Sansar Product Meetings week #34: Nexus release overview

Get ready to enter the Sansar Nexus (image courtesy of Linden Lab)

The following notes were taken from my audio recording of the August 22nd (week #34) Sansar Product Meeting, which focus on the upcoming Nexus Release (Release R36). Additional questions on store updates, etc., are not included in the notes below – please refer to the official video.

The Nexus Release – Key Points

The Nexus Release will see the deployment of some major new aspects of Sansar: Avatar 2.0 (discussed in previous Product meetings, with a recap below); the Nexus, the Codex and the first deployment of the experience points (XP) system.

This release should be deployed during week #35 (commencing Monday, August 26th, 2019), unless any last minute issues cause it to slip (there is reportedly “a lot of bug stompin'”  going on).

The Nexus

  • A new concept for Sansar intended to present it as more of a “multiverse” of experiences  – or “worlds” as appears to be the new preferred term (a-la The Oasis and Ready Player One) – rather than a platform of (largely) individual settings.
  • All users will be automatically delivered to the Nexus on logging-in to Sansar (existing users will not be delivered to their Home Space, although this will still be accessible via the Look Book.
    • As such, the Nexus will also somewhat replace the current Social Hub as an initial destination for people (by using the TP portal from their Home Space).
    • However, the Social Hub will continue to exist, but as an additional location for joining quests, etc., rather than being a “core” hub.
  • As a part of the quest element, the Nexus introduces the concept of a new Sansar “back-story” incorporating quests.
    • The first of these quests involve an NPC called Agent Primus, who also plays a role in the new New User Tutorial (see below).
    • Additional quests will be added over time to this basic structure.
    • In time it is hoped that creators will be able to hook into this back-story and offer their own quests off of it / related to it.
  • The initial release is focused more on the idea of quests and game-play in Sansar – future updates will further introduce the Social, Creator and Explorer Guilds.

The Prime Portal

The Prime Portal is at the heart of the Nexus.

  • It is a new means of discovering worlds within Sansar.
  • It is both an in-world object and a UI element (the latter is triggered by the former).
    • It will effectively “absorb” the client-based  Atlas.
    • It will not in any way supersede the web-based Atlas, which will remain as a means of viewing worlds  / events whilst not logged-in to Sansar. However, future planned updates will see the web-based Atlas undergo some changes.
  • The Prime Portal will be supported by a number of “categorised” permanent portals.
    • There will be an events specific portal, for example.
    • Another will (initially) point to all the popular worlds (e.g. by visitor numbers) that users have created. This will gradually be expanded.
    • Other portals may be added to direct users to worlds developed by Sansar’s content partners (e.g. Monstercat, Roddenberry Entertainment, etc).
    • The Sansar team is keen to develop further such permanent portals in collaboration with experience / world creators.
  • The Prime portal will be searchable, in much the same way as the Atlas currently is.

New User Tutorial Element

  •  A key part of the Nexus is a new New User Tutorial, which must also be completed by existing users when they log-in for the first time after the Nexus Release has been deployed.
  • Within the tutorial, Agent Primus will teach users the basics of Sansar – movement, controls teleporting, etc.
  • In particular, the tutorial will allow new users to obtain their Codex, another key part of the release.

The Codex

  • A new menu tool intended to make re-visiting Sansar experiences easier (described as a “device” you carry with you and that triggers a new UI element).
  • Each new world you visit is automatically added to your Codex
    • For well-travelled Sansarians will be seeded with the worlds they’ve visited over the last 2-3 months.
  • It is designed to work alongside all the other means of discovering Sansar experiences – using experience-to-experience portals, via the use of URLs, etc., – these will automatically be added to people’s Codex if not already listed.
  • Users will have a personal Codex they can curate themselves.
    • Worlds will be listed in the order of most recently visited first.
    • Those a user does not wish to return to can be deleted.
    • All of the worlds created by a user will be also listed and accessible through their Codex.
    • There is potential for the Codex to be linked to the rewards system, so users can obtain rewards based on their use of their Codex.
  • In addition, users will be able to view the Codex listings of their friends and of experience creators, and use the links in them to visit places in Sansar.
  • Codex listings can be searched in a similar manner to the current Atlas.
  • In addition, the Codex interacts with things like the Prime Portal and other portals to “activate” them on approach.
  • It is seen as a means for users to directly tailor Sansar to suit their own preferences / needs / wants – people can curate the experiences recorded, share them, etc., and move freely around Sansar as they chose / dependent of what they want to do based on past experience, as well as using the Prime Portal to discover new worlds and activities.

