Lab Chat #3: Project Sansar

Lab Chat #3: Troy, Oz and Ebbe
Lab Chat #3: Troy, Oz and Ebbe

This page is a part of a transcript of the Lab Chat presentation held on Friday, May 6th, and featuring Ebbe Linden (Ebbe Altberg, CEO at Linden Lab), Oz Linden, the Director of Second Life Engineering, and Troy Linden, a Senior Producer of Second Life.

The session focused on three areas: Project Bento for Second Life, Second Life, and Project Sansar, featuring a series of questions selected from those asked via the Lab Chat forum thread, together with additional questions asked directly by the audience attending the event.

This page provides a transcript of questions and answers specifically related to Project Sansar. Questions are supplied in text, with answers presented in text and with an accompanying audio extract.

Please use the following links to jump directly to a topic of particular interest. Unless otherwise indicated, all answers to questions in this section are from Linden Lab CEO, Ebbe Altberg, via his alter-ego, Ebbe Linden.

Quick Links

For Project Bento and Second Life items, please follow this link.

How Many Avatars Will a Single Instance of Sansar Support?

At the moment, preparations are underway for SL13B, Fantasy Faire has just finished, and events of similar scale happen year-round in SL, each with hundreds of simultaneous attendees. From earlier descriptions of Sansar, it seems the geography of such events will be accommodated (or nearly so), but is it known that a single instance of a geographically continuous Sansar experience can support that many simultaneous user sessions? – Qie Niangao

So the goal is obviously, ultimately over time, for Sansar to be able to have higher concurrency than Second Life is able to do today. Having the opportunity to build a platform from the ground up, we can do some things that Second Life maybe wished it could have, or can’t do for other reasons.

We won’t necessarily be there on Day 1, so when we open the doors – our current target for that is the end of the year – [we] might not reach that level of concurrency, but over time we believe we can get into the multiple hundreds of concurrency in a single scene.

And then over time, even further out, I don’t even know how much further out, but we’re building the architecture so that ultimately we can  have multiple instances view a shared instance. So for us here on stage, for example, could be on one instance, and everybody in the audience could be in multiple instances viewing us in this one shared instance. And then you can start stacking up many, many instances, each potentially having hundreds of people viewing a shared instance. And then you can get into conferences or concerts or Lab Chats of the future with thousands of concurrent users.

But that’s a ways out; right now we haven’t even gone past thirty or so in lab tests here with Sansar, because it’s still so early and so much functionality and performance improvements to put into it.

But the goal is to get into the hundreds for a single instance.

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Graphics Requirements

What are the graphics card requirements when public open ? Hopefully it runs on hardware that does not need a Geforce 970+. It’s not problem for me. but is for lots of others – Richardus Raymaker

Sansar system specifications have yet to be fully determined. Requirements fo things like the GTx970 refer purely to the use of HMDs like Oculus Rift and the HTC Vive

The Geforce 970+ is not our minimum spec, that is and Oculus and Vive minimum spec for VR. For just using Sansar on a regular PC or desktop, we’re not going to require that high of a spec. We don’t know yet what the min spec will be; we’re hoping it’s not far from what is reasonable for Second Life today. But again, it will take time for us to find out how low of a spec we can get away with for Sansar. But even just defining what the minimum specs are for operating systems, for hardware etc. – I think it’s going to take a while for us to find out as we start to tune  and optimise the Sansar platform.

So, if you see something about the Geforce 970+, that’s specifically for Oculus and Vive hardware, not for desktop use.

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NPCs in Sansar

Will we be able to make actual NPCs or are avatars the only things that can be animated? – Jasdac Stockholm

Yes, but I don’t know when. so it’s not  a question of “if” so much as “when”. And I don’t know when this will become a priority for us to do; I think we have a tonne of stuff to do before we even really start to tackle this thing. There’s nothing inherently preventing us for doing it, it’s really just a matter of prioritisation, and at this particular point, we’re not at the point where this would show up as a high-level requirement. So I’m pretty sure it will happen, I just couldn’t tell you when.

