Sansar R37 release overview

The Sansar Space Squad Shooting Gallery

On Thursday, November 7th, Linden Lab deployed the Sansar R37 release, entitled “The Party Won’t Stop Release”. This is a smaller release than the October R36, but includes a series of much-requested updates, including:

  • Improvements to events management.
  • Avatar system updates.
  • Scene creation improvements.

As always, full details of the update can be found in the official release notes. The following is just a summary.

Events Updates

Events are no longer linked to scenes, but to published worlds. When creating an event, a copy of the selected published world and which is visited by those attending the event. However, the original version of the world is added to addendees Codex, allowing them the re-visit the world after the event has concluded and the event version is no longer available, while traffic for the event is added to the original world’s traffic numbers.

In addition:

  • R37 adds a new event notification capability to the client. This sends notices to those who have expressed an interest in the event when access is possible to the event version of the world, and when the event starts.
  • Creators can now link to specific spawn point coordinates – see below for more.

Avatar Updates

R37 provides support for uploading custom avatars with premorphed skeletons. This allows creators to adjust the bones of the reference base skeleton to make taller or shorter avatars with different bone structures. For best results, the avatar should be in the A pose when modifying. Note that these updates do not include bone rotation or scaling.

The avatar Axis Aligned Bounding Box (AABB) limits have been adjusted:

  • Max AABB – 2.3m tall, .05m below the ground plane, 1.2m left and right, .4m front, 1.1m back
  • Min AABB – .9m tall, .25m left and right, .06m front to back

Avatar Editing Freecam

It is now possible to freecam within the Avatar Editor (Look Book). Pressing F4 or clicking the Camera button in the bottom left of the Avatar Editor screen. When active, zooming in/out and panning up / down is possible using the standard camera control keys.

The Avatar Editor camera button

Avatar texture LOD

R37 includes the first release of a new avatar texture LOD system which will adjust avatar visual quality based on certain parameters to maintain product performance.

This will load up to 100MB of texture data per avatar. Any texture data in excess of 100MB will be down-sampled until it falls to 100MB. This means that the visual quality of an avatar may be reduced on some occasions. The limit may be adjusted for large events, which may affect the visual quality of an avatar further.

Scene Editing Improvements

Custom Spawn Points

It is now possible to add spawn points as a component on objects in a scene. This means that specific spawn points within scene other than the primary spawn point can be assigned (so, for example, if a portal is set within a scene to transport avatars to another scene, and can return to that portal rather than the main spawn point in a world when “returning”).

Defined spawn points can also be specified in the URL for a world using the #, allowing users to be directed to a specific spawn point within a world from a web page. For example: http://atlas.sansar.com/experiences/%5Bcreator name/[experience]#spawnpointname. See Object Editing for more.

Camera Object Component

The camera can also be added as a component on objects, which can be activated and controlled by scripts. They can be positioned and oriented like any other object in the scene, and can be copied as a reference and pasted on a camera script parameter.

Other Scene Editing Updates

  • New Grid section under Scene Settings that allows you to enable Snap to Grid on/off and set the snapping distance coordinates. This works with move, rotate, and planar tools.
  • Texture memory counter added to the Object stats Tool.
  • The colour picker panel can now be moved around the editor to any desired location on the screen.
  • Desktop aim improvements: a new “aim at cursor” property (optional) for the Grab Point component. When set, the avatar will hold the object so that it points towards the direction or object the mouse cursor is hovering over. In mouse-look mode, it will point towards wherever the reticle is pointed at.

In-Client Store Updates

The in-client store has been updated to include:

  • New filters to allow avatar clothing and accessories to filtered by male, female or all genders and / or by Marvelous Designer, Rigged or Static (Accessories).
The in-client store now includes new filters for avatar clothing and accessories (e.g. filter clothing by gender – shown)
  • Clickable item tags, allowing you to look at a filtered list based on that tag.
  • Creator names are now clickable and will take you to the creator’s store.
In-client updates: clicking a creator’s name will display their store (1); the copy URL button (2) allows you to copy the URL for a specific item and share in it chat in the client (as a clickable link) use in a web page, etc.
  • New copy URL button on the item details page to enables you to share direct URLs to specific store items.
    • This option is not available in the client for items that are hidden. Creators who are interested in grabbing a hidden item’s link may do so on web from the manage listings page.
    • Pasting item links in nearby or direct chat will open the item in the store.
  • Resale information and price are now exposed in the item details page.
  • Hyperlinks within store listing description will resolve into clickable links. [IN CLIENT ONLY].
    • Valid experience links can be visited to and from within the description itself.
    • Product listing links will open within client itself.
    • External links will open in browser.

