Sansar Product Meetings week #23: Avatar 2.0 and a little Q and A

The Sansar World Oceans Day Charity Event: Virtual Beach Clean Up – help Linden Lab (with additional support from the Roddenberry Foundation) raise money for EarthEcho International. Find out more on the Sansar World Oceans Day event page.

The majority of the following notes were taken from my recording of the Sansar Product Meeting held on Thursday, June 7th, which was largely a general user Q&A and feedback session. The official video of the meeting is embedded at the end of this article for reference.

R33 Updates

The Early Access pop-up, displayed when installing the client / a client update

There have been a couple of updates to the R33 Give more, Get More Sansar update. These have focused on bug fixes, and were released on May 31st (release notes) and June 5th (release notes).

One of these updates appears to also have changed the client updates process – although this may have been done a while ago, and I’m only now seeing it; I’ve not been that active on Sansar recently.

On installing a client update (and presumably when installing it for the first time) and new pop-up in displayed once installation is complete.

As can be seen on the right, this confirms that Sansar is still in “Early Access” (which may well also be a reference to the Steam Early access programme, and so the pop-up may only appear to Sansar users coming to it via Steam or who have linked their Sansar account to Steam). It warns user that things are in a state of flux, and also provides links to the Sansar website and the Sansar Discord channel.

A Launch button at the bottom of the pop-up will launch the client proper, allowing a user to log-in to Sansar (either manually or automatically if they have Remember Me checked in the client log-in screen).

Avatar 2.0

  • Avatar 2.0 represents a substantial update to Sansar and is currently one of the primary focuses for the Sansar team. It will include:
    • An updated avatar skeleton.
    • Bone deformation (e.g. allowing the avatar’s face to be directly selected and shaped / contoured as the user wants).
      • For this initial release, the deformation system will only work with the Sansar base avatar.
      • As resources become available, it is hoped to expand this to custom avatars in later releases.
    • Volumetric morphs (e.g. using sliders built-in to the base mesh to make adjustments).
    • Support for uploading and using custom skins for the base avatar.
    • The ability to use the base avatar to create custom avatars directly, which can then be sold through the Sansar Store (although this functionality will not be in the initial Avatar 2.0 release).
      • This will hopefully include the ability to create avatar shapes (a-la Second Life), rather than having to create entire avatars.
  • Avatar 2.0 reference files for use by creators are in development.
    • The current plan is to make these files available to creators approximately a month before the actual Avatar 2.0 deployment.
    • This early release of the reference files will be supported by the Sansar avatar development team, who will be available to test avatars and clothing built / rigged to the new avatar format and test them internally at the Lab and provide feedback, as creators will not be able to test directly until the new avatar system has been deployed.
    • It is anticipated that this process will work in a similar manner to the way in which Sansar fashion support with Marvelous Designer was deployed at the end of 2017; the difference her being the files will be available to all creators wishing to experiment with them, rather than just a selected few.
    • Note: the recent updates to the avatar reference files that have been distributed to so creators for testing purposes are not avatar 2.0; they are updates to the current avatar intended to reduce issues found with blend files, together with a general clean-up of the files.
    • It is anticipated that additional updates to the reference files will see the inclusion of textures. However, decimation for these reference files will remain a user task, although the plan is to include decimation support in the avatar 2.0. reference files.
  • Avatar 2.0 will not initially support different  / custom bone structures, although support for this may be added in the future.
  • To help with the introduction of Avatar 2.0:
    • The Lab has been working on Marvelous Designer scaling and translation, which may be deployed in week #24 (commencing Monday, June 10th). This will allow MD clothing to be more easily scaled / rotated / translated, hopefully making it easier to update to fit the new avatar skeleton (and other shapes).
    • Emotes are being re-targeted, so they should continue to work with the new avatar.
    • Similarly, a re-mapping capability for attachments is being looked at, primarily aimed at allowing attachments to be moved between attach points, but which may also ease some of the transition to the new skeleton.
  • It is currently not clear what will happen with the current avatar skeleton when Avatar 2.0 is ready for release.
    • The Lab view trying to support both skeletons as being “difficult”, and they may opt to only support avatar 2.0 going forward.
    • This calls into question content breakage for all of the current custom avatars (and rigged items) associated with the current avatar skeleton.
    • It was intimated during the meeting that those who have purchased custom avatars using the current avatar may receive some form of refund / stipend from the Lab in lieu of no longer being able to use those avatars.
    • It was also indicated that some form of update system will be made available to creators to allow them to make updates to items they’ve made specific to the current avatar to work with Avatar 2.0, and distribute them to customer who have purchased the previous version.
  • Given the extent of the changes with Avatar 2.0 and the fact that some decisions are still in flux, it has been suggested that in the weeks / months leading up to the release:
    • A portion of each Product Meeting is allocated to discussing Avatar 2.0, particularly where the Lab has reached a decision.
    • A Product Meeting ahead of the actual deployment (when it is ready to roll) is devoted to Avatar 2.0.
  • A goal with the updates is to (at some point) open up the materials editor for the avatar both pre- and post-upload, so maps can be altered / updated for both the base and custom avatars.

Look Book

  • Currently, Look Book cannot be searched. For those with a sizeable avatar inventory.
  • This can make finding a specific item painful it is:
    • Either a lot of scrolling through clothing or accessories within Look Book to find the required item(s),
    • Or, if a search function is to be used, going to the Store, searching there, clicking the Wear It Now button (which applies to already purchased items as well) to return to look Book and seeing it worn.
  • The Lab is working on adding more functionality to Look Book, but right now, the focus is on Avatar 2.0 (see above), and so it will be a while before anything for Look Book is deployed.

