2018 Sansar Product Meetings #44: Steam – with audio

Wurfi’s Little Gallery – blog post

The following notes are taken from the Sansar Product Meeting held on Thursday, November 1st. These Product Meetings are open to anyone to attend, are a mix of voice (primarily) and text chat.

Given the recent announcement concerning expanding Sansar’s availability to Steam, the meeting focused on questions, comments and feedback related to this. Notes:

  • While some more general topics were raised, in a desire to abbreviate the length of this update, I’ve intentionally skipped topics were specific answers weren’t available in favour of focusing on the Steam feedback.
  • The order of these notes does not match the order of discussion in the meeting; topics have been grouped together for ease of reference.
  • Audio extracts from the meeting on the Steam change are included. But again, please note they concatenate comments made at different points in the meeting in an attempt to present them in a more concise order for easier digestion.
  • For those who prefer, the entire meeting can be viewed via Twitch.

On Steam

Why Steam?

  • LL believe that given the improvements made thus far, coupled with the remaining 2018 releases, will make Sansar an attractive proposition on Steam.
  • In being out at physical world events, Lab has hit the question of where people can “find” Sansar – with most asking the question pointing to Steam. Thus, Steam is seen as the place to be.
  • Also, Steam is – as the official blog post indicates – where the highest density of people with hardware that can meet Sansar’s requirements tend to be
    • As noted in my article on the decision, this is regardless as to whether Steam users are VR enabled or not, given Sansar’s Desktop mode.
    •  This is not to say that LL isn’t working to reduce the minimum hardware specs to run Sansar, however these are currently tied somewhat to the state of tethered VR, and may not be changing that much in the foreseeable future.
  • Some reports had headlined the Steam change as a “move”, implying Sansar will only be available through Stream. This is incorrect (hence why I referred to the change as “expanding” to Steam).
    • Sansar will still be available for download from the Sansar.com.
    • Linden Lab is in discussions with Oculus VR to make Sansar available through the Oculus Store.
  • The decision to use Steam is about trying to grow the Sansar audience and gain a much broader cross-section of feedback on how the platform could be improved.
  • With the launch of Sansar on Steam there will be a significant amount of ad spend to help promote Sansar and raise awareness of the platform.
    • There will also likely be new attractions in Sansar to encourage Steam users into the platform.
    • Closer to the launch date effort will be put into establishing a Sansar community on Steam, again to raise awareness that Sansar is coming to the service.
    • Sansar will be on Steam as an Early Access programme, which will hopefully set expectations among Steam users and help mitigate negative reviews.
  • There are no current plans to integrate Sansar with the Steamworks SDK.

Sandex, Fees and Transactions

  • SandeX is to be discontinued in order to achieve compliance with Valve’s requirements for Sansar to appear on Steam.
    • In short, the SandeX floating exchange rate for S$ purchases is too volatile for Stream, and the Lab’s position as a mediator did not fit with Steam’s model.
    • This means the Lab has to switch its position to selling S$ directly to users, who can then spend them within the platform.
    • Creators can then come back to Linden Lab to convert their S$ to fiat currency through the existing credit process.
  • Sansar Dollar purchases, conversion rates and fees:
    • The conversion rate for buying Sansar dollars will remain at 100/1 (100 Sansar Dollars for US $1.00).
    • The 250/1 (or legacy 143/1) rates will be applied to converting S$ back to USD when cashing out.
    • The legacy rate will be available through until at least December 31st, 2019, which is regarded as being the checkpoint date at which it might be changed.
  • Item sales fees:
    • The 15% transaction fee on the sale of items through the Sansar Store will be removed.
    • The transaction fee on gifting will remain.

  • The credit process for creators cashing out of Sansar will remain more-or-less the same as it is at present.
    • Steam will not be a part of this process.
    • It will not be possible for creators to convert S$ they have purchased back into US $ (so only amounts earned through the sale of goods can be converted).
    • The current fees involved in the credit process will be retained to cover charges the Lab faces in allowing cashing-out as a money transmitter.
  • Sansar Dollar purchases:
    • Buying Sansar Dollars through Stream will see a 30% fee charged by Steam in addition to the Lab’s fees.
    • The Lab’s fee on S$ purchases will also be 30%.
    • Buying Sansar Dollars directly through Sansar.com via credit card will not be subject to the 30% Steam fee.
  • The 30-day request period in credit processing is being introduced to meet with Steam’s transaction processing requirements. In short:
    • A consumer can purchase $S through Steam and immediately use them to buy items on Sansar.
    • Currently, the creator(s) receiving the S$ can then cash out in some 5 days.
    • However, LL will not receive any payment from Steam for the original S$ purchase for 30-60 days.
    • Therefore, the 30-day request period is being introduced to offer a balance between LL paying out to creators and receiving income via Steam from consumer purchases of S$.

There have been mixed feelings over the fee changes, with some creators feeling they are being hit with additional purchase fees and longer credit processing lead times. Others feel that overall, the move will be a net gain when considering the abolition of the 15% sales transaction fee plus the potential for a greater volume of users passing through Sansar and making purchases.

There was some confusion on the use of “eligible creators” in the blog post. The term was intended to indicate there will be no change in who can cash out from the current situation.

