Sansar Product Meeting 2017 week #40: Discovery and more

Image courtesy of Linden Lab

The following notes are taken from the Sansar Product Meetings held on Friday, October 6th. These meetings are held every Friday at 9:30am PTD and 4:00pm PTD, and are open to all. There is no set agenda (currently), and the meetings are a mix of voice and text. The official meeting notes are published in the week following each pair of meetings, while venues change on a weekly basis, and are announced in the Meet-up Announcements.

The October 6th meetings took place at Spinnervale, a creepy experience for Halloween by Debi Baskerville (and which I’ve reviewed here). Attending the meetings were Bjørn Laurin, the Lab’s VP of Product, and Cara and Boden from the Product team.

Discovery Release Update

The Discovery release was deployed on Wednesday, October 4th – see my overview on the release for core details. However, there were some post-deployment issues which required hot fixes and updates to be deployed as well. These have thus far comprised:

  • Update 1 – October 5, 2017 – mainly addressing a major crashing issue that would trigger when an avatar enters an experience while other avatars are walking around.
  • Update 2 – October 6, 2017 – allowing people to add scripts and other components to objects bought from the Sansar Store following issues in the wake of the initial Discovery deployment. However, as a side-effect of the fix, items that were edited between the initial deployment and the update may revert back to their default settings, with items properties that were edited in the time between the Discovery release deployment and the update were lost. This was originally reported as a “known issue” in the October 5th update.

There may be further updates to follow, addressing some remaining issues.

Supply Chain Release Error

The second of the two issues noted above was the result of the premature deployment of code for Sansar’s supply chain economy and permissions system within the Discovery release.

As Bjørn explained at the meeting, the supply chain economy will allow everyone to get properly recompensed for their creations howsoever they are used. However, the first element of the code to support this – designed to protect original content – was deployed with the Discovery release without some key supporting elements, resulting in the issues fixed by the October 6th update.

Deployment of the supply chain capabilities may be around the end of the first quarter / start of the second quarter of 2018.

People gather for the 9:30am PDT Product Meeting at Spinnervale. Jenn is wearing the bat wings in the foreground

Other Noted Issues

  • Adding a metalness map to an object can cause it to dramatically change colour. This appears to be the unintended consequence of a fix for another issue.
  • Some people are seeing old messages and notifications re-received, generally during logging-in; friend requests me be repeated multiple times; accepting a friend request can request in the system add you as your own friend – and you can message yourself (!).
  • Some are seeing massively inflated audio emitters when working in Edit mode.
  • There are reports that items taken in Desktop mode can be “grabbed” away, either by other avatars – or even other things in a scene.
  • Some in Desktop mode have also reported that pressing and holding the mouse button to throw things doesn’t always result in a stronger throw; conversely, some in VR now have “superhuman” strength when throwing items.
  • Camera:
    • There is a report that going to free camera movement (aka flycam) by pressing F4 when in first-person view can allow the camera to pan when it is moved forwards / backwards. Although like a bug, a request was made for the feature to be retained.
    • llcameraforward camera vector behaviour is still no longer consistently tracking camera movements in third-person view (although it is still working as expected in first-person). This has been reported previously, but has not been addressed, and appears worse following the Discovery release. This is also affecting projectile behaviours as well.
  • The issue with objects appearing correctly positioned and aligned when editing a scene, and then appearing misaligned / out-of-place in the run-time experience (see here)may be related to a scaling issue, still to be fully investigated. One suggestion is that scaling using the Gizmo rather than the properties sliders can cause differences between the collision mesh and object mesh, which can cause the latter to be repositioned.
  • There is an issue with the client Atlas search – it only seems to search based on the first 3 or 4 characters in the search string.

There were some intentional changes with the Discovery release which weren’t as well represented in the release notes as they might have been. Future release notes will drill down more deeply into changes and updates to hopefully avoid this happening again.

Boden Linden (centre right and using a VR headset) talking at the 4:00pm PDT Product Meeting

Rough Time Frame for the Next Releases

  • The Friends release, focusing on social capabilities for Sansar will form the release following the Discovery release, and will likely be at the end of October / start of November.
  • According to Bjørn at the morning Product Meeting, the release after that will be the Store release, and Boden indicated that this will likely be in mid-December, as the Lab tends to close for an end-of-year break over Christmas / the New Year period.  Subject to confirmation, this release might be the first release of the clothing / fashion updates.