Events and the Nexus / Codex

  • As noted above, there may be a permanent portal in the Nexus that is dedicated to events.
  • In addition, ALL events will be visible to, and accessible from, a user’s Codex, regardless of whether or not they have visited the experience being used to host the event.
  • Live / in progress events will be given priority (appearing first) as they are obviously time-limited.

XP System

R36 will see the initial deployment of the Sansar experience points (XP) system.

  • This is intended to track users’ progress throughout Sansar. Within this initial deployment, users will be able to earn XP by completing quests  offered in the Nexus (up to a maximum level of 8).
  • In the future, additional ways to earn XP will be offered, together with the means for creators to offer XP as a reward for their own quests.
  • The existing quests available at the Social Hub will be included in the XP system, and those who have already completed them will be automatically granted the associated XP.

The Thinking behind These Changes

Why Introduce the Nexus  / Prime Portal?

The Nexus and Prime Portal are seen as a preferential means of introducing users to Sansar over the current Atlas because:

  • They are rooted “in” the platform, rather than being a somewhat nebulous element of the client UI. Both for a physical place and object people can visit and form an association with.
  • The Nexus gives incoming users a sense of purpose by presenting them with things to do, to obtain, etc., through the quests whilst additionally helping them to see the much large potential of Sansar with its many worlds that are awaiting visits, exploration, etc.
  • It provides a more natural social space.
  • It thus offers something of a “wrapper” around Sansar that hopefully makes it easier to comprehend by those coming into the platform, encouraging them to both engage and return.

Making Sansar More Social / Directed

  • Sansar is a social platform, so a more interactive hub like the Nexus is seen as a means of better opening the opportunity for social interactions to occur.
  • Similarly, the Codex is seen as a means of both encouraging social interaction and for directed play, by allowing users to share the worlds they’ve visited with one another, to visit them together, etc., more easily than is the case with a more impersonal Atlas
    • For example, a friend who gives you the URL to  world is more likely to be attuned to what you like / provide more informative background info on that world that might be the case if you just randomly scroll through the Atlas to find it.

Are These Updates Intended To Turn Sansar in a Games Platform?

  • Not directly – as noted, concepts such as the Social, Creator and Explorer guilds will be introduced for those with specific interests in those areas.
  • That said, these features do include an over-arching questing system, XP system, which are associated with games, but are provided here to offer creators and users with the capabilities to create and participate in a wide range of interactive activities – games, guided tours, learning experiences, etc.
  • The idea remains to provide people with the tools and the freedom (subject to Linden Lab’s and Sansar’s Terms of Service!) to create anything they like and which is of interest to them, their friends or a much wider audience of users.

Avatar 2.0 – Reminder

Pre-release Creator Programme now in progress.

  • Designed to allow creators who create avatars, avatar wearables, accessories, etc to have their content tested by the Lab ahead of the avatar support being added to the client.
    • The Lab may only initially be reviewing around 2-4 items per creator. Additional items submitted will only be reviewed once all creators making submissions have been seen.
    • Creators are obviously free to test their items in their own 3D editor of choice, if preferred, and wait until the launch of Avatar 2.0 to make any necessary adjustments.
  • The programme will be discontinued one or two days prior to the Nexus release being deployed – so time is now short for creators wishing to make use of it and who have not as yet submitted items for testing.

Official Documentation

Avatar 2.0 and Marvelous Designer™ Clothing

  • A set of tools for Marvelous Designer™ will be released with Avatar 2.0.
  • These will allow creators and users to scale, translate and rotate their MD clothing assets to better fit avatar (so a user can take a human jacket and scale it to fit an orc avatar using the Avatar 2.0 skeleton, for example).

Too Early? Too Confusing?

Concerns remain that Avatar 2.0 is being released too early and could confuse users. For example, it will allow head / facial deformation (to a much greater extent than previously possible), but will not allow body deformation.

While the latter isn’t possible with Avatar 1.0, the fact that additional deformation abilities are being added to the face / head but not the body is being seen by creators as potentially confusing / frustrating users who might otherwise anticipate a more flexible system.

Special Office Hours: Fees / Commission Rates

There will be a special Office Hours meeting in week #35 (commencing Monday, August 26th, 2019) specifically to discuss Sansar fees, Store commission charges, etc. This will also be accompanied by a blog post on the subject, and those interested should keep an eye on the Events section of the web Atlas for details.

A guitar in Second Life you can really dig …

Playing the Piaggio shovel guitar

Ape Piaggio is responsible for some of my favourite vehicle designs in SL (see A Little Bee that’s a real honey in Second Life and Of impulse purchases and power boats) and some rather fun stuff as well (see: Doing a “Little Nellie” and A Second Life Roadrunner). She’s now turned her attention to musical instruments – something that’s also bound to get my attention – and in a most unusual way: a shovel (or if you prefer, spade) guitar. And I have to say, it’s really good.

