Sansar: client Atlas update and Anu’s Copper Valley

Sansar: Copper Valley

As per my 2018 week #3 Product Meeting notes, the Sansar Client Atlas has been updates to include the new Popularity sort option and currency indicator.

When selected from the sort drop-down menu (see below), the Popularity option orders the listed experiences in a tab by current real-time use, so those with avatars actually visiting them will be listed first. In addition, those experiences with avatars in them have a concurrency indicator in the top left corner of their thumbnail image. This is a near real-time indicator that the experience is in use at the time it is seen in the Atlas.

Client Atlas: popularity in sort drop-down (circled), and the concurrency indicators (arrowed) available for all experiences with avatars in them on all tabs

The banner images from that Product Meeting report was an advanced look at a new experience by Anu Amun, which is now publicly listed in the Atlas, by the name Copper Valley. A work-in-progress, it offers a mechanoid landscape inspired by steampunk.

The spawn point for the experience drops visitors onto a platform roughly in the middle of this curious landscape. A raised walkway runs behind the spawn point, linking a tall windmill, sails slowly turning, with stairs leading up to another platform. Steps also offer ways down to the lands below – on one side a row of little houses, their walls and roofs seemingly made of copper – walls green and aged-looking, the roofs pristine.

Sansar: Copper Valley

On the other side, through peculiar trees, looking like they’ve been cut from blocks of metal or cut from heavy sheets, and past Mecano-like seats, to where massive blocks rotate as if on long axles hidden just below ground, rising and falling from flat fields of screwed-down metal plates. Overhead, great bulky clouds drift across a dusty sky with “normal” clouds at much higher altitudes.

It’s a strange environment, complete with it own enchantment; a mechanical place where the sandy hills are gradually giving way to more of the metal plate fields with their rotating axles of blocks. So much so, that in one corner, the “fields” are still under construction.  Exploring this realm is a case of following the elevated paths, climbing the stairs, descending the steps and following your nose – but be warned! Some surfaces aren’t as solid as others.

Sansar: Copper Valley

Having enjoyed Anu’s Anu, I admit to being curious as to where Copper Valley might go. In the meantime, it makes for a most unusual visit.

Experience URL


Sansar: in the year 2077

2077, Sansar; Inara Pey, January 2018, on FlickrSansar: 2077 – click on any image for full size

C3rb3rus is fast becoming one of the top designers of atmospheric experiences in Sansar. I’ve already written about two of his designs – Darkwood Forest (see here) and The Diner (see here – although it is deserving of a dedicated write-up). His most recent design – 2077 – has already garnered a lot of coverage, which is why I held off writing about it immediately it opened. However, it’s not hard to understand why it is has been popular -it is visually stunning.

This experience takes its basic theme from the style we perhaps most readily identify with the likes of Blade Runner – although I personally see it as something of a fusion between that and the short-lived TV series, Total Recall 2070 (itself a fusion of Philip K. Dicks We Can Remember for You Wholesale and Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, the inspiration for the original Blade Runner film). On arrival, visitors are placed on a long street – a canyon, if you will, formed by the flat faces of high-rise buildings, themselves surrounded by even taller skyscrapers which glitter with light.

2077, Sansar; Inara Pey, January 2018, on FlickrSansar: 2077

By comparison with the latter, the streets on which visitors stand seem dark, cold, and a little threatening. With graffiti on the walls and litter on the streets, this feels is if it is a much poorer part of the city than the horizon forming towers of light and colour. Perhaps those glittering towers are where status and wealth reside; the higher up residents are within them, the more their status has literally elevated them above the darker, poorer world flowing around the feet of their great glass-sided citadels.

Perhaps this is why, flying cars zip back back and forth high above the streets, their passengers intent only on spanning the gap between lofty perches, and oblivious to what lies below, lost in the night. Nearer to the ground, more of these cars pass through the canyon-like streets, travelling a little more cautiously, while one or two have forsaken the air altogether – or have perhaps been decommissioned, like Deckard’s old Police spinner in Blade Runner, confined to crawling along the dimly lit streets.

