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.
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Sansar Product Meetings week #40: avatar updates + nudity in Sansar

The Nexus

The following notes were taken from my audio recording of the October 3rd (week #40) Sansar Product Meeting, which examined upcoming avatar updates and nakedness in Sansar. The official video is available on YouTube (and Twitch if you prefer) and is also embedded at the end of this summary.

Notes:

  • I was not present within Sansar for the meeting, but watching one of the streams, therefore the image captured from the demo video appear to be at odd angles due the positioning of the in-world camera used to relay the video.
  • Timestamps below will open the video of the meeting at the relevant point of discussion and in a separate tab. However, the topic summaries also include answers to questions raised in the Q&A session at the end of the meeting; therefore these will not be reflected in the video link.

Sansar Avatar

Pre-Morph Skeleton

[Video: 5:22-9:30]

  • The Avatar team is aiming for this to be available in the next major Sansar release, currently being scheduled for early November – but this is not a guarantee.
  • Gives custom avatars the ability to create differently sized and shaped avatars without being constrained to the Sansar base avatar.
    • Allows custom avatar creators to adjust bone translation (positioning) but not the bone rotation.
    • Providing they are correctly rigged, these differently sized and shaped avatars to correctly use Sansar emotes (“gestures” in SL parlance) and speech animations.
Pre-Morphing Skeleton – coming soon
  • Bone movement is being restricted to translations, and this works better with the automated animation re-targeting.
  • Part of this work also involves extending the Axis Aligned Bounding Box (AABB).
    • This is described as “not being a huge extension”, but is intended to offer a little more freedom in creating avatars and clothing.
    • It is likely to be constrained in terms of a (still TBD) minimum AABB and a maximum AABB.
  • Questions on the pre-morph skeleton from the Q&A session:
    • How far can bones be translated? As far as the minimum / maximum AABB limited allow.
    • If there is no bone rotation, will finger bones have to be in the same pose as the default avatar? Yes, although further testing may be carried out to see if this can be relaxed.

Additional Avatar Related Work

[Video: 9:34-20:00]

  • Camera movement in the avatar editor:
    • Work is in progress to involve the camera movement capabilities to address reported issues.
    • This is likely to include a more freecam style of camera movement to allow a better degree of panning and zooming when making very fine adjustments.
  • Avatar Skins:
    • Work is about to start on allowing custom skin uploads for the Sansar default avatar.
    • Creators will not initially be able to sell skins through the Sansar Store, but this will be added as the necessary licensing updates are made.
    • The system skins are being improved.
    • (From the Q&A session): will skin colour tinting be added? No. Tinting will be handled by swapping skin textures.
    • (From the Q&A session) will uploaded skins work with custom avatars? Initially, no; however, the option is being considered for a future update.
  • Full Body deformation:
    • Due to the feedback (particularly) concerning the avatar 2.0 base female shape, the avatar team is working to release full body deformation as soon as possible.
    • The plan is to have this working in a very similar manner to the face deformation.
    • Rigged clothing should adjust with the skeleton, and most of the deformation will be changing the size / shape of the skeleton.
    • Marvelous Designer™ clothing will use the clothing transform tools in the avatar editor.
      • Scaling / translating MD clothing is a challenge as it isn’t specifically rigged to the skeleton nor does it use skeletal bones.
      • LL and MD have been in conversation to see if MD could provide more information within MD files to allow for certain types of non-uniform scaling, and MD has indicated this is not possible on their end.
    • Part of this project may include the Sansar avatar team producing a wider range of base / starter avatars
      • For example: shapes and sizes that might be regarded as “standard” and worked for when creating custom avatars and also to help with producing clothing for different avatar “types”.
      • This feeds into attempts to limit market fragmentation (below).
  • Market fragmentation / Avatar Inventory:
    • There is already a degree of fragmentation in the store (avatar 1.0 clothing re-rigged for avatar 2.0; MD clothing, items for custom avatars, etc).
    • The Sansar team is looking to refine the Store and avatar inventory to make it easier to denote / see the types of avatar that items of clothing and accessories are designed to work with.
    • (From the Q&A session): for avatar inventory, this will likely include the ability to filter inventory contents.
    • (From the Q&A session): it is also hoped that the inventory improvements will include swapping (so if you are wearing a shirt and select another, the two will be swapped on your avatar, rather than both being worn).
  • Avatar editor lighting and background: LL are iterating on the lighting and improving the shadowing.
  • Facial Presets are being adjusted to give better starting points.

Contests

[Video: 20:35-23:00]

  • The idea has been floated that perhaps LL could run a contest for skin designers, with the winning skins being featured in the default inventory so users can view / use them and (via a right-click) see who made it.
  • If creators are interested in participating in this kind of contest, it could perhaps be extended to include avatars, etc.
  • Such competition would also include money or other practical prizes to rewards the creator’s time and effort.

