2018 Sansar Product Meetings week #3 – with audio

Sneaking a peep at Anu Amun’s new Steampunk experience

The following notes are taken from the Sansar Product Meetings held at 4:00pm PST on the afternoon of Friday, January 19th, 2018. These Product Meetings are open to anyone to attend, are a mix of voice (primarily) and text chat, and there is currently no set agenda. The official meeting notes are published in the week following each pair of meetings, while venues change each week, and are listed in the Meet-up Announcements. and the Sansar Atlas events section.

Ebbe Altberg and Paul  (aka Pierre), Alex and Nyx Linden from the Sansar product team joined meeting host Jennifer for the event. Audio extracts from the meeting are included below for reference to key points in the discussions. Note that some subjects were discussed at different points in the meeting, and so some of the audio extracts here represent a concatenation of the different points at which a particular topic may have been discussed.

Web Atlas – Concurrency Indicators

The Web Atlas has been updated with a new search category – Popularity – and concurrency indicator in the All Experiences tab. When selected from the sort drop-down menu (see below), experiences will be ordered by current real-time use,  so those with avatars actually visiting them will be listed first, starting with the experience with the most current activity.

In addition, those experiences with avatars in them have a concurrency indicator in the top left corner of their thumbnail image. This is again a real-time indicator that the experience is in use at the time it is seen in the Atlas, and is displayed for active experiences within Atlas (all tabs).

Web Atlas: popularity drop-down in sort, circled (All Experiences tab only), and the concurrency indicators (arrowed) available for all experiences with avatars in them on all tabs. Note the relatively low number of “active” experience in this image may appear low as it was captured at 10:40am UK time on a Saturday morning, a typical time for low concurrency numbers for VWs

The popularity search option and the concurrency indicator will be added to the client Atlas, possibly as an update in week #4. Both present a first step in presenting users with more information on popular experiences and in helping them locate spaces which have a “social” presence in Sansar.

Sansar Store Tags

It is now possible for creators to tag items when creating Sansar Store listings, and the Store Guidelines have been updated to reflect this.

January Release

The January 2018 release, referred to internally at the Lab as “Release 17” (the Fashion release having been Release 16), is primarily code / performance focused. In particular this update includes:

  • Bug fixes.
  • Performance improvements – for example, the amount of data sent to the client for avatar and dynamic object animations has been reduced by some 60%, which will hopefully make things more fluid for users in busy experiences.
  • An experience loading progress bar has been coded, although the scene loading page has yet to be revised to show it, and it is hoped this will be in Release 17, or deployed shortly thereafter.

User Sign-up / On-Boarding Process

The Sansar product team believe the current sign-up / on-boarding process for Sansar (see here for the basics) is too complex. It is hoped that a more streamlined sign-up process will form the nucleus of the February 2018 release, and that these updates, together with the Atlas popularity ratings / indicators, will make it easier for incoming users to sign-up and start finding experiences where they can meet and interact with other Sansar users.

Under discussion at the Lab is whether or not to create a dedicated “on-boarding” experience towards which incoming new users could be directed following sign-up, rather than just leaving them to find their way around the Atlas. This would not be part of the February release, and could be more of an exercise in testing which route  – via sign-up and then Atlas, or sign-up and “learning / tutorial” experience – is preferred by in-coming users / helps improve retention levels among new users.

Should Sansar have “on boarding” experiences akin to SL’s Social and Learning islands (shown above)? If so, should they be split between “general / consumer” users, and “content creator users”? How would such learning centres, as part of a sign-up / on-boarding process sit with experience creators providing their own gateways to their experiences? These are some of the questions the Lab is asking itself

One issue with providing any “centralised” on-boarding experience is how will it sit with user-created experiences? Part of the idea with Sansar is not to have a central / main “gateway” into the platform (as is the case with Second Life), but to allow experience creators to develop their own gateways directly to their own experiences (e.g. through a dedicated web presence, a corporate website, or via Facebook or Twitter, etc.). So, how do any on-boarding experiences supplied by the Lab fit with these routes of access?

Should a user signing-up to Sansar through a specific experience gateway be “diverted” to a Lab-created learning experience and then dropped into the experience they were signing-up to join? If so, how exactly should that work? Should they simply be dropped into the experience they were expecting, and be left to work it out for themselves / complete any tutorial options provided by the experience creator?

