Sansar product meetings 2017: week #34

People gather for the morning product meet-up, Friday, August 24th

The following notes are taken from the Sansar Product Meet-ups held on Friday, August 25th. These meetings are held every Friday at 09:30 PTD and 16:00 PTD, and are open to all. There is no set agenda (currently), and the meetings are a mix of voice and text. Venues change on a weekly basis, and are announced in the Meet-up Announcements;  the August 25th meetings took place at Voyage Live: Egypt. The official meeting notes published the week following each pair of meetings.

The meetings are chaired by Jenn (aka Xiola Linden) from the Community Team, and feature various members of the Sansar teams. The August 24th meetings, for example, saw Cara and Caroline from the Product Team in attendance, with Hydro Linden from the Modelling Team, and Brett from the Community Team.

Next Release

The tentative date for the next major Sansar release is Thursday, August 31st. This is in keeping with the Lab’s approach to making major (feature) updates at the end / start of a month, with smaller interim releases focused on bug fixes and patches being rolled out as required between these major releases. There is still some work to be done on the release, so the 31st is not a definite date. Highlights of the upcoming release include:

Terrain Editor

A first implementation of the Sansar Terrain Editor; the ability to upload custom textures to follow. Cara reports there are still some issues with this at present which need to be sorted before it is released.

Scripting Updates and Improvements

A range of scripting updates and improvements, including:

Ambient Occlusion (AO)

An initial implementation of AO to allow things like indirect lighting shadows to help objects and avatars look more “rooted” in a scene. This should not require creators to re-visit and update the Global Illumination (GI) bakes for their experiences, as the AO will be a real-time effect.

Other Notable Updates

  • Avatar Attachments: creators will be able to upload and sell their own avatar attachments through the Sansar Store.
  • Object Animations: animated objects created in Maya, StudioMax, or Blender can be imported them into Sansar.
  • Support for custom music and live streaming: e.g. via Shoutcast an similar services, for audio streaming in experiences.
  • 3D Video support: ability to watch 3D movies within experiences.
  • Bug fixes.

Once the release has been deployed, details of updates, changes, improvements and fixes will be documented in the Release Notes section of the knowledge base, and form an e-mail to users. Specific feature notes will also published through the forums.

Jenn and Cara Linden at the 09:30 PDT meeting, Friday, August 25th.

Beyond the Next Release

The following areas are priority work areas for future releases:

Collaborative Building / Design

While seen as a priority, it may take some time to appear, as it is also reliant on other aspects of the platform, such as the permissions system.

It’s also not clear what form it might take – will creators be able to work together to “block out” a scene collectively, using tools in the editor to construct basic models (walls, floors, door, etc), which can then be positioned, modified and used as a reference for the off-line building of the actual optimised, fully textured items for use in the scene, for example?

Social Aspects Improvements

These include:

  • Making it easier to find others in Sansar and communicate privately with non-friends (currently, you can only direct message someone you have friended)
  • Greater avatar-to-avatar interaction when in Desktop mode (e.g. the ability to identify other avatars, ability to directly mute (voice only) other avatars, etc).
  • Text chat improvements (e.g. clickable support for URLs rather than reliance on the “Go” button function to identify URLs; ability to copy / paste chat, etc.).

Text chat and messaging in particular lack some core functionality (scrolling back through open chat, for example, no time stamps on messages, muting only applies to voice, etc). The current inability to directly contact non-friends came about as a result of muting being limited to voice chat only, and will hopefully be reversed in time.

An attempt will be made to get someone from the UI Team and from the Product Team involved in the UI / chat tools to come to a meeting to discuss their work and priorities.

Other Items In Progress

  • Inventory management improvements.
  • User preferences – but no details on what these will be.

Sansar Roadmap

There is a Sansar roadmap for updates and improvements, etc. This is currently being refined, revised and prepared for public release. Once available, the hope is that it will form the basis for more focused discussions on Sansar’s development and for obtaining feedback from Sansar users.

Avatar Improvements

A means to refine the texturing of hair for avatars was discussed several weeks ago, but it’s not clear if this is on general release to creators, or something only available for the Sansar Character team to use in refining the current avatars. If it is generally available, a request as been made for documentation / examples.

There is a longer-term project to refine and improve the Sansar avatars. This includes separating clothing from the avatar bakes to make it easier to support clothing (e.g. clothing making, mixing and matching items, etc.). The time frame for this could be several months.

VR users try Sansar’s “Desktop Mode” by standing on the desk!

Sansar Dollars and Payments

Right now Sansar Dollars can be purchased, redeemed and used to buy goods. They cannot be used to pay other avatars or as a gift to other avatars (or offered as a refund). These capabilities will be coming, but are not currently a priority at the Lab, but Cara has indicated she’ll refer requests for them to be made a higher priority back to the rest of the Product Team.

Sansar Store and Selling Goods

The Sansar Store is seen as limited, with Carolyn from the product team describing it as “sparse” in terms of features. It’s also seen as somewhat transitional in nature. The second of the two meetings on Friday, August 25th included a lengthy discussion of features and ideas, with an initial three seen as sufficiently important to creators as being informally voted upon in terms of priority:

  • Adding the ability to push product updates to purchasers (which the Lab has already been working on, but not necessarily as a high priority item).
  • Adding the ability to group multiple items as a single product (e.g. multiple parts of a game or house) for sale / delivery (e.g. via a folder or similar mechanism).
  • An integrated means of establishing sales on the Store without merchants having to individually re-price items in the sale before / after.

The official meeting notes will have the results of this voting.

There are other concerns / desires for the Store, including:

  • Concerns over the inability to communicate with non-friends making it difficult to establish trust (merchants cannot contact customers, and vice versa).
  • A request to relax the rule on only allowing Store images on a transparent background – this will be forthcoming
  • A  request for the Seller Dashboard (/transaction history) to be more informative – which is again on the roadmap.
  • A request to add permissions (when available) to listings, and some easily understood indicators of the performance impact of an item (e.g. something akin to SL’s land impact) – something which will be of particular importance to those using models and objects in building their own experiences. This latter point spun out into a discussion on general resource usage and monitoring, developing suitable Sansar bes practices for content modelling, etc.

The meeting also included lengthy debates on demo items and how they might be furnished, and also on customer comments / ratings. There are a lot of options for dealing with both of these topics, and there will doubtless be further discussions on both.

Other Items

Website: The Sansar website is not particularly user-friendly when trying to view the forums and other information. This is blamed on current software limitations in the knowledge base software. It is expected that things will improve, but there is currently no time-line on when.

General documentation: one of Cara’s responsibilities is working on the team producing Sansar release notes and producing documentation for the platform, including requests from creators for documentation placed in the forums.

Kit bashing and Turbosquid models: Hydro walked-through the Voyage Live: Egypt scene where the meetings was held, pointing out how it had been kit bashed using items from Turbosquid – and noting that many Turbosquid models require a lot of work to reduce overly high poly counts, etc. -,  objects from outsourced creators working on Sansar, animation rigging for things like the ceiling fans (which currently requires a skeleton, although that will be changing), plus original models. The entire scene was put together in a couple of days.

Switch from Slack to Discord: for off-line communications. This is still in progress, but is now labelled as “coming soon”.

Hoping that Jenn’s toe are not broken, and / or that they are not causing discomfort.

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