The following notes were taken from the Sansar Product Meeting held on Thursday, January 31st. The full video of the meeting is available here. These notes highlight information pertaining to the upcoming R29 release, and user engagement discussions.
Upcoming Release Highlights
Emotes / Animations Fix: there is an issue with the current release that can see some odd behaviour with animations, particularly for those in VR. There will be a fix for this in the next release, however, it will mean that users with custom animations will have to re-assign them to their perferred emotes. This will only have to be done once.
Teleport Portal Feature: the next release will include a new chat-driven teleport portal feature. This allows a limited time portal to be created in an experience that can be used by anyone to teleport to another experience. The command will take the format “/portal”, and the portal will exist for around 2 minutes.
So, for example, if you are with friends in an experience and decide you all want to visit Aech’s Garage, one person in the group can type:
The rezzed portal can then be clicked on by those wishing to use it to transfer to the other experience until the portal times-out and vanishes. Should this prove intrusive, the Lab will consider adding an option for experience creators to block the capability, if required.
VR IK Improvements: updates to the IK system should mean that hand movements will not lag so noticeably behind actual hand movements when in VR. This is part of work to improve overall IK responsiveness.
R29 should also see the removal of the height calibration menu and storing a person’s height when using VR. There will still be options for setting it, if required (such as when a headset is being used by two different people); but where the headset is only used by the one individual, once height is set, it will be saved, and it will no longer be necessary to re-calibrate in different sessions. In addition, it will also include the ability to manually adjust the recorded height.
Hidden surface removal algorithm: this should seem significant improvements when selecting / updating your avatar looks (the in progress spinner shouldn’t appear for quite so long – the reduction in time estimated to be from the current 20-30 seconds to around 7 seconds.
Edit Server Fixes: R29 will include a number of Edit Server fixes. It is hoped these will help reduce the number of Edit Server disconnects experience creators can be faced with when working on a scene. This work is part of the overall effort being put into stability across the entire platform.
Avatar Movement / Controls
There have been complaints (and still are) about various aspects of Sansar’s control options (many of the complaints on Steam, for example, target the “non-intuitive” set-up of the VR hand controller options).
One area of frustration many have is in avatar movement. In SL, for example, using the D key will orient the avatar and camera so the avatar is clearly facing the direction it is walking in. In Sansar, the camera will remain in place as the avatar walks to the left or right, giving what can be an odd “strafing” slide to the camera until it is re-oriented.
The problem here is which sort of controls are best: it might be argued that the “strafing” approach is something common in games, while the SL approach is more “non-standard”. However, users coming via Steam seem to be experiencing issues with turning their avatars when walking. So, the lab is seeking feedback on how best to consider possible improvements.
Quest / Progress System and user Engagement
To help new users, LL are working on a “quest / progression” system for Sansar.
- Initially this will be a tutorial style option for new users, designed to take them through a basic quest and learn to use the basic controls (VR and keyboard), carry out tasks (pick things up, use them, drop them, teleport, etc), complete with some form of rewards / progress system that will deliver them to their Home Space on completion.
- It will likely include a “come back and do this later” opt-out to allow people who are joining Sansar to attend a specific event (e.g. a show or performance) to log-in and get directly to the event, rather than being diverted into this on-boarding process.
- Over time, the Quest / progress system will be opened out to experience creators, so they can embed it within their own games / quests, offer their own rewards / prizes (initially via the store), etc.
- This system will (eventually) include infrastructure and capabilities that will include: information on the current quest a user is playing; how far they have progressed; what their upcoming task(s) is / are, etc.
- Ideas put forward by both the Lab and creators at the meeting) for quest / game environments that might be built on this system include:
- Hunts of some description, which also might be across multiple experiences, should experience creators have their builds included and add rewards to the quest.
- Escape Room style games.
- Story-based quests – mysteries to be solved, etc.
- More social-style games were also suggested, such as board games, card games, etc., that can easily be played by a group of friends.
For new users, there needs to be a clear distinction between goals and achievements. For example, Making 10 new friends might be considering an (unadvertised?) “achievement” within a quest, were a new user happen to do this as they played it; but it would not be a stated goal of the quest (as in, “you must now gain 10 friends in order to proceed to the next level”). This is to avoid new users lobbing multiple friend requests every time they come across other people and possibly annoying them. However, going to X, solving Y / overcoming Y to receive Z from the store, would be a goal / reward.
Another idea put forward is a system of badges / medals that can be received through repeated engagement in the platform. This type of system is used within Steam and is apparently popular there, and High Fidelity utilise a similar system as well.
Platform Promotion: VR AND Desktop Accessibility
One issue seen with Sansar gaining new users is that it is frequently perceived as “VR only” (this is a common form of feedback among Second Life users – I’ve seen it in comments on this blog).
In 2018, the Lab adjusted some of their advertising to de-emphasise the VR aspect of Sansar (such as removing some of the VR bias from the Sansar.com homepage); but conversely, there are still events that are promoted with this bias – Comedy Gladiators being a case in point (e.g. Comedy Gladiators, from Comedian Steve Hofstetter, Takes Live Entertainment to New Heights with Real-Time Ticketing & Physical Merchandise Sales in VR – Linden Lab press release, November 29th, 2018).
It’s been acknowledged by the Lab, that more needs to be done to emphasise the fact that Sansar can be enjoyed directly from the PC desktop without the need for a VR headset.
- Simple Scripts: it is widely felt these are under-utilised by experience creators. One issue is the lack of detailed documentation / tutorial material to go with them. This is apparently being addressed by the Sansar team.
- 3D Mouse systems: following repeated requests from creators and machinima makers, initial steps have been taken to investigate whether support can be added to Sansar.
- Other points of discussion, such as bugs, questions on specific aspects of content creation, etc., can be obtained by watching the video.