Other updates

  • R37 includes an extensive list of script system updates, including the camera and spawn point updates noted above. Please refer to the release notes for details.
  • With R37, it is now possible to abandon quests you are no longer interested in.
    • Open the Quest panel.
    • Click on the quest you wish to abandon.
    • Click the Abandon Quest button on the Quest Info tab of the panel.

Sansar update: of lay-offs and moves

Sansar load screen

Alongside of the announced shift in emphasis with Sansar, there have been rumours of multiple lay-offs among the Sansar team. Ryan Schultz has led with the story, stating 30 have gone, although the rumour mill has been bouncing between 20 and 30.

Exactly how many have departed is difficult to judge, simply because LL does not comment on departures or cuts, but there are some limited ways in which we can stick a finger in the air and test things. My own knowledge of the Sansar team is limited to around 16 names, but it would appear from my rudimentary yardstick, that four of those names are no longer at the Lab.

My yardstick for this measurement is simple, but has been known to be effective in the past. All Lab staff have a Linden account in Second Life. With most of the Sansar team, that account name tends to marry up with their Sansar name (e.g. Ebbe Linden marries up to Ebbe in Sansar; Boho Linden marries up with Boho in Sansar, etc.). So by checking to see which accounts are inactive, it is possible to hazard a guess that the individual is no longer at Linden Lab.

In this respect, my findings tend to concur that of the three very specific names that have been mentioned in reference to the Sansar lay-offs do indeed appear to have departed Linden Lab. However, it also appears (up to the time of writing, at least) that a third high-profile name – that of the Lab’s Chief Product Officer, Landon MacDowell – still appears to be with the Lab, as his SL account is still active.

Granted, this is not a genuinely scientific means of making a judgement. However, it amounts to 1/4 of the names I know in the Sansar team, and if I recall correctly (I confess that in digging back through my notes, I’ve been unable to pin down the specific quote) during a meeting in either Sansar or Second Life, Ebbe Altberg indicated the Sansar team is around the 100+ mark. So, my finger-in-the-air figure would tend to concur with the idea of 20 to 30 people being laid off / transitioned.

In this latter regard, I took time to try to dig around a little further and concluded that it seems likely that at least two of the Sansar team who originally moved to that project from Second Life may have transitioned back to working on SL (in addition to Harley Linden also transitioning from Sansar to SL).

Precisely what this means for Sansar development in the future remains to be seen. I’ve already commented on the move to focus efforts on trying to make Sansar a venue for “live” virtual events (see Sansar changes emphasis: of live events and audience, and it’s something I intend to circle back to in the near future as it seems some of that piece may have been misinterpreted. For now, all I will say in regards to the lay-offs, is that whenever and wherever they happen, no matter how big or how small, they are never pleasant – least of all for those being laid off. So I genuinely hope any who have been let go by the Lab are successful in finding new positions sooner rather than later.

Sansar changes emphasis: of live events and audience

Linden Lab is shifting its development emphasis towards hosting more “live” virtual events to help build an audience

On Friday, November 1st, the Sansar Team held their weekly Product Meeting, which provided to be an event of two parts: an overview of the next Sansar release, which I’ve covered in my usual Sansar Product Meeting summary format, and confirmation that Sansar’s development is undergoing a change in emphasis in a drive to try to establish a much broader audience.

In short, and as noted by Sansar’s Community Manager, Galileo, and the Lab’s Vice President of Business Development and Marketing, Sheri Bryant (aka CowboyNinja in Sansar), who now takes up the role of Sansar’s General Manager¹, the Lab plans to focus a lot more on building-out Sansar’s ability to run “live” events within virtual spaces.

The decision has in part been sparked by the rise in popularity of “live” virtual events in a number of platforms (most notably the Fortnite / Marshmello event and the 11 million attendees it garnered) and the more modest – but significant – successes Sansar has had in hosting electronic dance music (EDM) events through partnerships with Monstercat and Spinnin’ Records.

