Sansar via Road to VR: opening “first half” of 2017, monetisation and sundry thoughts

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

In ‘Sansar’ Will Open to All in First Half of 2017 with a New Approach to Virtual Worlds (January 15th, 2017), Ben Lang of Road to VR becomes the latest tech journalist to sit down with Linden Lab to try out and discuss Sansar.  While he covers a lot of what has come to the for in other, similar recent articles, he also provides some further confirmatory / interesting tidbits, some of which allow for a little speculative thinking.

The biggest piece of information is perhaps right up there in the title: Sansar will open in the first half of 2017 (my emphasis). This actually comes as no surprise, as Sansar is a new project, and time frames for new projects of any description tend to slip a little as the work progress. Further, and as I noted in discussing Dean Takahashi’s recent look at Sansar, a degree of slippage appeared to be on the cards when he referred to Sansar opening to the public in “early” 2017, rather than the “Q1 2017” the Lab had previously indicated might be the case.

Ben Lang, Road to VR
Ben Lang, Road to VR

At the top of the article, Lang touches on the aspect of Sansar being focused on “creators” rather than “consumers”.  Again, as I’ve previously mentioned, defining “creator” here is perhaps important.

By and large, “creator” in SL tends  to be used in reference to those who design and make the goods we use to dress our avatars and furnish our land. Outside of lip service, it’s perhaps not a term closely linked with those who obtain land in SL and create environments using the goods they have purchased, rather than building and scripting everything themselves. With Sansar, however, it is pretty clear “creator” is intended to encompass both, and thus perhaps encompasses a broader cross-section of users than might be seen as the case with Second Life.

The focus on “creators” shouldn’t be taken to mean Sansar is “only” for “creatives”. Spaces hosted on the platform will obviously require an audience, be it the public at large or drawn from specific, more niche audiences. It simply means that from a technical standpoint (and most likely outside of the UI), Sansar’s focus is tipped towards those wishing to build environments within it. As an aside to this whole “creator” thing, it’s also worthwhile noting that where previous articles had pointed to around 600 creators being involved in Sansar’s Creator Preview, Lang mentions the number might be around 1,000.

Further into the article, Lang references moving between Sansar spaces, specifically noting “hopping” from one to another via web pages. This is unlikely to be music to the ears of many in SL; however, it’s important to note that this approach is not necessarily the only means to move between experiences.

In the past, Ebbe Altberg has mentioned the potential for “portals” between environments which might be see as “linked” (although it is by no means certain this idea is still be pursued). More particularly, in June 2016, when talking to Mark Piszczor of Occipital about Sansar, he referenced the idea of “teleporting” between Sansar spaces, and more recently we’ve had a glimpse of a Destination Guide style capability in Sansar (apparently called “Atlas”) for moving between different spaces.  So the web page approach might simply be one of several means to get from space to space in Sanar. Time will tell on that.

Inside Sansar. Credit: Linden Lab, via Road to VR
Inside Sansar. Credit: Linden Lab, via Road to VR

When referencing creators being able to monetise their creations, Lang touches on the previously noted ideas of selling virtual goods and creations (up to and including entire experiences) through the Sansar marketplace, and the potential for creators to charge people an entry fee to their experience if they wish. However, beyond this, Lang indicates some of the broader brainstorming going on at the Lab – such as the ability for consumers to pay money to a virtual object which would hold the money and pay it out to its owner at regular intervals.

As Lang points out, this opens the doors to a whole range of potential items – pay-to-play pool tables, vending machines (think broader than the gacha machines we see in SL), rides, etc. So –  and slipping into the realm of pure speculation for a moment – might this allow experiences creators to “rent out” their experiences – say an events venue – to others, and receive a fee each time it is used / instanced anywhere in Sansar, rather than simply selling them for a one-off fee on each copy purchased? The could be an intriguing route to take, if at all possible.

Might Sansar offer the means for experience creators to "rent out" their spaces as a means to monetise them?
Might Sansar offer the means for experience creators to “rent out” their spaces as a means to monetise them? Credit: The O2 Arena

But to come back to Lang’s Road to VR article. He notes that in terms of capabilities, Sansar’s graphics are “actually quite good”, although the physics are lacking. The former is perhaps something of a step down from verdicts passed by other journos, while the latter is promised to be improved in a forthcoming update. He also underlines the “style agnostic” approach to Sansar, which again is a potential differentiator to SL in that creators of experiences in Sansar are likely to have far greater freedom in how they visualise the spaces then build than can be achieved in Second Life.

Overall, ‘Sansar’ Will Open to All in First Half of 2017 with a New Approach to Virtual Worlds, makes for a further interesting read on Sansar, offering some apparent insights that help build the picture of what the world at large might expect once allowed in the platform. Definitely worth a read – as are the comments which follow it.

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9 thoughts on “Sansar via Road to VR: opening “first half” of 2017, monetisation and sundry thoughts

  1. You write in your fourth paragraph: “It’s pretty clear that ‘creator’ is intended to encompass both.” Both what? I don’t understand you. Both creators of environments (whom Sansar targets), and purchasers of things for land the users create? If so, are you suggesting that there will be “residents” in Sansar who can buy land and purchase thngs for it? Or only always visitors?