Nudity in Sansar

[Video: 23:06-35:25]

  • New content guidelines will be available “shortly” in an attempt to clarify the rules around nudity.
  • In short:
    • Nudity is not permitted in Sansar.
    • Nudity is defined as something where there are visible genitalia, buttocks or breasts, especially with regards to humanoid avatars.
    • As a general rule, humanoid custom avatars should have underwear covering these body parts
      • This underwear should conform closely to the underwear seen on Sansar base avatars.
      • Changing the colour of the underwear is permitted, so long as the colour isn’t designed to blend with the skin to give the appearance of nakedness.
    • Certain humanoid forms that do not emphasise a sense of nakedness or that are not intentionally sexualised (such as the character show on the right by Sansar user Polygon) may be permitted.
    • Anthropomorphic avatars (animals, fruit, etc.) and nudity:
      • Such avatars do not necessarily have to have underwear, providing they are not being intentionality sexualised / showing genitalia, etc., in an attempt to bypass the guidelines.
      • Fur or feather coats on humanoid type avatars is OK, again providing they are not otherwise being intentionally sexualised.
  • The nudity guidelines will also extend to custom skins, once the capability to upload them is added to the platform.
  • Clothing that is also intentionally designed to show genitalia, etc. will be seen in violation of the nudity guidelines.
  • A point to remember with the nudity guidelines is that that are not something Linden Lab has arbitrarily set – rather, they are:
    • Intended to meet the expectations of content partners (.e.g. Sanrio, Levis®, etc.).
    • Allow Sansar to be offered to the widest audience of potential users without necessarily gating access to worlds, etc, and be a “family friendly” platform.
  • Avatars / content that is deemed to be in violation of the guidelines will be taken down.

Continue reading “Sansar Product Meetings week #40: avatar updates + nudity in Sansar”

Sansar Product Meetings week #37: feedback and Q&A

The following notes were taken from my audio recording of the September 12th (week #37) Sansar Product Meeting, which took the form of a Q&A  / feedback session. As always, key points are summarised, but please also refer to the official video. Note that streaming may have been curtailed prior to the end of the meeting; as I was watching the stream, I have no idea if questions continued to be addressed after streaming ceased.

“Major” Launch and Challenges

  • Sansar is preparing for a “major” launch with one or more partners on September 24th.
  • This will apparently see several more Core Portals at the Nexus come in to use (according to the Nexus maps, one was already reserved the Monstercat, LL’s music event partner).
  • In the run-up to this, there are two Sansar challenges:
    • Future Fashion: design an outfit that can be featured on the main Sansar Store page and which fits with the theme of the upcoming launch. This runs until September 23rd.
    • Attack of the Clones: a series of running (I believe) challenges for users to create avatar likeness of famous people using Sansar’s facial morphing capabilities (not made outside of Sansar and then uploaded). The first selection of faces runs through until Monday September 16th, and features the faces of Ripley (aka Signourey Weaver) from the Alien franchise, Lando Calrissian (aka Billy Dee Williams, not Donald Glover) from the Star Wars films or someone called Pow3r (no, I’ve no idea who this is either). I gather entries are to be posted to Flickr.
Clone one of these three in a Sansar contest. Don’t ask me if it’s just for fun or if there is a prize, as the info is apparently conveniently buried in a Sansar Discord channel.

I’m unable to give further context to these challenges, as the details are buried somewhere in Sansar’s Discord pages (where contests and competitions apparently don’t even have their own channel).

User-Created Guides

A new section has been created in the  forums for specifically for user-created guides, tutorials and tips.

Q&A

Avatar Related

  • Can a texture wheel be added for selecting textures for skins, nails, eyes, etc? No, but texture layering will be in a future release.
  • When will it be possible to change custom skins on an avatar, rather than having to change the entire avatar look? Soon, but dependent on the Sansar licensing system being extended to cover the avatar. This also goes for selling facial presets.
  • Will the baked shadowing issues for under the arms, under the nose, etc., be fixed? There is an upcoming point release to fix the underarm shadows, and may address under the nose, etc.
  • Marvelous Designer related:
    • Will Sansar all the import of more than one materials face from Marvelous Designer? It should, so this may be a bug and will be investigated.
    • Better pining for clothing when editing MD clothing  is being investigated.
  • Body morphing and shape:
    • Full body morphing, when deployed will only be for the system avatar and avatars built off of it. An update system will be supplied to transition all such avatars over to body morph support.
    • Body morphing will not be available for fully custom-built avatars; what will be provided in the future is the ability to transform bones prior to upload.
    • The female avatar will remain “as is” (oddly elongated) for reasons previously indicated (to give a better baseline for body deformation for both male and female avatars, and to allow gender-neutral clothing).
    • It is hoped full body morphing will help alleviate this by allowing users the freedom to alter their body shapes, and allow LL to provide a greater range of starter avatar shapes for incoming users.
Avatar proportions: both male and female body proportions are roughly in keeping with the “norms” – but the female appears to have been vertically stretched (head and body) in order to match the male avatar, resulting in an odd, thin and hipless look

