Linden Lab has launched its Creator Academy: Hall of Materials experience. It is intended to help creators explore and better understand the materials capabilities of Sansar, learn about the various shaders and physics materials using interactive kiosks, and how texture values interact and impact one another.
The hall comprises two sections; the first covers media surfaces, stereoscopic media, UV animation materials, emissive materials, standard materials, and metals. Overhead, spheres float as a physics demonstration. The second, rotunda-like section, provides insight into audio materials and materials layering.
Kiosks provide overviews of specifics aspects of using mateirals, and some of these are are interactive. In the rotunda for example, walk across the different surface types (sand, water, ceramic, glass, carpet, etc) – to trigger the corresponding sound. With other, proximity might trigger a level of interaction.
However, it has to be said that some of the interactive elements appear to be more geared towards those in VR mode – as indicated in the introductory video. Some kiosks, for example, use panels of buttons which are currently largely inaccessible to those in Desktop mode. While this may well change as Desktop mode interactivity improves, it nevertheless limits the effectiveness of Hall of Materials as learning experience right now.
Also, while I favour tutorials, it has to be said that Sansar’s very nature perhaps limits the effectiveness of experiences like this. Unless you tweak the client or have multiple accounts, you can’t visit the experience and simultaneously try things out directly for yourself in Sansar’s Edit mode, and fix concepts in your head by doing so. As such, I did wonder if the effort in building the experience might not have been better served in producing a series of short videos on the subject matter, perhaps in the manner of Torley’s famous SL TuTORials.
Given these points, Hall of Materials should perhaps be viewed as an experiment in teaching / learning more than anything else, and it’ll be interesting to see where the concept goes and how it develops. In the meantime, I’ll leave you with the introductory video, which provides a basic overview of the experience, in its own somewhat “novel” approach.
The following notes are taken from the Sansar Product Meetings held on Friday, November 10th. 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.
Events Section on the Web Atlas
The new events section on the web Atlas has launched – see here for more. It is currently limited to three events at a time, but will be expanded. There will also be an e-mail address to which details of user-organised events can be sent for inclusion in the listing. once the submission process / requirements and e-mail addressed have been finalised, the events section will be officially documented by the Lab.
The November end-of-month Sansar release will be focused on the Sansar Store, although it will include other elements as well. Details of specific improvements / updates will be made available closer to the release date, but it is likely to include things like further store branding improvements, improvements to featuring items in the store.
Week #45 Update
In the meantime, there has been a mini update to the store, allowing creators to see who has bought their items, etc. This information can be manually copy / pasted into a spreadsheet for analysis, although more automated tools will be forthcoming in the future.
The Fashion update scheduled for mid-December is generating the most interest. Again, specific details will be made available closer to the release date, however the following aspects of the release have been mentioned:
It should include updated avatar shapes. These shouldn’t affect how attachments currently work, but may impact the precise placement of attachments.
The character mesh models to help with clothing design will be made available around the same time as the Fashion release is made.
Clothing design will initially be gender-specific: clothing designed using the female model will only work on female avatars, and clothing designed using the male avatar will only work on male avatars. It’s not clear if a more “unisex” approach will be added in the future.
It has been previously indicated by Bjørn Laurin that this initial fashion release will not include full layering (so, for example, a shirt and jacket must be worn together, rather than as individual layers), although it may split clothing by “top” and “bottom” layers.
As well as directly addressing Fashion aspects of Sansar, this release may also see updates in the following areas:
Additional audio controls on the Settings panel to allow users to toggle voice chat and background music in experiences.
Audio materials for terrain. There will be an initial limit of only audio sample per terrain; the Lab is still determining how it will work for blended terrains /materials.
A possible push of the events listing to the client Atlas.
Possible inclusion of terrain height map imports.
Inventory / Scene Objects List Management
The Lab is looking at improvements to inventory / scene objects management. These include: searching, sorting and filtering items, and making multiple selections of items.
Implementing folders within inventory is under discussion, along with potentially “better” ways of handling inventory organisation also being considered.
The ability to see a representative icon for inventory items when hovering the mouse over them is being discussed (e.g. a generic sound icon for an audio item). However, this is not part of the current inventory roadmap.
Attachments Rotation / Breakage Issue
As noted in my week #44 update, a change in the Friends release means that some attachments using workarounds to handle rotation no longer appear in the correct location when worn, requiring them to be manually fixed and re-uploaded. However, as some of the items exceed the recently introduce size limitation for attachments (1m x 1m x 1m), uploading them is no longer possible.
