2018 Sansar product meetings week #28: July release preview

The Art of Drew Struzan: The Studio Experience blog post

It’s been a while since my last Sansar product update. This has been in part due to the fact that for a time they seemed to vanish from the Sansar events listing (they’re back, but under the more generic title of “Community meet-ups”). However, the following is a summary of the meeting held on Thursday, July 12th, 2018, which was particularly focused on many of the features and updates in the upcoming July Sansar release, due in week #29 (commencing Monday, July 16th).

July Release

Custom Avatars

It will be possible to upload custom avatars to Sansar, with skeletons and avatar meshes available through the knowledge base.

  • Custom avatars have a maximum tri limit of 40K (compared to 16K for the default avatars).
  • It will not be possible to clothe custom avatars or add attachments, etc., via the LookBook – they must be outfits prior to upload, hence the higher tri limit compared to the default avatars.
    • The option to change outfits on custom avatars through LookBook might be added in the future.
  • The base tri count limit is seen by the Lab as being for testing purposes, and to potentially allow custom avatars to be dressed, etc., using the LookBook and clothing from the Sansar Store in the future, hopefully without their overall tri count becoming exorbitantly high.

As a part of the overall work on avatars – but not part of the July release – the Lab is trying to improve face deformations, etc., to allow for more realistic facial moments when mimicking mouth movements, etc., when speaking.

Experience Interactions Changes

The July release should enable experience creators to define smoother interactions with objects in their scenes.

  • Dynamic objects / bodies will be completely responsive to physics; however, if multiple avatars are interacting with the same object  / body, it might vacillate between them.
  • With scripting, physics will be immediately applied in the client, so there may be an increase in perceived lag, as interactions make the client-server-client round trip.
  • These changes will be iterated upon and improved in future releases.

Scene Editor Updates

  • Selecting an object within the scene editor will display the triangle count for the object in a display similar to the diagnostics tool.
    • This may eventually be expanded to display further information – creator, etc.
  • The Scene Settings panel should no longer conflict with the Properties Panel.
  • It will be possible to select multiple objects in the scene editor, and apply something like an audio material across all of them, rather than having to apply it individually to each one.

Auto Decimation Changes

The June release included automatic decimation, which was later disabled. With the July release, it will be re-introduced, but made optional.

  • By default, any scene object (static or dynamic) being imported into Sansar will be set to auto decimate.
  • This can be disabled via a drop-down panel option.
  • The auto decimation will not apply to clothing or avatar attachments.

Script Updates

  • New scripts added to inventory: further scripts will be available in inventory by default (exact scripts TBA). Some of these will be packaged with the client, other may only be in specific folders (e.g. the Script API folder).
  • “Simple script examples”: a small library of approximately a dozen script examples designed for use by non-scripters to allow them to achieve object interactions, etc., and which can be stacked together within objects to achieve combined results.
    • These include things like a mover script (for opening / closing doors, moving platforms, etc.), a switch script (for light switches, etc.), a sound management script, etc.
    • They will be in the drop-down menu of an object-properties.
  • HTTP API: an http: API will be included in the July release. This will mean that data such as avatar name, avatar UUID, an avatar’s location within an experience, will be shareable with external databases.
  • .FBX animation imports: .FBX files with multiple animations can be imported and have scripts applied to them.

In Brief

  • Avatar comfort zones: The July release will include comfort zones, allowing people to define how close other avatars can come to their own avatar, depending on whether or not the other avatar is a friend or not.
  • People Search Update: the ability to search for other avatars within the People app is currently limited to using the Avatar ID. With the July release, this will be expanded to allow searches by avatar name, and using partial avatar IDs.
  • Copy chat: it should be possible to copy text from the chat window with the July release.
  • Panel positioning persistence: the client should remember the placement of any re-positioned panels between sessions, and re-open them at the “last used” position, rather than at their default screen location.
  • Bug fixes: the release will of course include a range of bug fixes.

Other Items

The following were discussed at the meeting, but are not part of the July update.

