2018 Sansar Product Meeting week #29: avatars, permissions system, roadmap

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

The following notes are taken from the Sansar Product Meeting held on Friday, July 20th. These weekly Product Meetings are open to anyone to attend, are a mix of voice (primarily) and text chat. Check the Events calendar for dates and times for future meeting.

The focus for this meeting was initially on the increase in allowed experiences (see here for my thoughts) and on the July Express Yourself release, which I reviewed here.

Experience Increases and Sansar Subscriptions

The news that Linden Lab have increased the number of allowed experiences under each membership tier (Free – 20; Creator (US $9.99 per month) – 25; Super-Creator (US $29.99 per month) – 30; Professional ($99.99 per month) – 40) raised two core questions during the meeting:

  • Will this move see the Lab increase transaction fees?
  • What value is there for people on paid subscriptions to keep those subscriptions given the massive increase in allowed experiences for Free account holders?

In addressing the fees issue, Landon from the Sansar Product team indicated that the Lab does not intend to make any changes to transactions fees as a result of this change – but that future possible changes could not be ruled out as Sansar continues to develop. Eliot, the Sansar Community Manager also made it clear the increases to allowed experiences are not part of any bigger plan to increase fees or anything else.

In terms of maintaining the value of Sansar paid subscription options, Landon indicated the plan will most likely be to make them more attractive by adding further practical benefits and perks in addition to the current Marvelous Designer free trial and subscription discounts.

A side question to this was whether the limit on the number of items Free accounts can list on the Sansar Store might be re-introduced, in order to make subscription accounts more appealing. Landon indicated he would prefer not to take steps like this, that might be seen as limiting creativity, but rather work to deliver more value to subscription accounts.

Express Yourself Update

Custom Avatars

The new custom avatars option has been well received, with a number of creators making avatars for their personal use, with some also being offered on the Sansar Store.

The first Custom Avatars are now available on the Sansar Store. They can be viewed by clicking Explore in the Store’s top menu and selecting Avatars from the drop-down list, or by clicking on All and then selecting Avatars from the categories drop-down (shown above).

Note that custom avatars are a single piece wearable – they cannot be combined with other Sansar clothing or avatar accessories.

Once obtained from the Store, custom avatars are stored in the Look Book inventory and can be worn via the appearance editor panel in Look Book, as explained in the image below.

Wearing a custom avatar via the Look Book: click Customise to open the appearance editor. Click the avatar tab (arrowed at the top of the appearance editor) if it is not already open. Click on the avatar button (circled, top right. Click on one of the the avatar wearables in your inventory, which will be applied to your avatar. Click Done.   

Other points from the custom avatar discussion:

  • Blender custom avatar export issues: some people have reported problems in exporting custom avatars from Blender into Sansar. To help with this, Jeremy Linden has produced a new knowledge base article to hopefully address these problems:
  • Dynamic bones for custom avatars: this is being thought about at the Lab, but is not something that will be seen for at least a couple of months.
  • Avatars as NPCs: there are currently no plans to allow custom avatars to be used as non-player characters (NPCs) within Sansar.
    • An alternative suggestion is to allow existing avatars to be used as NPCs (presumably through additional scripting support). This is something Landon and Cara from the product team have agreed to look into.
  • Clothing on custom avatars: as noted above, it is not possible to use Sansar clothing and accessories on custom avatars. Some creators have already expressed a preference for this remaining the case, as it will eliminate the need to provide multiple sizes of clothing to fit different avatars, and the work that can involved with rigging.

Multiple Object Select / Property Application

Following on from the introduction of object multi-select, a request has been made to take this a stage further and allow the creation of an empty container into which other elements can be placed. This is something that will be coming, and will have the ability to hold tangible and non-tangible objects (such as scripts) and make them available in a scene.

Interaction Physics

Express Yourself sees many of the physics related to avatar / object interactions moved client-side. On the one hand, this should allow for more accurate interactions, such as bouncing a ball off of a bat. On the other, its has resulted in some functional breakages within experiences where scripts expert the server to run physics interactions in a specific order, which can no longer be guaranteed with running some of them on the client.

Sansar Open-Source Options?

In the discussion on subscription benefits, it was suggested LL might offer subscribers limited access to some aspects of Sansar source code. Landon indicated this would be unlikely, but there have been discussions about possibly open-sourcing various aspects of the platform.

Product Roadmap

There seem to be mixed feelings at the Lab about publishing more of a “roadmap” of upcoming features. While there are no current plans to publish anything, Landon indicated he is not averse to putting out a roadmap but wants people to understand that development-wise, his team is trying to take a flexible approach: put features out, gather feedback, then determine what should be prioritised next. So any roadmap put out would be more a set of broad guidelines than commitments to deliver specific functions within certain time frames.

Licensing / Permissions System – August Release

It is hoped that the initial pass at the licensing / permissions system will be part of the August Sansar release. However:

  • This will not be the entire system, but will be something the Lab iterates on.
  • There is still testing going on, and this could result in the deployment of an initial release being delayed.

Part of this system will include the ability to put together composite items in a scene, save them back to inventory as a single “object” which can be sold on the Store (e.g. a light switch, light, control scripts, materials, all put together as a single “light and switch” for sale on the Store).

Sansar and other Platforms

It’s often asked whether Sansar will have either a Mac or Linux client or support other VR hardware.

The Lab’s view is that Sansar will continue to be developed for VR use. Right now the two VR systems with the largest take-up outside of gaming consoles are the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive, both of which use Windows. So at present, the Lab isn’t looking to release a client for other operating systems or support other VR systems.

Other Items

  • Aleks shows up at the Product Meeting as a Blocksworld avatar

    Physics preview: the lab is considering a means to preview physics actions without necessarily loading a scene and running things? This might be similar to the audio previewing in edit mode.

  • Scripts failing to update: there is an issue where, in building a scene, the scripts associated with it are not updating correctly if they have been changed between builds. This is being investigated.
  • Future Store enhancements:
    • More information to be added to Store listings, such as triangle counts for models, information on whether an audio assets is looped or not, etc.
    • Sub-categories within the Store  – so Wearables is divided into clothing, accessories, hair, for example – to make Store browsing easier.
  • Avatar IK: Avatars mode in VR still exhibit some unnatural arm movements. Landon indicated that the IK work is continuing to try to further improve things, and more people might be put onto that particular project.
  • The Sansar Hackathon: members of the Sansar development and product teams have been involved in a week-long hackathon, putting ideas together for possible features, trying things out and seeing what might be done. Some of the ideas tried include:
    • Model previewer: the ability to preview an item in the Store as a model that can be rotated on the web page, rather than a flat 2D photo.
    • Materials Editing and editor: making materials part of the Properties panel. This would, for example, enable changes to be made to materials in the materials editor with the results seen real-time within a scene, rather than having to save the entire scene first to see applied changes.
    • None of this work is product ready, nor will it necessarily fit into the Sansar roadmap in the short-term, even if it does prove practicable.
    • Several of the ideas tested might become the subject of short videos / GIF demonstrations that might be made public in the future.
  • At the last meeting it was indicated customisable mapping for VR hand controllers was something the lab was looking at. Landon indicated this is not actually an active project, but rather something being considered.