Engadget and VentureBeat visit Sansar

The new Sansar logo (courtesy of Linden Lab)
The new Sansar logo (courtesy of Linden Lab)

There have been a couple of articles on Sansar in December, each of which touch upon Second Life. While both retread ground already familiar to those of us who have been following Sansar’s development. However, hidden within them are some interesting little nuggets.

Appearing in the December 17th edition of VentureBeat, Dean Takahashi’s Linden Lab’s Sansar will take virtual worlds far beyond Second Life, caused umbrage with at least one pundit, leading as it did with the statement “Second Life is by far the most successful virtual world ever created”, resulting in some kind of kindergarten like comparison of “who has the most”.

Dean Takahashi, lead writer, GamesBeat
Dean Takahashi, lead writer for VentureBeat’s, GamesBeat

Yes, there are other virtual / game environments out their with a larger cache of active users; but then, do any of them present the kinds of opportunity  for revenue generation on a scale achieved by Second Life? Does it really matter which has the most of what?

No, not really. Of far more interest to me is what Takahashi has to say about Second Life – the fact that it is still going strong – and about Sansar.

Foremost in this – although easily unnoticed – is the reference the Sansar opening its gates to the public at large in “early” 2017.

Over the last few months the Lab has talked in terms of “Q1 2017” as the time frame for Sansar’s opening out. It’s a precise time frame, indicating a period between the start of January and the end of March. “Early 2017” is somewhat less precise, and while Takahashi may be using the phrase as a different means of stating “Q1 2017”, it’s hard not to wonder if perhaps his wording is indicative that the Lab is now looking a little beyond Q1 2017 for opening Sansar to the public.

If so, it wouldn’t be surprising. Slippages happen with big projects, and shouldn’t be unexpected or seen as sign that something is “wrong”; it’s simply the nature of the beast. And we have already seen it at least once with Sansar, when the opening of the Creator Preview slipped from the target of June 2016 to August 2016.

Elsewhere in his piece, Takahashi pulls out the WordPress analogy. This is something we’re all probably tired of hearing, given it’s been raised in just about every interview / report on Sansar during the course of 2016. However, that doesn’t make it any the less important, because it is one of the central reasons why Sansar could reach a much, much broader audience than Second Life has managed to achieve, and Takahashi observes:

Rather than one continuous world, Sansar is a set of virtual spaces that will be a lot more accessible than Second Life. You could, for instance, share the link to your virtual space on social media and invite people to visit it that way. With Second Life, you typically visit the site, download the client, create your avatar, and then join it.

Second Life users looking unfavourably on Sansar has made much of this lack of it being a “continuous world”. but while we, as Second Life users are undoubtedly conditioned by the presence of the map, the same isn’t automatically true for a broader audience of the kind Sansar is being aimed towards. They’re liable to be far more interested in finding and accessing the experiences they want to enjoy and then having the means to possibly jump to other points of interest, regardless of whether or not they are in any way “geographically defined” one to another – perhaps via teleporting, something Ebbe Altberg hinted might be the case when talking to Occipital’s Mark Piszczor back in June.

Nick Summers, associate editor, Engagdet UK
Nick Summers, associate editor, Engagdet UK

In writing Second Life’s creator is building a ‘WordPress for social VR’ for Endgadget on December 21st,  Nick Summers also examines how people will move between Sansar experiences, referencing the use of an “Atlas” search directory (something we’ve also previously seen demonstrated). This appears to be akin to the SL Destination Guide, presenting a means for Sansar users to hop between connected experiences much as we hop around Second Life.

A further point of interest between the two pieces – which cover a lot of common ground in terms of what the reports are shown within Sanasar – is the manner in which the one article raises a question and the other answers it.

Take object manipulation. Up until now, the vast majority of object manipulation in Sansar has been sown in the Edit Mode, although it has been indicated that some basic manipulation will be possible in the run-time environment (and we’ll certainly need to interact with objects in the run-time environment if we are to sit on them, drive them, fly them, etc). However, Takahashi refers to moving a palm tree around and bouncing rubber balls about. So is object manipulation not more accessible in the run-time space?

Summers’ article suggests not, noting that manipulation in the run-time environment is still “limited”, and referencing the edit more more directly when discussing moving and placing things.  Both offer interesting tidbits which perhaps also help people who may not quite see the “point” or “audience” for Sansar.