General Inventory Capabilities

Inventory in Sansar essentially comes in two forms: Avatar inventory (clothing, hair, accessories) that can be obtained through the Sansar Store and which is available via the Look Book. Object style inventory – scripts, building, sounds, media, plants, rocks, lights, etc., which can also be uploaded and obtained through the Sansar Store but which are available only through the Edit Mode inventory.

  • LL have been discussing making the latter more user friendly through the introduction of folders.
  • There has also been some discussion of providing an “experience” style of inventory, such that an avatar can obtain / carry / select items they wish to use directly within an experience.
  • Currently no information is available on how either approach may work or when they might be ready for deployment.

The “Three Pillars” of Sansar

In the discussion, Landon McDowell, the Lab’s Chief Product Officer, defined the primary “three pillars” for Sansar as a platform as being:

  • Content creation – including provided a set of well-round tools / support for tools for both avatar and world creation.
  • Socialisation – making sure people can interact with one another, make friends, hold social events.
  • Gaming  / exploration – quests, mini-games, people exploring experiences and discovering what has been put into them.

So if someone wants to come into Sansar and do something under one (or more) of these umbrellas, the Lab wants to be able to support them.

In Brief

  • Local persistence: something the Lab wants to offer, but not currently being worked on.
  • Questing system:
    • Further Lab-built questions will be forthcoming.
    • The quest system itself is being enhanced and improved, but is not yet user-friendly enough to be opened to experience creators.
    • The plan remains to make the question system available once it is robust and friendly enough to be used by experience creators. It is liable to be several more months before it is available on a platform use.
    • The system will most likely include a scripting API.
  • Particle system: this is something the Lab want to do this, but the focus at the moment is on performance, and will remain so for another “couple of months”, so development of any particle system is deferred until at least this work has been completed.

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Return to Cherishville in Second Life

Cherishville; Inara Pey, June 2019, on FlickrCherishville, June 2019 – click any image for full size

When reader Miro Collas asked if we’d ever visited Cherishville, I was a little surprised to look back through my SL travelogue and see that the last time I wrote about Lam Erin’s region design had been back in November 2017, when things had been deep in the grip of winter. Snow lay deep on the ground and roof-tops while trees lay frosted in white, and visitors needed to he wrapped up against the cold.

A lot has changed since then. Our return to Cherishville in June 2019 not only took us to a new region design, but a new simulator location as well, that of Villa Baldeney. Sitting beneath a somewhat glowering sky when seen in the default windlight, the setting is as far removed from the winter of my last Cherishville write-up as it is possible to get, the design we visited positively tropical in its presentation.

Cherishville; Inara Pey, June 2019, on FlickrCherishville, June 2019

There is no defined  / enforced landing point, so I’m arbitrarily using one to deliver those following it to a stretch of old road lying on the region’s east side. This offers a route from nowhere to nowhere, bordered on one side by a row of commercial properties almost shanty in their shabby looks, and on the other by a bay that cuts deeply into the region via a narrow neck of water. The road ends at this neck, dipping gracefully down to the blue waters to offer a convenient ramp boats might be drawn up to keep them out of the tide that must pass back and forth.

The commercial properties along the road vary between bars and places to buy spirits – that latter a popular draw for vacationers, it would seem – and the odd place to eat. All of them have the look and feel of having once seen better days, albeit perhaps a long time ago; now they look out over the old road, itself little more than a pedestrian thoroughfare, despite the motor vehicles at its southern end, and out over the bay.

Cherishville; Inara Pey, June 2019, on FlickrCherishville, June 2019

This southern end of the road offers access to  a broad swath of sand that curves gently west and north to hold the bay within its arm, facing the wash of tide from the south whilst home to undisciplined ranks of palm trees that offer moments of shade cast across the fine sands. A path is staked out along part of this beach, running at right-angles to the old road, but such a formal marking of route is hardly necessary; perhaps some local resident here was trying to offer a little sense of order.

Dropped onto the beach, and facing the open seas to the south are a couple of building which are again perhaps a little way past their prime. One presents a swimming pool beneath its raised wooden roof, the other appears to be a holiday home complete with a pool of its own. Balancing these on the inward curve of the bay is a fishing shack which, together with the small trawler sitting in the shallow waters, suggests some see this island as a place of work and not a vacation destination.

Cherishville; Inara Pey, June 2019, on FlickrCherishville, June 2019

Walking the route from street along the sands tends to offer the suggestion that this is a place that, while clearly within the tropics, is perhaps located somewhere in the Caribbean. The western elements just seem to push it in that direction. But then, follow the sand as it turns northwards and passing a strange little A-frame structure sitting out on a small sandy headland along the way, and perceptions are challenged.

To the north, the sand abruptly ends, and rocky slopes rise upwards, cliffs forming around three sides. This is topped by a single-roomed building with an infinity pool alongside looking to the west. With an aged statue of Buddha out on the grass, this aspect of the island presents a strongly Asian feel to it, with thoughts turning away from the Caribbean and perhaps more towards Thailand.

Cherishville; Inara Pey, June 2019, on FlickrCherishville, June 2019

There are some rough elements within the build – the odd floating palm tree or boat floating over the water than on it and the lighthouse for the region is oddly canted – but overall, there is plenty here that the visitor can enjoy and photograph within the setting, making time spent their worthwhile. For those so-minded, there are also some poses to be found for photography – a couple leaning against the sea wall above the bay, a walking hand-in-hand pose for those leasing the local bar, while bicycles can be obtained from a couple of rezzer racks for those who fancy taking a ride around the island. As always, photographs are welcome at the Cherishville Flickr group.

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