Nexus / Codex Portal Related

  • There is a degree of negativity from some creators towards the Nexus. Given it is less than a month old, it is difficult to tell if this is simply personal discomfiture over such a clear change from the past for those with long-term experience in using the Atlas or whether it is genuinely leading to a bottleneck in discovery / exploration by incoming users.
    • The Lab is monitoring traffic flow through the Nexus, but no changes are being considered at the moment.
    • Changes will be made if the metrics tend to show the Nexus is bottlenecking discovery.
    • improving discoverability within the Prime Portal is being considered, such as adding more searchable categories to the Portal (presumably things like “Science Fiction”, “Games”, etc), and better surfacing of particularly popular worlds.
  • A more elegant means of toggling between logging in to the Nexus or a user’s Home Space is being considered.
  • New loading screens for worlds are to be deployed fairly soon. They will come in two phases: improvements to the loading screen space, followed by UI improvements.
    • These will be tied to the Sansar “backstory”
    • A request has been made for load screen to contain more information, such as the descriptions, creator name(s), etc., from the Atlas / Codex / Prime Portal entry. This will be considered.
  • Can portals be made more interactive (e.g. walk through to move between worlds)? Could an image of the destination world be displayed within and active portal? Both ideas are already being considered.
  • An upcoming change to the Codex will mean that the master instance of any world that is used to create an event space host an event will be added to the Codex of all users attending the event, always direct “re-visits” to that world.
  • The current cap of 20 avatars per Nexus instance will be raised in the near future.
  • The Nexus might be considered as the venue for seasonal events organised by Linden Lab.

General Questions

  • Valve Index support:
    • The headset has been tested and appears to work, but not clear if some client-side changes will be required.
    • No plans as yet to implement the Valve Index finger tracking.
  • Chat / messaging related:
    • Will direct person-to-person Voice calls be enabled? Not really been discussed.
    • Will capabilities such as spell check be added to text chat? No plans, but perhaps in the future.
    • Can an audible notification be added for incoming messages? Will be added to the list of things under consideration; if implemented, will include an option for be disabled for those who don’t like it.
    • Work on chat / messaging features and improvements have been somewhat pushed aside due to the work going into the Nexus, etc., and Avatar 2.0, the questing system and the XP system – but they are something LL plan to get back to.
  • Camera related:
    • Freecamming from sit points: can the F4 (Desktop mode) freecam capability be made available to users when using sit points (in chairs, etc). Under consideration.
    • Will it be possible to focus on in-scene objects and then zoom into them, a-la Second Life? This is on the Lab’s wish list for the Edit mode, but is not a priority.
    • Better zooming at the avatar’s lower body in look book when dressing / adjusting clothing has been requested.
  • Will the ability to upload / edit terrain heightmaps be returning to Sansar? No current plans to do so.
  • Will an Abandon button be made available for users to remove unwanted and incomplete quests from their quest log? Yes, likely to appear in the next-but-one release.
  • Will it be possible to have “neighbourhoods” in Sansar – experiences with individual plots where users can place their own “pod” to live? Unlikely.
    • Landon McDowell, the Lab’s Chief Product Officer indicated that while it is not officially part of the development roadmap for Sansar, ways in which to “stitch” worlds together are still being thought about at the Lab – something Ebbe Altberg alluded to possibly happening back before Sansar made its initial closed Alpha début.
    • The main mechanism that exists – and will continue – in Sansar for “linking” worlds is for creators to drop portals to one another’s worlds (a-la region-to-region teleports in SL).
  • Feature requests and feedback: there are multiple channels through which feature requests and feedback for Sansar can be put to LL (e.g. the feature request form thread, product meetings, Discord, general forum discussion, etc.). LL is looking to try to rationalised this and formalise a process for gather feedback / requests and reviewing / vetting / prioritising against current plans etc.
    • It had been indicated (2017/18) that LL would look to move away from ZenDesk for their bug / feature / documentation / community / blog tool. However, it now appears they are somewhat hoist by their own petard, and unwilling to pivot away from it due to the investment in building a knowledge base.

Sansar Product Meetings week #36: R36 feedback and Q&A

Back in the Nexus: Lt. Pey on shore leave! A shame LL did away with free camming here…

The following notes were taken from my audio recording of the September 5th (week #36) Sansar Product Meeting, which took the form of a Q&A  / feedback session on the recent R36 release. As always, key points are summaries, but please also refer to the official video.

R36 Update 1

Friday, September 6th saw Linden Lab issue the first e36 update, including a number of bug / issue fixes, including:

  • Fixes for several crash issues caused by:
    • Equipping a custom avatar, then heading to an experience.
    • The Zen Garden world, which had issues tied to scripted sounds.
  • Some Nexus quest objectives could not be completed without reloading the Nexus multiple times. This should allow users to complete the quest without having to reload the world.

Please refer to the release notes for the full list of fixes.

Avatar 2.0

General

  • Will the default avatars be changed prior to the arrival of body morphing? There will be no major changes to the avatar skeleton. However:
    • When fully body deformation is introduced, there will be a new range of default avatars offer different shapes, builds, etc.
    • There may be a few minor tweaks to the base avatar.
    • Body morphing will use the same system as in place for the face.
  • The collision capsule doe the avatar has changed with Avatar 2.0, and this has caused some issues with levels in building, doorways, etc., seeming to be too low for the avatar to move under.
  • Avatar 2.0 introduced different movement speeds according to height. This was done as an experiment, and the Lab is looking for feedback on it.
    • This has already caused some issues in games involving running / running – smaller avatars can no longer easily participate as they are unable to jump far enough / high enough.
    • A suggestion has been to keep the feature, but make it optional or controllable at the world level.
  • Will there be a way to give hints on the morph bones auto-rigging system? The system is still being fleshed-out, and discussion like this will be held through Discord.
  • When importing an avatar with skin, will Sansar accept the weights applied by the creator, or will parts of it always be auto-weighted?
    • Animated skin weights will always be used as is specified by the creator.
    • The auto-skinning to the morphs is actually to a completely different skeleton not currently available to creators and comprising 300+ bones with 8 influences per vertex. LL are just trying to have the system take care of all interactions with it, so that creators don’t have to worry about the complexity of trying to skin to it.
    • However, the Lab is looking for a way to allow creators to indicate which elements they wish to pay attention to / ignore – hence why ear control points are currently masked to assist with hair.
  • Will the shadow lighting used in the Look Book be improved? Yes, this is being worked on.