  • Hand Controller / Keyboard Mapping: further work is to be carried on custom keyboard mapping, which will hopefully encompass headset hand controllers, allowing experience creators to define custom operations to keys and buttons (e.g. for use in games, etc.).
  • Events: there will at some point be an update (or updates) to Events to add many of the requested functions to events management (e.g. set recurring events, etc.).
  • Permissions system: this is still being worked on, with the Lab getting “closer” to having something ready to present, but no time frame on when it will appear.
  • User-to-user S$ transfers: this is also being worked on, and it is hoped to will appear “pretty soon”.
  • Aspirational roadmap: it’s been suggested that Linden Lab might follow the example of other platforms and provide an “aspirational roadmap” – a guide to what they’d like to achieve with Sansar’s capabilities over a broad range of periods (e.g. “short term”, “medium term” and “longer term”) which are tied to specific date ranges / time frames. This idea is being taken back the Sansar marketing and product teams for discussion.

Sansar Dollar Bundles

A relatively recent (I believe) update is the addition of purchasable Sansar dollar bundles, available at fixed prices, and which will be immediately delivered to your account on payment, rather than waiting for Sandex orders to be filled.

Sansar dollar bundles are available for purchase by those who do not wish to use the Sandex. This list of available bundles can be access by clicking on your account balance when logged-in to the Sansar website (arrowed, top right).
  • Click on your account balance (top right of the Sansar web pages when you are logged-in) to display a list of available bundles.
  • Click on the relevant red payment button to buy  a bundle – if you don’t have a payment method on file, you’ll be asked to provide one.
  • Note that the prices for bundles are not necessarily as competitive as buying through the Sandex, as the bundle prices are static.
  • A link at the bottom of the list of available bundles will take you to the Sandex (which is no longer listed in the website’s top menu).
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Back into the Labyrinths of Sansar

Horizon Maze – that’s me, bottom centre, for a sense of scale

I recently wrote about my visit to the first prize winner in The Sansar Labyrinth Contest, which actually saw prizes awarded to a total of three among the various entries. Given that I did write about Abramelin Wolfe’s grand prize-winning entry The Secret of Mount Shasta, it seemed only fair I jumped back to Sansar and took a look at the second and third prize winners as well.

Horizon Maze

Horizon Maze is the third place entry, designed by Ecne. It’s an ingenious piece that, while lacking the direct challenges present in The Secret of Mount Shasta, makes up for it in presentation and design.

This is a compact, circular maze which may at first appear to be built along traditional lines. The aim is to get from the outer edge to the central ring, where a golden cup awaits. You can even freecam over the maze to get a feel for it before entering. It all sounds simple, except for two things.

Horizon Maze: the golden cup is your goal – if you can find your way to it and through the wall!

The first is that the maze comprises three concentric rings, revolving around a central axis. Moving between them requires finding one of several gateways in the ring you are in, then waiting for a gateway in the next ring to align with it, so you can step across.

The second is that the maze is on two levels – you must periodically take the stairs to the lower level and find your way around it. This may involve finding stairs back to the upper level, or it may mean finding another gate on the lower level where you can cross between rings. Nor is it all one-way; you may well have to move back out between ring in order to find the way back towards the waiting cup.

Horizon Maze: the lower tunnels

This all makes Horizon Maze a lot more complex a puzzle than first appears, so much so, that it can get a little confusing. To help people out, Ecne provides a number of maps inset into the floors of the rings at various points. These show both levels and mimic their rotation and also show where you are within the maze, allowing you to attempt to chart a course.

When you do get to the centre of the maze, there is one final challenge: getting past the wall separating you from the golden cup. The secret to doing this can b found both in the wall and on the floor of the path around it – but I’ll let you figure that out!

Ebucezam

Read the name of this entry by Tron backwards – maze cube – and you get pretty much was it is summed up in the title: a maze forming a roughly cube-like shape. The second prize winner in the competition is, like Horizon Maze, a compact design, but one which uses more of a vertical approach to its design.

Ebucezam

In parts uniformly monochrome in styling, Ebucezam is a series of box tunnels and shafts laid out within the volume of a cubic shape. The aim is to get from the single entrance on the ground level to the single large room on the far side of the maze. All of which again sounds simple enough, so where’s the catch?

