2018 Sansar Product Meetings week #35: release R25 preview

Horizon Maze – that’s me, bottom centre, for a sense of scale – blog post

The following notes are taken from the Sansar Product Meeting held on Thursday, August 28th. These Product Meetings are open to anyone to attend, are a mix of voice (primarily) and text chat. Dates and times are currently floating, so check the Sansar Atlas events sections each week.

Attending this meeting were  Nyx, Derrick, Aleks, Torley and Ebbe. Unfortunately, I was AFK for part of the meeting, and while I was gone, my client disconnected from the meeting location, so I missed some 25 minutes of discussion.

Next Release

At the meeting, Cara confirmed that Permissions / Licensing will not be part of the next release (R25), due to some last-minute issues that need to be addressed. However, items slated to appear include (note this is a limited list, due to my being disconnected from the meeting whilst AFK):

Commerce

  • The initial release of the Sansar Store within the client.
    • The Client version of the store will allow items to be browsed. However, for purchasing, the user will be transferred from the client version of the Store to the web version in their browser.
    • The ability to purchase goods from within the client will be added in a future update.
  • A shopping cart capability in the Sansar Store on the web.
  • The gifting of Sansar Dollars to another avatar will be possible with the next release, although it is be subject to the 15% commission payment to LL – so a gift of S$100 from one avatar to another will in fact be S$115 for the avatar making the gift. The 15% commission charge serves a dual purpose:
    • It is in line with the Lab generating revenue through transactions.
    • More importantly, it prevents users avoiding paying any commission to the Lab by paying one another directly for goods and services.
    • Gifting of goods will be possible in a future release.

Events

  • The next release will allow custom images to be added to people’s events, rather than having to use the experience image.

General

  • A teleport sound will be added, allowing those within an experience to hear when someone has teleported.
  • Avatar-to-avatar collisions will be turned off. This should hopefully prevent narrow passages, doorways, etc., from being blocked by an avatar standing in / in front of a confined space.

Permissions / Licensing

Although it will not be part of the next release, Nyx provided more insight into the permissions that will be available when the system is deployed. These will comprise:

  • Permission for content to be resold, including how much money should be earned by the creator, whether the item is directly re-sold or used as a component within another creator’s item.
    • Included in this is the ability to specify what properties within an object can be further modified by a purchaser. This will allow purchasers to set properties within an object without the creator having to give up the right to earn from any re-sale of the object.
  • Full permissions on an item – essentially an open-source licence for the object and its contents to by used howsoever a buyer wishes, including claiming it as their own, so that no further income is earned by the original creator.
  • There is apparently one further permissions category to be added, and may follow the initial deployment of the permissions system when it happens. However, Nyx did not go into specifics on this.

CDN Asset Distribution

It is hoped that asset delivery for experiences will be moving to CDN (Content Delivery Network) distribution / delivery will be happening in the very near future. This means that rather than having all the data for an experience being delivered from the Amazon services, content assets could be delivered from a “local” CDN cache. It is the approach currently used for asset delivery within Second Life. It is hoped that this move will reduce the load times for those experiences that have had their assets previously cached within a “local” CDN node.

General Discussion

Store

  • There have been further requests for additional store categories (e.g. “Trees and plants”), with ideas being requested. The Lab fully intends to keep adding to the categories list as it become clear what is needed.
  • It has been requested that sub-categories are better surfaced. For example, being able to mouse over the Avatar category, and have the category list expand to show all of the avatar sub-categories, rather than have to go to the Avatar category list, then click for a drop-down of sub-categories. The Lab had been working on something similar to this, but the work was sidelined; it may be resumed.
  • Work is proceeding on making notifications visible to VR users, although this will not be in a forthcoming release.

Edit Server Issues

Some issues have arisen with the move to the Edit Server infrastructure. These include scene settings failing to persist, and scenes reporting as being saved when they have not. One issue with settings failing to persist is the sky being set to 0 – so everything is black when entering the scene in Edit mode. The way to fix this is to go to the scene settings and adjust the sky distance. The Lab has been trying to reproduce the issue with scene settings failing to persist, but so far have not been able to do so.

People having specific, repeated issues with scene settings can made a copy of the scene and contact the Lab, who will take the copy and run it on their test environment for further investigation.