2077, Sansar; Inara Pey, January 2018, on FlickrSansar: 2077

Dim though the lighting down here might be – the street lamps little more than thin lines of blue iridescence atop tall metal poles and which case cold pools of light beneath them – the streets are still alive. Digital advertising boards shimmer, turn, dance and project, adding their own illumination which reckons off the otherwise dull surfaces of roads and sidewalks. Walking the latter, it is possible to come across gaming halls and bars, or arrive at the corner of Walk and Don’t Walk as little green and red men flick back and forth on overhead signals, determining when it might be safe to cross a particular junction.

Over all of this, a great hologram of a female face looks down, turning slowly from side to side, as if keeping a watch over the streets in her care. Not far away, a single eye darts side-to-side on a billboard, a pattern of digital lighting over the pupil for some reason putting me in mind of the Rekall chairs from Total Recall 2070. Elsewhere amidst this neon advertising one can find a hospital or clinic signified by both, a red cross and a ghostly skeleton rotating slowly above the entrance, Max Headroom close by, perhaps mocking passers-by.

2077, Sansar; Inara Pey, January 2018, on FlickrSansar: 2077

C3rb2rus likes to include motion in his designs  and 2077 is no exception to this, as demonstrated by the ground and air traffic. But there is more; the spawn point in the experience, for example is under an elevated train track. Behind it (and easily missed), a ramp offers a way down to where a platform awaits. It is periodically visited by a subway train you can step aboard and ride in a loop around the build. I have no idea if this is indicative that more might be added to the build (there’s only the one stop at present), but it does offer a certain promise to the design.

Nor is this all. Find your way to the high rise at one end of the main street, and ceiling lights will direct you to where an elevator regularly descends and rises. Step into it, and it’ll offer a trip up to a modest – bordering on austere – apartment, which in turn offers a grandstand balcony view back through the experience. Watch for a few minutes, and you’ll witness another nice touch,, as an air car rises from the far end of the street, angling gently upwards until it reaches one of the lower skyways and passes overhead.

2077, Sansar; Inara Pey, January 2018, on FlickrSansar: 2077

Given that so many Sansar experiences are, due to the nature of the platform at present – largely static, 2077 feels very much alive, almost vibrant beneath the hues of the backdrop skyscrapers. Atmospheric, rich in detail despite its dark tone, this is an experience offering a certain promise of what Sansar might become as a role-play environment, as capabilities are improved.

Experience URL

Aech’s garage: a Sansar Ready Player One Experience

Aech's Garage, Sansar; Inara Pey, January 2018, on FlickrSansar: Aech’s Garage – click on any image for full size

Update, January 11th: following my enquiry concerning posting images of Aech’s Garage to the Lab, I received a reply from the Sansar community team, who also posted a  statement to the Sansar Discord channel, which I’m reproducing here, with the relevant comment highlighted for future reference by anyone positing images from Sansar:

We truly appreciate the ongoing support from the community, especially with all the excitement going on this week! We want to clarify that users are not discouraged from posting screenshots from any experience that is open to the public as long as there is no claim to exclusivity, early access, or other potentially misleading statements or claims that are untrue or could be construed as an official statement from Linden Lab or Sansar. We hope you all understand!

With this in mind, I’ve reposted the images in this article

Update: from the comments left by Ryan Schultz following this article, you can see there is something of a kerfuffle over whether or not images from the Aech’s Garage experience can be published. I have contacted Linden Lab on the matter, but have yet to receive a definitive reply one way or the other. To prevent further controversy, and while not having heard of any embargo myself, I have decided to remove the images in the post for the time being. 

Linden Lab recently unveiled two new experiences in Sansar, which I plan to look at in a broader piece on the platform later this week. However, one of them offers a particular attraction as a destination, so I’m leaping in with a look at it here as a part of my Exploring Sansar series.

Aech’s Garage is a joint collaboration between Linden Lab (via their Sansar Studios team), HTC, Intel, and Warner Brothers Entertainment to recreate the film set of Aech’s Garage from the upcoming Amblin Entertainment /  Village Roadshow Pictures film Ready Player One, the motion picture of Ernest Cline’s 2011 best seller.