The catch is that to get from front to back across the maze, you also have to go up and down. This requires using the elevators scattered around the various tunnels, as well as jumping back down shafts. The elevators are colour-coded. White elevators are open to use from the start, but any other coloured elevator – denoted by the colour of the activation switch on the wall and the glow surrounding it – requires you first obtain the corresponding colour energy node.

Ebucezam

These nodes are scattered throughout the maze, so in order to get to the far size, you must first locate the power nodes so you can activate the various elevators.  You only need to find a colour node the once, though. As you approach it, a pop-up notification will inform you have obtained it, and it will then unlock any elevator of the same colour at any time. However, it does mean a lot of moving forward, searching, then potentially backtracking to find the right elevator, making this maze harder to complete than might first appear to be the case.

Thoughts

Both Ebucezam and Horizon Maze are interesting designs; however, I admit to fining Horizon Maze the more engaging of the two. While Ebucezam is a clever design, I found the constant back and forth to find energy nodes and then unlocking elevators came a tad repetitive – it would have been nice to have a little more variation in things. That said, Horizon Maze wasn’t without a slight fault of its own; a could of times when first stating into it, I slightly mistimed my moved between rings and ended up caught in the walls and forced to try walking between them until I eventually fell and was respawned at the start point. The lesson here: time you moves carefully and double-tap run to move between rings!

Ebucezam

Nevertheless, for those looking for something a little different to do in Sansar, Horizon Maze and Ebucezam are worth dropping into and trying out. Congratulations to both Ecne and Tron on their designs and prizes.

Experience URLS and Links

 

The Secret of Mount Shasta in Sansar

The Secret Of Mount Shasta; Inara Pey, July 2018, on FlickrThe Secret Of Mount Shasta – click any image for full size

In June, Linden Lab announced another in their series of contests for Sansar experience creators. The Labyrinth Contest challenged entrants to design and build an engaging labyrinth / maze that has at least one challenge those exploring it must solve, whilst making their way from a defined start point to a defined end point.

On offer was a first prize of US $5,000 cash, with a choice of a one year subscription to Maya or Zbrush for second place and third prize of an Oculus Rift headset and hand controllers. Following the close of the competition towards the end of the month, The Secret Of Mount Shasta was judged to be the first prize winner.

The Secret Of Mount Shasta; Inara Pey, July 2018, on FlickrThe Secret Of Mount Shasta – the tunnels await …

This is the second Sansar contest entry by Abramelin Wolfe of SL Abranimations fame to win a prize. In November 2017, he was runner-up in the Halloween themed Sansar’s Scariest competition, producing Paranormal Investigation (which I reviewed here).

Quite a lot has happened in Sansar since then in terms of feature and capabilities, with more scope for content creators to script and present interactive experiences; and while things still might fall short of Second Life, the improvements can still show that Sansar is more than just a place to visit and look at; and The Secret of Mount Shasta proves this in spades.

Set as an adventure mystery, the experience presents a considered use of Sansar capabilities to provide a game-like environment winding its way through the caverns and tunnels of a high mountain and filled with traps. Filled with  challenges and traps, it sets out a single goal for visitors to achieve, as the introduction lays out.

The Secret Of Mount Shasta; Inara Pey, July 2018, on FlickrThe Secret Of Mount Shasta – the way is barred – or is it?

Search for the Lemurian Ascended Masters that live deep inside Mount Shasta. Navigate the caverns, avoid the booby traps and solve the various puzzles. Discover the secret of Mount Shasta!

– From the introduction to The Secret of Mount Shasta.

Visitors commence their adventure at a small tented camp sitting alongside the entrance to the caverns. This is guarded by imposing hooded figures carved from the living rock, oblivious to the wind and snow around them. Between their mysterious figures, light flickers from naked torches within the tunnel entrance, enticing people inside.

The torches are periodically placed along the bare stone walls, providing sufficient illumination to see the way forward – but be sure to keep an eye on either side, as further tunnels do open off the first, and can be easily missed if you’re only focused on what lies ahead. Some of these tunnels are gated, the way forward apparently blocked. Some can be opened – rising like portcullises – by pulling a nearby lever. Others may require other means of opening them (I’m not about to give away all of the secrets here!).