In Brief

  • Support for Nvidia RTX: not currently being planned.
  • Improvements are being made to the Chat App, including quality of life improvements for viewing chat, and (hopefully) timestamps again chat items.
  • Support for custom avatar animations, including the ability to sell them, is planned for the R26 release.
  • Work is progressing on customisable controller options for VR handset – no release date as yet.
  • A virtual keyboard for VR users is also being developed, but not details on how it will work as yet.
  • Disabling capabilities in run-time: this has come up on a few occasions. There is concerns that if there is not a simple, direct way to inform users as to what is / is not permitted in an experience (e.g. having teleports allowed in one experience, but disabled in another), they could become confused when hopping between different experiences.
  • Cancelling an experience load: an option will be coming to allow users to abort loading an experience which is taking – for them – too long.
  • Consideration is being given to changing the Atlas in terms of how experiences are listed (is concurrency the best approach?). This may include providing categories under which experiences can be listed (e.e. Games, Educational, etc.), to make searching and listing experiences easier.
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2018 Sansar Product Meetings week #34: permissions system

No Spectators: The Art of Burning Man – Truth is Beauty, by Marco Cochrane

The following notes are taken from the Sansar Product Meeting held on Thursday, August 23rd. These Product Meetings are open to anyone to attend, are a mix of voice (primarily) and text chat. Dates and times are currently floating, so check the Sansar Atlas events sections each week.

Attending this meeting were Eliot, the Sansar Community Manager, with Bagman Linden (Linden Lab’s Chief Technology Officer, Jeff Petersen), Birdman, SeanT and Nyx Linden.

Edit Mode Move to Server-Side

  • Edit mode became server-centric (rather than client-local) on Wednesday, August 22nd.
  • The one drawback in this move is that it means that when editing a scene for the first time, there will be a delay in accessing Edit mode while the server is spun-up and loads.
  • The move paves the way for the introduction of the new licensing / permissions / supply chain system.
  • It will also in time allow for things like creators being able to work collaboratively within the same scene.
    • This is indicated as being “pretty far down the line”, and unlikely to appear before 2019.

Licensing / Permissions / Supply Chain System Deployment

It had been intimated in previous meetings that the licensing / permissions / supply chain system could start to be deployed in the September release. However, Nyx Linden was a little more cautious in addressing when the  deployment might occur.

  • The Lab is still working on some bug fixes and wish to ensure the first stage of deployment is smooth and successful.
  • Due to the way in which things are interlinked, the deployment would be pretty much all of the core supply chain / licensing / permissions system, although further extensions to the capability may be added in the future.
  • The system will include a “Save to Inventory” option.
    • This will initially only allow for objects to be “added to” – so an object can have a script or lighting capabilities added to it and then saved back to inventory. It will not initially allow for disparate objects (e.g. walls and floor and roof) to be combined into a single object.
    • It will however allow creators to use licensed components (e.g. scripts, sounds, lights) from other creators in their own items, and then sell those items, with the component creators also receiving payment.
    • The ability to combine disparate objects into a single unit will be added over time.
  • All items sold through the Sansar Store prior to the permissions system deployment will be set to “no resale” to prevent them being wrongly re-used / re-sold.
  • Items uploaded after the system is deployed will always be available for re-use in other peoples’ objects.
    • However, the original creator will have the ability to set whether or not their creations can be re-sold. So, if an item flagged as “not for re-sale” is used as a component in another creator’s object, they will not be able to then place that object for sale.
  • Clothing and avatar accessories will not be included in the initial permissions system deployment.

Experience Loading

  • The Lab is continuing to look at experience loading and when to “drop” the loading screen and allow people to start moving around within an experience.
  • One option being considered is to have everything within immediate viewing range of a spawn point to be caches by the client prior to dropping the loading screen, then having lower resolution textures on the faces of more distant objects or those that are initially “out of sight”, which are then progressively swapped out for hight resolution textures during the first one or two minutes the user is in the experience.
  • This would allow access to experiences to be somewhat quicker for some, although it would mean that spawning followed by immediate rapid teleporting might result in seeing some of the lower-grade textures prior to them being swapped out.
    • However, the experience wouldn’t be like SL, where actual objects are still being rendered (resulting in an avatar walking into a wall that has yet to render in their view; all of the physical objects would be visible in Sansar, some might just briefly have lower quality textures.
  • Sansar caches sizes: Sansar uses a 10Gb “large” cache and a 10Gb “small” cache for smaller files. Both of these will be user-configurable in the future)

Disabling Capabilities in Run-Time

  • Some types of experience that would benefit from having some run-time capabilities such as free camera movement or teleporting disabled in the Runtime mode (e.g. blocking the ability for someone to avoid traps in a game by teleporting past them, or using the free cam to cheat their way around a maze).
  • Bagman confirmed the back-end technology, as it stands, doesn’t allow for this, but it is something the Lab is aware of, and something they do want to address and make possible. However, it is not as high on the priority list right now as some other aspects of interactivity and options for creators the Lab wants to add to the platform.