There’s also the question of how deep does any on-boarding experience have to go – can things be made easier to understand through the client itself – keeping the UI straightforward, offering on-screen indicators for controller buttons options when required, etc?

Mentors / Greeters

A suggest was made to have a “learning welcome” space where volunteer “Sansar ambassadors” (akin to Second Life mentors) can spend time helping new arrivals gain familiarity with using the Sansar client – the atlas, settings, walking, running, chatting in text, IMing, etc.

In response, Ebbe noted that – contrary to anecdotal views in Second Life – having mentors (either at their own welcome environments or those at the various Community Gateways in operation around Second Life) does not actually lead to any greater levels of retention among new users than the self-teach environments that have been presented to incoming users over the years. However, the is a willingness to experience with methods – with the use of AI-driven NPCs or the provision of some kind of “learning HUD” also being mentioned as possible options to help new users.

Events

Pierre reiterated his comments from the previous Product Meeting, that additional tools to help creators / users mount and promote their own experiences will be appearing in the very near future. This is again seen as a component in helping to drive user interest in Sansar.

Avatar and Fashion

Currently, the Sansar avatar is not – outside of the head / face – customisable other than with clothing and accessories. As recorded in my 2018 week #2 notes, there are plans to enhance the degree of customisation available within the avatar, starting with the head, and then with work on the body. This led to concerns on how additional avatar customisation capabilities might impact clothing design. Animator and creator Medhue Simoni in particular laid out his concerns in a video on the matter, which apparently became the subject of discussion at the first Sansar Fashion Product Meeting (which I was unable to attend), with it being indicated that the Lab’s Fashion Team had watched the video, taken note of the concerns raised etc.

As the avatar is enhanced, there may well be a need for clothing designers to go back and re-rig clothing created outside of Marvelous Designer (MD), although it should be possible to re-simulate MD clothing over a changed avatar body shape once this capability has been enabled with Sansar.

In the short-term for Fashion, there will be an update to fix the UV issues people are experiencing with MD, wherein the export to Sansar is using a different UV space to the export to other formats. However, the avatar customisations capabilities will be added gradually over a longer period of time.

To help compensate for the avatar updates, requests have been made for a deformer mechanism to be added to Sansar to allow rigged mesh clothing to more easily adjust to the avatar shape (and changes to it – think Fitmesh is Second Life as a broad idea), while potentially avoiding the need for clothing to be supplied in a range of sizes. This may not be so easy to introduce.

However, and whether it will be possible to implement or not is still unknown, the Lab is trying to determine if, where different clothing sizes are required, the platform itself can auto-generate different default sizes rather than the designer having to upload them all (e.g. if a designer uploaded an item in a “standard medium” size, the “standard large” and “standard small” sizes would be auto-generated from it).

One of the things the Lab wants to do is keep the fashion creation flow relatively straightforward, and avoid placing too many requirements on designers. They are therefore keen to avoid things like morph-based solutions and blend shapes (thus negating designers having to implement a whole series of body morphs into their designs or having to run through some conversion process to handle blend shapes, etc.).

Continue reading “2018 Sansar Product Meetings week #3 – with audio”

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2018 Sansar Product Meetings week #2

The Intel CES booth at the 2018 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, recreated in Sansar as a part of the show

The following notes are taken from the Sansar Product Meetings held on Friday, January 12th, 2018. These Product meetings are usually held every Friday at 9:30am PST and 4:00pm PST, and are open to all. There is currently no set agenda, and the meetings are a mix of voice and text. The official meeting notes are published in the week following each pair of meetings, while venues change each week, and are listed in the Meet-up Announcements. and the Sansar Atlas events section.

Joining both sessions alongside Jenn and Cara was Pierre (aka Paul), from the Business Operations team at the Lab, covering Sansar. His work involves the business side of Sansar (something not so in the public eye, but which particularly interests me), including corporate strategies and road maps, and among other things, he spoken about the Sansar presence at CES in partnership with Intel.

General Notes

Avatar Cap

There has been a 15 avatar limit imposed on Sansar experience during the past week. This has been to prevent individual instances of the experiences associated with the Consumer Electronics Show (CES – January 8th through 12th) becoming overloaded. As individual experiences cannot currently be capped for access, the 15 avatar limit was applied across all experiences. It should now have been lifted, or will be lifted soon.