In the novel and film, Aech (pronounced “H”) is best friend to Wade Watts, the novel’s protagonist – at least within OASIS, the two never having met face-to-face – who operates out of a basement location in the book. For the film, Aech’s base has been moved to a vast garage-cum-warehouse unit, and it is this space that has been recreated in Sansar with the formal title [HTC] Ready Player One – Aech’s Garage.

Aech's Garage, Sansar; Inara Pey, January 2018, on FlickrSansar: Aech’s Garage

For purists, the move might be seen as an annoyance and typical of Hollywood’s tinkering with adaptations for no readily apparent reason. From a visual perspective however – particularly if you are a film buff with a lean towards science fiction – the move is a treasure trove of sights. A long, comparatively narrow building, the garage is partially lit by a low Sun streaming in through the grime layered windows along one wall. This casts a good part of the experience into shadows which I suspect aren’t as quite as intrusive in VR mode as they can be when visiting in Desktop Mode. Klieg lights scattered around the building offer additional pools of light.

Entering via the Sansar Atlas spawns visitors at one of the building’s two ends, and from the start the level of detail is impressive. The lighting is very realistic, while the texturing and finish is superb. There are work bays, metal steps leading up to platforms and elevated work spaces, tools are scattered on work tops, bins, tyres and other detritus of an old working environment fill spaces and rise on tall racks standing against walls and windows. There even a bicycle is leaning against one wall – perhaps to offer someone a quick means to travel up the central aisle space of the building. Good use is also made of Sansar’s recently added audio materials: shoe heels click solidly on the cement floor, but footsteps ring hollowly as heels strike the metal steps when climbing up to or down from the raised platforms.

Aech's Garage, Sansar; Inara Pey, January 2018, on FlickrSansar: Aech’s Garage

But all this is just the apéritif, so to speak. The real feast lies in what can be found within this garage. Depending on which end of the building you spawn, you’ll find yourself either being watched by the Iron Giant from the 1999 film of the same name, or find yourself confronted by ED-209 from 1987’s Robocop – fortunately without its guns focusing on you with an ominous warning that you have 30 seconds to comply. The detail on both is superb, and the Iron Giant really gives a sense of scale. Split into two parts of upper body and head, with legs alongside, it is simply huge.

Nor are these the only models here. Sitting between them, down the sunlit side of the garage are a Mark 2 Viper from Battlestar Galactica (original and re-imagined), suspended from the roof alongside an Earth Defence Directorate fighter from Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, and a maintenance pod from the United States spacecraft Discovery One, featured in Stanley Kubrick’s seminal movie, 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Aech's Garage, Sansar; Inara Pey, January 2018, on FlickrSansar: Aech’s Garage

Sitting under these, a little incongruously, is the prized 1961 Ferrari GT California Ferris Bueller (Matthew Broderick) persuaded Cameron Frye (Alan Ruck) to snag the keys for from his father in the 1986 teen movie Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. While across the central aisle is a mechanoid loader of a similar kind to those seen in the Alien movies, with a model of Eagle 5 from Spaceballs suspended overhead.

As noted, the visual aspects of this experience are superb, in Desktop mode it leaps out at you, and I’ve little doubt that in VR it will look stunning. What is especially interesting about it is that it is a tie to a forthcoming major motion picture, due to be released on March 30th, 2018, and perhaps marks the first attempt to use Sansar in one of the market spaces where it could have some traction: marketing and PR. It demonstrates a potentially low-cost way of generating public interest in films, etc., by allowing people to not only see trailers and teasers from the comfort of their own home via social media and the likes of YouTube, but to also offer them the opportunity to visit locations from blockbuster films ahead of their release.

Aech's Garage, Sansar; Inara Pey, January 2018, on FlickrSansar: Aech’s Garage

In this particular case, it is entirely fitting that a film which might help promote wider interest in VR is gaining some degree of added promotion from VR. I’m curious to see if Linden Lab / Warner Brothers / HTC plan to do more with the experience between now and the US theatrical release of the film at the end of March 2018, particularly given the way the début – through the 2018 Consumer Electronics Show, Las Vegas, courtesy of Intel – has been presented to the public at large.

