In July 2015, I produced the first in a (possibly) semi-regular series intended to summarise what has actually been stated / revealed about Linden Lab’s next generation virtual experiences platform, Project Sansar.
Since then, more information has been released, both to the press and more particularly via in-world sessions such as the annual VWBPE conference (April 2016), the Lab Chat meetings (November 2015, January 2016, May 2016) and the recent SL13B celebration Ebbe linden Q&A (June 2016).
This article is an attempt to pull relevant core information from those sessions and assorted press / media reports into a summary of what has been said thus far about Project Sansar, citing references for anyone wishing to follow-up. I don’t claim to have covered everything that has been said, but I have attempted to include the most relevant points of interest.
Citations are given in the format [number (article / publisher, month year)] where “number” indicates it is a unique reference (citations to the same reference use the same number); “article / publisher£ indicates if it is a transcript (e.g. LC1 = Lab chat 1) or a media publication (e.g. “Wareable” = Wareable on-line) and “month year” is self-explanatory. Thus, for example:
- [1 (LL Apr 16)] = 1st citation, a statement from Linden Lab, April 2016
- [36 (LC2, Jan 16)] = 36th citation, from Lab Chat 2, January 2016.
Citations to Lab Chat, etc., transcripts provided in this blog reference the relevant part of the transcript; podcast /video citations include a time stamp, if relevant; external media citations are to the article.
Time Frames: Creator Preview and Extending Access
- The Lab launched the “Creator Preview” application process on April 26th 2016 [1 ( LL Apr 16)]. The application form is still available at the time of writing
- Access is limited to content creators willing to work with the Lab, provide feedback, etc., [2 (VWBPE Apr 16)], and accept the risk that changes to the platform may break their content [3 (LC2 Jan 16)]
- This followed closed alpha testing which commenced in August 2015 [4 (LL Aug 15)], which included invitations to those in markets which the Lab are targeting for Sansar [5 (Wareable Jan 16)]
- Further creators are to start gaining access from August 2016 [6 (Podcast Aug 16 – 37:19)]
- Those simply wanting to look around Sansar will not be accepted [7 (LC3 May 16)]
- Around Q3 2016 they hope to start publicly revealing more about the platform, more images, possibly videos, possibly information on specifications, etc [8 (VWBPE Apr 16)]
- It is hoped that full public access is expected to commence in January 2017 [6 (Podcast, Aug 16 – 38:09)]
- When first opened to the public, Sansar will not be as feature-rich as Second Life, and will take time to mature [9 (VWBPE Apr 16)].
Content Creation Tools / Capabilities
- As the year progresses, the Lab will expand Sansar support to other content creation tools beyond Maya (e.g. to include Sketch-up, Blender, 3D Max, etc) [10 (VWBPE Apr 16)]
- Notably, Sansar will offer .FBX file import capabilities to support a broader range of content creation tools [11 (LC2 May 16)]
- There will be built-in tools for terrain building and layout management, which have been focus for the Lab [12 (LC2 May 16)]. These land tools should allow for creating caves, overhangs, etc., and offer some means of auto-generation of some vegetation and present more in the way of volumetric liquids (so you will eventually be able to eventually fill a beaker with liquid). HOWEVER – these are not all “Day 1” capabilities [13 (Drax Files, Apr 16 ]
- Internal tools for original content creation (e,g, using prims or voxels), together with mesh editing capabilities, may come in time, but these are not currently a priority focus [10 (VWBPE Apr 16)], [11 (LC2, May 16]], [13 (Drax Files, Apr 16 05:32)]
- Scripting will be C# and over time capabilities to better support external tools, IDEs, etc., will be added [14 (LC2 Jan 16)]
- Sansar is being built more a “design-centric” view, focusing on ease-of use to present a virtual environment for people to access and use [6 (Podcast, Aug 16 (24:24)]
- The term “creator” in Sansar is not restricted to those who build actual mesh models, accessories, etc., it applies equally to those who design spaces inside the platform using items purchased from others [6 (Podcast, Aug 16 (26:32)]
Separate Editing and Runtime Environments
- Sansar will have separate editing and run-time environments, which is not the case with Second Life (where you can walk down the street as see someone manipulating prims to build a house, for example). This is necessary to ensure Sansar can support the required frame rates for VR [15 (VWBPE, Apr 16)]
- Experiences will be built and content added / positioned within the editing environment and then “published” via optimisation (aka baking) to the runtime environment where it is accessed by users – hence the comparisons between Sansar and platform like YouTube and WordPress [16 (Fortune, Nov 15)]
- This editing environment is currently single user only, but the Lab hope that by the end of 2016, it will support multiple people editing / creating collaboratively on a single project [13 Drax Files, Apr 16 04:30)].
Avatars, Personas, Avatar Inventory
- People will be able to create their own avatar identities, with existing user names for Second Life residents already reserved [17 (LC3, May 16]
- Rather than running multiple accounts, users will be able to have multiple “personas” under a single account. However, it is not clear if a user will be able to have multiple “personas” logged-in to the platform simultaneously [18 (LC1, Nov 15)]
- User will be able to customise their avatar look and appearance in time. However, experience creators will have more power to dictate the appearance of visitors to their environments if they so wish, in order to preserve any required immersiveness. This may even include forcing visitors into a first-person view during a visit [19 (LC2, Jan 16)]
- Avatar editing will initially be limited when Sansar first opens (be will improve over time). It may be limited to “skin tone, maybe a couple of hairstyles, a couple of pre-defined outfits”; however, the overall aim as Sansar develops is to present a fair easier means to manage an avatar’s appearance than is the case with SL [20 (SL13B, Jun 16)]
- Overall, clothing should be easier to manage and fit, but inventory may be dependent upon experience, rather than being central to the avatar (e.g. if you only need gun Y for Experience Y, it will only be available to you whilst in that experience [21, (LC1, Nov 15)]
- Avatar controls / use will be different in Sansar, due to the added dimension of VR support (controller, need to see hands, etc [22, (SL13B, Jun 16)].