Face and Deformation

  • Some feedback is that the deformation options are not as nuanced as anticipated (e.g. limited scope to change the shape of the head; greater variety of eye shaping options, etc.)
    • Some tools for managing facial deformation didn’t make it into this release, including some pre-made shapes for eyes, nose, etc.  These will be added. Other suggestions, such as changing the shape of the back of the head independently of the forehead, will be noted for consideration.
  • Texture uploads (skins):
    • This is being worked on, but release time is currently not clear. As per previous meeting notes, providing the ability is dependent upon updating the licensing system to incorporate the avatar, so that creators can sell their skins, head presets, etc.
    • More default skins could be provided, but the Lab would prefer to offer the upload ability, mentioned above for users to upload their own skins.
  • Will it be possible to create and sell face morphs for those who are not comfortable in using all of the deformation tools? Yes. That’s why there are the preset slots within the face tools. The same will be true for full bodies created using the Sansar base avatar, once full body deformations have been introduced and everything has been hooked into the licensing system.
  • All of the ear control points in the auto skinning are masked off (except for the root) in order for hair to work. This will be iterated on to improve it, but for now it means that ears on uploaded mesh heads do not respond to ear morphs in the facial deformation tools.
  • Can sliders be provided to adjust how much of a facial area / feature is selected in order to help fine-tune changes when using the deformation tools / to make is easier to select smaller areas? This would require a vertex-based editor rather than a control point based editor. So, no.

Clothing

  • Will rigged items (hair, etc), be resizeable:
    • No plans outside of resizing as part of the avatar uniform scaling, as seen as problematic due to overall impact on other avatar elements – animations, etc.
    • Clothing rigged to the Avatar 2.0 skeleton should morph with the body (when deformations is available) and head.
  • Can the MD adjustment tools be modified to allow non-uniform stretching / scaling? Unfortunately, MD does not support this.
  • Will there be some form on icon in the Store / avatar inventory to denote MD clothing made specifically for Avatar 2.0 (and that should fit without adjustment / transformation?). Yes, this is being considered, together with tags.

Nexus

  • What are the goals LL hope to achieve with socialisation in the Nexus?
    • What’s been deployed is just the start – social spaces, quests etc., more to come.
    • Example: Lab is looking at ways groups of people can meet in the Nexus and then travel together.
    • It’s also recognised that not everyone will wish to be dropped into the Nexus when logging-in, so the Home Space will likely be re-visited in the future for people to get to it more directly.
  • Are behaviours at the Nexus being monitored? Will changes be made based on people’s behaviour? Yes.
    • Use of the Nexus is being monitored from end to end – how people behave, socialise, react to the portals, respond to the quests, etc. These observations will inform development and enhanced of the Nexus.
    • Direct feedback from individuals is welcome, but the observation of behaviours and actions of users actually active within the Nexus.
    • The Nexus, Prime Portal and Codex will remain – but changes will be made on the basis of behaviour and feedback.
  • To make group travel easier, would it be possible to allow a users to drop a personal portal for a destination they’ve selected from the Prime Portal, so they and their friend to jump to a world not in their Codex, without everyone having to select the destination from the Prime Portal individually? – Will be looked into.
  • Logging-in to the Nexus means that if someone has to shut down the client while editing their appearance in Look Book, there is a risk that they will be logged into the Nexus naked. Can this be prevented? For now, don’t shut down the client leaving your avatar naked in the Look Book!
    • Also remember you can avoid the Nexus when logging in, by clicking the cancel button alongside the load progress bar and going directly to your Home Space.
  • Spawn point issues:
    • A number of people have “fallen through” the Nexus when logging-in, prompting a re-spawn. This has been noted by the Lab and is being looked into.
    • Multiple people arriving at the spawn point appear inside one another until they move. There is supposed to be logic at the spawn point to prevent this, and it will be looked at.
  • The current avatar cap per Nexus instance is 20 – this will be raised in accordance with the performance status LL gather from users.

XP System

  • XP system in its infancy right now.
  • As new storyline quests are release, the cap on levels will be increased.
  • And achievement system is also under consideration – as a user achieves various milestones, they be able to gain identity / vanity related items associated with their profile.
  • At some point the global XP system will be opened to creators to use and offer XPs to users. There are no plans to provide a means for creators to build their own XP systems using the Lab’s framework (i.e. create an XP system specific to their own worlds).

