Sansar: R36: the Nexus, the Codex and XP system

The Nexus

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
  • An 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.

This section refers to the Nexus, the Codex and XP. For information on avatar 2.0, please refer to the table of contents.

The Nexus

Introduction

A futuristic environment that is both in some ways faintly mindful of Ready Player One, if only in terms of general concept (it is a world among worlds, individual and yet connected), the Nexus forms a general hub, both for social engagement and for wider exploration of Sansar. As such, it is the place to which all incoming users – new and existing – are delivered to, and comprises a number of distinct areas:

  • Introductory tutorials (quests) with rewards,  supported by Agent Primus.
  • The central Prime Portal and surrounding Core Portals.
  • A club space and additional quests.
  • A further area – the Apex – that may be connected to the Sansar “backstory”.
  • Further seating areas.

These are examined in the following sections.

Agent Primus

Agent Primus is an interactive non-player character (NPC) who serves to act as a guide for users, steering them through both of the initial tutorials – and doubtless acting as a quest giver for future quests presented in the Nexus as a part of the Sansar “backstory”.

The Tutorials

Currently, there are two directly interconnected quests that use Agent Primus: The First Portal and Welcome to the Nexus. Each offers rewards of Sansar Dollars and experience points (of which more anon), with The First Portal also offering and outfit.

The Two tutorials presented in R36 are designed to get users started and give a basic introduction to the Nexus. Note the rewards on offer: both Sansar $ and XP, the latter marking the deployment of Sansar’s global XP system
The First Portal

The First Portal provides a basic introduction to Sansar’s movement (walking, running and teleporting) and interaction (left-click) controls. It is a necessary introduction to Sansar, as it will provide incoming users with their Codex. As such, users who have not completed it will receive a prompt each time they arrive in the Nexus asking them if they wish to explore the Nexus (Stay) or teleport to the Tutorial World.

The quest is offered on arrival at Tutorial World, and takes less than 5 minutes to complete. The steps are basic, and conclude with teleporting back to the Nexus spawn point through a portal. From here, users can explore the Nexus for themselves, or takethe Welcome to the Nexus quest, which directs them to significant points within the Nexus.

Agent Primus and launching The First Portal tutorial / quest, intended to introduce users to the basics of movement and object interaction at Tutorial World.
Welcome to the Nexus

This takes users on a brief tour of the Nexus, currently focusing on finding Portal Prime, and the Core Portals.

Claiming Rewards

As the tutorials are effectively quests, it is important to remember that when the objectives have been completed, you must click the Complete button on the Quest panel to earn the rewards offered.

General Observations

The tutorials appear to be those previously prevented, folded-in to a more quest-type experience. The mechanics provided are very basic – walk with WASD, run, teleport and left-click: enough to get started, but limited. In part this is understandable: there is a fine line to be drawn between giving an incoming user sufficient information for get them started and beating them into submission by repeatedly thumping them with instructions.

However, I couldn’t help but feel the First Portal tutorial / quest is a little too linear in a literal sense: you arrive, you walk forward, you wait, you run forward, you teleport forward, you walk forward again, and you’re done! There’s no information on using the mouse for steering left / right, etc.

I assume that as The First Portal is located in a place called Tutorial World, further quest-type tutorials covering more of the control / movement elements will be added in time. Even so, it would have been nice to see at least some form of pointer to where inquisitive users could find out more (such as accessing the keyboard / VR short-cuts).

Prime Portal and Core Portals

The Prime Portal (l), forming the focal point of the Nexus and the initial two Core Portals (Events and Popular Worlds / Creator Portal (top and lower right, respectively). Touching any of them will bring up a UI element listing the appropriate content

The Nexus is home to a series of portals – in-world elements that trigger a UI element similar in nature to the former Sansar Atlas. At the time of writing, these comprise:

The Prime Portal

Essentially a replacement for the Atlas. When left-clicked (you have to be standing before it), the Prime Portal opens a UI  element that (for those familiar with it) is very similar to the old in-client Atlas.

At the top of the panel is the Events section, a right / left scrolling list of upcoming events.

  • Hovering the mouse over an event thumbnail will bring up the Interested button. If clicked, this will:
    • Either add the event to your personal calendar both within the client (accessed via Go > My Event Calendar in the client menu buttons) and your web calendar at Sansar.com.
    • Transfer you to the event if it is in progress / about to start.
  • Alternatively, clicking on the thumbnail will bring up more information about the event
  • See All will switch the panel to a display of all currently listed events.
The Prime Portal UI has a certain similarity with the old client Atlas

Below the events list are a series of category listings of all available public worlds in Sansar. These are again right / left scrollable and comprise:

  • Popular: based on the number of visitors in the world at the time the panel was opened, and ranked from highest (left).
  • Featured: special worlds that have been selected by the Sansar team to be featured by the Prime Portal UI. These may be worlds operated by Linden Lab’s partners or which have been built by Sansar Studios or which may contain content users may find interesting  / engaging (such as quests / games).
  • Community Favourites: worlds that have in the past enjoyed a high level of activity by users.
  • New: presumably worlds that have just been published.
  • Recent: presumably worlds that have recently been published (I’ve no idea as to what time frame constitutes “recent”).
Displaying more information about a location in the Prime Portal

All of the world categories also have a See All option for showing their full list. In addition:

  • Hovering the mouse over the thumbnail of a world will display the Visit button which, when clicked, will load that world.
  • Alternatively, clicking on the thumbnail will bring up further information on the destination, including a button to create a portal to the destination or create a URL that can be used in a website or pasted into chat, etc.

