Sansar preview 3: a broader perspective?

(courtesy of Linden Lab)

The third Sansar preview – and the second in a week – almost slipped by me, as I’ve been otherwise engaged in numerous things. And that would have been a shame had I missed it, as it offers a perspective on Sansar from none other than Maxwell Graf.

I’m bound to be biased here, as I’ve known Max for a long time – almost back as far as my earliest days in SL (he joined between my first and current stints in-world). However, he is worth listening to, because he knows his eggs. Max is behind one of the most well-respected content brands in SL: Rustica, he’s designed regions, work on Blue Mars and Cloud Party, has a finger on the pulse of High Fidelity and has been in Sansar from the initial phases of the current Creator Preview.

Maxwell Graf working in Sansar via keyboard and trackball

For this piece – running to one minute and 46 seconds, Max has a lot to say – and wisely, Drax lets him get on and say it uninterrupted.  Of course, there are descriptions of the experiences Max has been building – one of which, unsurprisingly, is very Rustica. However, what is interesting is not what he’s building, but what he has been observing about Sansar.

One of the major critiques (from SL users) towards Sansar is the lack of contiguous space – even though, as I’ve pointed out, an experience can be four kilometres on a side (the equivalent of 16 SL regions on a side). That still may not be as big as a Mainland continent in Second Life, but Max puts it better perspective when it comes to something like period role-play (a popular pursuit in SL):

The really interesting thing about something that is on that scale is that from a role-play perspective, it does not have to be confined to a small village any more. You can exist on each side of the mountains and never even see each other because it takes three hours to walks across.

Rustica in Sansar’s Edit mode

When couched like that, in an environment where flying could be disallowed, teleporting strictly controlled, etc., the span of role-play and role-play encounters could be far more involved than anything witnessed in Second Life – if and when Sansar has built up a mass of interested users. It also raises the potential for very real-time training and simulation uses for the platform.

Max also touches  – admittedly lightly – on what is bound to be something of a struggle for balance on the part of Sansar content creators: pitching their goods and services at a price which reflects the effort put into creating / building them, and which users are willing to pay. In some respects, this is where Sansar could be initially hamstrung if its initial core user demographic is drawn from Second Life users, who will likely have certain expectations on the cost of goods and items because of their time in SL.

Browsing the Sansar marketplace via smartphone

However, it is in his comments around Sansar’s potential for public reach which are perhaps the most interesting, coupled with the manner in which he is using Sansar:

What Sansar is going to offer the public is an opportunity to get an understand of what an open virtual platform really is about. And that’s going to make a difference, because from here on out, we’re going to be looking at the beginnings of what will become a true metaverse.

Just how likely this is going to be is open to question; will people really see VR and virtual spaces as important to their social engagement, for example. But the important element here is that Sansar’s potential success has been judged on the basis of its lean towards VR, and the fact that (thus far) VR hasn’t really grabbed what could be called a broad market; however; as Max demonstrates in this video is that Sansar can be practically used and enjoyed sans VR paraphernalia.

This is important because, like it or not broader-based user catchment and retention is going to be an issue for Sansar as much as it has been for Second Life, if for no other reason that many of the platform capabilities are going to take time to mature. If it is seen purely as being “all about the VR”, then that catchment is liable to be considerably narrowed, simply because people aren’t buying into VR in a big way as it stands right now (although as the hardware and costs improve, this could well change). Therefore, emphasising the wider potential for the platform to operate without all the expense of HMDs, etc., could boost the level of interest among “the public” (UI allowing). It’s just a pity this point is somewhat undermined by the (somewhat jarring) interjection of HMD use into Max’s narrative.

That said, this is still a further interesting video in a maturing series, and another step along the way to giving further insights into the platform as we move ever closer to Sansar’s public opening.