Fashion and MD

The Lab will be starting a new series of meetings on Sansar fashion. It’s not clear what this will involve, but most likely will include information not only on what is upcoming on the fashion side, but also Marvelous Designer (MD). A request has also been put forwards for a new MD-specific channel on Discord. This is being considered, but for now, MD issues will be folded into the fashion channel.

Sansar Store 50 Item Limit for Free Accounts

In October, the Lab announced new Sansar Store policies, which at the time generated some negative feedback so that not all of them – e.g. the credit / debit card requirement – were implemented. At the Friday morning Product meeting, Jenn indicated that another restriction – limiting free Sansar account holders to only listing up to 50 items at a time – is also being lifted for the time being.

The Intel CES booth at the 2018 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, recreated in Sansar as a part of the show

Intel and CES

As noted above, Linden Lab and Sansar were represented at the 2018 Consumer Electronics Show, Las Vegas in partnership with Intel. Three experiences were made available as a part of this partnership: the Intel CES Booth (actually the entire Intel display floor), Step Inside Intel’s 8th Gen Core (a tour inside Intel’s latest CPU), and Aech’s Garage, an experience reproducing one of the film sets from the Warner Brothers Entertainment / Amblin Entertainment / Village Roadshow Pictures film Ready Player One, also presented in association with HTC – and which you can read more about here.

This partnership was so high-profile, it featured in the CES opening day keynote by Brian Krzanich, Intel’s CEO, and his specific remarks can be heard in this extract from his address.

While it may look a little cheesy to some, this kind of exposure is extremely beneficial for a platform like Sansar:

  • It offers huge exposure to an audience, even allowing for Sansar’s current stage of development.
  • Perhaps more importantly, it offers a practical demonstration of how an environment like Sansar can be used as a tool for business (e.g. running virtual booths where people can see / learn about products, innovations, etc., without necessarily being physically present), and for learning (e.g. take the Step Inside … experience, and learn how a CPU actually works…).

I should have more to say on this in a separate article.

2018 Plans

Pierre re-iterated that 2018 will see a shift in a lot  – but not all – of the Lab’s focus from content creation tool development towards encouraging general user engagement and retention. This was in part couched in terms of wanting to improve / smooth the user on-boarding process so that as and when experience creators start looking to bring their own audiences into their experiences, it will be a lot easier for them to do so. He also expanded on some points touched on by Ebbe Altberg in the January 5th meeting:

  • Concurrency indicators are to be added to the Atlas, providing a measure of people using experiences, and the Atlas can be sorted based on this.
  • Improved options for making friends.
  • A broadening of events support to allow experience creators and users to be able to host more of their own events and activities and promote them more easily through a range of channels – the Atlas, the web, social media, etc.
  • Performance is to be looked at to ensure the experience people have in Sansar is optimal, whether in terms of the number of people concurrently in an experience (e.g. 50-100 having a smooth experience in Sansar towards the end of the year), the load time of experiences, being able to appropriately hear people across and experience, etc.

Experience Numbers

In line with the above, the Lab is looking at  – and seeking feedback on – “ideal” limits for numbers within an experience. For example: is it better to have a band performing to one mass audience of 200-300 avatars (or more) in a single experience, or to have them play before a mass audience that is split between a number of experience instances “looking in” on the band? The later could help counter performance degradation with large numbers in a single space, prevent interruptions, etc., affecting the entire audience but – if the audience is so sharded to groups of 100-ish, each unable to see the other audience groups, it could detract from the overall immersion offered by the event.

There are also other issues to be addressed as well: audio (voice) roll-off seems to be problematic in Sansar experiences. Sometimes it is possible to have 3 or more little groups conversing around an experience without all the audio running together; at other times, even with groups spread around an experience, all the conversations seem to over-run one another, leading to an ugly mess of voices.

Continue reading “2018 Sansar Product Meetings week #2”

2018 Sansar Product Meetings week #1 with audio

People gather around the camp fire for the first Sansar public Product Meeting of 2018

The following notes are taken from the Sansar Product Meeting held on the afternoon of Friday, January 5th, 2018 (I was unable to attend the morning meeting). These Product meetings are usually held every Friday at 9:30am PST and 4:00pm PST, and are open to all. There is currently no set agenda, and the meetings are a mix of voice and text. The official meeting notes are published in the week following each pair of meetings, while venues change each week, and are listed in the Meet-up Announcements. and the Sansar Atlas events section.

