Lab Chat #2: Ebbe Altberg – Concerning Sansar

Lab Chat #2, January 21st, 2016 - Jo Yardley, Ebbe Altberg and Saffia Widdershins
Lab Chat #2, January 21st, 2016 – Jo Yardley, Ebbe Altberg and Saffia Widdershins
Concerning Second Life Additional Questions

This page is a part of a transcript of the Lab Chat interview with Linden Lab CEO Ebbe Altberg (in his alter ego of Ebbe Linden) held in-world on Thursday, January 21st, 2016. It focuses on those questions selected from the Lab Chat forum thread which are directed towards Project Sansar. Each question and response is supplied with an accompanying audio extract. Use the following links to jump directly to a topic of particular interest (use the Back button of your browser to return to this list):

Links to Other Topics

Use the links below to jump directly to any other questions and answers from the session.

Lab Chat #2 Introduction

Concerning Second Life

Additional Questions

Closing Comments

Sansar: Live or Visit?

Is Sansar a place to “live” or more of a day trip amusement park? – Harlow Joubert

I think the answer is “yes”. I mean, there are parts of Second Life where you want to live, and people do live, and there are amusement parks that you just want to visit. So I don;t think Second Life is one or the other; it’s both, and I think Sansar is the same. And I think that once we get the ability for people to create communities, then people will want to live there; and there will be amusement parks. So I don’t think it’s one or the other; I think it’s what creators choose to create.

The Sansar Avatar

Avatar Appearance

Can you please clarify how Avatars will function throughout Project Sansar? You stated that Experiences in Sansar would dictate how your character/avatar looked in an experience. Does this mean Users won’t have their own personally crafted avatars from one experience to the next? – Loki Eliot

I think we have two ends of the spectrum: i will have my own avatar, my own identity, and places I can go as myself, and places that would want me to show up as myself. Like a nightclub or amusement park; then it makes sense for me to be who I am.

There are other experiences, where someone does a space thing, and we’re supposed to be astronauts, and me showing up as a funky chicken would completely ruin the immersion for that experience.

So those are the two extremes, where I either go in as myself, in a place that allows me to be myself, and then there are other places where the creator can dictate, “the only way you can look in this place is like this”.

How we appear within a Sansar environment may be dictated by the experience creator (image: Wes Sutdi and his Avatar character, via the Chive)
How we appear within a Sansar environment may be dictated by the experience creator (image: Wes Sutdi and his Avatar character, via the Chive)

There’s kind of an interesting medium there of how much of my body can still be inside of whatever look that the creator wants me to have. That grey area starts to get really complicated, because creating a spacesuit for a funky chicken is not necessarily something to make easy to work. So they might have to impose what kind of skeleton it can have.

So can I then have my face in there, so if I look inside that helmet, I still see who that person is? Well, again it sort-of depends. So I think we will solve for be yourself, and also solve for allowing the creator to be able to dictate what you look like in the particular experience. And then the middle part is something I think we’ll find what we can do over time, because that just has a huge range of complexity to figure out. I think that pretty much sums it up.

JY: I’m still wondering how its going to work when you arrive at a location. will you get a little message that says, “can we change your avatar to fit in?” Or is it just going to happen without you knowing it? how will that happen, the actual change?

Well, it may depend on the creator. A creator may, for example, let you choose from one of five types of looks to enter into that experience with. You know, you can choose the blue one or the red one, or whatever. That should be up to the creator, because they might not want everybody  to show up looking the same … And if they want everybody to just be the same, or even go to an extreme where everybody is the same, but you’re forced into first person and that’s it, that’s what the experience is.

We want to give the creators as much control as possible over what it’s like to be in that experience, and what avatars look like in that experience, because our primary focus is on empowering creators to make experiences that make sense for whatever situation that might be.

And then you’ll have some that want to have some sort of flexibility: you can be yourself, but you’ve got to choose among these types of clothing to fit on you. And that’s where it gets more complicated, because getting clothing that can fit all types of body types as we know, is a very complex problem.

It's not uncommon for communities / regions / activities in Second Life that require it, to encourage users to adopt certain racial / character / form looks. Sansar will provide additional means for experience creators to do so as well
It’s not uncommon for communities / regions / activities in Second Life that require it, to encourage users to adopt certain racial / character / form looks. Sansar will provide additional means for experience creators to do so as well (image:Mysts of Eyr)

SW: But of course, they could have shops. They could have outwear shops from popular designers, who would have clothes suitable for that experience.

Yup, that could be an option that a creator chooses to go; to go down that path of letting visitors either get free items or even buy items that would make them suitable to progress into the experience.

SW: because that could be good for not just the experience creators, they could have partnerships, like places like Caledon with popular landing points, they have dress shops and even free clothing, so people can either get free clothing or go a little bit more exciting.