Rather than re-visiting the currently enforced limitations with a view to possibly relaxing them at some point to allow these fixed items to be re-uploaded, SIN has suggested an alternative approach: add an option along with those for listing items on the store, etc., to allow rotation to be adjusted (which would also be useful for anything accidentally uploaded with the wrong rotation). The idea is being taken back to the Lab for further investigation.
Scene Editor Object Count Crash
Some creators have found that the client can crash while in Edit mode on reaching 4096 objects (or 2048 dynamic objects) within a scene. It is currently not clear if this is a bug within the Sansar engine, or whether it is related to something else (it has also been reported that the scene object list has issues scrolling through very long lists of items, and this may be related). This is an issue the Lab didn’t previously appear to be aware of, and it appears a formal bug report has yet to be raised on the issue.
System terrain textures: requests have been made for the current system terrain textures to be made available in some way (e.g. samples on the wiki, an option to use them in the uploader, etc.), so that creators can blend their own items (e.g. paths, riverbanks, etc.) with the ground textures they have selected with their scene. These requests have been taken back to the Lab.
Custom terrain textures: the ability for creators to upload their own terrain textures is still on the roadmap, but may not be rolled out in the short-term, as the Lab wants to focus on making some updates to the terrain editor before rolling out new features related to it.
Retaining cached experiences: request has been made for users to be able to select and retain cached experiences (e.g. their own) they frequently visit, rather than losing them when they go Atlas hopping, etc. The is under discussion at the Lab, but how it might be implemented has yet to be determined.
Experience access control/ monetisation:
Initial access control for experiences is coming (e.g. restricting an experience to Friends only).
Broader access control (/ eventual monetisation of experience access) is being looked at by the Lab, with some form of ticketing system currently being the most likely approach. However, the fine details of how this will work still have to be determined. As such, it is not currently on the roadmap for implementation.
UI Improvements: as noted in week #43, he Lab is working on the tools to support UI changes (Runtime and Edit modes). Once this work is completed, it will hopefully pave the way to making UI improvements easier (e.g. resizeable windows, etc).
Improvements to the Chat and People apps are being considered for 2018.
A means of providing a non-obtrusive means of indicating who is talking on voice at any given time is still being investigated.
Stale messages / notifications: the issue of stale messages / notifications appearing in the Chat and People apps is being investigated.
PayPal payment option: still on the roadmap, but focus at the moment is on updates to the SandeX and fixing issues around the purchase of Sansar Dollars.
2018 Feature release roadmap: a point to remember is that the 2018 features roadmap is being revisited. As such, when updates / features listed above might appear in the roadmap, and how other capabilities previously discussed at Product Meetings (e.g. the supply chain capability) slot into time frames for 2018 is still to be settled.
The following notes are taken from the Sansar Product Meetings held on Friday, November 3rd. These meetings are usually held every Friday at 9:30am PDT and 4:00pm PDT, 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 on a weekly basis, and are announced in the Meet-up Announcements.
The October 26th meetings took place at The Diner by C3rb3rus. Product team members Cara and Boden spoke at the morning and afternoon sessions respectively. Jenn, as usual, led proceedings.
The Friends release arrived on Tuesday, October 31st – see my overview for more, and a patch for the release was issued on November 2nd, fixing a number of issues – see the release notes for more on this.
Desktop Mode: Identifying Avatars
The ability to hover the mouse over an avatar to see the name and ID (then left-click for Friend / mute / Remove as friend options) when in Desktop mode was a major element in the release. However some have reported that this doesn’t always work, and it has been reported as an issue.
One way to resolve the issue is to go to the My Looks app (top right of the client window) and then straight back to the experience.
Additional options have been requested for the avatar mouse over options, such as being able to open an IM in both Desktop and VR modes. These have been forwarded to the developers.
Some have requested this be made a toggle feature via More Options > Settings in the UI.
Attachments Rotation / Breakage Issue
A change in the Friends release resulted in rotation / breakage on some attachments made using workarounds to handle rotation (so an affected item no longer appears in the correct location when worn), requiring them to be manually fixed and re-uploaded. However, as some of the items exceed the recently introduce size limitation for attachments (1m x 1m x 1m), uploading them is no longer possible. This has given further consideration to re-visiting the currently enforced limitations with a view to possibly relaxing them at some point.