General Q&A

  • The usual four:
    • High heels for avatars: not on the roadmap at present.
    • 3D mouse support: not on the roadmap, will more likely be a general project to support game pads, joysticks, etc., if done.
    • Valve Index support: something the Lab wants, but no time frame, other than when the Lab get to work on it, it is estimated to be around 2-3 weeks of work.
    • Wiki: the more user-submitted guides that are made to the forum public documentation area, the more weight is given to the case for the Lab creating and offering / managing a wiki.
  • Persistence: yes, news! The Lab has entered into a design phase for persistence. No delivery date as yet, nor specifics, but it is firmly on the roadmap.
  • Can a means be provided for a creator to ban troublemakers from all of their worlds, rather than having to do so individually? This is a part of the on-going moderation tools / abilities discussions the Lab is having internally.
  • The ability for creators to offer rewards to users completing their quests is being worked on and will be arriving “fairly” soon.

Sansar: R36 – Avatar 2.0 the Nexus, the Codex and more

Levelling up: the R36 Sansar release with the Nexus and Prime Portal (background) and the new Avatar 2.0 (I went Trek for this shot). Also to be seen is Agent Primus (to the right) the “guide” to the Nexus and some of the associated quests, and a Core Portal (on the left), where Sansar events can be viewed / attended

Introduction

On Tuesday, September 3rd, Linden Lab released a major update to Sansar, which has seen the introduction of a number of new features and updated capabilities. It represents potentially the biggest single update to Sansar since the public opening of the beta two years ago. The chief updates comprise:

The all-new avatar 2.0, which comprises:

  • An entirely new avatar skeleton, designed to be more “unisex” between male and female, to allow easier swapping of clothes
  • A new range of default avatars.
  • New means of styling / customising the avatar, including new facial deformation capabilities (full body deformation to follow), and a set of modifiable facial “presets”.

The Nexus: a new landing point that all users will / can go to when logging-in to Sansar, and which includes:

  • Agent Primus.
  • New user tutorials.
  • Portals for exploring Sansar.
  • Social Spaces.

The Codex: a new UI element to allow users record and manage and quickly return to places they have previously visited while in Sansar.

Table of Contents

 

Experience points (XP): which include titles and levels, and which are gained through participating in Sansar, and depending on how they engage within the platform.

Such is the size of the release, I’ve split this article into a series of parts, all of which can be reached via the table of contents, above right. These sections are not intended as complete tutorials / guides, but rather to provide a general introduction and overview, particularly for those who may wish to try Sansar as a result of the R36 update.

R36 Official Documentation

For detailed information on the various aspects of R36, it is recommended you also refer to the official documentation, comprising:

Avatar 2.0

Introduction

Avatar 2.0 is the new all-singing, all dancing avatar for Sansar. In particular, it provides a new set of deformation tools and updated sliders designed to make customising an avatar’s face more intuitive, as well as offering a series of “preset” looks which can be used as a baseline facial shapes and edited and saved.

Also provided within the Look Book is a Transform tool, designed to help adjust Marvelous Designer clothing developed for Avatar 1.0 fit Avatar 2.0.

Note: this is not an in-depth look at editing avatar 2.0 or carrying out Marvelous Designer clothing adjustments. These are documented in detail on the Sansar website. The following is only intended as a general overview.

Avatar Picker

The Sansar avatar picker is displayed the first time a user logs-in to Sansar (or the first time an existing user logs-in following the R36 update)

New users logging-in for the first time (or existing users logging-in for the first time since this release was deployed) will immediately be presented with the new avatar picker. This broadly comprises two options:

  • Selecting one of ten default avatar styles. These attempt to offer a range of ethic looks, with two leaning towards science-fiction / fantasy (with the de rigueur pointy ears and pale eyes).
    • Some are of somewhat androgynous facial looks, so the clothing colours indicate gender: green = female; purple = male.
    • Scroll arrows enable  moving back and forth between the options, and a selection is made by clicking on the desired portrait and then on the Continue button.
    • This will load the avatar and drop the user directly into the Nexus – see The Nexus for more details on this.
  • Clicking on the Create New button. This will randomly select one of the default avatars and load the character editor.
The ten default avatars

The Avatars

LL have stated that they have sought a more “stylised” avatar form between male and female in order to make some clothing elements more “unisex” in nature. This sound fine – until you see the default female avatars. “Androgynous” might be the kindest way to describe them, “elongated” might be another.

On the surface, the body proportions are around right: her height is 8 “heads” (the distance from top of head to chin) and most women are around 7-8 heads tall; her shoulder width is roughly 2.5 heads (measured from ear to ear), and the average woman’s shoulder width is around 2-2.5 “heads”. Similarly, the male avatar is in the proportions you might expect: an average 7.5 “heads” tall and 2.5 “heads” across the shoulder.

The problem is that of height. According to average height, women’s heights average between 4ft 10in and 5ft 6 in globally. By comparison, men average between 5ft 4in and 6ft – with a bias around the 5ft 7in-5ft 9in range. However, given there is little differentiation in the overall height of the male and female avatars, the result is a female look is painfully thin, hipless, and which sits uneasy on the eye.

Avatar proportions. Both male and female body proportions are roughly in keeping with the “norms” – but the female appears to have been vertically stretched (head and body) in order to match the male avatar, resulting in an odd, thin and hipless look

Of course, this can potentially be solved over time – providing full body deformation, allowing custom avatars into the starter picker, and so on. But it’s possible that for some coming into Sansar from other virtual environments, the female avatar is going to appear less than attractive. Or as I’ve heard it referred to already in the Nexus, “bleah!”