The Secret Of Mount Shasta; Inara Pey, July 2018, on FlickrThe Secret Of Mount Shasta – symbols will help you on your way – but only in the right order

Opened gates initially provides access to further tunnels – just beware of the booby traps, such as the arrows launched across a passageway at certain intervals. Such traps might be individually place, or come in pairs or groups – so keep your eyes peeled and time your moves accordingly. Should you be struck by an arrow, you will be transported via a chamber back to the experience spawn point at the base camp.

The further into the labyrinth you get, the more complex and engaging things get. Tunnels open out into caverns, again either individually placed or in close-knit groups, some even linked, although the way between them may be initially barred. Puzzles are to be found within these caverns, and you’ll need to look for the in-scene clues to correctly solve one of them. There are even skeleton guards to fight – yes, fight; again look for the clues on the walls / ground for how to do this, and remember, you can pick things up in Sansar and throw them.

The Secret Of Mount Shasta; Inara Pey, July 2018, on FlickrThe Secret Of Mount Shasta – you must be prepared to defend yourself. And to move stairs

All of this makes for an engaging – and actually quite addictive – challenge which combines elements of Tomb Raider with platform games and even a touch of Harry Potter as you work your way through things – complete with a ratcheting up of both frustration at each re-spawn and determination to end to the end of the challenge and find what awaits. For those with a sci-fi leaning, there might even be an echo of the Stargate franchise (ascended Lemurians  / ascended Lanteans?); ideal for those who prefer Daniel Jackson over Laura Croft or Indiana Jones!

There is a marvellous sense of an unfolding story within The Secret of Mount Shasta – and the way in which clues are provided in-game to solve one of the puzzles along the way is adds to this sense of story. Visually impressive with a superb and subtle audioscape to add further depth to the adventure, this is a worthy winner of the Labyrinth Contest and a thoroughly enjoyable experience.

Experience SLurl and Links

Sansar: Know Thy Neighbour release

Light switches and other scripted object interactions are now possible in Sansar. Credit: Linden Lab

Friday, June 1st saw the deployment of  the Sansar Know Thy Neighbour release, which brings user profiles to Sansar, adds object interactions through scripts and something the Lab call Access to Controls.

This article highlights some of the new features – and some deployed in May 2018. As always, full details of the updates in the new release are available in the release notes.

Initial Notes

  • As with the majority of Sansar deployments, this update requires the automatic download and installation of a client update.
  • Updates in this release mean that on logging-in for the first time following the update, users will be placed in the LookBook (Avatar App).

User Profiles

Second Life users are more than familiar with the idea of user profiles and their usefulness. They are something that has been raised on numerous occasions as one of the missing elements within Sansar – and with this release, they’ve started to arrive.

A Sansar profile can be used to display basic information about a user: their avatar name / ID, a photograph, and a short  biography. In addition, viewing other people’s profiles allows users to request / remove friendship, see a summary of any store listings they have or experiences they have published, each of which are interactive.

Every Sansar user has a profile by default, which can be edited and updated as required, although they must be updated from within the Sansar client. Profiles can, however, be viewed both within the client and on the web.

Editing Your Profile

To edit your profile, launch the Sansar client and then click on More Options > Edit Profile. This will open the Profile Editor, which has two user-definable fields: the profile image and biography.

Profile images are automatically generated by Sansar, based on the looks you have saved in the LookBook (See Customising your avatar). To select / change your profile image click on the edit icon at the four o’clock position on the photo display (1 in the image below, right). A list of your available images will be displayed. Click on the one you wish to use with your profile.

To update your biography, click on the Bio section (2 in the image below right) and enter your text.

Editing your Profile

When you’ve completed your updates, click Save to apply them.

Viewing a Profile

Profiles can be viewed in a number of ways:

  • From within an experience, through the client’s People App.
  • Via the Atlas, either within the client or on the web.
  • Via a store listing on the web.

Via the People App

Displaying a Profile via the People app (in this case, using Search)

When in an experience, you can display someone’s profile by opening the Chat App then clicking on the People App button.