Store Release and General Store Discussion
While the focus has been on the Friends release and the mid-December Fashion release (see here and here for more), there is still the November end-of-month release still to come. This will be the Store release, which as the name implies, focuses primarily on the Sansar Store. This release is still being finalised, and details will be made available nearer to the planned release date.
Updating items: the content breakage issue mentioned above has helped push the ability for designers to offer updates to their items further up the priorities list.
Licensing models: numerous ideas on potential licensing / pricing models for goods in Sansar were discussed. For example: operating a multiple-price system for items based on intended / licensed use – so a version of a item intended for “single instance / non-public / non-Atlas listed” use would have a one (lower) price point; while the same object intended for “commercial (re-sale?) / public” use has a higher price point. Such ideas bring with them numerous issues:
As an experience is a URL which can be used anywhere, how do you determine “non-public” over “public” use, as the Atlas is not the sole means of surfacing an experience?
Such an approach also seems to run contrary to the supply chain ecosystem wherein designers receive payment based on the onward sale of their goods in other creations, rather than a single “up front” large payment for use of their item.
Ability to run flash sales / better linkage between goods and stores: both of these points are being looked at by the Lab, with the emphasis currently on the latter: making the identification on items, designers and store more direct.
This also spills over into the improving listing updates and automating the listing process. For example, that when creating a listing for a ring, the system recognises it is intended for the “hand” attachment and lists it as such.
Demos: A concern among those familiar with the SL Marketplace is that Sansar avoids the need to have individual listings for demos of items.
A suggestion for handling attachments and clothing would be to include an ability to have the avatar wear the item in the Character app (My Looks), either in the client (which has a risk of exposing the .FBX file of the item) or implementing part of the Character app so it can be used within the Sansar Store for previewing items.
It is likely more than one means of handling demos will be required, depending on the item, and Boden acknowledged this is something the Lab is aware of and considering.
A new events feature was due to be part of the Friends release, but late breaking issues pushed it into a separate update due to arrive soon. Key points with this feature are:
Ability to send an e-mail to the Lab promoting an event. Once available, e-mails should be sent at least a week in advance of an event so as to be curated and added in time, as this will initially be a manual process.
The inclusion of the times and locations of daily community meet-ups and the weekly Product Meetings, as other Lab-led events.
It is intended to help people find out what is going on in Sansar.
It will initially be a part of the web Atlas to start with, and then grown from there.
Fashion Focus Group
Alongside of the Fashion release there will be a special focus / “alpha” group, which will comprise designers specifically invited to join it to help give input / feedback on the fashion tools / capabilities, and which will likely be subject to NDA, due to the proprietary nature of some of the software.
Sansar Learning Curve and Tutorials
Some are already finding Sansar difficult to get to grips with, and requests have been made for things like tool tips in the various UI apps, some form overview of controls and options built-in to the client, etc. An on-boarding process has been discussed at the Lab, but this appears to have been pushed back as other features – such as a fashion – have been prioritised.
One suggestion to help with on-boarding, seen as short-term, would be to have YouTube / Vimeo videos explaining aspects of Sansar (the return of Torley’s TuTORials?!). There are already videos being added to the Knowledge Base, and this is likely to be expanded.
Creator Academy and Hall of Materials
One learning resource that the Sansar team is working on is a showcase Creator Academy within Sansar itself. This will feature, for example, an upcoming Sansar Studios experience called Hall of Materials, displaying objects with different settings in action on different materials so that creators can see and experience, rather than just read about, how the materials editor works inside Sansar.
Avatar Sitting and Avatar Animations
Adding the ability for avatars in Sansar to sit is more difficult than might be appreciated, as per Bjørn’s comments from a previous Product Meeting, which commence around the 2:10 mark in the audio below. However, it is on the roadmap for implementation, possibly in 2018. Pending this, Galen has put forward a request for attaching standing avatars to objects, to prevent them from falling off (say, if the vehicle is inverted), and to free-up the WASD / arrow keys for vehicle movement, etc.
VR adds complexity to animating avatars in other ways. Take dancing for example: should this purely be a matter of running a set of pre-defined animations (scripted via an object, or played directly against the avatar) in a manner akin to Second Life, or should it also allow for IK control through the VR controllers? Would people even want to use VR for things like dancing, or be more content with allowing pre-defined animation sets move their avatar (again, as per SL)?