The January 5th afternoon meeting was attended by Ebbe Altberg, plus Carolyn from he Product Team and David and Sean from the Sansar character team. David has been working on the Marvelous Designer (MD) integration, and he and Sean were able to address questions around fashion, etc. Audio extracts feature Ebbe, David and Sean.

Avatar Notes

  • Custom skins: textures are seen as an important aspect of the avatar, allowing age, muscle definition, etc., to be applied. As such, it is something the Lab wants to expand upon. However, the focus at the moment remains on the fashion work, rather than on custom texture uploads and application, and it is down to the product team as to where the latter sits on the roadmap.

  • Texture resolutions: It has been noted that the avatar is a 60K polygon body apparently using 512×512 textures. Sean explained that the textures placed on the website aren’t actually the textures used on-line. Rather, an upload limit was hit within the ZenDesk software, forcing the use of lower resolution textures.
  • Avatar shapes / customisation: greater avatar customisation (changing height, shape, etc.), is “on the roadmap”. Currently, the focus is on increasing the amount of customisation available with the avatar face, with further bone morphs, work that is seen as “foundational” to adding the ability to customise the rest of the avatar shape.
    • How the facial work will be implemented is an open discussion. Sliders have thus far been used (as with SL), but this can be limiting when other forms of deformation are also applied. Recent games have tended to use a form of pick map for customising facial features – the user clicks on a point of the face (e.g. the cheek), and all the bones affecting that area respond to adjustments with the mouse, rather than having to adjust individual bones with individual sliders – and is mirrored where appropriate (e.g. cheeks, ears, etc.). This result in more natural looks, and is something that is being considered as a way of managing customisation in Sansar.

Fashion / Marvelous Designer

Cloth Physics and Layering

The integration of MD has allowed cloth physics to be used in Sansar – although currently these can only be seen / set within the Avatar App Lookbook (formerly My Looks) when editing an avatar. Cloth physics are actually “built-in” to the patterns exported from MD, with the cloth simulation code from MD being used within the client. This means it is unlikely that designers will be able to use other tools  – such as Blender – with the cloth physics capabilities without using MD as well.

The reason for restricting cloth physics to LookBook for the time being is that simulating cloth movement, etc., in Sansar’s Runtime Mode can generate a considerable performance hit; the Lab therefore want to focus on making  various performance improvements and further Runtime optimisations before they start looking at introducing cloth physics into the Runtime environment.

Currently, garments that are layered in MD (e.g a jacket over a shirt)and are exported to Sansar as a single item have their layering respected within Sansar (so the jacket renders over the shirt. However, individual items using the same layer will not be simulated correctly, and the Lab is working to rectify this. In the future, clothing should be layered relative to the order in which it is added to the avatar. So, for example, if you have a “layer 2” shirt and “layer 2” jeans, wearing the shirt first, then the jeans will result in the shirt appearing to be “tucked in” to the jeans, whereas wearing the jeans first, then the shirt, will result in the shirt appearing to be untucked.

In Brief

  • Roughness maps, handled directly by MD are coming into Sansar “too shiny”, requiring creators tweak them manually. This is to be referred back to MD.
  • It is currently anticipated that there will be no changes to the weighting / the way the IK rig is painted, etc.

User Engagement and Retention

2018 will see some attention switch away from developing technical capabilities towards broader issues of user engagement and retention.

  • Locating people: An upcoming change to the Atlas will allow experiences to be sorted in terms of current usage: those experiences with people currently using them will be listed with the most popular at the top, and then descending to those which are not currently being used.
    • This may be accompanied by a generic indicator that people are using an experience. This will not initially be a physical count of avatars, as there are issues around instancing (e.g. there may be 100+ in an experience, but spread across two or three instances, each with a different number of actual avatars in it – so while the count is 100+, you might be directed to an instance with only 15 other avatars in it).
    • An actual numerical indicator of the number of avatars in an experience might follow in the future.

  • Ebbe’s latest Sansar look

    Sansar forums blogs, etc: it has finally been recognised that the current tool used for these – ZenDesk – is not well suited to the task (YAY!), although fixing this is not a high priority. There have been internal discussions at the Lab about using the platform and tools employed in creating the Second Life forums, blogs, etc., to build something for Sansar – potentially more as a cost saving opportunity then for the sake of functionality. Frankly, I’m still stunned that this wasn’t the route taken from the start given the Lab have the tools and the experience to use them, which could have been easily leveraged, rather than going for a tool entirely unsuited to the task and which presents information in a very unfriendly – and dare I say amateur – manner.