Additionally, and again like the old Atlas, the Prime Portal UI is fully Searchable.

Core Portals

The Core Portals are a series of circular portal rings (possibly inspired by the Stargate franchise). When clicked (providing you are standing close enough), these open what are effectively sub-panels of the Prime Portal UI. At the time of writing they comprise:

  • Events: accesses the full events listing. Again, hovering the mouse over an event thumbnail will bring up the Interested button. If clicked, this will:
    • Either add the event to your personal calendar both within the client (accessed via Go > My Event Calendar in the client menu buttons) and your web calendar at Sansar.com.
    • Transfer you to the event if it is in progress / about to start
  • Popular Worlds (/Creator Portal): displays the list of the currently most popular (by visitors) worlds. Again, hovering the mouse over the thumbnail of a world will display the Visit but which, when clicked, will load that world.

Further Core portals are in development, with at least one of these to be devoted to one of Sansar’s prime partners, Monstercat.

The Socialite Guild

The Socialite Guild is a club space associated with the Nexus. It can be reached in one of two ways:

  • By entering the ground-level structure called (surprisingly enough) The Socialite Guild, and walking through the shimmering blue curtain (automatic teleport).
  • By walking onto the large teleport disk on the ground just beyond the large circular platform on which the Prime portal sits and accepting the offer of a teleport to the club.
The Socialite Guild building and access to the club in the background and, foreground, the teleport disk that can also be used to reach the club, with the teleport disk up to the Apex (see below) just to the right of the picture

The club is a large indoor / outdoor space. Inside – where people arrive – is a multi-level dance environment (complete with brightly coloured characters already dancing). Located on the upper level of the club is Agent Forma, one of the Quest Givers from the Social Hub, who also forms the nucleus of two (at the time of writing) further quests – see below. Ther is also a Portal ring to one side of the main dance floor. I assume this will provide access to an events listing – or a listing of upcoming events at the club.

A pair of stairways across the lower level of the club from the spawn point offer the way to the outside area. This provides a couple of seating areas. Hover the mouse over a seat for the triangular sit icon and use the left mouse button or your pointer to sit.

The Socialite Guild club, accessible from the Nexus, and with quest giver Agent Forma floating in the background (enlarged in the inset)
The Socialite Guild Quests

There are three quests associated with The Socialite Guild. All three offer further Sansar Dollar and XP rewards when completed:

  • Find Agent Forma – initiated via Agent Primus in the Nexus.
  • Where the Party Starts: visit locations within the club – initiated by Agent Forma.
  • Shortcut: find the teleport to the club – initiated by Agent Forma. This quest had locked objectives when I attempted it.
The two (at the time of writing) quests that can be initiated by Agent Forma in The Socialite Guild

The Apex and “Gathering Spaces”

The Apex is a location directly over the Prime Portal, and reached via a large dedicated teleport disk located on the outer edge of the large circular platform on which the Prime Portal stands. Walking onto this teleport disk will automatically transport you to the Apex.

Quite what this is all about is unclear; presumably it will form a part of the unfolding “backstory” for Sansar. For now it offers two teleport points (one “up / arrival” and the other “down / departure”, both automatic) and a central sci-fi space that must be walked through to get from one teleport point to the other.

The Apex from without (l), as it sits over the Prime Portal, and from within (r)

Also scattered around the Nexus, and to both encourage social interaction and (possibly) to avoid people all stacking up in one place, are a number of “gathering spaces” – that’s seating areas to you and me – and lounges, some of which are indicated on the Nexus maps. Hover the mouse over a seat to display the triangular sit icon and take a seat. Walk to stand.

Avoiding the Nexus

Prior to its launch, much has been made of people “not wanting” to go to the Nexus for various reasons – such as worries about crowds, not wanting to go to the Nexus to get to editing content, etc. However, visits / stays in the Nexus can be avoided in a couple of ways:

  • By cancelling the Nexus loading – click the X button to the right of the load progress bar.
  • By clicking Go > Home.
Avoiding the Nexus and got to your Home Space

Both of these options will deliver you to your Home Space.

For those wishing to get so somewhere new to themselves without wanting to visit the Prime Portal first, the web version of the Atlas remains available and can be browsed ahead of logging-in to Sansar, then used to jump to a destination by launched the client and going directly there.

The Codex

What Is It?

The Codex is an Atlas-style UI element that records all of the locations a user has visited in Sansar. In addition it also provides access to the Sansar events listing and direct access to worlds published by the user. It is initially “unlocked” by completing The First Portal tutorial quest at the Nexus (see above), in which it briefly appears as a object.

Those who have been in Sansar for a while will find their Codex populated with at least some of the destinations they have visited / marked as a favourite in recent months.