VR Avatar Options

The Lab is working on “switching on” the avatar in VR, including the ability to see your hand  / body in first-person VR (one would hope this is also extended to Desktop as well); the ability to use hand gestures (e.g. give a thumbs-up, clench a fist, etc.) through the VR controllers,  etc.

In Brief

  • Avatar collisions: The R25 update should include the ability to disable the avatar collision capsule, making in possible for other avatars to come as close to you as possible (and even pass through your own.
  • Finding people within an experience: this has been previously discussed, and the Lab is a looking at options (e.g. “teleport to friends” or a teleport request option or an ability to be directly teleported to friends on accessing an experience, etc.
  • Voice indicator: another long-standing request – a means to more easily identify who is speaking on Voice – also being looked at.
  • Object hand-off: the ability to directly pass an object from one avatar to another is also being looked at by the Lab.
  • VR Options:
    • VR Look Book: this will be coming “soon” to Sansar, allowing VR users to change outfits, swap avatars without having to come out of VR.
    • Tactile feedback: a small vibration is being added to VR hand controllers when picking up or dropping objects.
    • Ability to change the client settings from within VR: this isn’t currently being looked at, but is seen as perhaps needing to be moved up the priorities list.
    • Text chat in VR: is seen as requiring a more technical solution – a virtual keyboard, etc., – although it is on the UI team’s radar.
  • Server crash: There are occasions when an experience server can crash, leaving the local “instance” of the scene running on the client. When this happens, the use has no idea the server has crashed – and nor, initially, does the client. As there can be latency and other network delays between server and client, the Sansar client has a very long-time out while waiting for updates (around 90 seconds). During this time, the only indicator that something has happened as that other avatars in the experience will not more or respond to voice / chat. Bagman has indicated the Lab will see if there is anything that can be done to make such crashes clearer to the user when they occur, rather than just waiting on the time-out.

 

Sansar: August release and upcoming Edit Server

Scurry Landia

Thursday, July 16th saw the release of the Sansar Script, Snapshot and Share update. After the extensive updates in the July release, this is a more modest update, with a focus on what the Lab refers to a “quality of life” improvements – focusing on user-related capabilities, notably for creators.

This article highlights some of the more visible new features and updates with the release. As always, full details of the updates in the new release are available in the release notes.  In addition, these notes also include comments from the August 16th, 2018 Product Meeting, which preceded the release. Boden was attending the meeting, together with Aleks and Zaius. Their voices, along with that of Community Manager Eliot, can be heard in the audio extracts included below.

To jump directly to information on the upcoming Edit Server changes click here.

Events Improvements

This release follows in the footsteps of the web Events on the Sansar website, allowing you to add your events to your local Sansar calendar, which also has its own tab within the Events panel.

To make use of it:

  • Within the client, either while displaying the Atlas or within an experience, click on the Events calendar icon in the top right set of icons. This will open the Events panel (note: you can also get to the Events panel via the open Atlas and clicking Featured > View All Events).
  • The Events panel, which now comprises just two tabs: All Events and My Calendar (which replaces the My Events tab). To add an event to your Sansar calendar, click on the Add To Calendar button.
  • You Can then view all your recorded events (including those in the recent past) in the My Calendar tab. This actually lists:
    • Events you have created and are hosting, if you have created any.
    • Upcoming events you’ve added to your calendar (if any).
    • Those events you’ve recorded / attended in the past.
  • Listed upcoming / past events include a Remove From Calendar button, allowing your list to be managed.
The new option to add events to your Sansar calendar (ringed). Note that Featured events are no longer listed in a separate Events tab, but are highlighted within the main listing (arrowed). This was, IIRC, made in a prior release, but worth pointing out here in case someone missed  it

Events added to your Sansar calendar will also appear on the web version of the your calendar and vice-versa (a refresh of either will be required if both are open at the same time when adding / removing events from one or the other).

There is currently no ability to add events from the client to external calendars (Google, Apple, Outlook, Yahoo) as you can via the Sansar web site. This will hopefully be in a future update.

Snapshots to Profiles Update

It is now possible to save snapshots taken with the client to your Sansar web profile via a new button – Share. When you’ve positioned the camera and sized the capture area to your requirements, clicking the Share button will:

  • Save the image.
  • Upload it to your profile on the web.
  • Open a tab in your default web browser and display the snapshot.
With the August 2018 Sansar release, it is now possible to upload snapshots to your web profile, where they can be viewed by yourself and others

In the snapshot web page, it is possible to:

  • View all of your snapshots.
  • View all snapshots of the Experience featured in a given picture.
  • View the latest snapshots uploaded by anyone.
  • Delete the snapshot you are displaying (your own snapshots only).
  • Report a snapshot (only available when viewing snapshots uploaded by others).