It’s a decision that was actually presaged in October, when IQ ran an article in which Lab CEO Ebbe Altberg and Sheri Bryant were interviewed about the Lab’s intentions with “live” events in Sansar. As such, I wasn’t actually overly surprised to hear about the shift in emphasis, although others may have missed that piece. Certainly, the announcement has received a negative reaction from some, and has been – wrongly, I would suggest – characterised as akin to High Fidelity’s abrupt change of direction that occurred earlier this year – see: High Fidelity changes direction: the reality of VR worlds today (& tomorrow?) and High Fidelity changes direction (2).

I say “wrongly”, because while this is a change in emphasis, it is not in any way a shuttering / move any from anything within Sansar in the way High Fidelity’s change of direction was. As was noted in the meeting:

  • The intention is to make Sansar the “best possible” destination for virtual events, with an emphasis on both “larger” marquee-style events involving commercial partners and other brands / organisations and on the more creator-driven events we see in Sansar today.
    • Hence why the next release of Sansar – R37, due to be deployed in week #45 (commencing Monday, November 4th, 2019) will incorporate changes to the events system creators have been specifically requesting – including linking events directly to the world used to host them and allowing that originating world to gain the traffic figures of people attending the event version.
  • It will see Linden Lab endeavour to “integrate” user-developed events with major marquee events, so that audiences attending the latter will be made more aware of the former, and encouraged to explore more of Sansar beyond the current event they are attending.
    • So the hope is that if done correctly, provisioning bigger and more frequent “live” events, the Lab can not only achieve spikes in Sansar’s user base, but actually start to convert some of those visiting audiences into engaged users.
    • In this respect, work will be carried out to further improve the overall new user experience to make it more “unforgettable”, and to expand Sansar’s socialisation and communication capabilities to help encourage greater user/user interactions.
  • It also does not mean that other improvements for the platform are in any way being closed or abandoned – although it does mean that some are being re-prioritised and are seeing their possible deployment time-frames pushed back.

This latter point is likely why there has been some negativity around the announcement: for much of 2019 the emphasis has been on developing Sansar’s gaming  / questing capabilities, and these have reached a point where they are being actively and imaginatively being leveraged. Given that push to develop them and get creators excited by them, to apparently make a sudden track switch is bound to leave some feeling a little, “wait – what?”

Similarly, there has been a push to give the Sansar avatar a complete overhaul, with more being promised – particularly full body deformation and custom skin textures. It had been suggested these might appear before the end of 2019 – but they are now timetabled for delivery “in 2020”. So this again is likely to be grating on people. But that said, it is true that, insofar as encouraging people into Sansar to attend events, Avatar 2.0 doesn’t appear to have been any kind of barrier – and it might be argued that it is more important for Sansar to gain a broader and deeper user base than it is to keep iterating on new features and capabilities within the avatar system – particularly if there are relatively few people around to use it.

Even with the emphasis on “live” events in Sansar, the lab intends to keep working on the overall new user experience, including use of things like the Nexus (above) and the Codex

Obviously, there are risks involved in shifting the emphasis towards “live” virtual events as a means to generate an audience from which retained users might be gained. On the one hand, there is that aforementioned Marshmello / Fortnite event and its almost 11 million virtual attendees. However, it’s equally important to remember that Fortnite already had an estimated user base of some 200 million world-wide to draw on to attend that event – they weren’t using it to try to generate new users for the platform.

In this, Sansar has a long way to go to establish itself – and there is absolutely no guarantee that however things are developed or engineered, people attracted to the platform to attend an event by their favourite EDM DJ or comedian or talk show host or whoever aren’t really going to be interested in doing anything else other than attending an event. But again, to flip this over, it is certainly true that certain types of event that could allow audiences to have very unique experiences whilst attending such events. This is something Ebbe Altberg notes in reference to EDM events when talking to IQ:

It’s easier to hook up EDM artists to the system because DJs basically have an electronic output. So they stand there in their VR gear and we give them all kinds of in-game tools – fireballs, lasers, the ability to change the gravity so everyone can jump really high…

There’s also the fact that virtual shows and events do greatly increase the potential audience reach for artists and performers – and present the potential for physical world merchandising (assuming LL put such a capability in place – and they’d perhaps be stupid not to), something I touched on in Sansar: music entertainment with some sundry thoughts. This is something that performers and brands might well find appealing.

