As a new – and still developing / evolving platform – Sansar is currently perhaps more a place for experimentation for many, rather than a place to inhabit or use productively (which is not to say it cannot fulfil use cases, as I hope my article on the recent Voyages Live: Egypt tour shows). Because the platform can be seen in this way, I’m constantly looking out for experiences that push Sansar’s current capabilities just that little bit harder – and Linden Lab has been encouraging experience creators to do just this, initially through their Creator Challenge, which took place a few months back (see here for more), together with the Halloween-themed Sansar’s Scariest contest, which closed its doors to entrants in mid-October 2017.
Creator Jasmine has used both competitions as a means of experimenting with Sansar’s potential as a storytelling platform. For the Creator Challenge, she produced Through the Waterfall: Enter Another World, which actually took the prize for Best Narrative Experience. This is the not-entirely-happy story of what happens to two young girls in the aftermath of a tragic car accident.
The story starts atop a giant desk on which visitors are informed, Without dreams, we can never become more than that which we already are… , together with an invitation to jump down to the floor and find the first of a series of keys. Each key, when walked upon, teleports the visitor to a chapter in the unfolding story. It’s a fairly linear piece, requiring the visitor to “fill in” the blanks of the storyline, so to speak, but the crafting and use of media and music help move things forward through the six chapters. I’m not going to say more here so as not to spoil anyone’s visit.
Miner Difficulties is a further narrative-based experience, with the story developed by Jasmine, and scripting / choreography by Galen (the two of them working under the title of Through the Waterfall). The similarities between this story and that of Through the Waterfall: Enter Another World are fairly clear: both start in similar surroundings, both involve the visitor in an unfolding narrative (an introduction and three chapters for Miner Difficulties, rather than the intro and six chapters of Enter Another World). However, it is the differences in the way the story is managed with that sets Miner Difficulties apart from Jasmine’s earlier work and helps mark how Sansar’s capabilities are gradually unfolding and lending themselves to more sophisticated use.
Whereas Enter Another World relied upon the discovery of keys and narrative deductions on the part of the visitor to link the six chapters of the story, Miner Difficulties uses two “living” guides to steer visitors through the story and piece together events. These are a little bird and a little girl.
Again, I don’t want to spoil a visit, so I’m not going to say much on what to expect. Suffice it to say that the bird acts as a guide through the woods, leading visitors to the little the girl (and then continues onwards with you as you travel with her). The girl also acts as a guide – but as well as leading you onwards, she also talks to you as she does so, giving a natural structure to the narrative. Both bird and girl are beautifully choreographed and give a great sense of depth to the experience.
To those used to the complexities and capabilities of Second Life, these experiences may seem a little simplistic. However, they do demonstrate the potential for Sansar to become a platform for storytelling – and with the growing capabilities for both VR and Desktop mode interactions, it will be interesting to see how narrative-based experiences develop.
In terms of Halloween / ghostly experiences, I found Miner Difficulties one of the more involved in Sansar, and deserving of its status as a featured experience.