The options are listed above an image when viewing them in your browser, and are arrowed in the image above. You can also obviously share the image URL if you wish.

You can view other people’s snapshots directly from their web profile. So, if you click on the name of an experience creator, or on the name of a friend in your Friends list, for example, you can view their snapshots alongside of their published experiences and current store listings (if they have any of either of the latter). Clicking on a snapshot will display it in its own page, with the options described above.

Side Notes on Snapshots to Profiles

  • Snapshots to profiles can currently only be viewed on the web, they cannot be seen when viewing profiles from within the client.
  • There is no ability to caption a snapshot with a description. This is intentional on part of the Lab, although it may be reconsidered in the future.
  • In the future, snapshots will be appended to the web pages for experiences as well, whether uploaded by the experience creator or anyone else (however, the experience creator will be able to moderate which snapshots remain displayed on their experience page.
    • This is why the ability to include descriptions in uploaded snapshots has been excluded; it is felt that there is too much risk of people leaving inappropriate descriptions with images, giving experience creators a moderation headache.
    • This option is ready to go, but will be turned on once the necessary moderation tools are in place for experience creators to manage snapshots shared to their experiences.
  • However, a future update to the capability will include the ability to tag snapshots, making them searchable.

Other snapshot items raised at the Product Meeting:

  • This update doesn’t change anything else within the snapshot app. However there have been requests put forward the Lab is considering:
    • Adding date and time to snapshots when captured.
    • Auto-generating sequential file names for snapshots taken in sequence, rather than each one having to be manually named.
    • Possible offering a broader range of saved file formats (e.g. TGA, JPG, etc).
  • One thing that is being considered is the option to take a series of snapshots and have them “held” during a session, allowing the user to then go through them and select which ones they want to actually upload to their profile and discard the rest.

Edit Mode Improvements

Scene Report Generation

It is now possible to export a .CSV breakdown (comma-separated values file that may be opened in a spreadsheet or text editor.) of every object in your scene. These reports comprise:

  • Name.
  • Size estimate for download.
  • Number of textures.
  • Number of triangles.

Reports are generated via Scene Toolbar > About This Scene > Generate Report > Set the destination location on your computer > Save.

Import Lighting from .FBX

This release allows creators to create point lighting (e.g. colour, intensity, animation) in their preferred editing tool and then import them directly into the scenes as .FBX files. Once in Sansar, the properties for these lights can still be edited  when the .FBX file is within a scene.

Additional Edit Mode Enhancements

  • Locking persistence: objects locked within a scene when editing will now remain locked between Edit mode sessions.
  • Scene objects panel enhancements: these comprise:
    • Rename a scene object’s name: the name fields for various scene objects have been removed from the properties panel, with the Rename option moved to the scene objects panel.
    • New object icons: there are new object icons attached to scene objects to help guide you in distinguishing items
  • Toggle visibility per object: it is now possible to toggle an object’s visibility in a scene.
  • Toggle selectability per object: the ability to select an object within a scene can now be disabled or enabled. This allows for easier selection of objects which may be layered behind others, etc (e.g. lighting within an object).
  • Trigger Volume filter: it is now possible to now filter by trigger volumes.

Scripting Updates

New Simple Scripts

Simple scripts were introduced in the August release with the aim of offering non-scripters the ability to achieve basic functions within their scenes (such as opening / closing doors, etc.), in an easy-to-understand and simple manner. The August release builds on this with three further simple scripts:

  • SimpleDispenser to rez objects.
    • Currently this does not include any form of parameter to allow spawned objects to decay, but does include the ability to remove the last or all spawned objects.
    • It includes the ability to cap how many items can be spawned in a given time.
    • Objects are spawned as the are imported into the script. So a dynamic object imported into the script will spawn as a dynamic object, for example.
  • SimpleMedia to change the streaming media
 – the Greenwall VR experience utilises the SimpleMedia script on their media board.
  • SimpleObjectReset to reset an object’s position.

Additionally, the SimpleCollision script has been revamped to better handle Trigger Volumes.

New Base Script Class: ObjectScript.

In anticipation of rezzable scripts (not yet enabled), this base class only has access to ScenePublic and a maximum of 10 parameters. SceneObjectScript scripts will not run on rezzed content; ObjectScript scripts can run on scene content or rezzable content.