Editing and Styling Tools

R36 brings an updated set of avatar editing and styling tools / options. These can either be accessed when selecting an avatar for the first time (see above), or via the familiar Create button > Style My Avatar > Customise option.

The basic Look Book  / Editor still layout comprises 4 parts:

  • Worn items panel: the clothing and attachments currently worn. If the clothing has been created using Marvelous Designer, buttons for adjusting and transforming the clothing will also be displayed.
  • The avatar on a pose stand: which can be rotated with and right-click drag (desktop mode). Remember the free rotation button is available in the bottom left corner of the inventory panel. Note this view can change when editing an avatar, such as zooming on the head during facial editing.
  • The inventory panel: for accessing hair, clothing, accessories, etc for wearing / editing.
  • Buttons along the bottom of the screen for undoing / redoing changes, discarding / saving changes going back to your last location (Home Space or world spawn point.
The basic avatar editor window. Note the buttons for adjusting Marvelous Designer clothing (highlighted) on the left.

Those who have used the right-side inventory panel will be familiar with the tabs displayed (from top to bottom):

  • Avatar: pick the gender of the avatar.
  • Hair (comb tab): select the hairstyle.
  • Face (head icon): customise the facial features.
  • Clothing (coat hanger icon): select clothing to wear – note that any rigged clothing existing users may have had is no longer listed as it is incompatible with Avatar 2.0 (creators have a means to provide an update when / if available), so only Marevelous Designer items remain.
  • Accessories: (visor icon) available accessories – again, note that accessories specifically rigged for avatar 1.0 will have been removed from existing user’s inventory.
  • Animations (running icon): set-up emotes.
Hair
The six new female hairstyles. The male styles are pretty bland as well.

Provides twelve default hairstyles (6 female, 6 male), with colouring / tinting options, and buttons to obtain additional hair through the Sansar Store or to import your own custom hair.

The Lab were said to be “excited” by the new default hair options. I have to be honest, the most enthusiasm I could sum-up for them was “meh”.

Face and Facial Deformation

The facial deformation capabilities are perhaps the most extensive “visible” changes with the new avatar, outside of the overall shapes. These, and options to colour skin and eyes, are found on the Face tab, which contains a number of sections, some of them new or extended, as outlined below.

The facial customisation options – see notes below

The most obvious aspects of the facial editing options are the two colour pickers to select skin and eye colour – just click to apply the required tone / colour. The remaining options are:

  1. Presets: six slots for different head shapes / facial features. Defaults are supplied for each, and clicking on any of them will apply them to the avatar in edit mode. The presets can be modified, or the user can work from the original base avatar to make changes to the face, which can then be saved back to any one of the slots.
  2. Sliders: an extended set of sliders for modifying facial features: cheeks, chin, ears, eyes, jaw, mouth and nose.  These are designed for more subtle fine-tuning of features, rather than significant changes.
  3. Head deformation buttons: four options that allow the head / facial features to be modified directly. These are intended for major changes to the head / face / features and comprise (from left to right):
    • Head: allows the entire head to be modified.
    • Major Sections: allows large parts of the head / face to be selected and modified (e.g. forehead, forehead and top of head, lower cheeks and jaw, cheeks, nose and jaw, etc).
    • Feature: allows specific features – nose, , mouth, cheeks, chin, etc – to be adjusted.
    • Part: allows fine-tuning and adjustment of specific parts of facial features  – the corners of lips or eyes, the flair of nostrils, the shape of nose or ear tips, etc – to be modified.
  4. The adjustment tools: a set of the tools that work with each of the head deformation buttons, comprising:
    • Translate: allows the selected area to be moved up, down, front, back, left and right. Also enabled by tapping W on the keyboard.
    • Rotate: allows the selected area to be rotated, if appropriate. Also enabled by tapping E on the keyboard.
    • Scale: allows the selected area to be resized. Also enabled by tapping R on the keyboard.

When an area of the face / head is selected, it will be highlighted in white. Once the required tool has been enabled, a left click (in desktop mode) will allow you to modify the selected and highlighted area.

These options are intended for significant changes to the head / face. They can be used in concert with the sliders, which as noted above are intended more for fine-tuning changes. The gif to the right, courtesy of Linden Lab, demonstrates the use of the deformation buttons and tools.

For those used to working purely with sliders, this approach is liable to come across as complicated, and it does take time and practice to actually work out how to balance things and achieve a satisfactory result. However, there is no denying the system is potentially very powerful, offering almost infinite opportunities to develop a unique look.

Accessories

The default set of avatar accessories retains the sunglasses and Christmas / festive “deer antler” headgear strung with lights (popular among early adopters at holiday time, so a nod to the past). To these have been added a set of sci fi-ish hair clips and pieces.

Adjusting Clothing

One of the major concerns with Avatar 2.0 was that of clothing and fitting. All rigged clothing had to go by way of the dinosaur, but the Lab indicated that a set of transform tools would be included for Marvelous Designer (MD) clothing that would help them to fit Avatar 2.0, and be available to users for making necessary adjustments. These tools have been delivered, and they are both impressive and slightly frustrating.

The tools comprise two elements: and auto-adjust option and a set of manual transform tools.