So to me, the shift in emphasis perhaps isn’t as upsetting as it appears to have been to others – but then, I’m simply not as invested in Sansar as some, which also should be taken into account. Certainly, and as I’ve previously argued, I don’t think a push to establish a presence in the “virtual events market” given the capabilities Sansar does have is not a bad thing. And, as I’ve noted in Sansar: music entertainment with some sundry thoughts, even if it doesn’t massively drive up the platform’s concurrency on its own, it could nevertheless contribute to doing so; what’s more, it could open the platform up to broader “repeat” audiences from a range of potential sectors and so help the Lab generate revenue from those sectors through a variety of means.

Related Articles

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  1. It is not clear right now, but Sheri may have shifted to focusing solely on Sansar, as Hari Raghavan, formerly the Lab’s Senior Manager, Marketing Communications, was introduced at the meeting as the “new Director of Marketing”.

Sansar Product Meetings week #44: release R37

The First Portal

The following notes were taken from the Twitch stream recording of the November 1st (week #44) Sansar Product Meeting. This meeting focus on two aspects of Sansar:

  • The upcoming R37 release, covered in detail in these notes.
  • The shift in Sansar development focus, which will emphasize “live” events in Sansar for the foreseeable future. This is summarised below and looked at in more detail in a companion piece, Sansar changes emphasis: of live events and audience.

New faces

The Friday meeting featured some new (to the meeting) faces:

  • Coho – the Sansar release Manager.
  • Binah – user interface / user experience design.
  • Skylar – Manager of Engineering.
  • Julia Munck – VP of Product (Sansar).
  • Sheri Bryant – VP of Business Development and Marketing for Linden Lab and now the General Manager for Sansar (as CowboyNinja in-world).
  • Hari Raghavan – Director of Marketing (formerly the Senior Manager, Marketing Communications.

Product Team Changes

In addition to the meeting attendee notes above, there have been some changes to the Sansar team:

  • Lacie Linden is taking over more direct management of Sansar support.
  • Harley Linden has transitioned from Sansar to working back on Second Life.

Overall, the change in focus for the platform means the Sansar team is smaller. This has led to the suggestion that some members may have departed the Lab (although LL does not officially comment on those leaving the company). Names have been mentioned in this regard, although at this point in time I’ve been unable to corroborate such claims, and one of the three of the names I’ve seen mentioned has the appearance of still being at LL, at this point in time.

“Live” Events Focus

The decision has been taken to prioritise Sansar as a platform for hosting “live” virtual events.

  • This has in part been sparked by the rise in popularity of “live” virtual events in a number of platforms (most notably the Fortnite / Marshmello event and the 11 million attendees it garnered) and the more modest successes Sansar has had in hosting electronic dance music (EDM) events in Sansar.
  • The intention is to make Sansar the “best possible” destination for virtual events. However, the Lab see this as a two-pronged approach:
    • Enabling more partnership-style events such as those seen with the likes of Monstercat and Spinnin’ Records, and in have other “branded” events (if not outright partnerships)
    • Promoting more in the way of user-created events, hence the changes being made to the events system with R37 (see below) to help encourage creators to run events of their own.
  • It will mean a lot of attention will be placed on the Sansar events system going forward.
    • However, it does not mean work on other features  / capabilities is being abandoned, although some will be re-prioritised and may be pushed back in terms of possible deployment time frames.
    • The work will be carried out alongside an expansion of Sansar’s socialisation and communication capabilities to help encourage greater user/user interactions.
    • Attempts will be made to “integrate” user-developed events with major marquee events, so that audiences attending the latter will be made more aware of the former, and encouraged to explore more of Sansar beyond the current event they are attending.
  • The new user experience will be further looked at / enhanced so that it can be a more “unforgettable” experience in order to encourage visitors to return and become active within the platform.

I have more on this in a companion article / opinion piece, Sansar changes emphasis: of live events and audience.

Sansar’s development is to be more focused on making the platform as a venue for “live” virtual events, such as those hosted by Monstercat at their Call of the Wild event space

R37 Release

The next Sansar release – R37 – is due to be deployed during the week commencing Monday, November 4th, and should include the following features / updates.