Other Scripting Updates

  • Parameters limit for scene objects increased from 10 to 20 parameters.
  • ObjectPrivate.AddInteraction: an Interaction to an object dynamically. Used to add Interactions to rezzed objects or when it isn’t desired that the Interaction prompt be a script parameter.
  • Improved syntax for [DefaultValue] on vectors, quaternions and colours. These no longer need to be specially formatted strings, simply list 2 to 4 values: [DefaultValue(1.2, 3.4, 5.6)]
  • SimpleScript base class deprecated. Not to be confused with the new Simple Scripts. Scripts that use this base class will still compile with a warning. Support for new compiles will be disabled in a future release.

Store Categories

It is now possible to browse the Sansar Store using the two new top-level categories of Avatar Looks and Scene Creation, with the sub-categories defined accordingly.

New Edit Server

Due to appear in a point release between the August (R24) and September (R25) updates is the Edit Server release. This moves scene editing from within the Sansar Client (and local) to being server-based. It means that when editing a scene for the first time, there will be a delay in accessing Edit mode and the scene being edited as the Edit Server instance is spun-up.

The reason for this change is to pave the way for a range of new capabilities in Sansar, most notably in relation to the platform’s upcoming licensing / permissions / supply chain system.

Moving the Edit capabilities server-side allow the Lab to incorporate the ability to check the licenses associated with all of the objects within a scene and verify what can / cannot be done with them (e.g. is an object / script modifiable? Can it be incorporated into objects intended for sale? etc).

The initial benefit of this is that it will allow creators to build complex objects in a scene and then export them as a single object back to inventory (so a car is complete with its wheels, engine, seats, etc.), rather than these all being individual objects), allowing the composite object to be sold.

Additionally, this will enable the licensing / permissions / supply chain system of Sansar’s economy, so that duly licensed objects by other creators can be used within an individual’s own creations, which can then be saved to inventory and sold through the Sansar Store. The first elements of the licensing  / permissions / supply chain system is due to start deployment in upcoming releases following the switch to using the Edit Server. Beyond this, the move may in the future allow for things like creators being able to work collaboratively within the same scene.

2018 Sansar Product Meetings week #32: Edit mode

Channelling my inner Trekkie at the Roddenberry Nexusblog post

The following notes are taken from the Sansar Product Meeting held on Thursday, August 9th. These Product Meetings are open to anyone to attend, are a mix of voice (primarily) and text chat. Dates and times are currently floating, so check the Sansar Atlas events sections each week.

The primary topic of the meeting was Sansar’s Edit mode, with Regomatic, who is a part of the Edit Mode development team talking about what has recently been released for Edit Mode, future plans, and taking a Q&A.

Date of Next Release

The planned release date for the next Sansar update is Thursday, August 16th, 2018. However, it is entirely dependent upon Sansar’s schedule of public events for August – see below for more on this – which my cause the update deployment pushed back until later in the month.

Promoting Sansar

Not strictly a technical aspect of Sansar, however, the platform is spending time “on the road” and also raising its visibility among different global audiences.

  • On August 1st through 5th Sansar was at the Star Trek Las Vegas convention, where the Roddenberry Nexus was unveiled – see More Star Trek in Sansar: the Roddenberry Nexus for more.
  • On August 10th through 12th Sansar is at the Los Angeles edition of KCON, with the promise of “more exclusives” with regards to that.
  • A further e-sports “thing” is also in the offing for later in August. An earlier attempt at an e-sports link was pulled shortly after being announced. It’s not clear if this is a further attempt, or something else entirely.
  • A the same time, Sansar and Twitch are hosting “Twitch Streamer” days throughout August, with Twitch users being encouraged to drop into Sansar and explore.

Express Yourself Release Edit Mode Updates

The July Express Yourself update included a number of Edit mode updates:

  • Multiple Object Select / property application: The properties panel now works when multiple objects are selected, allowing the value of a property to be changed and applied across all selected objects.
  • Animated materials update: it is now possible to specify which textures in a material will be subject to the scrolling effect. This affects the following shaders:
    • Standard + Emissive + UV animation.
    • Standard + Alpha Mask – UV animation.
  • Standardise geometry option: by default, all objects uploaded into Sansar will go through an optimisation process that makes objects more efficient, foregoing the upload window optimisation process.
    • This can be disabled via a drop-down panel option.
    • The auto decimation will not apply to clothing or avatar attachments.
  • Object total triangle count: view the total triangle count of objects.
  • Real-time Gizmo updates: Position/rotation values update in real-time as the Gizmo is manipulated.
  • Fixes:
    • Rotation values no longer flip 180 degrees as you enter values
    • Scene settings no longer close the properties panel and vice versa; both can be displayed at the same time.