JY: We have freebies and shops, but unless one of us is always on-line, we have no real way of enforcing it. We offer the clothes, we tell people what we want in their avatar, but once they get into Berlin and nobody is there, there’s nothing we can do about it. So it would be nice if we had some sort of magical power.

Yeah. the tricky power for the scenario you’re creating Jo, is you want everybody to have a very unique look; their own personal identity, you just want it to be thematically appropriate for the 1920s. And trying to figure out how to do that programatically is quite hard. And falls in that middle section, what I call the more difficult problem to solve, whereas the extreme of just be yourself, or the other extreme of, “no, you’re going to look like this”; those are kind-of the easier ones, and then the middle one there … it’s going to be something that’s going to take a while to sort out.

Avatar Inventory

If there will be a Universal Avatar where we will be able to transport our inventory between one Sansar experience and another? – Lilith Heart

What  degree of in-world customisation you will be able to make. For example, will you be able to make changes to shape, skin, hair and clothes – both in terms of what you buy in, and in terms of what you can self-create or mod? – Richardus Raymaker, Digit Gears and Majestic Kohime

Yes, you will be able to modify your body shape. I think for starters’ we’ll focus on bipeds and humanoids, and over time we’ll think about how we allow for other types. So our user interface will probably be focused on bipedal humanoids, and then there might be that people can either upload complete custom skeletons and avatars that could be all kinds of different ways. I think there’s still a lot of discussion around this; but you certainly should be able to do some basic shape-shifting, skin tone, morphing, to create a unique identity for yourself.

And then we’re also trying to solve for how can we make it so that clothing is less complex of an issue; how can we solve so that you can just kind-of create a garment and have it just fit a very wide range of avatar shapes, without a lot of either having to have multiple sizes or the issues you have where some avatars just can’t fit certain clothing. so we’re trying to figure out how to crack that problem, but it’s a really tricky problem, and again will take a while, and I can’t even say that we’ll get that sorted out this year.

We have a plan of what we want to accomplish, but how far we can get by December remains to be seen. There’s no doubt in my mind that you’re going to sense less flexibility and variety than you have in Second Life, from day 1 in Sansar.  But we also want to focus on making it so that over time, the end product Sansar actually makes it easier for people to customise and get dressed without having stuff poking out where they shouldn’t.

JY: But you will have just one inventory that you can use no matter what do with your avatar, where you go?

Some of your inventory, I guess, might be attached to an experience. It might only be relevant in a particular experience, so it’s up to the creator to keep track of those kinds of items. but in general, yes, you will have one inventory across everything. Unless a creator says, “No, in this context, this is your inventory, because you can’t just arbitrarily rez anything or wear anything because I want you to be an astronaut and you have three tools, and that’s it.” So again, it’s up to the creator.

JY: Or I don’t want you to drink my schnapps in any other experience.

And then you would keep track of the schnapps on behalf of that users; which is kind-of similar to what you can do with experience keys today in Second Life.

SW: I was at Eliza White’s new home, and she’s designed a butlering system which allows you to grab a guitar and start serenading your guests or just play it for your own amusement. But as soon as you leave the house, the guitar goes because it is part of an experience tool.

Exactly. So that ability for creators to manage that – call it local inventory or experience inventory – and the state that users have within your experience, is something we want to have baked-in from the beginning in Sansar; it’s part of giving more power to the creators from the get-go.

SW: someone has just said that experiences seem to open up a lot of possibilities with gaming, and that certainly sounds very true. 

Absolutely. I mean, gaming you could argue … if you can do sophisticated gaming on the platform, they you can do almost everything else.

SW: And it seem to me that if you’re going for a sophisticated gaming experience, if you are going for someone in Sansar who’s designed the ultimate elven experience, it would be like going to a whole new game, wouldn’t it?

Yeah. You walk into that experience, and that experience dictates who you are and what you can do, what your view of the world is. and as much control as we can give to the creator, then  going in from one experience to another could feel like going from somewhere where I’m in full control, and going into somewhere where it take control of what the experience is like. So it’s about giving power to the creators to impose themselves on visitor, if you will.

Content Building

In-world Tools

How will it be similar or different from building in-world in Second Life.Will we be, for example, building with voxels? prims? or something completely new? Will there be a built-in way to create or edit Mesh in-world? – Shug Maitland

Currently, we’re focusing mostly on layout and great support for importing of objects from the outside, so that you could use whatever tool of choice to do your mesh work, and then just import it into Sansar and then lay it out with great tools to lay out and scale and position things within the world.

We’re also working on terrain tools, where there will also probably be some kind of mix of voxel and height map tech to try to stitch things together.

At some point, yes; like why should I have to completely go back to an external tool just so I can poke at an object to reshape it or tweak it to some degree, and then you get into editing. And at some point, when you have some of those basic capabilities to just shape objects, then you could also start with the option of people just dropping in basic shapes directly from in-world. You can just drop a cube on the ground and start poking at it to reshape it.