World and Editing Updates

  • Desktop aiming improvements (shooting, throwing, etc). Essentially a new grab point on objects – “aim at cursor” on objects to make the avatar use IK to aim at the target as pointed to with the cursor.
  • Pre-morph skeleton support.
  • Camera updates:
    • Freecam capability when editing an avatar through the Look Book.
    • Scripted camera positioning (so, for example, when a user enters a world, they can be taken on a video / cinematic flight through the world).
  • New Edit Mode capabilities:
    • Support for setting scripted spawn points within a world users can be delivered to when moving between worlds, rather than having to go via the main spawn point
    • Scene building snap to grid (move, rotation and planar), to allow better alignment of items in a scene, with the threshold defined by the creator.
  • Edit Mode Texture handling improvements:
    • Improved texture tracking capabilities in the object stats.
    • Ability to move the colour picker.
    • JPEG file import support and the removal of texture dimensions limitations.
    • Avatar texture log:
      • Essentially establishes a rendering budget for every avatar in a scene (possibly 100Mb).
      • When textures on an avatar exceed this budget, the system will switch to rendering them at lower MIP levels.
      • People’s own avatars are not exempt from this limit when in their own worlds.
      • The idea is to help raise the avatar limit for scenes / worlds, and to assist those trying to access Sansar on lower-specification systems.
      • The Sansar team will be looking for feedback on this budget threshold from world builders, and will be iterating on the approach in the future.
    • Scripting: a new simple script will be added to the library to support accessing a creator’s store in the client UI by clicking an in-world object.
  • Questing: the ability for users to abandon in-progress quests (so, if you start a quest, decide you don’t want to complete it, you can abandon it and have it removed from your Quest Journal, rather than seeing it hanging there every time the Journal is opened).

UI / UX Updates

  • The in-client store is being updated to:
    • Be a moveable / resizeable panel (similar to the Codex).
    • Provide improved search filtering.
    • Support creator stores searches / filtering.
  • Chat improved to support the sharing of links to stores and items in the Sansar Store.

Events Changes

  • Event creation updates:
    • With the next release, evens are created by selecting a published world (not a scene template).
    • This means that when someone attends an event, the link to the originating world is added to their Codex.
    • However, these links cannot be changed (so if a creator sets-up an event using a copy of their World A, and then decides they would actually like to run the event using their World B, the link is not updated – so users attending the event will still get World A added to their Codex, not World B).
    • It also means that while a copy of the world will be used to host the event, the original world will gain the “credit” of the traffic generated by the event.
  • Event notifications will be sent to the client to notify users when they can access an event they’ve marked as being interested in attending.
  • Events will support the new scripted spawn point capability mentioned above, so those arriving at an event can be delivered directly to the event area, rather than the world’s main spawn point, if required.

Persistent Storage

  • New scripted APIs to allow data to be saved from experiences. The data is defined as “anything you like” – so visitor stats, avatar progress through a world or a quest, etc.
    • Creators will have the ability to share “tables” of data between one another, to assist with collaborative projects.
    • Details were a little vague and offered with the promise that the documentation around this will explain things in full.

General Q&A

  • When will flying be added to avatar movement? Not actively being worked on.
    • However, LL are looking at making certain capabilities specific to events / event tickets (e.g. having a ticket price that including having your avatar’s gravity to be adjusted at the event so you can be set to float around, etc.)
  • How can people contact other Sansar users when they are not friends, e.g. to enquire after a product, report an issue with a product, etc, given people don’t like accepted random Friend requests? This is known to be an issue, and the only way to circumvent it at present is to try via Discord.
  • When will individual volume controls be introduced for avatars? Has been discussed numerous times and has bounced around the priorities list, but currently is not on the feature roadmap.
  • What is being done to improve world discovery?
    • As per the notes on live events, LL is looking at ways to broaden the awareness of those attending major live events that there is an entire platform of worlds to be explored.
    • Feedback is still being gathered on the effectiveness of the Nexus in encourage new users to explore Sansar.
  • Will Sansar offer an Animation Override capability of a similar nature to Second Life? No plans at present – but the animation system may be expanded.
  • What about the ability to sync animations between avatars (e.g. have everyone synced to the same dance)?
    • While it has been done, no plans as yet to make it a user-driven feature.
    • However, capabilities like this are compelling within the events environment (e.g. a group of avatars attending an event being able to sync-up for a dance), so the idea is not completely out of the question.
  • Does the shift in focus mean that avatar improvements are now on the back-burner?
    • The current avatar system is seen as “relatively robust” and suitable for things like attending events.
    • While the focus will be on the development of features around events / events management, avatars will remain central to Sansar’s development – they just won’t be a subject of focus in the immediate future.
    • Nothing is being taken away from the plans for future avatar development.
    • This does mean that full body deformation, that had been viewed as possibly being a Q4 2019 (October-December) release has been pushed back to a 2020 release, but no clear indication of when.
  • When will it be possible to update items without having to re-list them in the store? Currently, not on the roadmap.
  • Will “drivable” vehicles be available any time soon? With the change in focus to events, probably not any time soon.
  • When will creators have inventory folders? Not on the revised roadmap – keep asking for it.

