The Zen Garden in Sansar is one of the experience produced by the Lab’s Sansar Studios team, and has been one of the more frequented locations, visitor-wise. One of the reasons for this has possibly been because the Zen Garden has opportunities for interaction with things within the scene – particularly for those using VR headsets and controllers.
A visit begins on the upper level of a large artificial structure floating in the sky. The top of this – split into two levels – comprises a rectangular (non-accessible) building, a swimming pool, a games area and, on the lower level, an observation ring surrounding the sunken zen garden of the scene’s title. Steps connect the two main outdoor levels and provide access up to the building, where a set of stairs zig-zag their way up the side, almost like a fire escape, providing access to and from the roof.
The games on the greensward in front of the building are playable by those with VR headsets, although those in Desktop mode might try their feet at kicking around one of the large beach balls. However, it may not be these or the immediate surroundings which hold the new arrival’s attention; this structure is far from alone in the sky. It is orbited by a number of rocky islands, some near, some seemingly far. These are home to a variety of building, from blocky buildings similar to the towers and buildings resembling mosques or orthodox churches, topped by minarets and spires. Others are simply the home of trees and little else. Around and between all of them, smaller rocks tumble or rotate along their own orbits.
The sky is also occupied by two vehicles – sky taxis, if you will. One buzzes like an industrious bee from rocky island to rocky island, apparently carrying passengers back and forth. Alas, it doesn’t come to the central structure, so there is no real opportunity to go island hopping. The second vehicle follows a more leisurely path, gently flying around the main structure, carefully descending to hover near the swimming pool once per circuit, giving people an opportunity to climb aboard and take a ride. This is surprisingly smooth – if a little disconcerting as the vehicle turns beneath you and you remain solid as a rock, staring in the same direction unless you opt to move. It’s also a little one-dimensional: a single circuit on the taxi is enough to suffice.
The Zen Garden is designed to be reached in two ways: via one of the two staircases which curve down through the rock into which the garden has been built, or via an open-topped elevator located to one side of the structure surrounding the garden. Those adept at teleporting could attempt a “jump” down to the floor area of the “foyer” cavern just to the front of the garden, if they are so minded – but a walk down the stairs is just as easy.
The garden, sitting in a circular well open to the sky, is a simple, elegant affair. Surrounded by a curtain of bamboo, it is open to the sky above while descending in three tiers from the cavern it faces. The lowest of these is water-filled, the two above it covered in raked sand. Floating above the innermost tier is a series of disks, with lotus leaves floating around them, which seem to form a path leading up to a mysterious red door sitting slightly ajar upon a rock.
The door beckons invitingly. Is it a portal to another place? I’m sure many have attempted to climb or teleport up the floating disks to reach it (or simply teleported directly up onto its rock). But sadly, the promise is an empty one. No gateway to another scene awaits; perhaps in the future, this may change.
Another promise which will hopefully be fulfilled within this scene (as well as elsewhere in Sansar) is the ability to sit down. Zen Garden offers a lot of seating – out in the sun, in rocky corners or in the shade of the building or at the bar – but sadly, the ability to sit isn’t something that has as yet been granted to avatars – although it will be coming.
Zen Garden is perhaps one of the easier places to start with when first joining Sansar. There is enough to see and (potentially) do to keep the novice moderately occupied and gain familiarity with their preferred mode of using Sansar, by it VR or Desktop.