  • To view the profile of someone on your Friends list, click on their name to display the interaction options and click Profile.
  • To view the profile of some on your Friends list, use the Search option, then click on their name to display the interaction options and click Profile.

Both of these options will open the user’s profile. This comprises a number of sections:

  • The user’s profile picture with a microphone icon at the four o’clock position. This is the mute / unmute option. Green indicates the person is not voice muted, red indicates they have been voice muted.
  • Three central options to direct message them; to friend / unfriend them or abuse report them.
  • The bottom section of a profile may  – or may not – display one or other – or both – of two further options: Store Items and Experiences.
  • Store Items: if the user has a Sansar Store, the total number of items they have listed will be displayed, with a See All option. Clicking the latter will display their store in your web browser. This option will be absent if the user does not have any items in the store.
  • Experiences:
    • if the user has published one or more experiences, the total number of their published experiences is displayed, with thumbnails of each of them.
    • Clicking on a thumbnail should open the experience
    • A button (V or ^) is displayed in this section – if the user has more than one experience, this will switch the thumbnail view between a single experience thumbnail and a tiled display of thumbnails.
    • This option will be absent if the user has not published any experiences.
  • To close a displayed profile, click the Back button at the top left of the profile display.

Note that when viewing a profile, you can also accept Friend requests sent by that person, as well as send your own.

Continue reading “Sansar: Know Thy Neighbour release”

Lab issues a further e-mail on EU GDPR and user privacy

On May 25th, 2018 the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) comes into force. While an EU regulation, the GDPR not only applies to organisations located within the EU but it will also apply to organisations located outside of the EU if they offer goods or services to, or monitor the behaviour of, EU data subjects.

Earlier in May, the Lab issued a blog post providing an initial outline of their compliance with the GDPR, which covers both Second Life and Sansar. In that post they promised they would provide further details on how EU citizens can exercise their rights under the GDPR. On May 24th, they issued an e-mail summarising updates to their Privacy Policy. The e-mail reads in full:

We value our relationship with our community and your privacy.  We have updated our Privacy Policy to increase transparency and comply with the European Union data protection law known as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which goes into effect on May 25, 2018. We encourage you to read our policies in full, but here are some highlights of what’s changed:

  • We provide additional details about the types of data that we collect, the ways in which we use it, and the measures we take to keep your data safe,
  • We added information about new choices and controls for users to manage their privacy, and
  • We added information about user’s rights regarding their privacy.

The updates to our policies will go into effect on May 25, 2018.  If you have questions, please contact us at privacy@lindenlab.com.

Thank you for being part of the Linden Lab community!

The Linden Lab Team

The specific sections of the Privacy Policy that have been updated are:

Obviously, you should read the privacy Policy in full, rather than just these sections. The above list is provided only as a guide.

Captain’s Log: on the bridge of the USS Enterprise in Sansar

The Bridge of the USS Enterprise; Inara Pey, May 2018, on FlickrThe Bridge of the USS Enterprise, NCC-1701 in Sansar

Tuesday, May 22nd saw the launch of a new  enterprise for Sansar, with the public opening of a model of one of the icons of the original Star Trek TV series: the Bridge of the USS Enterprise, NCC-1701.

The experience has been developed as a joint venture between Roddenberry Entertainment, run by Eugene “Rod” Roddenberry Jr, the son of Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry, and Linden Lab through Sansar Studios.  It has been designed as a tie-in with the Mission Log Live podcasts / live streams hosted every Tuesday by Ken Ray and or John Champion, which cover all things Star Trek (and often beyond), with news, discussions, Q&A sessions, guests, and  so on.

The core rendering for the experience has been produced by OTOY, the creator of the OctaneRenderer. Some might be familiar with OTOY’s work on the opening title sequence of HBO’s stunning TV series Westworld. Given this pedigree, and having seen some of the publicity shot (as I covered here), I admit  – as a long-term Star Trek fan – to looking forward to seeing the experience first-hand.

The Bridge of the USS Enterprise – a Sansar social space where people can watch weekly broadcasts of the Mission Log Live series, hosted by Ken Ray (seen on the viewscreen) and John Champion

Sadly, the official opening of the experience between 03:00 and 06:00 BST on the morning of Wednesday, May 23rd – FAR too late (or early!) for me. So it wasn’t until well after the event had finished that I was able to jump into the experience and have a look around.

