The following notes are taken from the Sansar Product Meetings held on Friday, November 3rd. These meetings are usually held every Friday at 9:30am PDT and 4:00pm PDT, and are open to all. There is currently no set agenda, 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 26th meetings took place at The Diner by C3rb3rus. Product team members Cara and Boden spoke at the morning and afternoon sessions respectively. Jenn, as usual, led proceedings.
The Friends release arrived on Tuesday, October 31st – see my overview for more, and a patch for the release was issued on November 2nd, fixing a number of issues – see the release notes for more on this.
Desktop Mode: Identifying Avatars
The ability to hover the mouse over an avatar to see the name and ID (then left-click for Friend / mute / Remove as friend options) when in Desktop mode was a major element in the release. However some have reported that this doesn’t always work, and it has been reported as an issue.
One way to resolve the issue is to go to the My Looks app (top right of the client window) and then straight back to the experience.
- Additional options have been requested for the avatar mouse over options, such as being able to open an IM in both Desktop and VR modes. These have been forwarded to the developers.
- Some have requested this be made a toggle feature via More Options > Settings in the UI.
Attachments Rotation / Breakage Issue
A change in the Friends release resulted in rotation / breakage on some attachments made using workarounds to handle rotation (so an affected item no longer appears in the correct location when worn), requiring them to be manually fixed and re-uploaded. However, as some of the items exceed the recently introduce size limitation for attachments (1m x 1m x 1m), uploading them is no longer possible. This has given further consideration to re-visiting the currently enforced limitations with a view to possibly relaxing them at some point.
Store Release and General Store Discussion
While the focus has been on the Friends release and the mid-December Fashion release (see here and here for more), there is still the November end-of-month release still to come. This will be the Store release, which as the name implies, focuses primarily on the Sansar Store. This release is still being finalised, and details will be made available nearer to the planned release date.
- Updating items: the content breakage issue mentioned above has helped push the ability for designers to offer updates to their items further up the priorities list.
- Licensing models: numerous ideas on potential licensing / pricing models for goods in Sansar were discussed. For example: operating a multiple-price system for items based on intended / licensed use – so a version of a item intended for “single instance / non-public / non-Atlas listed” use would have a one (lower) price point; while the same object intended for “commercial (re-sale?) / public” use has a higher price point. Such ideas bring with them numerous issues:
- As an experience is a URL which can be used anywhere, how do you determine “non-public” over “public” use, as the Atlas is not the sole means of surfacing an experience?
- Such an approach also seems to run contrary to the supply chain ecosystem wherein designers receive payment based on the onward sale of their goods in other creations, rather than a single “up front” large payment for use of their item.
- Ability to run flash sales / better linkage between goods and stores: both of these points are being looked at by the Lab, with the emphasis currently on the latter: making the identification on items, designers and store more direct.
- This also spills over into the improving listing updates and automating the listing process. For example, that when creating a listing for a ring, the system recognises it is intended for the “hand” attachment and lists it as such.
- Demos: A concern among those familiar with the SL Marketplace is that Sansar avoids the need to have individual listings for demos of items.
- A suggestion for handling attachments and clothing would be to include an ability to have the avatar wear the item in the Character app (My Looks), either in the client (which has a risk of exposing the .FBX file of the item) or implementing part of the Character app so it can be used within the Sansar Store for previewing items.
- It is likely more than one means of handling demos will be required, depending on the item, and Boden acknowledged this is something the Lab is aware of and considering.
A new events feature was due to be part of the Friends release, but late breaking issues pushed it into a separate update due to arrive soon. Key points with this feature are:
- Ability to send an e-mail to the Lab promoting an event. Once available, e-mails should be sent at least a week in advance of an event so as to be curated and added in time, as this will initially be a manual process.
- The inclusion of the times and locations of daily community meet-ups and the weekly Product Meetings, as other Lab-led events.
- It is intended to help people find out what is going on in Sansar.
- It will initially be a part of the web Atlas to start with, and then grown from there.
Fashion Focus Group
Alongside of the Fashion release there will be a special focus / “alpha” group, which will comprise designers specifically invited to join it to help give input / feedback on the fashion tools / capabilities, and which will likely be subject to NDA, due to the proprietary nature of some of the software.
Sansar Learning Curve and Tutorials
Some are already finding Sansar difficult to get to grips with, and requests have been made for things like tool tips in the various UI apps, some form overview of controls and options built-in to the client, etc. An on-boarding process has been discussed at the Lab, but this appears to have been pushed back as other features – such as a fashion – have been prioritised.
One suggestion to help with on-boarding, seen as short-term, would be to have YouTube / Vimeo videos explaining aspects of Sansar (the return of Torley’s TuTORials?!). There are already videos being added to the Knowledge Base, and this is likely to be expanded.