Auto-Adjustment

This does exactly what the name implies: it automatically adjusts an item of MD clothing to fit an avatar as best as possible. It is accessed in one of two ways:

  • Via inventory:
    • Click and wear the item of clothing to be adjusted.
    • The cloth simulator will start.
    • Right-click on the thumbnail for the item in inventory.
    • Select Adjust from the drop-down menu.
  • Via the Worn Items panel:
    • Click and wear the item of clothing to be adjusted.
    • The cloth simulator will start.
    • Click the large Adjust button at the bottom of the Worn Items panel.

In both cases note:

  • It can take a while for the clothing to fully adjust – give the tool time to work.
  • It’s not always 100% accurate – clippings and gaps may need manual adjustment.
  • When it is clear no further adjustments are being made, click the Done Adjusting button below the avatar to make sure the updates are dully applied. You can then use the manual tools to make further adjustments, if required.
  • If you are happy with the results, make sure you save the updated appearance to a look in order to preserve the updates.
Manual Adjustments

Manual adjustments can be achieved using the Adjust and Transform tools in the Worn Items panel.

  • The Adjust tool can be used to make fine adjustments to MD clothing – adding natural folds, creases, etc. It can also be used to overcome issues of clipping – the avatar or underlying clothing showing through.
  • The Transform tools reside in a separate panel and offer options to move, rotate and resize clothing. These can be used individually using three buttons on the panel, or combined into a single gizmo-type tool (the “all” button).
The manual adjustment tools for MD clothing

Depending on the garment, manual adjustment can be relatively simple or annoying frustrating and time-consuming. I personally recommend using auto-adjustment first and then, wherever possible, the Adjust tool. Particular frustrationsI found include:

  • What you see when making adjustments doesn’t always match how the garment will look when updates are finished – it’s best to periodically click the Done Adjusting button and then free rotating the avatar to check results, than in trying to do everything in a single pass.
  • The Transform tools only work on the cardinal points relative to the avatar – up, down, left, right. There are no diagonal handles on the resize option, which can made a simple job of adjustment into something far more complicated.
  • Time really is needed to get things right.
Manually adjusting can take time. Top: as the sweater should look. Bottom: when first worn (l); after auto-adjust (c) mid-way through manual adjustments (r) with neck line still to sort.

As with the auto-adjust option, it is important finished work is saved to a look in order to be retained.

Continue to the Nexus, Codex and XP System

 

Sansar Product Meetings week #35: feedback and Q&A

Courtesy of Sansar on YouTube

The following notes were taken from my audio recording of the August 29th (week #35) Sansar Product Meeting, which took the form of a general Q&A  / feedback session. As always, key points are summaries, but please also refer to the official video.

The Nexus Release

The Nexus Release had been anticipated as being deployed this week, but bug fixing derailed the plans for this. This is to now hopefully make an appearance in week #36 (commencing Monday, September 2nd).

Fees / Commission Rates

In October 2018, Linden Lab announced that Sansar’s availability would be extending to the Steam platform at the end of the year, being made available under that platform’s Early Access programme (and which duly occurred in December). As a part the October 2018 announcement, it was indicated that credit processing fees for Sansar Dollars would increase to S$250 to the dollar, with early access creators receiving a legacy conversion rate of S$143 to $1 until December 31st, 2019.

On Wednesday, August 28th, 2019, Linden Lab announced the conversion rate for all early access creators who process credit from Sansar will remain at the S$143 to $1 through until December 31st, 2020 – so a further year’s extension.

Q&A

Nexus, Prime Portal and Codex

  • People will still be able to access their Home Space once the Nexus Release has been deployed

    Will people always have to log-in to the Nexus, once deployed? What about issues of trolling / harassment? Won’t this increase load times – a scene plus all the avatars?

    • Yes, all users (including Lindens) will by default be logged-in to the Nexus (or an instance thereof).
    • The comfort zone controls, muting / blocking abilities will all be available to users.
    • People will still be able to access their Home Space if they wish / need to, and will be able to cancel the Nexus load to go directly to the Home Space at log-in, if they wish.
    • Avatars are also cached, so allowing for cache limits, if there are avatars previously encountered at the Nexus, this could help mitigate additional load time at log-in / a return visit.
    • Load times and interactions within the Nexus will be monitored closely as well, in case adjustments have to be made.
  • Is there a risk that by making people go to the Nexus whenever they want to discover potential destinations they have not yet visited, people will be less inclined to explore?
    • The hope is that no, it won’t, but it will be closely monitored when first deployed.
  • As avatars can impact an experience when first loading in, could the Nexus suffer with lots of avatars constantly logging-in to it?
    • This is a concern and again will be monitored.
    • It is likely that the Nexus will initially have a lower avatar limit prior to spawning a further instance to try to mitigate this (although it is acknowledged this could cause issues with meeting friends in the same instance of the Nexus).
    • Avatar loading has also been moved to a separate thread to try to minimise performance impacts.
  • Do creators have to go through the Nexus to get to their scenes and work on them? If logging-in the Sansar, yes.
    • However, once logged-in to Sansar, all other routes to edit a scene are available and no further visit to the Nexus is required.
  • Will the Codex make visited experiences visible as a single list, or will it have categories, or will something like the top 10 popular experiences out of those visited be listed first?
    • The Codex will just be a searchable list of places a user has visited.
    • The Prime Portal at the Nexus, however, will be more Atlas-like as it will contain all public experiences (aka “worlds”) and have categories, etc., as well as being searchable.
    • In respect of both, the Lab recognises that they will have to look at ways to improve the discoverability of both existing and new content.
  • Will people be able to set their own home location – such as one of their own experiences, rather than having to go to the Nexus or their Home Space? This idea has been noted.