So essentially, not directly for release?

No, not directly for release, no.

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Functionality and Capabilities in Sansar

About animated animals independent of the avatar. Will animations attach to mesh in Sansar? -Kay Rembrandt

It’s a bit technical for me, that question … it’s a sort-of similar question to the one I spoke to with regards to NPCs; I’m not sure when we’ll have this capability.

Right now, we’re very focused on making it easy for people to create content, import and create content,  easily share that content with other people; doing a lot of work in VR … VR is quite a radically different beast from what we’re used to here with being on PCs; and how do you make it comfortable for people to be able to navigate through 3D space?

What happens when, with VR,  you are the avatar? You’re not managing, controlling, the avatar with your fingers on the keyboard and mouse or a controller, but you become the avatar, because your head movements is translated directly into your avatar’s head movements; your hand movements are directly translated into your avatar’s hand movements. Your facial expression is something we’re working on, so you have real-time facial expression. And now we’re starting to inhabit the avatars we see, as opposed to just controlling them from afar.

And then also, how do you create content inside of VR? How do you create from the inside, rather than the outside? And what does that mean to the user experience? And so there’s a tonne of things that we’re working on that are still very fundamental and almost basic, but still … no-one’s done it for ten years that could answer all the questions for how it should be done, so we’re learning a tremendous amount as we go.

So, some of these questions of “will we have  feature X, Y, and Z?” Is like,probably, but when? When at this point is really hard to say, because it’s just getting the fundamentals of fully functional, communicative avatars that can interact with each other than the environment, just what we’re doing here and now in this meeting, is a huge step in of itself. And they we can think of all sorts of extra goodies that go over the top of that in time.

So, I can’t really promise more than yes, we’ll have the basic fundamentals of being able to create an experience, share that experience,  have social interactions within those experiences. how much interactivity? Yes, there will be scripting,  you can script stuff and animate stuff and do things. but it’s hard for me to say exactly when each of these capabilities will come on top of the fundamentals.

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On Mars in Sansar
On Mars in Sansar

Sansar Terms of Service

Will Sansar have its own Terms of Service, or will the current ToS cover both Second Life and Sansar? – Bryn Oh

We’re going to work on a separate one. Whether we decide to actually make them one in the same at the end, which could be helpful to us to have them be shared, is a second step. The first step is for us to draft something. I actually know that the team is working on it as we speak; I just got a note from our General Counsel that it’s too long, so they have to make it a lot shorter.

So we haven’t even, as a team, started to share it and come to an agreement among ourselves exactly on all the details on that one. I’m just mostly focused on creating one we know is absolutely ideal for us and for the Sansar users and the Sansar partners over time, and then separately from that we’ll look at how similar or different is that from the Second Life one, and does it make sense then to merge them, or are there reasons for why they should be separate.

So right now, it’s just focusing on making it as good as we can for Sansar.

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Names and Identity in Sansar

Reserving Second Life Names in Sansar

Will our Second Life user names be reserved on Project Sansar in any way?

Yes. I think we’ve already gone through the process or are actively running the process of making sure that all user names in Second Life are already taken and can only be claimed by the actual owners of those.

Real Names and Pseudonyms

Will new users have last names in Sansar?

We’ll start probably, from a new user’s perspective,  that we’re going to ask them for their first and last name. With the intent mostly that it’s going to be your proper first and last name, although it doesn’t have to be. So I think we imagine something that’s going to trend towards real names, but not require real names.

So you can make them up – first name and last name?

Yes. On the scale of Facebook, call it 95% real, and Second life being 99% not real, we’re maybe aiming towards somewhere more sort-of in Twitter, where you have a lot of real identities, and you trust that those are the real identities, and then you also have people who choose to be fantasy or made-up identities. So we’re going to start out and see if we can get that range of real and “pretend” identities, and go from there.