In addition to the above, the focus mode has been improved. Rather than just centring on an object when pressing F, it will now zoom the camera to the object. If two objects are selected and focus is used, the system will find a balance so that both are visible after zooming.

Upcoming Edit Mode Updates

August Update

  • Per-object settings: this should be a part of the August release, this will allow visibility to be toggled on individual objects within a specified type. So, rather than only being able to toggle visible for all audio materials, it will be possible to toggle it for an individual audio object. The state set for each object will persist between sessions. States will be indicated by “eyeball” icons.
  • Improved selectability of objects: it is currently different to select an object in Edit mode when it is “stacked” with others. The August release should improve this be adding a “selectability” icon / option. When set, it will make objects either selectable or cause them to be ignored when attempting to select others groups with them. Again, the individual states of objects will be indicated by a cursor icon, and will persist between sessions.
  • Container naming and renaming objects: the August release will include friendlier names for container, and the ability to rename anything in the scene objects list, rather than having to go through the Properties panel. Names can be up to 64 characters.
  • Analytics improvements:
    • The diagnostics ribbon in Edit mode is to be enhanced to include number of textures and the estimated download size, as well as the number of triangles.
    • There will be a new report option that will give a breakdown of all object in a scene and the amount of space they take up.
    • In addition, it has been requested that the analytics include the number of draws it takes to render an object, as high draw counts can often be a performance issue.

September Update

  • Folder support for scene objects: allowing objects to be placed together in folder, and allow entire folders to be selected and pulled into a scene, the ability to see the combined properties, etc.
    • Once scene object folders have been deployed, inventory folders will be coming as a future update.
    • Folder names will have a maximum length of 64 characters.

Still to be Prioritised for Future Release

  • Arrays for scripts: ability to use arrays rather than hard-coded parameters (e.g. an array to allow a user to pick a sound, rather than having to hard-code “sound 1”, “sound 2”, “sound 3”, etc.).
  • Locking improvements: currently, locking a container does not necessarily lock all of its children. In a future release  this will be revised such that it does.
  • Inventory folders: these are being worked on, and discussion are being had on the use of folders and the possible use of saving search categories / grouping by category to go with folders.

General Q&A

Scene / Experience Management Requests

  • Disabling capabilities in run-time: there are so types of experience that would benefit from having some run-time capabilities such as free camera movement or teleporting disabled in the Runtime mode (e.g. blocking the ability for someone to avoid traps in a game by teleporting past them, or using the free cam to cheat their way around a maze). These could be done via the scene settings, and Regomatic is going to look into it.
    • It was noted that if abilities to disable user-facing options are added to Sansar. then the ability to inform users as to what has been disabled (voice, teleport, freecamming, etc.), either before or when they enter the experience.
  • Search capabilities for scene objects: name, object type, etc. Possibly inclusion of thumbnail images of objects within the scene list to allow for visual recognition of objects, particular where multiple objects might have similar names (“Rock A”, “Rock B”, etc.).
  • Image size standardisation: currently, multiple image sizes and formats are required for items – one size saved within inventory, a different image size for the store, etc., requiring multiple image uploads. Automatic re-use of a single uploaded image would be preferable, and the Lab is looking into this.

Continue reading “2018 Sansar Product Meetings week #32: Edit mode”

2018 Sansar Product Meeting week #31: physics

Scurry Waters: product meeting location

The following notes are taken from the Sansar Product Meeting held on Thursday, August 2nd. These Product Meetings are open to anyone to attend, are a mix of voice (primarily) and text chat. Dates and times are currently floating, so check the Sansar Atlas events sections each week.

The primary topic of the meeting was Sansar physics, although inevitably other subjects were also covered.

My apologies for the music in the audio extracts. This is from the experience where the meeting was held, and I didn’t disable the experience audio input.

Express Yourself Release Updates

The July Express Yourself Release (see my overview here) had two short-order updates following its deployment.  Both were to provide fixes for emerging issues. The first went out on July 19th, and the second on July 30th.

Client-side Physics

The Express Yourself release included an alteration to network behaviour that means physics interactions occur locally within the client first, allowing the user an immediate response. The idea is to allow the kind of immediate feedback to the user that will be essential to dynamic activities such as drive or flying a vehicle as well as allowing for more immediate response when picking an object up, walking, firing a gun, etc.