Goods Pricing

There was a brief discussion on whether the changes for Steam such have creators increasing their prices.

  • The legacy conversion rate of 143/1 (S$143 to the US dollar) is intended to match the current exchange rate for converting S$ to USD, and so creators shouldn’t need to feel an immediate need to alter pricing.
  • However, with the licensing system fixing the amount of royalties creators can obtain in perpetuity  on their licensed products once sold – and given at some point the S$ to USD conversion rate will become S$250 to the dollar – some creators might opt to alter their pricing structures now so as to compensate any loss of revenue as a result of the future change in the conversion rate.

Griefing Concerns

There are concerns that expanding Sansar’s user base through Steam could see a higher incidence of griefing / trolling.

  • The product team is committed to ensuring experience holders have the tools they need to mitigate / minimise the risk of griefing / trolling as much as possible.
  • During recent public events Sansar has attended, those currently using VR Chat have expressed strong interest in the platform, and have themselves raised concerns over trolling and moderation (VR Chat had to add a range of additional tool put in place due to trolling issues). This has reinforced the Lab’s desire to make sure Sansar has a good tool set for moderation and dealing with troublemakers.

What Else Is Changing?

Outside of the changes to Sansar Dollars, the SandeX and transaction fees, there should be no additional changes made to Sansar directly related to making it available through Steam.

Other Items of Discussion

New User Experience

This is still being looked at.

  • One idea is to have new users enter a room similar to the background seen the Look Book, and from there walk to a “new user hub” that offers games, the chance to meet others, and which will be open to existing Sansar users to drop into and socialise with newcomers.
  • As per my week #43 Product Meeting summary, another idea is to deliver new users to one of the more popular experiences (with certain caveats – e.g. the load time is not heavy and /or the instance isn’t about to hit its capacity).

Game Building

This is an upcoming initiative. Members of the Product and Action teams for Sansar would like to see more multi-player social game oriented experiences developed in Sansar (again, to help with the Steam début). To assist with this:

  • In the coming weeks, Eliot will be reaching out to creators to see if they would be interested in working on ideas.
  • He and the Product / Action team is particularly interested in hearing responses to pitched idea, and whether they can be achieved (e.g. can creators build “game x”, and if not, what do they need to be able to do so – assets or scripts created by the Lab, additional capabilities in the platform that can be prioritised, etc.).
  • This would not so much be for major new features, but rather what can be done / tweaked with the platform as it is now to achieve suitable game-based experiences.
  • Creators wishing to be involved in the initiative can also reach out to Eliot to express their interest  via Discord, Twitter, etc.
Games like Hover Derby that allow groups of people to play together in an experience is something the Lab would like to see more of in Sansar, and are in the process of putting together an initiative working with creators to achieve this.

Collaborative Editing, Experience Templates, Assets

  • Collaborative editing:
    • Still on the cards, but no clear date as to when.
    • Something the Sansar Studios Team also wants.
    • Might be something that gets looked at in-depth and deployed in 2019.
  • Experience Templates:
    • The current set of templates is limiting and results in a lot of experiences put together “out of the box”, rather than created entirely from scratch, look the same.
    • A suggestion has been made to run a competition for experienced creators to develop templates, with the winning entries being added to the current library. This idea is something the Sansar team will consider.
  • Assets for kitbashing:
    • There is already a request for the Sansar Studios team to provide suitable assets via the Sansar Store that people can take and then kitbash in their own designs.
    • This might be extended to make ideas available from without people’s inventory, as with simple scripts.
    • It was also pointed out that with Save to Inventory, there is also the option to take everything in a default template and save it back to inventory, allowing the assets to be reused elsewhere.

In Brief

  • The Sansar Discord community is now 1,000 strong (including the 25 members of the Lab’s Sansar team who are active on Discord).
  • The Lab has no plans to offer an in-world prim-type building tool. There are, however enough capabilities within the platform for creators to offer their own “primitive” build capabilities to users within their experiences, if they wish.
  • The Sansar team is thinking about ways to make scripting in Sansar easier, such as:
    • Make is easier to iterate scripts but amending / updating them in Edit mode
    • Providing more simple script options.
    • As a flip side to this, the Lab also want to see people able to build and script very complex scenes and experiences if they so wish without having to rely purely on basic script functionality.
  • Raised in relation to scripting, but generally applicable, is the request for more / better documentation on Sansar’s capabilities.
    • SL has an extensive wiki, for example (which has allowed scripters, creators and users to contribute (although admittedly access has been more restricted due to griefing issues). Sansar could benefit from something similar.
    • It was noted that documentation does not necessarily have to be complete or extensive, as long as there is sufficient detail for people gain a basic understanding and proceed from there – such as through the provision of sample scripts, or providing guidelines on how the buttons on VR hand controllers should preferably be configured to help ensure some commonality of approach between experiences to help with the user experience,  etc.
  • Is the level of personal information requested actually necessary for creators to cash out of Sansar?
    • Short answer is: yes it is, as it is part of the compliance and legal requirements involved in the Lab being a registered money transmitter.
    • The amount of information required depends on the creator’s transaction record.
    • Much the same requirements apply to Second Life as well.
    • For US residents, income from SL and Sansar should be seen as combined on their 1099 forms from the Lab.