Sansar: music entertainment with some sundry thoughts

Monstercat is one of two EDM labels Linden Lab has partnered with for Sansar, as noted in the IQ article

IQ posted an interesting article on Sansar on Wednesday, October 23rd that gives – for those who haven’t been tracking the platform’s progress – insight into one of the directions Linden Lab is seeking to grow Sansar’s exposure and use.

In Linden Lab: Virtual worlds will make Madison Square Garden look small, Jon Chapple sits down with the Lab’s CEO, Ebbe Altberg and Sheri Bryant, Linden Lab’s VP of Business Development and Marketing to explore the growing role of virtual spaces – including MMOs – in promoting music and artists, and in doing so, opens the door on the potential for a platform like Sansar to generate audiences beyond those which might be considered “traditional” VW users.

As the article notes, the relationship between music and virtual worlds is not new. Second Life has been a huge platform by which musicians, singers and DJs can reach a global audience and supplement their income, and – again as IQ notes – it has even seen the odd high-profile event involving the likes of Duran Duran (including “official” regions in-world), Suzanne Vega and U2. However, Sansar presents the potential for musicians and – particularly – DJs to reach much, much larger virtual audiences.

Interest in this kind of pairing perhaps really came into focus in February 2019, when Marshmello performed a 10-minute set in the MMO Fortnite – and to an estimated in-game audience of almost 11 million. This was achieved through Fortnite’s ability to instance environments – spin-up multiple versions of an experience according to demand. It’s a technique common to on-line games – and it is (as most of us are aware) a capability Sansar has as well. Add to it Sansar’s built-in ability to avatar broadcast – allowing selected avatars within an environment to be broadcast to all the other instances of that environment simultaneously in real-time – and you have a powerful capability ideally geared to presenting large audience events.

The Blasterjaxx headline event took place in the Social Guild club at Sansar’s Nexus, and saw attendees from 600 cities world-wide

In particular, Linden Lab have partnered with the electronic dance music (EDM) labels Monstercat (Canada) and Spinnin’ Records (The Netherlands) to host events by both labels within Sansar. Already the début events held by both labels were each seen by audiences spanning more than 600 cities globally, with the Monstercat début was attended by over 1,000 unique avatars). While this might not be on the scale of the Fortnite / Marshmello event (which had the advantage of being able to draw on Fortnite’s estimated active user base of some 200 million), it is still impressive for a virtual world event – just try to imagine an event in SL, for example, that has around 300 avatars at again given point in time in the “same” region.

In talking to IQ, Altberg and Bryant make it clear that they see the involvement of Monstercat (who now feature weekly activities in Sansar) and Spinnin’ Records as the tip of the iceberg, and that while EDM is an “easy” choice for an initial foray into music and entertainment partnerships, there are others the Lab is actively seeking out.

It’s easier to hook up EDM artists to the system because DJs basically have an electronic output. So they stand there in their VR gear and we give them all kinds of in-game tools – fireballs, lasers, the ability to change the gravity so everyone can jump really high … You can tell how much fun they’re having controlling the environment. They can change the way the world looks and functions by pressing buttons and turning dials – so they’re not just tweaking the music but creating a whole experience for people.

  – Ebbe Altberg to IQ

One question here is what do the likes of Monstercat and Spinnin’ Records get out of this? At the moment monetisation is limited to the current simple revenue-sharing system, which perhaps isn’t really that attractive. However, the article hints at some of the ways the Lab will be changing this – including the potential for what appears to be targeted subscription packages (VIP passes to back-stage green room events / meet and greets? Discounted physical world merchandise? Time will tell). Certainly, merchandise is a significant consideration – following the Fortnite event, for example, Marshmello / Fortnite (an admitted Fortnite fan / player) started to offer physical world merchandise as well as in-game goodies (which can already translate as in-world merchandise in Sansar).

