Sansar Product Meetings week #37: feedback and Q&A

The following notes were taken from my audio recording of the September 12th (week #37) Sansar Product Meeting, which took the form of a Q&A  / feedback session. As always, key points are summarised, but please also refer to the official video. Note that streaming may have been curtailed prior to the end of the meeting; as I was watching the stream, I have no idea if questions continued to be addressed after streaming ceased.

“Major” Launch and Challenges

  • Sansar is preparing for a “major” launch with one or more partners on September 24th.
  • This will apparently see several more Core Portals at the Nexus come in to use (according to the Nexus maps, one was already reserved the Monstercat, LL’s music event partner).
  • In the run-up to this, there are two Sansar challenges:
    • Future Fashion: design an outfit that can be featured on the main Sansar Store page and which fits with the theme of the upcoming launch. This runs until September 23rd.
    • Attack of the Clones: a series of running (I believe) challenges for users to create avatar likeness of famous people using Sansar’s facial morphing capabilities (not made outside of Sansar and then uploaded). The first selection of faces runs through until Monday September 16th, and features the faces of Ripley (aka Signourey Weaver) from the Alien franchise, Lando Calrissian (aka Billy Dee Williams, not Donald Glover) from the Star Wars films or someone called Pow3r (no, I’ve no idea who this is either). I gather entries are to be posted to Flickr.
Clone one of these three in a Sansar contest. Don’t ask me if it’s just for fun or if there is a prize, as the info is apparently conveniently buried in a Sansar Discord channel.

I’m unable to give further context to these challenges, as the details are buried somewhere in Sansar’s Discord pages (where contests and competitions apparently don’t even have their own channel).

User-Created Guides

A new section has been created in the  forums for specifically for user-created guides, tutorials and tips.

Q&A

Avatar Related

  • Can a texture wheel be added for selecting textures for skins, nails, eyes, etc? No, but texture layering will be in a future release.
  • When will it be possible to change custom skins on an avatar, rather than having to change the entire avatar look? Soon, but dependent on the Sansar licensing system being extended to cover the avatar. This also goes for selling facial presets.
  • Will the baked shadowing issues for under the arms, under the nose, etc., be fixed? There is an upcoming point release to fix the underarm shadows, and may address under the nose, etc.
  • Marvelous Designer related:
    • Will Sansar all the import of more than one materials face from Marvelous Designer? It should, so this may be a bug and will be investigated.
    • Better pining for clothing when editing MD clothing  is being investigated.
  • Body morphing and shape:
    • Full body morphing, when deployed will only be for the system avatar and avatars built off of it. An update system will be supplied to transition all such avatars over to body morph support.
    • Body morphing will not be available for fully custom-built avatars; what will be provided in the future is the ability to transform bones prior to upload.
    • The female avatar will remain “as is” (oddly elongated) for reasons previously indicated (to give a better baseline for body deformation for both male and female avatars, and to allow gender-neutral clothing).
    • It is hoped full body morphing will help alleviate this by allowing users the freedom to alter their body shapes, and allow LL to provide a greater range of starter avatar shapes for incoming users.
Avatar proportions: both male and female body proportions are roughly in keeping with the “norms” – but the female appears to have been vertically stretched (head and body) in order to match the male avatar, resulting in an odd, thin and hipless look

Nexus / Codex Portal Related

  • There is a degree of negativity from some creators towards the Nexus. Given it is less than a month old, it is difficult to tell if this is simply personal discomfiture over such a clear change from the past for those with long-term experience in using the Atlas or whether it is genuinely leading to a bottleneck in discovery / exploration by incoming users.
    • The Lab is monitoring traffic flow through the Nexus, but no changes are being considered at the moment.
    • Changes will be made if the metrics tend to show the Nexus is bottlenecking discovery.
    • improving discoverability within the Prime Portal is being considered, such as adding more searchable categories to the Portal (presumably things like “Science Fiction”, “Games”, etc), and better surfacing of particularly popular worlds.
  • A more elegant means of toggling between logging in to the Nexus or a user’s Home Space is being considered.
  • New loading screens for worlds are to be deployed fairly soon. They will come in two phases: improvements to the loading screen space, followed by UI improvements.
    • These will be tied to the Sansar “backstory”
    • A request has been made for load screen to contain more information, such as the descriptions, creator name(s), etc., from the Atlas / Codex / Prime Portal entry. This will be considered.
  • Can portals be made more interactive (e.g. walk through to move between worlds)? Could an image of the destination world be displayed within and active portal? Both ideas are already being considered.
  • An upcoming change to the Codex will mean that the master instance of any world that is used to create an event space host an event will be added to the Codex of all users attending the event, always direct “re-visits” to that world.
  • The current cap of 20 avatars per Nexus instance will be raised in the near future.
  • The Nexus might be considered as the venue for seasonal events organised by Linden Lab.