It would be really hard to enforce some sort of truly real identity; the only system on the planet that has come close is Facebook, and we couldn’t necessarily replicate that; we would then be requiring a Facebook log-in or something to go that far into the “real” direction.

But we also believe that Sansar will have a lot  interesting professional use cases where real identities really do matter. If you’re meeting with co-workers and partners and stuff of that nature, in the virtual context, you want to know the real names behind the people you’re talking to.

Roles and Personas

Sansar Avatar 2.0
Sansar Avatar 2.0

And we also have said before, we’re building the fundamentals into it for people to have multiple personas – not sure we’re going to call it personas – but you can log-in to one account, which is how you authenticate with the service, but then be able to switch roles, or personas, quickly, without having to log out and log back in again. so that you can go into different contexts with different personas without having to carry the baggage of having to have a bunch of multiple accounts.

I couldn’t say we’ll start with that, but that’s how we see ourselves evolving.

So you could have one account that has your real life name, but that you can keep hidden from everyone except them people you want to know about it, and you can have fake aliases that you can use for all your other adventures.

Something like that, yeah.

Facebook Log-in

Have to, no. But whether we also support a way for you to use your Facebook authentication – for a lot of people, that is convenient and it’s very common across lots of services to do that, so we might offer that to. But it would not be a requirement.

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Acceptance into Creator Preview

When will the Sansar beta access acceptance be? – Eku Zhong

So we had hoped, originally, it would be end of June / early July; now it looks like end of July / early August. And we have gotten lots of applications, thousands and thousands; so as soon as we can start letting some people in, we will. We are eagerly awaiting the day when we can start to interact with some users on the platform and start the conversation and the dialogue about what works, what doesn’t work, what you need, and start that journey together with the people who come on-board.

We might let some in earlier than July, the ones that have really high tolerance for pain, and then we will keep adding. But the goal is to get to, by the end of July, a product that we feel is worthwhile for some of you, not all of you, but for some of you; not because of you, but because of what you’re trying to do.

Inside Sansar, courtesy of Linden Lab
Inside Sansar, courtesy of Linden Lab

And part of this application process is for us to try to match-up what the platform is capable of, and what you are attempting to do, or what you would like to do. And if there’s a big mismatch there, then it’s likely to set you up for failure, and not be successful, depending on what you’re trying to do. Then as the platform matures, we can let more and more people on that are trying to do things that it probably won’t allow some people to do in the beginning.

And we don’t really need people to come in and just look around and poke at it; we want people who are willing to commit time and effort and hit it and to work with it, and be OK with what it’s able to do at that point in time. not just come in and poke at it for ten minutes and go, “No, I’ll come back next month.” We want people who are willing and able to engage in a meaningful way with what it can offer at that point in time. That’s what we’re trying to figure out.

So those are the time frames. And then we’re still aiming to make it available to everybody by the end of the year. but with any huge project like this, you can never be certain, but that’s the goal.

And there’s a lot of things you’ve been able to do in Second Life that you will not be able to do in Sansar for some time to come. There will be some things you can do that you can’t do in Second Life, but there will be a lot of things you can do in Second Life that you can’t do in Sansar for some time. So, it all depends on what you’re trying to accomplish, and when.

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Sansar Payment Options

 Is it true that in Sansar  everything we buy must be paid for with a credit card, and not like SL, where we have virtual money? – HypnoticGypsy Resident

This has been an interesting conversation, but I would venture to guess that we’re going to end up with something similar to Second Life, where you would buy-in to virtual, and be able to transact with virtual.

We are thinking hard, though, about what would it mean if it was all in fiat or standard currencies that we know. We would then have to support multiple currencies: someone wants to sell something in dollars, someone wants to buy in Euros, and all that. And the compliance around that has additional complexities that would make certain things that we take for granted in Second Life a bit complicated.