For me, instancing and avatar broadcasting are between them one of the reasons I can see Sansar creating multiple niche, but viable, audiences for itself. For example,  around the world are multiple instances of remote learning for everyone from children through to adults, often with limited opportunity for interaction with tutors, subject matter specialist or one another. Here in the UK, for example, we have the Open University, catering to some 170,000-180,000 students (including between 7,000 and 10,000 non-UK based), who at most only get to discuss their work with a tutor via the Internet or telephone, whilst working in isolation from others on the same course. So imagine the power in being able to bring those students together into a lecture theatre or classroom, where they can learn together, share, ask questions, collaborate / participate in demonstrations / experiments – and then socialise together afterwards. Sansar can support this both through small-scale teaching environments and through lecture facilities that can sit 100+ students at a time via instancing / avatar broadcasting.

Nor is this entirely limited to education. Imagine, for example, the opportunity to sit down in your own home and attend a presentation by members of NASA’s Curiosity rover team – and ask questions of them. Or to be able to join a presentation / moderate Q&A by one of your favourite authors and then have your question possibly put to them  – and afterwards being able to hop on a link to purchase their latest book. And that’s just skimming the surface.

The potential for Sansar to host public lectures with global appeal was shown, albeit in a modest way, with Dr. Lee Mellor’s Murder in VR series held in October 2019. Credit: Sansar Official You Tube channel

Such activities may not come anywhere close to the kind of thing that “will make Madison Square Gardens look small”, but collectively, on-going approaches and leveraging Sansar in this kind of manner could help the platform generate the kind of steady traffic (if not large-scale or exciting) it requires to prove its worth. In the meantime, adding capabilities that allow better revenue generation, building out partnerships with music labels and other entertainment genres could help lay the foundations for Sansar becoming seen as a means by which much large audience-driven events can be hosted and run.

Obviously, none of this is going to happen overnight, and a lot is dependent on how LL bring to fruition various capabilities that are likely to appeal to partners – and on how well they can actually market the platform as an audience generator, and haul in users / attendees from their various strands of potentiality (those already familiar with virtual worlds also being one of those strands).

In this, I do admit to a nagging doubt that for all the effort put into them, all the road shows and attendance at Star Trek conventions and the like is really going to garner a lasting return in terms of audience growth. I say the because these activities appear to be almost entirely VR centric – and given that VR itself is still a long way short of being mass market, which it could leave those trying Sansar at such events as being something novel to “have a go on”, rather than something they take note of and then explore when they get home and fire up their PCs.

But, doubts aside, the IQ article makes for interesting reading and, for those not following Sansar that closely, perhaps sheds some light on the Lab’s thinking around that platform and how it diverges from SL.

Sansar Product Meetings week #41: recent updates

Monstercat Call of the Wild

The following notes were taken from my audio recording of the October 10th (week #41) Sansar Product Meeting, which examined upcoming avatar updates and nakedness in Sansar. The official video is available on Twitch.

Recent Updates

The latest is a series of updates to Sansar following the R36 Release (Nexus, Codex and Avatar 2.0) was made on October 4th (Planar Handles) and October 10th. These are summarised below.

World load screens have been updated to include an image of the destination, as requested by users

Planar Handles

  • New planar handles have been added to the translate gizmo in the scene editor. The new planar handles allow for quick movement constrained to a plane as defined by the orientation of the selection, as opposed to the single-axis translation provided by the other handles.
  • This is the first of a series of updates coming to the gizmo (which will include things like snap to grid, snap to rotation, etc.).

New Settings Options

  • Starting World: define where you commence your time in Sansar after logging in: the Nexus, your home space or go directly to your Look Book.
  • Avatar info on select – choose whether or not names and action buttons appear when hovering over a user. This is useful for film-makers.
The new settings drop-down for setting your preferred start location when logging in to Sansar (The Nexus, your home space or Look Book) – arrowed; and the option for disabling / enabling avatar name + options when the pointer is hovering over an avatar (on by default) – circled.

Portal Options

  • Avatars can now walk to portals to bring up the world details panel, from which a destination can be selected.
  • If preferred, you can still click on portals to open the world details page.