    How big are these environments or “spaces” you refer to? Some of the great areas in SL are linked sims, like the Wastelands, St. John’s, Avalon Town, The Forgotten Mile, etc. Having that kind of expanse is great, especially since the sims all by themselves are a little smallish. So will Sansar’s individual spaces be bigger?

    How can Sansar open before July if the physics are lacking? What does that mean, precisely?

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    1. As expressed in the preceding paragraph, “creator” in Sl tends to be used in reference to people who create original content – buildings, vehicles, avatars, clothing, accessories, plants, animals, etc., and doesn’t tend to be extended to people who have “land” and create environments / experiences in that land using assets they have purchased. With Sansar, LL use “creator” to encompass those who create original content and those use use that content within their spaces to create an overall environment / experience.

      Will there be residents is Sansar? Possibly, although the concept of “land” is very different. How big are the spaces within Sansar? It’s not been made entirely clear, but apparently they can range of relatively small (possibly “room sized”), through to a number of kilometres on a side. In the past the upper limit has been expressed as around four kilometres on a side, equivalent to 16×16 SL regions. More recently a size of 2 kilometres on a side (8×8 SL regions) has been referenced – but whether that is a “maximum” size or just an arbitrary size isn’t clear.

      In terms of the physics lacking – Ben Lang mentions in his article that things felt a little off when playing a game involving tossing bean bags – and also that the Lab is addressing the problem.

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  2. If Sansar is going to be VR, then either Linden Labs either has more faith in VR than the buying public or they’re hoping that “if you build it, they will come”. Honestly, I can’t see Sansar as anything other than Second Life upgraded for modern computers, and if that’s the case Linden Labs is seriously missing the target in regards to their primary money maker, Second Life.
    Yes, Second Life has improved due to Sansar’s upgraded codes, but again one has to ask, “What does Sansar have that Second Life does not?”
    The only readily apparent answer is VR, and VR is a lot more than just a pair of overly expensive goggles; one needs a means of manipulating things, getting feedback, and moving from place to place in a realistic manner. In all this, Linden Labs seems to have missed something important: Bandwidth. Not all providers offer the large bandwidth that the Sansar system would seem require, thus making it a boutique grid available only to those with high-end computers and graphics cards and top grade communications providers. This does not seem to be a winning business model since it would exclude portable clients on smartphones, tablets, and some laptops, and forget rural comms providers with limited bandwidth.
    Maybe Sansar will be able to get around all this, but forgive me for not holding my breath.

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    1. Sasnar is a gamble – but “consumer facing VR” is still pretty nascent. While I personally still lean towards AR/MR potentially having far broader application in our daily lives, I’ve no reason to doubt that as VR hardware and general tech matures and becomes more cost-effective, its appeal will broaden in a range of market sectors. As such, something like Sansar could have a huge impact as it matures alongside other VR tech. And while there is a lot that on the surface, SL can appear to do “as well as” Sansar, unless you’ve been inside an environment rendered specifically for VR, then it’s perhaps difficult to really appreciate the level of difference between the two.

      Take education, for example. In SL we can teach, we can simulate (not always easily, but it can be due – just look at the work of Texas A&M Uni). But at the end of the day, The students are still working on a screen, with the distractions of the rest of the classroom around them. Now imagine the difference if a chemistry (or biology) class can effective go inside the world of atoms and molecules, such that no matter where they look, they are seeing things at the atomic / sub-atomic level level and actually manipulate things, see how the very building blocks of everything can be put together – and do it directly for themselves, whilst maintaining that direct contact and guidance from their teacher.

      Or take the Sansar model of the Egyptian tomb. This is a place never opened to the public – and likely won’t be, due to the need to preserve and study it. Yet through Sansar, people – students and adults alike – can visit it, lean about it, study it (once it has moved beyond the current static model) for themselves. Architecture and training can similarly be revolutionised without the need for hyper-expensive VR set-ups and dedicated systems in ways we simply cannot fully replicate in Second Life, simply because the later, with the best will in the world, cannot offer the same depth of immersion, even in Mouselook (which isn’t itself entirely intuitive), or the freedom to potentially manipulate and interact almost naturally with objects.

      So, I’d say there is enormous potential for Sansar – perhaps not entirely on the scale the Lab might imagine (hundreds of millions or users) – but potentially, across multiple market spheres: entertainment, gaming, simulation, training, healthcare, design, architecture, education, social, which could offer Sansar a user base in the tens of millions, and a lot of these are sectors where SL has had / does home a presence, it is not a deeply penetrating presence. Will it happen? I’ve no idea. But the potential is there, and as such, the roll of the dice is worth it, particularly as it’s not actually hurting Second Life at this point in time.

