Aech’s Basement: a new Sansar RPO experience

Aech's Basement, Sansar; Inara Pey, March 2018, on FlickrSansar: Aech’s Basement – click on any image for full size

Thursday, March 29th marked the US opening of Steven Spielberg’s Ready Player One, the film based on Ernest Cline’s 2011 novel of the same name. Few can fail to have heard of either film or book – which features a VR “metaverse” made up of thousands of worlds, called OASIS. To mark the opening of the film, but with much less fanfare, Sansar Studios, the 3D / VR modelling and experience design team at Linden Lab, recently opened Aech’s Basement in Sansar.

Described as being “interpreted from the original ILM design for Ready Player One, from Warner Bros. Pictures, Amblin Entertainment and Village Roadshow Pictures.” Aech’s Basement is the second Ready Player One experience to be presented by Sansar Studios, the first being Aech’s Garage (read here for more).

Aech's Basement, Sansar; Inara Pey, March 2018, on FlickrSansar: Aech’s Basement

I can’t speak for the movie as I’ve not seen it yet, but in terms of the book, and with one or two liberties taken to ease avatar movement, the experience hits pretty close to home. And like Aech’s Garage before it, there is a wealth of detail and subtle touches packed into it which are – for those with a keen eye and love of sci-fi and films or the 1980s – a treat to find.

Aech had named his chat room the Basement. He’d programmed it to look like a large suburban rec room, circa the late 1980s. Old movie and comic book poster covered the wood-panelled walls. A vintage RCA television stood in the centre of the room. hooked up to a Betamax VCR, a LaserDisc player and several vintage video game consoles. Bookshelves lined the far wall, filled with role-playing game supplements and back issues of Dragon magazine.

Ernest Cline, Ready Player One, Chapter 3

Aech's Basement, Sansar; Inara Pey, March 2018, on FlickrSansar: Aech’s Basement

Unlike the book, where avatars visiting Aech spawn at the top of the stairs leading down to the Basement, visitors to Aech’s Basement in Sansar spawn in the basement itself.  Walls panelled in wood, as per the book, it is literally chock-a-bloc with 80’s references. The RCA TV is there, although it has been moved against a wall, rather than occupying the centre of the room, its place taken instead by a sofa. However, the consoles are there on the floor in front of it – two Segas and what looks like (from a very quick Internet search, I confess to being no expert), a Mattel Intellivision. The 80’s posters are on the wall celebrating films of the era, and albums by popular 80’s musical artists are scattered around.

A little liberty has been taken with the video tapes, as they are VHS rather than Betamax, while against a wall near the spawn point sit racks of audio cassettes. The rest of the space – in suitably 80’s style lighting – is furnished as one would expect a den to be – large, plump sofas, armchairs past their prime, a games table and – against one wall, a bar.

Aech's Basement, Sansar; Inara Pey, March 2018, on FlickrSansar: Aech’s Basement

The Easter eggs are to be found all over – from the posters , albums and VHS films, through to models from Buck Rogers in the 25th Century and Battlestar Galactica, to space invaders climbing down a ceiling support – and more (I’m just not going to spoil the fun of finding them for yourself). I particularly like the election poster for Wil Wheaton (he of Star Trek the Next Generation fame, as well as a respected blogger, narrator of the Ready Player One audiobook and – in the novel – the vice-president of the OASIS User Council).

Connected to Aech’s Garage by a door at one end of the room, the Basement is a lot smaller than that experience, and can great a little crowded with more than half-a-dozen avatars in it; however, it is as visually rich. Sansar’s quirky interactive capabilities do mean things can get thrown around, but hopefully, this will improve as those interactive capabilities are refined.

Aech's Basement, Sansar; Inara Pey, March 2018, on FlickrSansar: Aech’s Basement

Sponsored by Intel, and licensed by Warner Brothers Entertainment, Aech’s Basement and Aech’s Garage make for an ideal joint visit to the world of Ready Player One, whether or not you’ve seen the film and – in the case of the Basement – especially if you’ve read the book.

Experience SLurl

5 thoughts on “Aech’s Basement: a new Sansar RPO experience

    1. The Lab is striving for realism with Sansar, and so see sitting as a complex issue. Rather than point-and-click to sit on an object as with Second life, they’d like to have avatars effectively “walk up and sit down” as we do in the physical world. But – how should that be handled?

      For example, some kind of “click the object” that triggers the avatar to walk up to it and sit down? This could work well enough in Desktop Mode, but what about those in VR? Will it be disorienting to find their avatar under “external” control, however briefly, as an animation takes over movement? What about the physical confusion for VR users… standing and controlling their avatar, then seeing it sit, and perhaps instinctively trying to sit as well – regardless of whether a chair is behind them or not?

      Should sitting be restricted only to chairs and objects intended to by sat on – or should avatars have the freedom to sit almost anywhere – much as we do, again, in the physical world – such as on a flight of steps, or in the branches of any tree in a scene or on the railings of a fence or any other suitable surface? If so, how should these options be handled? How can a mechanism for sitting be built-out to offer the widest possible range of options? These are the kinds of questions repeatedly raised at Sansar product meetings as the Lab works on sitting.

      That said, we have been promised a simple “ground sit” in an upcoming release, with more comprehensive sitting capabilities following after it as things are further defined.

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      1. Thanks for that insight into some of the complex issues involved Inara… its not an elaborate April Fools Day joke is it 🙂

        I think the focus on asssuming that the VR headset is always worn is wrong actually and keep saying so… I think its more likely its donned for specific interactions and explorations. But I certainly accept headsets will be worn sometimes when you just want to sit on a sofa, a chair at a table, in a lecture theatre or on a campfire log without taking it off and putting it back on.

        I can see that sudden motion is an issue if you are in first person viewpoint mode when the avatar is moved to sit on seat… but typically in some systems a “spring” style of animation and movement is employed when sudden motion occurs so the movement is smoother.

        As to allowing sitting on a fence… I know that MUST be an April Fools Joke 😉 Happy Easter.

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        1. “I think the focus on assuming that the VR headset is always worn is wrong actually and keep saying so…”

          I’m also kind-of dubious that the “always in front of the eyes” headset use is the common case at the moment. I’ve only had a few opportunities to try a friend’s headset, not having one myself, and they don’t (at present) own one (and don’t intend to until we see where form factor and thinking like Qualcomm’s leads). However, it’s not something I found conducive to spending hours wearing. BUT…

          The Lab isn’t so much building-out Sansar’s VR capabilities from the standpoint of where the VR hardware is at present, but more where it will be in 5 or so years time, both in terms of “ease of use” weight-wise, etc., and numbers *in* use. Also, the biggest input they are getting right now is from a small cadre of users who attend the Community meet-ups, the Product meetings, are active on Discord – and it is fair to say a good number of them are quite loud proponents of the “headsets first” thinking.

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