Aceh’s Garage is without a doubt a powerful demonstration of Sansar’s potential, and a delight to visit. However, you plan to do so,  I’d perhaps suggest waiting until after CES 2018 closes on Friday, January 12th, 2018, as right now it is the subject Right now Aech’s Garage is tied to ongoing demonstrations of the HTC Vive at the show.While this is good for Sansar, it means that audio-wise there is a lot going on audio-wise within the experience, and it can get distracting with multiple overlapping conversations, even with Voice roll-off over distances. I frequently found myself getting caught between overlapping conversations and manually muting those I didn’t want to hear (including, I’d add, staff talking bugs and users over open microphones!).

Aech's Garage, Sansar; Inara Pey, January 2018, on FlickrSansar: Aech’s Garage

Experience SLurl

Whystler’s wonders in Sansar

Sansar: The Whyst Garden

Whystler is a designer with an interest in architecture and history, as demonstrated by two experiences I’ve recently hopped through – The Bridge Room and Whyst Garden, the latter of which, at the time of writing, has been a featured experience in the Atlas.

The Bridge Room is a virtual puzzle – not an overly difficult one to solve, admittedly, but one which is still fun to visit. Whystler describes it thus:

Inspired by Architectural Fantasy drawings of the 17th and 18th centuries, this room of architectural monuments provides a challenge. Can you find your way from one end to the other?

Sansar: The Bridge Room

And so it is that on spawning, visitors find themselves within a great stone hall with high, vaulted ceilings, supported by great square columns, which descend not to a floor, but into water, the base of each column forming an artificial islands, some of which are connected to at least one of their neighbours by one or two bridges. As Whystler states, the aim is to get from the spawn point at the base of one of these columns to the far side of the room via the bridges and avoiding falling into the water (which will cause a re-spawn). Again, it’s not an overly taxing challenge, but the architectural design makes for an interesting and fun visit.

The Whyst Garden offers a beautiful build which might have been lifted from a history book. It presents a melding of renaissance and classic Greco-Roman architecture, all brought together in what might be the façade of a great house or public building or temple with a formal garden terrace set before it.

Sansar: The Whyst Bridge

What is particularly interesting about this build – besides exploring its various levels – is that it is entirely modular, as Whystler has attempted to explain in the limited amount of space in the experience description. Elements of the build can be found on the Sansar Store – the Draco columns (as seen in the image above) and basic blocks. However, this is far more modular in scale, again as per Whystler’s notes in the Altas description.

Visitors arrive on the far side of the garden area, and can then stroll past the large reflecting pool and then take the steps up one of the two wings of the building, then explore the building itself – note there is just the one way the mid-upper level.

Sansar: The Whyst Garden

This are two small, easily loaded experience which offer something to do, with The Whyst Garden in particular well suited to be photographed, if you’re interested trying out the Sansar snapshot capability.

Experience URLs

Two quirky stops in Sansar for the holidays

Sansar: The Violin Tree

As it is the holidays and a time for fun and games, I thought I’d blog about two quirky experiences in Sansar which are easy to hop into and enjoy.

The first is the Violin Tree, by Mikki Miles, which offers a fun little trip into the world of music in an abstract kind of way – and one easily missed if not careful. The setting is simple enough: a square, hilly island rising from open waters, a circular lake at its centre. To one side, a down the slope from the spawn point, a wooden jetty points towards a raft floating on the water. A walk out along the jetty will reveal several things: the first is that half of it is a xylophone, which is playing randomly. The second is that a voice is singing over on the raft – but don’t try to walk to it over the water! The singing comes from a megaphone sitting on the raft alongside a wooden frame containing Sandro Botticelli’s Venus from The Birth of Venus (circa 1480-1490), with a granite sculpture sitting on the other side of the frame (if you want to get close use F4 + the movement keys to freecam over the water).