So right now, I would venture to guess that you will see something that is more akin to what we already know in Second Life.

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Cost of Owning Space In Sansar

Is there currently any idea how much it will cost to own space in Sansar? – Denim Robonaught

I’m not ready to talk about numbers, because I don’t think we’re close enough to what we believe we can do. We’re spending a lot of time thinking about business models, and various revenue sources and the cost of infrastructure and scaling and all things combined. And I think we’ll have to go through a few more months of doing that; and then probably, when we start, it’ll probably be experiments to see what is the right points for all of these things, so whatever we start with, don’t be surprised it if changes.

But like I’ve said before, the goal is for basic ownership of an experience – I don’t necessarily want to call it land, because that’s not necessarily how we think in Sansar. but owning an experience in Sansar should not be crazy expensive. The goal is for us to lower the threshold so all of us can own one or more experiences for various purposes, and easily share those with others.

The cost of experience ownership in Sansar still has yet to be determined, and will be influenced by other factors - and may be pitched on an "experimental" based when initially announced
The cost of experience ownership in Sansar still has yet to be determined, and will be influenced by other factors – and may be pitched on an “experimental” based when initially announced

So there might be different ways we think about what we charge for. So it’ll be sort-of fees on transactions in the economy; I mean in Second life, Linden Lab collects almost nothing of all the economic activity that takes place. Today, as a content creator, you can basically have an environment where you’d being charged hardly anything. And we do a lot of work to make that possible for you, but we don’t charge you almost anything for it. I mean 5% on the Marketplace is kind-of a ridiculously low number compared to what virtual goods … the kind of going rate on the Internet is around 30%, and other places where you sell content, You Tube, you get less than that as the content creator.

That’s why part of our business model in Second Life has been that we basically make most of our money on the hosting of the experiences, or land, or simulators, servers. And we want to shift that from being primarily from there to spread more correctly across the cost of resources, i.e. servers, versus  fees on transactions, versus subscriptions, and all of that.

So all I can say is our goal is to have it substantially lower than what we’re used to in Second life. And part of that is we want to do a product that has a much broader appeal; the pricing in Second Life is, I believe, a constraint. And so I see a future where all of us are going to have multiple experiences that we use for different purposes.

I’m going to have my office, I’m going to have my home theatre, I’m going to have my living room, I’m going to have lots of experiences that I share with different audiences for different purposes, whether it’s family, co-workers, or public spaces because I’m creating a game or an experience that I want millions of people to consume. And how do we make that possible for all of us to have these.

And then there might be more professional packages at higher rates that come with additional capabilities, like we discussed earlier – why do I have to be a subscriber [Premium member] to get access to Experience Keys?  Well, part of it is for us to collect some money from those types of users that are trying to do more advanced things.

So it’s too early. I can just generically say it’s going to be Less … We’ve got to find the “less” where we can also have a successful, sustainable business. so we have to make sure that we find that right balance. We’ve got to make sure we make a product that is appealing to a much broader audience and make less per person, but just make sure there’s more of them.

Our ARPU, or average revenue per user, in Second Life is actually really, really high, because we have a very super-engaged, hardcore audience that are willing to pay what they are paying today to get access to the capabilities that we offer, and part of that is that we offer something that is really hard to find elsewhere, but it’s also not something that you would expect to be necessarily a mass-market product. With Sansar, we want to make something that is a mass-market product.

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Sansar Access for Mac Users

When will Mac users be able to get into Sansar?

We would like that to be available by the end of the year. We don’t currently have that resourced, we have to find the timing; right now they would be blocked in a number of areas to really make good progress. But we know we have to have a Mac client out at or near when we open up the doors.

So I would not expect and beta or creator preview users that were Mac only to be able to be able to do anything with Sansar. That’s something I would expect at or near general availability at or near the end of the year or early next year.

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Bento and Second Life Introduction