Now, a shovel guitar may sound a completely made-up thing, but actually, it is very much a real DIY thing available in the physical world (just do a check on eBay to see for yourself, or check the video at the ed of this review).

The idea comes from a video I saw on Internet, and since I liked the idea, I made it in SL, I hope you will enjoy it as much as I do! The sales of this guitar will help me to get the real life version of the instrument, so thank you for supporting me 🙂

– Ape Piaggio on her shovel guitar

Delivered in a plain cardboard style box, the guitar has one of Ape’s signature unpacking animations – touch the box and it will open and the guitar will float up out of it to stand upright in front of you, before displaying asking you accept the guitar. Confirming this will place the guitar, its instructions and a gesture (which can be used to toggle the guitar’s menu via the gesture command “/sgmenu” or by tapping SHIFT-F1). And that’s just the start.

The Piaggio shovel guitar detailing: the blade (left and right) and grip with tuning mechanisms (centre) – click for full size

The guitar itself is beautifully detailed: the blade and collar are finished in that “brand new” spade matte black finish that use materials to give them that “brand spanking new” look. The blade itself forms the body for the guitar, complete with bridge and (being an electric guitar), pick-ups, control knobs and output jack socket. The handle and grip form – obviously enough – the neck and headstock for the guitar, the latter with tuning mechanisms for the three strings. When you wear / add the guitar the first time, it will be slung over your shoulder.

Playing can be triggered in three ways: by clicking on the shovel, or if you have the supplied gesture active, by either typing “/sgmenu” (no quotes around it) in local chat, or pressing SHIFT-F1. All three of these will open the guitar’s comprehensive menu – just click Draw / Sheath to move the guitar “play” position (or back to its “carry” position), and you’ll start playing.

A single song is supplied (individual parts of which can be looped, if required), but users can add their own. A guide to how to do this can be found in the supplied instructions note car. While one song might sound limiting, what is supplied is a wealth of animations – playing styles from a range of basic strumming options all the way through to some very fanciful options (flying anyone?) going by way of foot-stomping to spinning to head-banging and and even a hint of The Shadows! These reside with a number of static and sitting animations that offer users a lot of choices – and they can add their own if they wish; again instructions for doing so can be found in the supplied note card.

The playing animations are available from the menu > Animations > Stands, and have a couple of different options when using them.

  • If the guitar is UNmuted (via the main menu), selecting any of the guitar playing animations will automatically start that animation and leave you in the Stands menu.
  • If the guitar is MUTED (via the main menu), selecting any of the guitar playing animations will cause a further pop-up menu to display – select Play Now to start the animation.

The latter option allows live performers who use a guitar as their accompaniment to make use of the shovel guitar during their gigs if they wish, to add a little novelty to things. They can play the guitar muted in-world and, if they want, swap the playing animations to better suit the style of song they are singing, rather than always playing the same animation throughout a set, simply by toggling back and forth between the Stands menu and and the playing sub-menu.

Another handy option is Force Anim. This allows you to use the guitar while seated – say on a chair or stool, or when riding in a vehicle or even while riding your wearable Bento horse (a good reason for the guitar *not* being Bento, given non-Premium users can only wear one Bento attachment at a time), so you can mosey across the range, pausing when you like to sing to yer hoss! Admittedly, depending on the animations on the object you’re sitting on, Force Anim may work first time or may take a little bit of fiddling with to kick-in correctly – but it does generally work; I tried it on a number of chairs, stools and other bits around our home, as well as my Teegle and Water Horse horses.

The Force Anim option can be used to allow you to play the guitar when seated on objects (such as the stool on the left), or when riding in a vehicle – or even when astride your Bento horse (right)!

Two options I also found interesting are the sync and the sets options. The former offers a means to sync your guitar animations with those of a friend with the guitar so you’re playing together. Sets enable you to create a set of songs to be played sequentially – and you can create up to nine sets to the guitar.

All of this makes for a very versatile, as well as exceptionally novel, SL musical instrument – and I’ve not covered all of the menu options, with include options to help adjust the guitar’s position, reset it to its default state, etc. At L$450, the price isn’t excessive, and for those who fancy it, it is available on Ape’s SL Marketplace store and at her in-world store.

And, for those who still have doubts about how good a shovel guitar can sound with just three strings, check the video below!

With Thanks to Jodi for letting me use LiFT for the banner image to this article and recording the video clips.