Sansar: The Violin Tree

Atop the island, each flanking a central body of water, sit a tree – the titular violin tree – and the 40,000 year-old bone flute of the experience description. On the lake, a little rubber duck scoots around, attracting attention; walk towards it and as you reach the edge of the lake, the duck vanishes as a gigantic piano rises from the water, the fall board and main lid opening before the piano starts to play Handel’s Water Music – albeit it slightly tinny. Similarly, approach the tree and / or bone flute, and they will also impart a music excerpt, while the brass “piping” rising from the outer slopes of the island are revealed to be the tubing of trumpet, horn or trombone.

But that’s not all. To one side of the island there sits what appears to be the entrance to a mine.  Visitors can enter it and follow the tunnel down into the island, where a little more musical fun is to be had, including a nice tip-of-the-hat to the Rolling Stones.

The Violin Tree isn’t a hugely ambitious experience – but it is one cleverly considered, which makes good use of ambient sounds and trigger volumes to offer an eclectic little musical / art / historical  visit.

Sansar: The Violin Tree

Back in September I visited the Reverse Perspective Art gallery by JackTheRipper, which offers a fascinating tour into the world of reverspective art, as conceived by Patrick Hughes (see here for more).  This is actually one of two art / optical illusion focused experiences created by JackTheRipper, and I for my second little recommendation, I offer the second: his Optical Illusions Arena.

Exceedingly simple in presentation – to the point where it might initially seem to be just a random space where someone has been playing – the Optical Illusions Arena again has more to it than may at first appear to be the case. As the name suggests, it is a space containing images and items designed to trick the eye through the use of set observation points, forced perspective and so on. What’s more, it works in either VR or Desktop mode.

Sansar: Optical Illusions Arena – from one vantages point, an odd painting on the floor (l); from another, a ladder against a wall (r)

Scattered around the single-room arena are a number of elements, some in 3D – such as what at first appears to be a collection of sticks hanging in the air – through to seemingly random paintings on the floor. Also appearing on the floor are a series of red dots with arrows indicating a direction in which to look. When standing on one of these and looking in the direction indicated either in VR mode or first-person (F3) view in Desktop mode, will reveal the secret of one of these random collections or paintings. Thus, the group of coloured sticks becomes as set of painted wooden chairs, the odd splodge of white-and-grey on the ground becomes an opening in the floor, and so on.

If visiting with a couple of friends, the reproduction of an Ames room can offer the most interesting effect. When viewed from the observation point outside of the room, two avatars entering it through the doors on either side will appear to be very differently sized, one to the other, and interesting effects – from the observer’s perspective – can then be had as they move around the room.

Sansar: Optical illusions Arena – the Ames room will make two avatars appear to be different sizes when they are apparently the same distance from the observer (note: the disjointed element of the image is due to my attempt to demonstrate the effect with one avatar and two photos, not a reflection of the build)

Neither the Violin Tree nor Optical Illusions Arena are going to set the world on fire in terms of being major attractions – but that’s not the intend of either. They’re about having a little bit of fun while experimenting in 3D and with Sansar’s tools. As such, if you find yourself with ten or fifteen minutes on your hands, why pay them both a visit?

Experience URLs

Visiting the Hollywood Art Museum in Sansar

Sansar: Hollywood Art Museum

The Hollywood Art Museum (HWAM) opened in Sansar on Saturday, December 9th, 2017. A joint endeavour between Sansar Studios and renowned director, designer, writer, producer, and practical effects professional, Greg Aronowitz. Mr. Aronowitz – whose credits such as Jurassic Park: Lost World, X-Files, Saving Private Ryan, Contact, Terminator 2, and Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance – is an avid collector who has amassed an incredible collection of Hollywood production art, from storyboards to costume sketches, concept drawings, models, and more.

Greg Aronowitz

The aim is to provide an environment where digital reproductions of items from Mr. Aronowitz’s collection – spanning a period from Citizen Kane to Transformers: The last Knight offer visitors a unique and intimate view of the creative processes involved in some of the world’s most beloved films. Through this, HWAM hopes to encourage artists in the digital medium to find fresh inspiration in the traditional arts of Hollywood’s past, through the preservation and education of art used in entertainment.