Sansar Camera

Third-person camera orientation doesn’t necessarily match that of the avatar, causing confusion for some. For example, I arrived in this experience with my avatar facing to the right relative to my camera. Pressing “forward” to walk didn’t turn my avatar in the direction my camera was facing (as might be expected), but rather had my avatar walking off the the right, the camera slewing around to take up position behind me

Feedback on the Sansar camera (when in third-person view) has identified points of annoyance, particularly for those used to dealing with Second Life. A couple of these can be summarised:

  • Lack of orientation relative to the avatar: when a user arrives at a spawn point in an experience, their avatar may be oriented to face a specific direction – but their camera may not be (it can be off to one side, for example. This can cause confusion with the direction the user should be facing, and disorientation when the user walks “forward”, and their avatar move from (say) left-to-right across their screen (the camera eventually swings around behind the avatar), rather than the avatar turning to walk in the direction the camera is facing as some users might expect.
  • When behind the avatar, the default third-person camera position suffers the Second Life error of being set too high above the avatar, which could potentially lead to issues of scale – again as is the case with Second Life.

Jenn and Bjørn have agreed to get someone who is working on the camera system to come along to a focus group meeting to talk through these kinds of concerns with people and determine what might be done to address them.

Sansar Store

The first iteration of Store branding formed a part of the Discovery release at the meeting, Bjørn indicated:

  • This will be extended to allow unique store / brand names, rather than just creator names.
  • Brand placement on pages will also be expanded.
  • The Store will soon support “collections” of items.
  • It should be possible – in the future – for users to have stores under individual avatar personas, rather than just a single account – this will allow merchants with multiple brands between different avatar personas.

Media in Experiences

Streaming Concerns

There are concerns that having media streaming auto-play within experiences (e.g. via media surfaces like SL’s media on a prim) could lead to attempts as data-scraping user’s IP info, particularly in countries where dynamic IPs addressing isn’t the norm (such as the infamous RedZone situation in SL in 2011), or that it might be exploited to harass users (as has also been witnessed in SL. These have led to requests that a UI control is added to allow people to disable auto media streaming if they wish, and this is being taken back to the Lab.

User Controls for Audio

It is becoming that not having any means to mute any audio  – streamed media, background music, ambient sounds – is not necessarily ideal, as there are times (e.g. in a discussion group such as the daily meet-ups and weekly Product Meetings) where such background sounds can intrude into conversations. It also means those with hearing sensitivities might also find experiences with a lot of background noises unattractive for visits.

Events Notification / Promotion

Boden noted the Lab is working to make Sansar events a lot more visible through the Sansar website. This appears to be a separate entity to the forthcoming event tab in the Atlas Bjørn has also mentioned as coming in a future release. The web offering is likely to initially focus on events the Lab is hosting  / running (e.g. through Sansar Studios), but will be broadened from there. It will likely offer the date, time and locations of an event and a short description, with features added over time – possibly with an option for people to subscribe to receiving news on events being posted, etc.

Community Platform

The Lab currently uses ZenDesk as the community platform tool for the knowledge base, blogs, forums, etc. While it works well for the knowledge base, it is not an ideal tool for manage the blogs and forums. It’s not clear why the platform used to run SL’s community environment wasn’t utilised for Sansar, given that is a known quantity with Linden Lab and works well, but c’est la vie. Work to enhance the Sansar community tools is now on the Sansar roadmap.

Inventory

Lack of inventory management capabilities remains a pain point. Boden pointed out that the Sansar Studios inventory is now over 10,000 items, so the Sansar team is also feeling the pain.  Improved inventory management tools are now being considered / looked at.

Sansar Team

Linden Lab continues to recruit into the Sansar team from external sources – Boden indicated that some recent hires were people from Altspace VR. Some of this is to build up specific teams, some of it is the result of natural staff turnover. At the same time, skill sets within the Lab continue to flow between Second Life and Sansar (currently, for example, Torley from the Community team is primarily focused on Sansar, while Xiola and Brett work on both Sansar and SL. Aside from this the Lab also continues to recruit for Second Life.

Competition for LL Sansar Staff to Build Their Own Experiences?

A suggestion was put forward to run a competition in which the Lab’s Sansar staff would be encouraged to build experiences. Sansar users could then pick their favourites (no prizes awarded!). The idea would be to encourage those working on developing Sansar to get more involved in the platform from a user perspective.  The idea is being taken back to the Lab for discussion, and will likely be an “unofficial” topic for discussion on Discord!

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