  • Better in-world tools: emphasis will likely be given to providing “in-world” tools for better social interactions among users (e.g. things like group chat / group messaging, etc.).
  • Avatar Animations and Interactivity: giving people things to do in Sansar would also help with user retention. This could be as simple as offering basic animations to allow avatar to sit, dance, Animations such as sitting are seen as more complex, for reasons previously noted, unless objects are specifically scripted for handling this;  however, it might be possible for the Lab to implement a simple ground sit.
  • Improving the on-boarding process: the sign-up and getting started process is already seen (by the Lab) as a little complicated, so work may be put in on making this more straightforward.

One thing Ebbe indicated would be useful is collective agreements from creators / users on what they feel is needed to help with user retention. That is, not a myriad of individual ideas / suggestions, but a collection of ideas creator have agreed among themselves as perhaps being the most pertinent. While this should initially be geared towards the Lab’s focus of user engagement and retention, it might also include idea that help improve the creation and turn-around of scenes / experiences.

Feedback, Discussion, Engaging with the Lab and Future Meetings

In terms of engaging with the Lab, offering / receiving feedback (including discussing platform limitations / shortfalls)  can also be carried out through Discord, which can also draw other creators into discussions.  At some point in the future, the current meetings within Sansar may be expanded into a similar kind of structure as the SL User Group meetings: product, scripting, characters, engineering, etc.

Inventory – Scene and Avatar

Scene Inventory

The current inventory system in the Edit Mode doesn’t have any real inventory management tools. The have been discussions at the Lab on how to improve inventory & the inventory tools / options (e.g. use of nested folders, etc.). No single approach has been decided upon, but it is still being looked into – however, due to the emphasis on user engagement, it may slip down the priorities list.

Avatar Inventory

Unlike Second Life, Sansar avatars currently do not have a notion of inventory per se when in an experience; attachments and clothing can only be added / removed via the Avatar App – LookBook. This means that at present, an avatar cannot  simply change outfit or wear a gun or other accessory from within an experience – the use must go to LookBook, change the outfit  / add the attachment, then come back – and land at the experience’s spawn point.

From the point of view of games, this is hardly ideal. Options such as an avatar having a “backpack” (whether this would be physical or virtual is unclear) into which items can be placed and used, are being looked at. However, this kind of a solution also has questions around it: should such a backpack be persistent across experiences, so avatars can cross from one to another and retain items in it? Should it only apply to items collected in the current experience? Also, currently, only items from LookBook can only be associated with an avatar if worn / attached – so any notion of being able to “take” items from LookBook and drop them into a “backpack” to carry around experiences would require a considerable about of work – if possible.

Continue reading “2018 Sansar Product Meetings week #1 with audio”

Sansar Fashion release overview

The Sansar Fashion release, with Marvelous Designer integration. Credit: Marvelous Designer

On Monday, December 18th, Linden Lab announced the Sansar Fashion release, the last major release to the platform for 2017. The title of the release is reflects the fact that the major aspect of the release is focused on clothing and fashion design in Sansar. However, the release covers a lot more than this, with improvements to the uploader, the UI, audio and media, and a host of over changes. I’ve had a quick run through the update, and release notes and the following is offered as an overview of the principle updates.

Avatar Update

The first thing users will notice with this update is that their avatars will need to be re-created – this is as a consequence of the fashion update, and the separating off of the clothing layers. This means facial sliders have to be re-set, but it also means users can experiment with removing /adding clothing.

  • Within in the Avatar App – now called LookBook rather than My Looks -, locate an article of clothing already work and click on it to remove it. Click another item of clothing to wear it.
  • Clothing is split between upper and lower body, and are limited to two layers apiece.
  • Note that the avatar’s underwear is still baked in place, and cannot be removed.
  • Hair can also be removed as well as styles changed.

Once your avatar is set to your satisfaction, save the changes via Done.

Fashion Updates

Clothing

The core of the Fashion updates can be summarised as new clothing support for Sansar. Designers can create their own rigged clothing for use in Sansar / sale through the Sansar Store.