For this inaugural exhibition is featuring a special exhibition of production pieces from the Star Wars franchise films – which comes ahead of the US opening of the latest film in the series Star Wars: The Last Jedi.

Unfortunately, while I had a ticket for the event – the timing: 03:00 onwards on the morning of Sunday, December 10th, UK time, meant I was unable to attend. So instead, I hopped in as soon as time allowed.

Anyone who has been able to visit Paramount Studios, just off of Melrose Avenue in los Angeles might find the spawn point for the experience to be somewhat familiar. Directly behind it is an arched gateway, echoing the iconic entrance to Paramount, with some of the buildings also echoing some of the architectural styling of building within Paramount’s grounds.

Facing the spawn point are two massive soundstages (which also carry a similarity to those of the Warner Brothers studios). These provide the first clue on how exhibitions at HWAM are to be handled: the entrance to each is in fact a teleport point to an exhibition. Right now, only Stage 5 is accessible, a huge poster on the wall announcing it as the Star Wars exhibition. However, Stage 6, just across the way will provide access to an exhibition of Drew Struzan’s magnificent art.

Sansar: Hollywood Art Museum

Step through the door to stage 5, however, and you enter the Star Wars soundstage. This offers a mock-up of an interior, complete with plain outer wooden walls, scaffold supports and a pair a green screens. A ramp runs up into the set, resembling the boarding ramp of a space vessel, the green screens either side suggesting CGI of the underside of the ship would be added post-production.

Aboard the ship visitors pass through a series of spaces featuring artwork, production sketches and reproductions of props from the film; there are even reproductions of casts used to make merchandise and models of that merchandise.

Sansar: Hollywood Art Museum – “Use the Force, Luke … Let go!”

The spaces are organised into themes. The Beginning: Spaceships guides visitors through the design of various Star Wars craft, with a notable focus on the veritable X-Wing fighter (above). Races and their modes of dress, etc., comes next, before a broader look at the worlds of Stars are examined and then, finally, a peek into the world of merchandise.

The work of many of the behind-the-scenes bigger hitters for production design are featured in the exhibition, including Joe Johnston, the late, great Ralph McQuarrie, Phil Tippett, and Colin Cantwell – the man most closely associated with the X-Wing and the Death Star designs.

Sansar: Hollywood Art Museum

Wall panels also provide text information, and collision volumes before wall and free-standing displays will trigger audio explanations of images and models  (VR users can press the audio buttons alongside display sections). This means that HWAM works for both VR and Desktop users, providing information equally to both – kudos to the Sansar Studios team for this!

There is, however, a slight bug: some of the models can be picked up and dropped  – this is particularly prevalent in Desktop mode, where an accidental left-click can see you wearing an X-Wing or Admiral “It’s a trap!” Ackbar’s head. This can result in some of the models being scattered on the floor, and is an  a general issue in Sansar which will hopefully be addressed to prevent “non-movable” objects getting accidentally moved.

Fortunately, each time the experience spins-down when no-one is using it, things get replaced on the next spin-up (the reset buttons on the various stands do not appear to work). Note, as well, that the Exit door to one side of the last exhibition space will drop you back into the Star Wars spawn point, on the sound stage.

Sansar: Hollywood Art Museum

This is a superb exhibition, and it is clear that a huge amount of thought has been put into it. The artwork has been beautifully reproduced and the models are exquisite – particularly those for the merchandise spin-off section (above), some of which are small when compared to an avatar, but still wonderfully produced – just take a look at the Cantina Bar scene or the model and cast for Ben Kenobi.

With the Drew Struzan exhibit “coming soon” to sound stage 6, I’m looking forward to repeat visits to the Hollywood Art Museum and seeing what other gems Greg Aronowitz and the Sansar Studios team offer us! And if you do like Star Wars, keep an eye on the Sansar blog and the Atlas Events calendar (when visible) for more activities in the week commencing Monday, December 11th, 2017.

Sansar: Hollywood Art Museum – the Cantina Bar model reproduction, with me alongside to give an indication of scale

Experience URL