The Bridge of the USS Enterprise is, first and foremost, visually stunning. It is beautifully rendered, with almost everything a Trek fan would expect to see there and (for the most part) in the correct colours. Visitors arrive close to the turbo elevator doors at the back the the bridge; to the left is the Engineering station, Montgomery Scott’s usual station when on the bridge, and to the right, Uhura’s Communications with Spock’s science station just beyond it.

Of course, the Captain’s chair is there, sitting in the central well behind the helm / navigation console and facing the main viewscreen. A point of note here is that the show isn’t actually recorded  in the experience, but is intended as a place where fans of Star Trek and science fiction can drop into and watch the live stream broadcasts – or catch up with them after the fact – and enjoy the ambience of the Bridge. I understand that for the opening, around 25-30 people gathered in the experience – which must have been cosy, and Ken and John, the hosts of the show, dropped in after the fact.

The Bridge of the USS Enterprise; Inara Pey, May 2018, on FlickrThe Bridge of the USS Enterprise – “The engines cannae take it, Cap’n!” – Scotty’s bridge station

All of the detailing ia for the most part exquisite, although it is – aside from the viewscreen – a static rendering (at least in Desktop Mode with Sansar – I cannot speak to VR mode).

For the hardcore Trek fan there are perhaps one or two mission elements: the commissioning plaque is absent from the wall next to the turbo elevator doors; Spock’s station is lacking his “I see all through this box with a glowing slit” dohicky, for example. Also, the helm and navigation console also appears to have been taken from the game Star Trek: Bridge Crew, rather than conforming to the original TV series design and colours. It’s also interesting to see the upper sensor dome that sits above the bridge deck shown as a skylight with stars zipping by – something of a nod of the head towards the original Trek pilot episode The Cage, perhaps?

The Bridge of the USS Enterprise; Inara Pey, May 2018, on FlickrThe Bridge of the USS Enterprise -“Take us out of orbit, Mr. Sulu. Ahead, warp factor one…”

It would be nice to see some interactive elements in the design – being able to touch Sulu’s console and see his weapons target / sensor relay unfold itself, for example, or to be able to “flick” switches on the ring consoles and see the images on the screen above them change – just to give visitors more of a sense of presence (not to mention the hoary old ability to sit on the chairs). However, these little niggles aside, for those who like / love / appreciate the original Star Trek TV series, the experience is a wonderfully nostalgic homage.

It’s a little disappointing that the first Mission Log to be broadcast with the opening of the experience didn’t show more in the way of images of the space to encourage interest among Trek fans watching the show – although it certainly was mentioned several times. However, this was somewhat made up for the broadcast including an interview with one of the incarnations of James T. Kirk himself, Vic Mignogna, the man behind the engaging web series Star Trek Continues, which picks up right where the original series left off at the end of its third season, and includes some unique follow-ups to some of the episodes from that series and well as featuring several special guest stars from the worlds of Star Trek.

The Bridge of the USS Enterprise; Inara Pey, May 2018, on FlickrThe Bridge of the USS Enterprise – “The engines cannae take it, Cap’n!” – Scotty’s bridge station

While Sansar and the Enterprise bridge aren’t visually featured in the show, it is interesting to hear some of the comments Ken and John make in passing about Sansar – particularly where their avatars are concerned. While casual in nature, they do perhaps reflect one of the more noticeable “limitations” with the platform that even casual users are noting: the “sameness” evident in Sansar avatars at the moment, born out of a current lack of broad customisation capabilities.

Overall, Bridge of the USS Enterprise is an interesting experiment on the idea of offering social environments in virtual spaces that are specific to audiences who might not otherwise have an interest in such environments. With the planned tie-in with the Overwatch League now apparently on hold (assuming it still goes ahead), Bridge of the USS Enterprise is Sansar’s sole “partnership” social space of this kind right now, so it’ll be interesting to see how it continues to be used.

The next Mission Long Live event will be on Tuesday, June 5th, as John and Ken will be taking a break on Tuesday, May 29th.

Additional Information