      Of course, there is a risk that Sansar matures to a point where the SL user base starts migrating to in in numbers which do affect SL’s viability as a commercial venture – but that’s a risk anyway, whether or not LL were to develop Sansar. There is already Hight Fidelity out there (yes, it has its own problems, I know), and Google Facebook, et al, are all mulling options as creative, social VR spaces. So, even if the Lab never opted to try to make something of Sansar, there is no guarantee that three or four or 5 years – whenever – down the road, “Platform X” might not come along and entice SL’s user base away, all our (possibly over-inflated) concerns about inventory, etc., notwithstanding.

      In terms of bandwidth issues, I’m not sure I agree – but then, we simply don’t know haw the tech is handling things, other than whatever is being streamed to the client end of things is already highly optimised in terms of rendering (so has to hit the 90fps minimum required by HMDs), and so I’d have though the data is likely optimised for delivery over a range of connection types.

      As to the “missing” portable market – I would just note that the Lab has actually indicated that at the consumer level, Sansar will be available to users on smartphones and tablets – just not right out of the gate, simply because the core focus right now is on delivery to high-end HMD systems.

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      1. Inara, you see more success for Sansar than I do. Sure the potential is there but the lab is doing the development and historically they don’t have a great record.

        I still wonder why they didn’t spend the time since mid-2014 really working on what would really be SL 2.0 instead of a new product called Sansar. If they had done that they could have started out with a user base of almost a million users and built from there.

        From the little I’ve seen of Sansar, including the recent Sansar video by a Sansar user I don’t see any compelling reason to even try Sansar. Until a couple of weeks ago I had not intended to even try Sansar until the third quarter of 2017. Today I may try it by the end of 2017 if then.

        Of course there may be something unexpected about Sansar but it just seems dull to me and not something I want to spend time on.

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        1. I think it is purely a matter of perspective.

          And in terms of “SL 2.0”, who is to say that even if they went that route, the worries and concerns of many SL users wouldn’t still be present – a potential for a lack of compatibility (SL is based on a 13-year old approach to many things, any new platform is liable to leverage much more recent tech and options would could naturally make it pretty incompatible with SL as we know it). Also, a users base of 900,000, frankly, doesn’t really measure up to the potential audience offered to Sansar through those markets already keenly interested in VR, and which have, to a greater extent, looked at SL either derisively or as something not actually meeting their needs – but which see VR as something very much a part of their future.

          At the end of the day, if Sansar doesn’t appeal, that’s fine. I tend to lean toward remaining happy to spend the majority of my virtual time in SL for some time to come, Sansar, High Fidelity and others notwithstanding. And we already know that, while it’s always going to have limitations placed on what can or might be achieved, simply because that’s the nature of the beast, Linden Lab is committed to improving and enhancing SL wherever it is practicable to do so.

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  3. Inra, yes my perspective is different than yours! I have questioned the whole rational of Sansar for two and a half years. And weep thinking of what might have been if the lab had not gone off and squandered resources on Sansar.

    One point you bring up is that SL is based on thirteen year old technology. Implying that is a valid reason for not modifying, updating, and improving the old SL code. I’ve never bought into that argument. My twenty three years of professional experience working first as a programmer, then as a programmer annalist, finally as a computer specialist make me doubt that is as big a problem as the lab wants the SL users to believe.

    In my early career I did what is said to be too difficult. I modified and updated code that was written in the early 1970’s. With the software analysis tools available now it would be even simpler.

    I think you missed my point about the size of the user base. If the lab had worked to update and improved a hypothetical “SL 2.0” two and a half years ago the “new” app would start out with a user base of close to a million people. True that is way short of the pie in the sky millions but is a better place to start building than Sansar’s few hundred when it opens.

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    1. “One point you bring up is that SL is based on thirteen year old technology. Implying that is a valid reason for not modifying, updating, and improving the old SL code. ”

      With respect, that’s not what I’ve ever said, or implied. Hence why I closed my comment thus:

      “…while it’s always going to have limitations placed on what can or might be achieved, simply because that’s the nature of the beast, Linden Lab is committed to improving and enhancing SL wherever it is practicable to do so.”

      Rather my point was, and remains, that like it or not, SL is such a monolithic beast, with so much legacy behind it code-wise (and indeed content-wise, although I didn’t expressly mention the latter to begin with), there is only so much that can be done in a number of areas of the platform in terms of improvement and update before you really start getting into an environment where you’re essentially building an entirely separate platform.

      Going that route then brings up the potential that anything which is built may not be 100% compatible with the existing platform, particularly if leverging new technologies. Thus, you actually end up with many of the user concerns as are being voice vis SL and Sansar, such as people’s inability to carry aspects of their inventory over from one to the other, the feeling of having to “start from scratch” all over again, etc. Hence why I didn’t misunderstand your comment on the current SL user base, I simply disagree with it because it would appear to take rather too much for granted.

      As an aside, and given your background, if you’re interested in learning some of just what the Lab are trying to do with Second Life, and understand more about their genuine concerns about what can and cannot be comfortably achieved when seeking to enhance and improve SL, you’re welcome to attend any of the weekly in-world meetings with Lab staff at the sharp end of things. Details can be found on the User Group wiki page, and I’d particularly recommend the Tuesday Simulator User Group (still called the “Server/Sim/Scripting” group on the wiki page).

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