If using a combination, how is it determined what is controlled just by animations, what is purely controlled by the VR controllers, etc. How do these then relate to the Sansar animation engine, so that facial expressions, lip and mouth movements when using voice, etc., are still accurately played without possible conflicts?
These are all questions the Lab is considering, together with how to allow avatars to be more expressively emotive through facial expressions. Should this be done through some kind of HUD system (if enabled in Sansar) or via the selection of a happy / smiley / frowny face via My Looks (clunky, but workable), or some other means?
A refreshing point here is that the Lab is not looking at VR to solve these issues (e.g. reliance on facial tracking to reflect facial movements / expressions), but is looking at options which encompass users with or without VR systems at their disposal. There is also a recognition that many people derive satisfaction from simply watching their avatar engage in something like dancing without necessarily having to directly manipulate it while it is doings so.
On Tuesday, October 31st, Linden Lab updated Sansar with the Friends release, the October end of month major release for the platform. I’ve had a quick opportunity to try things out, and the majority of this article is intended to provide an overview of the key features of the release.
The title of the release is intended to convey the idea that the update is intended to make social interactions easier – such as identifying avatars in Desktop mode and searching for other users. However, the release covers a lot more than this, with improvements to scripting, searching, the Store, publishing experiences and getting information.
Identifying Avatars in Desktop Mode
The Friends release adds the capability to identify avatars in Desktop Mode in a similar manner to that used by VR Mode.
With this release, users in Desktop mode can now hover the mouse pointer over an avatar to display the Avatar Name and Avatar ID. A left-click on the avatar will additionally display buttons to audio mute them, or add them as a friend. If the avatar in question is already a friend, the second button will allow them to be removed as a Friends, if desired (as shown in the image below, right).
The People app within the client now includes the ability to search for people, allowing you to make friends with others without necessarily having to be in the same experience to connect with them.
To locate another user / avatar, open Chat in the Sansar client, and then click on the People button to display the People app. Click on the Search tab to open the search bar (circled below left), type in the Avatar ID for the person you wish to find and click Search. Note that this has to be the Avatar ID not the Avatar Name because the latter are not unique to a particular user. Also, do not include the “@” preceding the Avatar ID.
Providing an accurate Avatar ID has been entered, it will be displayed below the search bar. Clicking on it will display the options to Friend or Audio Mute the avatar in question (the Message option will be available once a Friend offer has been accepted.
It is now possible to sort experiences in both the Client Atlas and the Web Atlas. Entries can be sorted in A to Z order, by recently created or recently updated. The search options are available on the All and Sansar Studios tabs on both versions of the Atlas (it is not available of the Client Atlas Featured tab or the Web Atlas Home tab), and can be found in the top right corner of the Atlas.
Also, and with reference to reference to the Web Atlas, the Search bar on Sansar Atlas, Store and Help web pages have been enlarged to make them more obvious.
The new option, called Control Info can be accessed via the Client More Options, available from both with experiences (shown on the right) and from the Atlas display.
The following scripting updates are included with the Friends release:
Trigger collision events on animated and static objects: it is now possible to trigger collision events against animated objects, and it is no longer necessary to set objects to dynamic to trigger collision events with them.
New Reflective base class: to allow different scripts to work more efficiently together.
Script property metadata attributes: scripts now have added support for the following attributes: Default, Range, DisplayName.
Script event/messaging passing: new APIs SubscribeToScriptEvent and PostScriptEvent make it easier for scripts to communicate using the new Reflective class. See the ScriptBase page.
Other Updates of Note
The Friends update also includes:
Voice chat adjustment: to make voices more audible in Sansar.
Revised experience publish flow: refer to the updated publishing guide for more.
New Featured tab in the Store: listing store items the Sansar editorial team have selected.
In addition, please refer to the release notes for a full list resolved / known issues, new and updated Knowledge Base articles.
A Note on The Events Feature
Originally planned to be a part of the Friends release, the new events feature which will likely form a part of the Web Atlas, is now slated to appear “soon after” this release.
A useful release, particularly for those who prefer using Sansar in Desktop mode, where the ability to identify other avatars has been sorely lacking. The new / updated scripting capabilities are likely to see plenty of use and make for some interesting new options within experiences. I’ll likely have more feedback on this release following the product Meeting on Friday, November 3rd.