However, as the updates still need to pass through the server and then back out to everyone else, this can result in objects appearing to instantaneously move when control is passed to another avatar. More particularly, it was discovered the change could adversely affect any movement governed by scripts, which require additional time for server-side processing, and this resulted in some content breakage, which in turn caused the updates  – notably that of July 30th – to be issued in order to fix things.

It has also resulted in some behaviourial changes with scripted interactions; for example: when firing a scripted gun, as the action still requires server-side script processing, while initial movement response is client-side, it is possible to fire a gun while moving and have the projectile appear to spawn separately to the gun and avatar (e.g. behind or slightly to one side). This is to be looked at if the July 30th update hasn’t fixed it.

This work is going to be refined over time to make interactions both responsive and smoother, and is seen as an initial step towards more complex object interactions, such as being able to pick in-world objects up and hold them in the avatar’s hands.

Avatar Location Issue

One side effect of this is that avatars in an experience, when seen by others, can appear to be in a different place to where they have placed themselves. At the meeting for example, some avatars appeared to be in the local group in their own view (and, I think, to some others), but were appearing to still be at the spawn point for the experience in other people’s views. This seemed to be particularly noticeable with avatars standing still, with movement required to force the server to update everyone’s client on the location of an avatar. A further confusion from this issue is that as voice is based on an avatar’s position relative to your own, if they appear to be much further away, they cannot be heard, even if in their own view they are standing right next to you.

Avatar Locomotion Enhancements

Improvements to avatar locomotion are said to be in development at the Lab. This work includes:

  • The ability to use animation overriders.
  • Additional animation states (e.g. jump)
  • Avatar physics driving – allowing avatars to be affected by physics for things like ballistic movement or falling.

It has been suggested this work should include an ability for the avatar IK to be enabled or disabled alongside creator animations, depending on the animation type being used.

The client scripting idea requires careful consideration: will creators want their scripts run client-side? Could it be a toggle option so scripts can be expressly flagged to run of the server only? What would be the communications mechanism between script on the client and scripts on the server to ensure they remain synchronised? Should client scripts be limited to only certain capabilities, with the server still doing the heavy lifting? and so on. So – look for the ability to attach avatars to vehicles (and vehicles to avatars and objects to one another) in the future.

Vehicles

As noted above, the work on making physics more client-side active is aimed towards enabling better vehicles (using the term generically, and not as a representation just of road / wheeled type vehicles) and their controls in Sansar.  This will likely initially take the form of an ability to attach avatars to vehicle objects (a-la Second Life), allowing both to be “driven” via scripted control. This would allow for very simple vehicle types.  From there the Lab’s thinking is moving in two directions:

  • A scripted approach (client-side?) that would allow for a more flexible approach to defining vehicles and their capabilities;
  • A “vehicle component” within the platform that could be applied to different vehicle models to enable movement, etc. This would be potentially the easier of the two approaches, but would limit the degree of customisation that could be employed to ensure it fits certain vehicle types,

Scene Load Times

There has been  – from the start with Sansar – much discussion on scene load times. While a lot has been done on the Lab’s part to improve things there are some experiences that do still take a lot of time to load, and for some, depending on the circumstance may never load. There are really two issues for scene loading:

  • Bandwidth – the biggest.
  • Memory footprint – some experiences can top-out with a physical memory footprint of 14.5 Gb. For a PC with “just” 16 Gb of memory, that represents a struggle. Virtual memory (disk space) can obviously compensate, but can lead to a performance degradation.

In hard, practical terms, there is little the Lab can directly do to resolve these issues – a person’s bandwidth is whatever their ISP provides, and physical memory is whatever is in the box. However, as noted there has been a fair amount of work to offer improved optimisation of scenes, improve load times through the way data is handled – notably textures, potentially one of the biggest causes of download problems, and sound file handling (another big issue) – and more work is coming, with Lab CEO Ebbe Altberg recently noting a number of options being considered, by way of the Sansar Discord channel:

  • Progressive texture loading.
  • CDN distribution (for more localised / faster availability of scene objects materials and textures, rather than having to call them “long distance” through the cloud).
  • Background scene loading.
  • Addition of better LOD capabilities for model loading /rendering (if it is far away, only load / render the low-detail model).

Further indicators are, I understand, also planned for the Scene Editor, designed to keep experience creators better informed about the load times of objects and elements. Appropriate elements of this information will also be made available in store listing for items, allowing scene builders to again make more informed choices about the items they may be considering buying for inclusion in their experiences. There are also some practical work creators can do to ease things across the board: use smaller textures, decimate their mesh models correctly,  employ reuse of sounds and textures, etc.