Creator Academy and Hall of Materials
One learning resource that the Sansar team is working on is a showcase Creator Academy within Sansar itself. This will feature, for example, an upcoming Sansar Studios experience called Hall of Materials, displaying objects with different settings in action on different materials so that creators can see and experience, rather than just read about, how the materials editor works inside Sansar.
Avatar Sitting and Avatar Animations
Adding the ability for avatars in Sansar to sit is more difficult than might be appreciated, as per Bjørn’s comments from a previous Product Meeting, which commence around the 2:10 mark in the audio below. However, it is on the roadmap for implementation, possibly in 2018. Pending this, Galen has put forward a request for attaching standing avatars to objects, to prevent them from falling off (say, if the vehicle is inverted), and to free-up the WASD / arrow keys for vehicle movement, etc.
VR adds complexity to animating avatars in other ways. Take dancing for example: should this purely be a matter of running a set of pre-defined animations (scripted via an object, or played directly against the avatar) in a manner akin to Second Life, or should it also allow for IK control through the VR controllers? Would people even want to use VR for things like dancing, or be more content with allowing pre-defined animation sets move their avatar (again, as per SL)?
If using a combination, how is it determined what is controlled just by animations, what is purely controlled by the VR controllers, etc. How do these then relate to the Sansar animation engine, so that facial expressions, lip and mouth movements when using voice, etc., are still accurately played without possible conflicts?
These are all questions the Lab is considering, together with how to allow avatars to be more expressively emotive through facial expressions. Should this be done through some kind of HUD system (if enabled in Sansar) or via the selection of a happy / smiley / frowny face via My Looks (clunky, but workable), or some other means?
A refreshing point here is that the Lab is not looking at VR to solve these issues (e.g. reliance on facial tracking to reflect facial movements / expressions), but is looking at options which encompass users with or without VR systems at their disposal. There is also a recognition that many people derive satisfaction from simply watching their avatar engage in something like dancing without necessarily having to directly manipulate it while it is doings so.
- Audio controls: additional audio options are being considered, including – potentially – the ability to set individual volume levels against other users (presumably in a similar manner to SL), rather than having a single “blanket” voice audio volume control / simply muting or unmuting someone.
- The flip side to this is that as Sansar has a bias towards the use of voice, and better controls are needed to handle this. Even with the voice audio fall-off, people talking at a music event can interrupt the event, so a means to reduce this is required (e.g. being able to reduce the voice volume so that only people in very close proximity to one another can hear each other, or muting voice for the entire experience, or providing a means for people to privately voice chat with one another).
- Audio / video syncing: a takeaway from recent events in Sansar (e.g. the Halloween karaoke and the Oblee concert) is the need for a means to ensure audio and video streaming into experiences are synced between clients so people can all hear / see the same thing and more immersively share the experience together. This is now being discussed at the Lab, but its place on the roadmap isn’t currently clear as it is one of a number of audio-related aspects of the platform the Lab is looking at.
- User profiles: are “on the roadmap”, and may arrive in the first quarter of 2018, although this is still TBC.
- Vertex animations (morph target animation): currently, Sansar allows object animation in its rotation, coordinates and / or overall size, but sub-elements cannot be animated. So, for example, a flag cannot be animated by morphing between defined vertex positions or have smoother animations for real-looking NPCs. This doesn’t seem to currently be on the roadmap (or Cara wasn’t aware of it being so), and has been taken back to the Lab for further consideration.
- Sansar HUDs: having some form of HUD capability within Sansar is a frequently voiced request. Right now, it is difficult for users to carry out tasks within an experience creators may wish to make available to them. Cara noted that right now, implementing a means to enable HUDs isn’t on the roadmap, but will be discussed.
- UI updates: the Lab is working on the tools to support UI changes (Runtime and Edit modes). Once this work is completed, it will hopefully pave the way to making UI improvements easier.
- Featured experiences in the Atlas: this is manual process at present, focused on keeping things dynamic and fresh. Some experiences might be re-featured as they match a specific themes (e.g. Halloween, Christmas, etc), others because they showcase features, or are new to Sansar, etc. In the future, the entire featured section of the Atlas may be made more granular, with various categories, etc.
- Monetising experiences: the ability for people to monetise experiences by charging others to access them is still on the roadmap.
- Precisely how this will work e.g. purchase a ticket from the Sansar Store which offers time-limited access to all or part of an experience, or pay-on-arrival in an experience, or some combination, is still TBD.
- Essentially, the Lab would like to develop a framework which meets all legal / regulatory requirements, on behalf of creators / designers, but leaves creators / designers free to develop their own solutions / business models to monetise their experiences / activities in a manner best suited to them whilst remaining within the framework.