Avatar 2.0 and Avatar Related

  • The reference files for the male avatar are the same as the avatar base shape, so yes, the male avatar does look skinny; the explanation for this that LL are trying to make both female and male avatars similar in shape to allow easy sharing of clothing and accessories between the two (so a shirt for a male avatar should fit a female avatar, for example).
  • The similarity is also to help with body deformation (when that becomes available) – so that the base shape for both avatars has a “common ground” for deformation.
  • The base shape is, apparently, intentionally more stylised than realistic. It has particularly been noted by many, including blogger Ryan Schultz that the female avatar’s proportions are off, which has prompted discussion on the Sansar Discord channel.
    • However, it should be noted that this has long been the case with SL avatars, but deformation, etc., means it is possible for those who want a more realistic shape can have it, while those who want more out-of-proportion shapes (e.g. for an alien or something) can also do so.
  • The avatar 2.0 head / face will have (as previously reported) a series of presets to help users define a particular / preferred look.
    • In addition accessories (e.g. earrings, nose rings, etc.) should move as facial deformation / different presets are used.
    • There will also be a translation / rotation tools to allow accessories to be moved around and positioned.
    • Auto-skinning will be applied to that accessories should automatically follow a part of the face that’s in motion (so a lip ring should follow the lip movements, for example).
  • Will the bounding box for the avatar be increased in size? This is something the Lab is looking at, but no firm commitment to change as yet.
  • Will avatar 2.0 be scalable at release?
    • Uniform scaling, as with avatar 1.0, yes.
    • Non-uniform scaling, no, not until full body deformation is released.
    • Head scaling will be possible separately to the body.
  • Avatar texture caching: there is an ongoing project to improve how avatar textures are handled and cached / logged. The work should be surfacing in one or two near-future releases.
    • An initial element of this will be a cap on per-avatar textures within an experience. Avatars entering the experience with their texture load below the cap will be seen as intended, those over the cap will have textures downsampled to bring them under the limit.
    • This might be extended to be handled on a client basis – so those with more powerful systems can crank the limit up, for example.
  • Will avatar 2.0 have a user-adjustable height offset to prevent feet / shoes appearing to sink into the ground? Not currently planned. If there are significant issues, test cases should be forwarded to the Lab to see if adjustments to the IK system are required.

General Q&A

  • The usual five:
    • High heels for avatars: not on the roadmap at present.
    • 3D mouse support: not on the roadmap, will more likely be a general project to support game pads, joysticks, etc., if done.
    • Valve Index support: something the Lab wants, but no time frame, other than when the Lab get to work on it, it is estimated to be around 2-3 weeks of work.
    • Wiki: the more user-submitted guides that are made to the forum public documentation area, the more weight is given to the case for the Lab creating and offering / managing a wiki.
    • Persistence: the Sansar devs would love documented requirements on where and how persistence might be needed / used, particularly as persistence is under consideration at the moment.
  • Collaborative building in Sansar plus the ability to build experiences for others:
    • Collaborative building within a single space still very much on the cards. Is still a question of when the Lab can get to it, and also how to manage the permissions (who can do what within the scene).
    • Building for others is seen as something the Lab also want to make possible – with creators able to build scenes or entire experiences and making them available through the Sansar Store to others – but again, no time frame on when this will happen.
  • Moderation within an experience (e.g. giving the ability to provide others with the ability to ban people from a scene, to administer / manage it on behalf of the owner, etc). Also on the roadmap, but no overall time-frame.
  • Vehicles:
    • Something the Lab would like to do, but there are complexities: how is control of a vehicle subscribed? How to provide a good level of responsiveness to vehicle handling through the scripting system, etc.
    • Initially, what is being proposed is more “remote control” style vehicles, operating at lower speeds – presumably rideable, rather than just mini RC cars and things.
  • Event related:
    • Will the ticketing system be exposed to creators, and will creators be able to use it to charge for entry to events?
      • No plans to expose the ticketing system or allow creators to change for events (both of which appear to be a change from past statements).
      • Major reason cited is complexity of transactional management and tracking between users.
      • Suggestions for potential ticketed events (paid or unpaid) should be proposed to Linden Lab.
    • Can event creators have access to the number of people who register interest in an event (e.g. to help determine it date / times need to be revised in future similar events if 50 register interest and only 6 show up)? Yes, this has been considered by the Lab, along with other events improvements; it’s just a case of when and how things will be tweaked.
    • Can there be special LL-derived physical world prizes (e.g. “Sansar Early Access” t-shirts, etc.), people can win, so helping encourage engagement and involvement in events within Sansar – and help promote the platform? Will be taken into consideration.
  • Why is there an option to set a re-sale price for clothing when we cannot actually allow others to re-sell it? Because the capability hasn’t been released, and requires the on-going work in integrating the permissions system with the avatar system – but the ability to allow re-sale is coming.