In addition, Sansar offers integrations with Marvelous Designer. This is software that allows designers to create virtual clothing “from basic shirts to intricately pleated dresses and rugged uniforms”. It is able to replicate fabric textures and physical properties, drape garments on physical forms as well as providing the creator with a range of editing tools. It is used by games manufacturers such as EA Games and film effects studios such as Weta Digital.

A new exporter capability in Marvelous Designer allows creators to export their designs directly from the software into Sansar with ease. One in Sansar, clothing can be adjusted on the avatar within the Avatar App (LookBook). You can learn more here, and via the video below. Note: cloth physics for clothing are not currently available in Sansar’s runtime mode.

Sansar creator resources for Marvelous Designer can be found here.

Avatar Meshes

.FBX files for the Fashion update should have been made available, but none are referenced in the release notes, and I was unable to find any reference in the knowledge base outside of the .FBX files for accessories – which may or may not be suitable for clothing (male .fbx; female .fbx).

Hair

Creators and stylists can now create and sell hair styles for avatars. As noted above, avatars can also be bald.

Wearable Accessories

With the Fashion release, wearable accessories are no longer limited to a 1m x 1m x 1m size, instead, they must be within the Axis Aligned Bounding Box (AABB). with the knowledge base article on accessories noting that for import:

Avatar accessories must be close to the avatar. The entire accessory must be within the Axis Aligned Bounding Box (AABB) of the avatar. The AABB’s area is as follows: 0.8m left and right, 0.6m front and back, and 2.2m tall from the feet of the avatar, and 0.05m below the avatar (to account for shoes)**

Note: **Minimum (-0.8m, -0.6m, -0.05m) and Maximum (0.8m, 0.6m, 2.2m).

Atlas Update

The client atlas has been updated to include submitted events – which are now displayed on the right side, if there are any in the calendar. Each has a Visit button, which will load the experience.

The events section (right) in the updated client Atlas

The Web client now has a new Friends tab. This displays all experiences created by people on your Friends list. If they have created an experience exclusive for access by their friends, this is also where it will appear – it will not appear in the public (Home or All) listings of the Atlas.

Editing Updates

There are a range of editing updates with the Fashion release – for details, please refer to the release notes. These include:

  • A range of audio updates and improvements.
  • A revised upload tool for 3D models and has been relocated to the Scene tool bar – see Importing items to Sansar for more.
  • The ability to import custom heightmaps.
  • New control options to help control an animations – see Working with animated objects.
  • The ability to preview audio and video from within the scene editor.
  • Updates to Reflective interfaces.
  • New object APIs.
  • It is now possible to enable memory limits for scripts which is now capped at 32MB per scene. See Sansar.Script.Memory for more information.
  • Keyboard commands for scripts – subscribe to client “commands” with default keyboard bindings. See AgentPrivate.Client.SubscribeToCommand and the Command Example script in the client folder.

Continue reading “Sansar Fashion release overview”

Sansar Product Meeting 2017 week #50

Sansar: Winter Wonderland by Beverly Zauberflote

The following notes are taken from the Sansar Product Meetings held on Friday, December 15th. These meetings are usually held every Friday at 9:30am PST and 4:00pm PST, and are open to all. There is currently no set agenda, and the meetings are a mix of voice and text. The official meeting notes are published in the week following each pair of meetings, while venues change each week, and are listed in the Meet-up Announcements. and the Sansar Atlas events section.

Nyx Linden attended the morning session; a former member of the engineering team for Second Life, Nyx is perhaps best known for his appearances in-world as the Tiny Robot, and leading the “old” Content Creation User Group meetings which used to take place in-world on Mondays. Nowadays, Nyx is a member of the Sansar product team, working on the planning / road mapping side of the platform’s development and coordinating the various development teams.

Fashion Release

Again, please refer to my week #49 and week #48 updates for notes on known elements in the upcoming release.

  • The Fashion release should be deployed during the week commencing Monday, December 18th.
  • This initial release will not include cloth physics within the run-time mode (although they may be available in the Avatar App). Instead the baking service will continue to handle clothing as is currently the case.
  • The avatar mesh models will be provided via the Knowledge base when the release is deployed. These will most likely be supplied as .FBX files, rather than a blend file – but this is still TBC.
  • It will be possible to upload hair attachments, but the recommendation appears to be for creators to initially keep to shorter hair styles to avoid hair cutting into the avatar bodies at this point in time
  • On the non-Fashion side, the release will include a number of script updates including keyboard commands for scripts and updates to object APIs.