User Created Quest Rewards

Creators can now opt to present users with rewards in their quests. For full details, please refer to the Rewards section of the Quest documentation, but in brief:

  • There are two types of reward that can be offered:
    • Mandatory – given to the player upon quest completion.
    • “Choosable” – player is presented with two rewards and they must choose which one to receive.
  • Up to three rewards can be offered per quest.
    • All rewards can be mandatory, or one can be “choosable” (so a quest can have three mandatory or 2 mandatory, 1 “choosable”, or just two rewards, either both mandatory or 1 mandatory and 1 “choosable”, etc.).
  • Rewards can be an accessory, custom avatar, or item of clothing added to the user’s avatar inventory upon quest completion.
    • Scene objects (at the time of writing) cannot be offered as rewards.
  • The creator offering the rewards must own the proper license to distribute them.
    • As a rule of thumb, if the creator originated the item and uploaded it, they own the license to it.
    • Rewards do not have to be listed in the Sansar Store, but must be in the creator’s avatar inventory.
  • Refer to the documentation linked to above for adding rewards to a quest.
The Look Book now includes a 3-page tutorial (facial manipulation (shown), Marvelous Designer clothing manipulation and accessory adjustment), available from the “?” option, lower left of the screen

New Script APIs for Rigid Body Collisions and Avatar Speed

  • New rigid body collision behaviours determine how in-world objects react to avatar collisions. For example: a building might have a force field around it, denying access except for those able to input the correct code.
    • Behaviours will apply to anything associated with the avatar – teleporting, raycasting, camera, etc.
    • Operates at the per avatar level.
  • Speed multipliers can now be applied on a per avatar basis. For example: a power-up on a race track could provide a speed boost to an avatar passing over it.
    • Similar multipliers will be made available in the future for jump height / strength.
  • Details on how to use these are summarised in the release notes and documented in the Sansar scripting API documentation.

In-World Stores and Halloween Themes

  • Some creators are beginning to offer in-world stores.
  • The Sansar team would like to help support them where possible / appropriate.
  • As a part of this, and giving the month, the will be promotion of Halloween themed items through the Sansar Store.
  • Similarly, worlds built around Halloween themes are likely to be promoted via the Nexus, and may have some S$ incentives as well.
Portals to user-created locations are being made available at the Nexus, (based on theme), and these include the walk-in capability described towards the top of this summary

Q&A – In Brief

Please refer to the video for the full Q&A (some of which dealt with specific bugs individuals are experiencing, etc., or which had no clear answer at this point in time); the session begins around 16 minutes into the meet. The following is a short list of the questions that are likely of interest to a wider audience.

  • Custom skin textures for the system avatars:
    • Anticipated for delivery some time in the next month.
    • Access to the skeleton for testing custom skins should come sooner, possibly in the next week or two.
  • Skin layering for custom avatars: if the custom avatar uses the same UV mapping at the system avatar, should be possible. If the UV mapping is unique, then not supported, and unlikely to be supported near-term.
  • Vehicles in Sansar: vehicle have multiple layers of complexity, however, initial capabilities, such as remote control of vehicles, might start appearing around the 2nd quarter of 2020.
  • Vive Cosmos support and Valve Index VR support:
    • No official support for the Cosmos as yet, although some have managed to get these working with Sansar.
    • Valve Index is being working on by the Lab. Those who have it, try pressing F9 after Sansar is running & headset is on to get Sansar to appear in the headset.
  • Individual volume controls for avatars on voice: often requested, and the Sansar team have worked out how they’d like to implement it, but currently not prioritised in terms of when it will be addressed and implemented.
  • The emote system is to be updated so all emotes, including custom emotes will be available in run-time mode, allowing them to all be swapped and played, rather than having to bake custom emotes into the avatar through the character editor in order to have them available in the emote selection menu.
    • When available this would also means that emotes purchased from the store can be immediately available for use while still in run-time as well.
    • No time frame on when this will be deployed.
  • Scene-based animations: a capability to allow creator-defined animations to be triggered within a scene (e.g. when an avatar picks up a rifle, they hold the rife at the ready to use position, or if an avatar starts pushing a shopping cart, the hands “grip” the handle of the cart and the avatar adopts a gait as if pushing it, etc). This is being worked on, and is being aimed at a possible mid-2020 release.