Ebbe Altberg moving virtual furniture around in Sansar, demonstrating some of the platform's capabilities at the WSJ.D Live conference, October 24th-26th
So far, object manipulation in Sansar has only been shown in the platform’s edit mode, such as when being demonstrated at events like the WSJ.D Live conference, October 24th-26th. How much of this might be possible in the runtime environment? How will personal object manipulation be handled within spaces you don’t necessarily own, such as a role-play environment where you are a “player”?

Takahashi, for example, references Altberg’s comments that Sansar offers the kind of defined, manageable environment in which a school or architectural might comfortably develop (and have hosted) an immersive educational or design experience without the need to necessarily being in external design talent or partake of an entire MMO / virtual world experience.

Elsewhere, Summers shines a little bit more light on the potential for revenue generation through Sansar for both the Lab and content creators:

It’s unclear how much Sansar will cost for people who want to design their own VR world. Linden Lab envisions a low, monthly fee that will grant creators access to a virtual plot of land. They can build whatever they want on top, and then choose whether to charge an entry fee for visitors. Designers will, of course, also have the option to sell their individual items on the in-game marketplace. Sansar is therefore like a canvas. Linden Lab will provide some basic paintbrushes, but the hope is that artists will bring their own. They’ll pay the company to store and display their work — similar to an art gallery — and then earn some cash when someone requests a viewing or permission to rework it as part of something new.

Taken together, both of these articles complement one another nicely. Yes, they do re-tread familiar ground, but they also – possibly – give us a few new pointers and insights into Sansar which raise the interest level a notch or two.

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Silvermoon’s snowy magic in Second Life

50 Words For Snow
50 Words For Snow

Note: I understand from Silvermoon that A Painter’s Link (and with it 50 Words for Snow) might be closing some time shortly after January 6th, 2017.

On December 26th, I wrote about Silvermoon Fairey’s A Painter’s Link, noting the over it she has created a seasonal setting, 50 Words For Snow. The latter is actually one of two wintry designs Silvermoon is offering visitors, the other being December Will Be Magic Again. While separated by teleport, both of these settings in many ways complement one another, giving the appearance of being different parts of the same countryside.

Visitors arriving at, or teleporting to, 50 Words For Snow arrive atop a rocky plateau over which trees denuded of their leaves raise bare branches to the sky, as if trying to ward off the falling snow. Foxes, raccoons and deer wander among the tree trunks, while a path meanders idly through the woodland, enticing the traveller to follow its winding course. However, the keen-eyed may also spot a path close to hand, switchbacking its way down to lower ground.

50 Words For Snow
50 Words For Snow

Those who follow this route may find their way through fir trees and snow to a large house lit from without and within, where kitties rule the roost and wood fires burn bright in hearth and stove. Sitting diagonally opposite the house, in the north-east corner of the region sits a smaller lodge, also under gently falling snow, and with a frozen pond close to hand. Between these two lie opportunities for walking or sitting beside another ice-sheathed pond, a vista of snow-covered land and blanketed hills stretching to the horizon and caught in the soft glow of a lowering Sun.

A lowering sun is also a feature of December Will Be Magic Again, and while brighter and more visible than at 50 Words For Snow, it is nevertheless one of the elements which gives a sense of connectedness between the two. A much flatter place than 50 Words, December Will Be Magic Again is also blanketed by snow which falls gently from the sky, covering track and grass alike, and hiding the frozen waters of a stream from view, leaving its location marked only by rock and bridge.

December Will Be Magic Again
December Will Be Magic Again

Across this flat setting, ringed by trees and low hills, lie two houses and what might be a cottage farm. Smoke rises from the chimneys of two, but all are bereft of furnishings. Outside, and casting long shadows to match those of the houses and trees, horses meander and pick at the grass that has managed to poke its way up through the snow. From across the frozen expanse of a pond, keeping to the edge of the tree line, a handful of deer watch all the comings and goings.

There is a serenity about both December Will Be Magic Again and 50 Words For snow which invites a side-by-side visit to both. Each is also the perfect accompaniment when visiting either It’s A New Dawn or A Painter’s Link down, over which they respectively sit. However, as Silvermoon has indicated to me she may actually relinquish A Painter’s Link (and with it, 50 Words For Snow) in the near future, I would strong suggest you plan a visit to either of these two sooner rather than later.

December Will Be Magic Again
December Will Be Magic Again

SLurl Details

50 Words for Snow and A Painters Link are located on Salomon Beach, rated: Moderate.

December Will Be Magic Again and It’s a New Dawn are located on Leon Beach, rated:  General.