Modifying Materials on In-World Objects

There is still considerable upset over the decision to allow experience creators to modify / change the materials of in-scene items. This change is due to be deployed with the Fashion update, but does not extend to avatar clothing or attachments and any changes made to an object last only as long as the object is within a scene – they cannot be saved back to inventory when the object is removed.

  • Some creators see this as a reason not to upload their items until such time as the permissions / licensing system is deployed.
  • Some want to see a guarantee from the Lab that the change will not be extending to include accessories / clothing in a future release, ahead of the licensing / permissions system deployment. This is to be escalated to senior management for feedback.

Character Creation Flow

A point to note with the Fashion release is that users logging-in to Sansar the first time after the release has been deployed will have to go through the character creation flow.

  • This is because existing clothing will no longer work with the update.
  • It will mean that any custom work done to the avatar’s face will have to be re-done as well.
  • It should not break existing attachments.
Sansar: The Club by Marcus

In Brief

  • Sansar Store: Product Updates: Nyx indicated that there are still complexities around licensing / pricing which need to be resolved. As such, the Lab is considering possibly going with a basic system to allow for updates through the store, and then enhancing it as other elements of work fall into place.  However, there is no time line as yet on when something might appear, but it is on the road map.
  • Permissions / Licensing System: the Lab is actively working on a permissions / licensing system, however, there is still no time frame as to when it might start to be deployed.
  • Dynamic mirrors and using in-scene cameras to record and project the scenes onto a surface: neither are on the road map as present. Dynamic mirrors can be rendering-heavy, and are not something the Lab is currently looking at.

Sansar Product meeting 2017 week #49 – with Ebbe Altberg

Sansar Studios 3D Cinema Dome – location for one of the Friday, December 8th, 2017 Product Meetings

The following notes are taken from the 4:00pm PST Sansar Product Meeting held on Friday, December 8th. Product Meetings are usually held every Friday at 9:30am PST and 4:00pm PST, and are open to all. There is currently no set agenda, and the meetings are a mix of voice and text. The official meeting notes are published in the week following each pair of meetings, while venues change each week, and are listed in the Meet-up Announcements. and the Sansar Atlas events section.

The afternoon Product Meeting featured a drop-in by Ebbe Altberg, the Lab’s CEO, and notes on his comments, with audio extracts are included in this update.

Fashion Release

This is still on-course for a deployment  – mostly likely during week #51, commencing Monday, December 18th, 2017. For a summary of some of the items included in the release, please refer to my December 1st Product Meeting notes. The following covers only those items in addition to that breakdown, and which were noted in the December 8th meetings:

  • In addition to clothing, the release will allow the upload and sale of hair attachments, and hair can be removed from an avatar to make it bald. It’s not clear at present if the hair is / can be rigged or not.
  • Avatar attachments will no longer be limited to a 1m x 1m x 1m size, but will be limited by the avatar bounding box – precise dimensions will be in the knowledge base for attachments when the release is deployed.
  • There will be a snow material type for those wanting to make winter scenes.
  • Audio:
    • Materials have been made more distinct and most spatial.
    • Voice fall-off has been revised so it starts fading from 2 metres away from a person speaking, rather than a metre.
  • Some of the UI panels / floaters will be resizable and relocatable within the client, these include:
    • People and chat panels in the run-time mode
    • The inventory, scene object and properties panels can be resized and moved around in Edit mode.
  • The Event calendar will be available on the Client Atlas, although it will look different to the Web Atlas format.

Materials Editing

As previously noted, this release will add the ability for experience creators to edit and change the materials on in-world (not accessories / clothing) on items they have obtained via the Sansar Store. However, any such changes will only be applicable when the object in question is within the scene. As soon as it is returned to inventory, any changes made will be lost.

This change comes ahead of any permissions / licensing capability in Sansar, and has caused some upset.  However, Cara indicated that when a permissions system is introduced, any items held in inventory will effectively be grandfathered – so it will still not be possible to save changes to their materials back to inventory.

Store Update

A Store Update had been planned for between the Friends release (October 2017) and the Friends release (December 2017), but this has apparently been pushed back.

Ebbe’s Thoughts

Ebbe Altberg dropped into the afternoon Product Meeting, part of his plan to spend more time at Sansar meetings and meet-ups – and took time to answer questions and offered thoughts on the platform.