In Brief

  • Aggressive render culling: Sansar can employ some aggressive render culling resulting in objects appearing clipped or vanishing from a scene unexpectedly. This is most obvious with animated objects using bone animations. This is to be looked at.
  • The last few minutes of the meeting were focused on ideas such as having a mini-map capability to find people within an experience; an ability to “go to” teleport to a friend; the ability to offer a teleport someone in an experience to your location, etc.

2018 Sansar Product Meeting week #29: avatars, permissions system, roadmap

Aech's Basement, Sansar; Inara Pey, March 2018, on FlickrSansar: Aech’s Basementblog post

The following notes are taken from the Sansar Product Meeting held on Friday, July 20th. These weekly Product Meetings are open to anyone to attend, are a mix of voice (primarily) and text chat. Check the Events calendar for dates and times for future meeting.

The focus for this meeting was initially on the increase in allowed experiences (see here for my thoughts) and on the July Express Yourself release, which I reviewed here.

Experience Increases and Sansar Subscriptions

The news that Linden Lab have increased the number of allowed experiences under each membership tier (Free – 20; Creator (US $9.99 per month) – 25; Super-Creator (US $29.99 per month) – 30; Professional ($99.99 per month) – 40) raised two core questions during the meeting:

  • Will this move see the Lab increase transaction fees?
  • What value is there for people on paid subscriptions to keep those subscriptions given the massive increase in allowed experiences for Free account holders?

In addressing the fees issue, Landon from the Sansar Product team indicated that the Lab does not intend to make any changes to transactions fees as a result of this change – but that future possible changes could not be ruled out as Sansar continues to develop. Eliot, the Sansar Community Manager also made it clear the increases to allowed experiences are not part of any bigger plan to increase fees or anything else.

In terms of maintaining the value of Sansar paid subscription options, Landon indicated the plan will most likely be to make them more attractive by adding further practical benefits and perks in addition to the current Marvelous Designer free trial and subscription discounts.

A side question to this was whether the limit on the number of items Free accounts can list on the Sansar Store might be re-introduced, in order to make subscription accounts more appealing. Landon indicated he would prefer not to take steps like this, that might be seen as limiting creativity, but rather work to deliver more value to subscription accounts.

Express Yourself Update

Custom Avatars

The new custom avatars option has been well received, with a number of creators making avatars for their personal use, with some also being offered on the Sansar Store.

The first Custom Avatars are now available on the Sansar Store. They can be viewed by clicking Explore in the Store’s top menu and selecting Avatars from the drop-down list, or by clicking on All and then selecting Avatars from the categories drop-down (shown above).

Note that custom avatars are a single piece wearable – they cannot be combined with other Sansar clothing or avatar accessories.

Once obtained from the Store, custom avatars are stored in the Look Book inventory and can be worn via the appearance editor panel in Look Book, as explained in the image below.

Wearing a custom avatar via the Look Book: click Customise to open the appearance editor. Click the avatar tab (arrowed at the top of the appearance editor) if it is not already open. Click on the avatar button (circled, top right. Click on one of the the avatar wearables in your inventory, which will be applied to your avatar. Click Done.   

Other points from the custom avatar discussion:

  • Blender custom avatar export issues: some people have reported problems in exporting custom avatars from Blender into Sansar. To help with this, Jeremy Linden has produced a new knowledge base article to hopefully address these problems:
  • Dynamic bones for custom avatars: this is being thought about at the Lab, but is not something that will be seen for at least a couple of months.
  • Avatars as NPCs: there are currently no plans to allow custom avatars to be used as non-player characters (NPCs) within Sansar.
    • An alternative suggestion is to allow existing avatars to be used as NPCs (presumably through additional scripting support). This is something Landon and Cara from the product team have agreed to look into.
  • Clothing on custom avatars: as noted above, it is not possible to use Sansar clothing and accessories on custom avatars. Some creators have already expressed a preference for this remaining the case, as it will eliminate the need to provide multiple sizes of clothing to fit different avatars, and the work that can involved with rigging.

Multiple Object Select / Property Application

Following on from the introduction of object multi-select, a request has been made to take this a stage further and allow the creation of an empty container into which other elements can be placed. This is something that will be coming, and will have the ability to hold tangible and non-tangible objects (such as scripts) and make them available in a scene.

Interaction Physics

Express Yourself sees many of the physics related to avatar / object interactions moved client-side. On the one hand, this should allow for more accurate interactions, such as bouncing a ball off of a bat. On the other, its has resulted in some functional breakages within experiences where scripts expert the server to run physics interactions in a specific order, which can no longer be guaranteed with running some of them on the client.

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