechanism, creators use the tools they want to deliver the content they want for their customers’ / clients’ use. It’s also why I’ve always been firmly convinced that SL users aren’t Sansar’s target audience – and never were. We’re a “nice to have along” if we want to participate, but we’re not the primary audience.

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  3. We were fed certain snippets along the way that touted a new and better virtual world and for those of us who sail and fly, perhaps better connectivity between sims which is the bane of the current SL architecture. Where did I hear that now…?

    They use Maya for the initial testing of content creation. Nothing like the most expensive platform 😉 Where is Modo? Modo is way better then Blender and way less expensive then Maya. None of these systems right now make SL-ready mesh out the box. They are all making complex and pretty mesh for 3D graphics rendering. it would be cool to see some of these systems develop ‘Simple mesh’ tools suitable for virtual worlds.

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  4. I just wonder for how long LL board will risk loosing its reg steady income of Sl, if Sl is left as it is, like a dying world and all we hear is Sansar, Sansar, Sansar! LL needs not only to keep improving Sl but to make sure that is uses will not leave long before Sansar is ready to whatever!
    And yes, Open sim is attracting more and more of the ones that wish to build lovely sims, most now creating niche grids, with hyper grid enabled settings and using kitely as the main base for trading.
    But for most, Sl is the still the only option, be by the income it offers or by mainland, or by the fashion or just cause it is by a long way, the biggest community in virtual worlds.
    LL can not leave us with just the promise of Sansar, Second Life needs, now more then ever, to know that LL is still supporting and expecting its users to keep using it.
    Lower tiers is a must, if not for individual users, at least for the land barons that are trying to make it better (Blake Sea, Seychelles, North atlantic sims and a few others).

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    1. SL is still being enhanced and developed.

      OpenSim may be attracting users from SL – but many actually retain a foot in both camps (such as you), so that’s not as dramatically damaging to SL as comments about “more and more” people utilising OpenSim at first appear. In fact, as long as people keep using both, it really doesn’t make a jot of difference to either, other than being good for both. As it is, SL has lost around 200,000 active users in eight years – again, hardly drastic at this point in time. What’s more, the platform is still demonstrating it is the most viable when it comes to users generating revenue for themselves; nothing else can come close to the fact it enables land holders and content creators to cash-out $60 million a year between them.

      Lower tier would be nice, but is frankly impractical without doing SL a whole lot more damage than good for reasons I’ve explained several times elsewhere in this blog.

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      1. And You keep voicing only Linden Lab opinion on this subject. And i do wonder how many on Linden Lab even believe on it?
        Reducing tiers for users that wish to own more then 9 regions, as long as they will be connected to a main continent, while allowing premium members to get more land for the same tier price, that would revitalize mainland and all around its continents and Sl overall.

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        1. No I am not “voicing only Linden Lab’s opinion on it”. I’m stating a fact of simple business mathematics based upon the Lab’s ability to deliver Second Life as a platform, operate as a functional business and generate both revenue and profit. Tier cuts to private regions – as you advocated in your comment – would have a far greater impact on the Lab’s ability to generate the latter two than the very worst decline in tier revenues the company experienced in 2012.

          The bottom line is this: tier cuts may ease the burden on people’s pockets – but sadly, it won’t improve the Lab’s ability to generate increased revenues. And no, cheap land won’t lead to more people signing-up to Second life because people don’t come to Second Life for the land, they come for other reasons and may end up acquiring land. Therefore, any revenue boost the Lab may gain from those already in SL who don’t hold land already or are willing to expand their holdings, is finite, and unlikely to offset the loss of revenue they will incur by lowering tier.

          For the mathematics see: Tier cuts: looking from the Lab’s perspective.

          Fiddling with Mainland could be done, but brings with it some problems of its own – not unmanageable, but to the Lab of questionable value. And Mainland isn’t actually that much of a revenue generator when compared to private estates.

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      2. What interesting numbers Inara Pey

        60 million

        60 million devided by 12 months = 5 million

        5 Million a month devided by 900000 unique logged in users = 5.5 USD per user per month income

        Now let us say 20% of users work and 80% of users consume this gives the average worker the spectacular sum of 27.7 USD per month income.

        Of course one must shift these numbers as many of those 900000 logged in users are bots, so make that 700000 unique logged in users.

        Fact only a very small amount of people make any decent money, most earn crap income and are paid a slave wage for their work because everything has to be dirt cheap.

        Creators become frustrated because they need to sell their products over a long timespan before they profit from the labour required producing an object and make it worth their time.

        Also about the active users. The ones who did invest and pay are replaced by the cheap skybox crowd who buy a 3 Dollar skin and rent 1 Dollar per week skybox. These users replace the ones who paid serveral 100 Dollars per month in tier for their land and another serveral 100 Dollars per month for houses, furniture, landscaping products and so on.

        We can thank Linden Lab for this for placing ads such as: Join Second Life it’s FREE
        The genius marketing department located in Battery Street need their sales techniques to be polished a bit.

        I’m sure the person with his 8000 US$ Amaretto horse in his inventory will be pleased about the future Linden Lab has in mind. Or the person that paid 50K US for the Amsterdam sim or the person with the 30K US$ inventory. Not the mention the person with the 1 million US$ invested in his Estate simulators. Linden Lab did show all virtual objects are worth crap and it is nothing more than a video game and they can pull the plug whenever they feel like it.

        Fine now that we all know this Linden Lab can start to figure out where they will get all these 1000’s of Dollars from to keep paying their future wages and satisfy their investors.

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        1. “5 Million a month devided by 900000 unique logged in users = 5.5 USD per user per month income”

          Except, as pointed out in my comment, the $60 million isn’t divided by the entire population of active users (or even 700,000 if you discount 200K as bots). It is divided among content creators and land owners – giving a good number of them the means to support themselves through the income they generate, and many more to enjoy the fruits of their labour through additional disposable income.

          “I’m sure the person with his 8000 US$ Amaretto horse in his inventory will be pleased about the future Linden Lab has in mind. Or the person that paid 50K US for the Amsterdam sim or the person with the 30K US$ inventory. Not the mention the person with the 1 million US$ invested in his Estate simulators.”

          I’m sure they will be, given the Lab’s continued commitment to developing and improving Second Life for as long as there are sufficient people willing to engage within it. So really, the choice as to whether SL lives or dies primarily resides with us, the users; just as it always has. So long as there are sufficient users engaged in the platform to make is fiscally viable to the Lab, they have absolutely no reason to pull the plug.

          “They can pull the plug whenever they feel like it.”

          The Lab has always had the ability to pull the plug whenever they want and for any reason. Check the ToS. See my comment above regarding fiscal viabliity.

          “Fine now that we all know this Linden Lab can start to figure out where they will get all these 1000’s of Dollars from to keep paying their future wages and satisfy their investors.”

          Well, if they don’t generate the revenues to pay the wages – you don’t get to play in Second Life, period, because there won’t be a Second Life.

          Similarly, without the boost from the original investors (who have most likely seen tat investment paid back, and those still active on the board are probably earning dividends based on the company’s profitability – a somewhat different kettle of fish) you would never have had a Second life to enjoy in the first place.

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    1. That’s an “old” artistic impression the Lab used for early promo work this year – hence the comment for newer images (an in any alternative impressions they might have) – I feel that one is being thrashed to death by everyone reporting on Sansar! 🙂 .

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