An Important Note from Ebbe

You have to be careful when you listen to me, because I mix what’s actually going to happen with want we wish will happen all the time. So I can’t promise time frames for some of these things.

So when you listen to me, think about it as general ideas of where we want to go. Whether it happens or not, that’s kind-of a different story.

On Sansar’s Engine

“We made some really tough choices up front,” Ebbe said on the choice of building Sansar’s engine, rather than opting to utilise something like Unreal or Unity. “We would have gotten something much faster to market that would have been usable if we had just gone with an existing engine …  But because of the problem we’re solving for, which is user-generated content in massive quantities, going with another engine really becomes problematic over time.”

Essentially, this choice came down to the issues of backwards compatibility within the platform; using a third-party engine in full or in part potentially opens the Lab to content breakage as a result of changes being made to an engine or elements of an engine that are outside their control. This is a lesson they’ve taken to heart with Blocksworld, which is based on Unity, and has had problems over the last five years as a result.

On The Risk of a Large-Scale “Reset” for Sansar

This goal with regards to continued backward compatibility with content available and used within Sansar means the Lab is hoping that they’ll never have to do a large-scale “reset” with Sansar which might result in widespread content breakage. However, this can never be guaranteed; there may be times –  a significant bug, a major technical issue, an implementation (say) of new software the Lab wants to leverage for Sansar – which might result in content breakage. Should anything like this happen, the hope is there will be  advanced communication with creators so they understand the issue, together with time allowed for them to swap over to any “new” way of doing things (where applicable) in order to try to minimise the overall impact.

The Supply Chain  / Licensing

The supply chain / licensing (/permissions) system is one of the more complex aspects of Sansar the Lab is still working through.

For those unfamiliar with the idea, in essence, if someone creates an experience intended for re-sale which utilises content made by other creators, and then packages the experience for sale, the supply chain system will ensure the other creators will automatically get paid to some degree as well for their creations with each sale of the experience. On a smaller scale, it would mean a building designer could furnish their buildings from a range of furnishing and décor suppliers, rather than having to make everything, and again, the supply chain means those designers receive an amount from each sale of the building.

Obviously, this involves considerable added complexity in terms of permissions, licensing, tracking, payment, etc., – so until things are ready, there is not detailed talk on time frames for introduction – but it is the goal Linden Lab is hoping to achieve.

Avatar Animations for Non-VR Users

When using Sansar in Desktop Mode, the avatars are – in a word – wooden. Changing this is a “high priority” for the Lab. However, how this is to be achieved is still the subject of debate within the Lab. Some want extremely smooth, human-like avatar movement, with blended transitions between animations to give a more fluid movement (such as getting up from a chair being a fluid transition from seated to standing, or a turn to face to the left being a sequence, fluid body move).   Other prefer a “snappier” transition – as is the case of turning left or right in Desktop Mode at present, or the avatar “jump” from seated to standing seen in Second Life.

Allowing user-created animations and animation systems (e.g. SL-like animation override systems) is currently much further down the road than trying to provide a more basic animations within the Sansar locomotion graph.

Sansar Studios 3D Cinema Dome

A Broad Look At The Future

The focus thus far has been building-out the platform, getting the software and infrastructure needed to support it all brought together, with more recent work centred on creator tools and needs and initial avatar development and accessories support – all of which will be continuing. However, Ebbe expects some of the focus in 2018 to start shifting towards more general use of Sansar – including user engagement and user retention, hopefully growing the user base for those who find Sansar usable at this stage of its development.

This does mean that the focus will entirely shift away from creator tools and capabilities. Rather it will see more of a blending of things: some work will be focused on the user aspects of the platform – socialising, interactions, etc., other will remain focused on creator tools, and on things like adding more interactive capabilities which can be used within experiences to broaden their appeal.

And his wish for Sansar’s Creator Beats one year anniversary (July 31st, 2018)? That there are more people using Sansar, that the default experience for someone coming to the platform is that there is life within it, there are people, there’s vibrancy within experiences with events and activities to be enjoyed. It is acknowledged that currently, visits to experiences can be lonely, and the Lab will be looking at ways and means to reduce this alongside increasing new user interest / engagement.

Continue reading “Sansar Product meeting 2017 week #49 – with Ebbe Altberg”