How Does it Work?

Accessing the Codex is via the Go button (Go > Codex). This brings up a panel primarily split into an “index” on the left, and scrolling list on the right. The “index” is in turn split into two:

  • Worlds: offering sub-lists of all the worlds the user has visited; those the user has recorded as a Favourite; worlds belongs to friends and the worlds the user has published.
  • Events, comprising sub-lists of all available events (by time / date order); the user’s calendar of events they’ve indicated an interest in; events the user is hosting; a list of past events the user has attended.
The Codex UI
  • Hovering over a destination listed in the Codex will display:
    • The Visit button which, when clicked, will load that world.
    • The hide icon: when clicked, this will “remove” the world from a Codex until the user revisits that world.
  • Alternatively, clicking on the thumbnail will bring up further information on the destination, including a button to create a portal to it, or create a URL that can be used in a website or pasted into chat, etc.

In addition, any of the world lists includes a drop-down list of options for setting the order in which the worlds are listed (e.g. date visited, popularity, when created, etc.).

The Codex and one of the pop-out information windows

Experience Points (XP)

What Are They?

By performing certain quests and activities in Sansar, users can accumulate experience points (XP). These contribute to a user’s overall level.

  • A Level is a simplified representation of a user’s total accumulated XP. On reaching certain thresholds of XP, users “level up”.
  • Levels can be used as a potential indicator of the amount of time and experience a user has invested in Sansar; however, as Sansar is used by people in different ways, and may accumulate XP at different rates, this is by no means a definitive measure.
  • Also associated with XP are a series of Titles – as a user accumulates XP, so they will gain new titles. In a future release, user will be able select different titles to display as they achieve XP milestones.
XP Traits

There are four classes – or traits – of XP, focusing on the main areas of focus for users in Sansar:

  • Explorer: awarded for exploration-related activities.
  • Social: awarded for social activities.
  • Creator: awarded for activities related to creating content for Sansar.
  • General: refers to any XP gained that do not fall within the above three traits.

A breakdown of a user’s XP by trait can be obtained by viewing their profile and hovering over the level indicator. This will display a pop-up of experience points earned under the different traits.

Thoughts and Feedback

This release has a lot to unpack – and I’ve not covered everything within it, so please check out the release notes (if you’ve not done so already, given the time it has taken me to write this up!). However, given what I have covered, here are some thoughts.

Avatar 2.0

I’ll be honest, my thoughts on avatar 2.0 are mixed. As I’m already well past the TL;DR phase of things, I’ll just summarise my thinking in terms of “pros” and “cons”

Pros Cons
  • Less complex avatar (fewer bones), easing creation.
  • Powerful (if complex) facial customisation tools.
  • Very good auto-adjustment tool for fitting MD clothing
  • Good integration of the new tools for facial deformation, clothing adjustment, etc.
  • Uninspiring set of default avatars.
  • Odd female body look.
  • Weak and unnatural skin tones.
  • Poor default hair styles.
  • Limited “library” clothing (no non- sci-fi?).
  • Irritating manual MD adjustment tools

The Nexus, Portals and Codex

As a central / social hub, the Nexus is an engaging, well designed, location that is easy to navigate and really does what it says on the tin. It has the potential to serve its purpose well, but concerns around possible spamming / trolling / harassing remain. Moderation may be required.

The Prime Portal and Codex do the jobs they are designed to do, and I admit to particularly liking the Codex. Yes, for those who are familiar with the Atlas it might not seem that much of a change, but really, by focusing on places visited, it is – and it’s a lot more convenient to access preferred locations.

My one concern is how people might feel about rubber-banding in and out of the Nexus to discover places – at least until they discover other mechanisms for discovery. On the whole, however, potentially a good move towards making Sansar feel more of a place than a set of isolated rooms. I look forward to seeing how it develops.

Quests

The First Portal tutorial quest struck me as basic (as noted), and potentially in need of further support with additional tutorials. Hopefully these will come in time.

The remaining quests – Nexus and Socialite Guild – are simple and a good way to both get people exploring and initially engaged in the platform.

XP System

I have no real feelings one way or the other about this. On the one hand, I can see the system as a means of encouraging engagement in Sansar – particularly for those into games and the who idea of “levelling up”, etc.

I’m certainly curious to see how the system develops and expands, but this kind of thing (badges, titles, points) is not something that personally grabs me as a reason to participate in something (I’m not even interested n them as a means of recognition / status  / knowledge / whatever ). But, given it is only early days, my opinion may yet change.

Stability

In terms of stability, this is perhaps the worst release of Sansar I’ve encountered, having experienced numerous crashes, both within the Nexus (e.g. when teleporting, when touching Agent Forma and at other times), and also when editing my avatar in the Look Book. As the in-world issues have yet to repro, I in fairness cannot say if the crashes I experienced were the client fainting, or something else getting upset in my computer or with my connection to the Sansar hosts.

The crashes in Look Book were also seemingly random, and not tied any particular operation, although two occurred whilst adjusting MD clothing, forcing me to start over. No big thing, but the second (different item of clothing to the first) did result in some teeth grinding.

Back to Avatar 2.0