So, I think there will be a progression. Pretty much right now we’re specifically focused on by June, getting it so that you have really powerful layout capabilities, and maybe the ability to import. Maybe we’ll just start with .FBX or something like that, so that you can import objects from the outside world and lay them out in Sansar.

And then over time we’ll see if we’ll support additional file formats, and then over time we’ll also get into more and more, as we start to see what users need, how much editing we need to support in-world.

I mean, we do not want to be the superset of tools that everybody wants; there are so many tools out there from Maya to Blender to 3D Max. And then you have architecture, where there’s like huge suites of tools, that we’ll never try to be better than any one of them, and certainly not to some of those.  So we want to make sure that you can use all of those tools, and bring content in, and then do the final positioning and layout of things as smoothly and easily inside.

And then after that, like I said, we’ll see where we start to allow for more direct manipulation of shaping things inside .

JY: But you are planning to eventually have some sort of in-world building tool? Because I personally think that’s essential, especially for people who are not very experienced with outside software.

I’m pretty sure we’ll get there too, in some way; but I just don’t know that we’ll get there this year. For starters, you might have to be 100% dependent on some external tools to create your objects.

Terrain (Land) Editing Tools

What land creation tools will be available – for example, would it be possible to create submarine homes that don’t have to be filled with water? will we have more freedom with the land; in Second Life, we’re quite limited with what we can do with our land. – Majestic

We’ve had a couple of guys work on terrain, we call it. and a terrain editor that will ultimately be more powerful, so that you can create caves and overhangs. And that’s what I mentioned; we’re working on technology to stitch voxels and height maps together so that you can get naturally blended transitions between those two technologies. And then make sure that it’s performance and then over time make sure that you can create some really cool, lush, interesting landscapes directly from within Sansar, and then place objects on top of that landscape.

Will people be able to do much more customisable textures for terrain / land, than we have with Second Life at the moment?  – Digit Gears.

Ultimately yes; I just don’t know how far we’re going to get by the end of the year, for the opening day that we’re shooting for. I mean, you can go on forever with all kinds of interesting technologies to  auto-generate vegetation and all kinds of things. So we’ll have to see how far we can get; but we have a couple of people ploughing away on that terrain tool.

So of these things are really hard to predict how long things are going to take, but the goal is that you can create some really fascinating, unique terrain, with little effort and a lot of ability to drill holes and tunnels and overhangs and stuff like that.

Water is a whole other thing. Like what is “water”, and how do you fill a hole with water, and what is the water like?

JY: Is it going to be fluid?

There are technologies that we have available to us, based on some technology choices we’ve made, but it’s going to take a while for us to get to that part. We’re not there yet. But some day, you should be able to fill a glass with water, and pour it over a beaker and whatever. We want to get there someday.

We get a lot of requests actually from the educational market, especially the people who work on chemistry labs, for people to play with liquids in all kinds of ways. So like I said, we have technologies available to us to support these capabilities, but it’s not like it’s even on the roadmap right now; we have too much other stuff we have to get through.

Sansar Workflows

What additional tools and workflows creators need to become familiar with in order to create for this new world – and, as a corollary to that, when are you planning for Sansar to be in open beta?  –  Alexxis DeCuir, Soen Eber

Well, like I’ve been saying for a long time, you should definitely learn mesh, and for those who like to script, it wouldn’t hurt for you to learn C#, as those will be very prominent as to how we do things on a go forwards basis. so, the more you can learn mesh, and if you’re interested in scripting, learn C#, then you’re preparing yourself for what Sansar is going to require.

Approximate Sansar Time Frames

Note: the following question was asked during the discussion on terrain / land and has been lifted out to its own section for ease of reference.

JY: What is this open day you’re shooting for?

End of the year. We’re going to try to continuously try to increase – we’ve had about a dozen or so people, a few moles, a few, call them expert shops, playing with Sansar right now. There’s not a tonne you can do; you can create some really cool environments, but there’s no scripting yet, so you can’t really create a lot of interactive stuff, so there’s still a lot missing.

But… we want to continuously add more people, month after month after month, and by June, we want to get to a point where we can invite even more people. We’ve still got to manage it, though, because we will have changes along the way where it’s like, “sorry, folks. We just broke all your stuff.” And it’s all right for some people, but you don’t want to have too many people spend billions of hours building stuff and then we go, “Ah, sorry. Just start over.”

So we want to get to some level of stability in … well, it’s not really file format, but the way we keep things so that you can expect for it to carry on forward. But we want to get into the hundreds of creators around the June time, and then open the door for anyone to come in by December. Or it could be that we finish all the work by December, and we open the doors in January, because I’m not sure that we want to open the doors right before Christmas. But the goal is to have a product that anyone can come in and play with inside of a year.

Concerning Second Life Additional Questions