General Questions

  • Valve Index support:
    • The headset has been tested and appears to work, but not clear if some client-side changes will be required.
    • No plans as yet to implement the Valve Index finger tracking.
  • Chat / messaging related:
    • Will direct person-to-person Voice calls be enabled? Not really been discussed.
    • Will capabilities such as spell check be added to text chat? No plans, but perhaps in the future.
    • Can an audible notification be added for incoming messages? Will be added to the list of things under consideration; if implemented, will include an option for be disabled for those who don’t like it.
    • Work on chat / messaging features and improvements have been somewhat pushed aside due to the work going into the Nexus, etc., and Avatar 2.0, the questing system and the XP system – but they are something LL plan to get back to.
  • Camera related:
    • Freecamming from sit points: can the F4 (Desktop mode) freecam capability be made available to users when using sit points (in chairs, etc). Under consideration.
    • Will it be possible to focus on in-scene objects and then zoom into them, a-la Second Life? This is on the Lab’s wish list for the Edit mode, but is not a priority.
    • Better zooming at the avatar’s lower body in look book when dressing / adjusting clothing has been requested.
  • Will the ability to upload / edit terrain heightmaps be returning to Sansar? No current plans to do so.
  • Will an Abandon button be made available for users to remove unwanted and incomplete quests from their quest log? Yes, likely to appear in the next-but-one release.
  • Will it be possible to have “neighbourhoods” in Sansar – experiences with individual plots where users can place their own “pod” to live? Unlikely.
    • Landon McDowell, the Lab’s Chief Product Officer indicated that while it is not officially part of the development roadmap for Sansar, ways in which to “stitch” worlds together are still being thought about at the Lab – something Ebbe Altberg alluded to possibly happening back before Sansar made its initial closed Alpha début.
    • The main mechanism that exists – and will continue – in Sansar for “linking” worlds is for creators to drop portals to one another’s worlds (a-la region-to-region teleports in SL).
  • Feature requests and feedback: there are multiple channels through which feature requests and feedback for Sansar can be put to LL (e.g. the feature request form thread, product meetings, Discord, general forum discussion, etc.). LL is looking to try to rationalised this and formalise a process for gather feedback / requests and reviewing / vetting / prioritising against current plans etc.
    • It had been indicated (2017/18) that LL would look to move away from ZenDesk for their bug / feature / documentation / community / blog tool. However, it now appears they are somewhat hoist by their own petard, and unwilling to pivot away from it due to the investment in building a knowledge base.

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Sansar Product Meetings week #36: R36 feedback and Q&A

Back in the Nexus: Lt. Pey on shore leave! A shame LL did away with free camming here…

The following notes were taken from my audio recording of the September 5th (week #36) Sansar Product Meeting, which took the form of a Q&A  / feedback session on the recent R36 release. As always, key points are summaries, but please also refer to the official video.

R36 Update 1

Friday, September 6th saw Linden Lab issue the first e36 update, including a number of bug / issue fixes, including:

  • Fixes for several crash issues caused by:
    • Equipping a custom avatar, then heading to an experience.
    • The Zen Garden world, which had issues tied to scripted sounds.
  • Some Nexus quest objectives could not be completed without reloading the Nexus multiple times. This should allow users to complete the quest without having to reload the world.

Please refer to the release notes for the full list of fixes.

Avatar 2.0

General

  • Will the default avatars be changed prior to the arrival of body morphing? There will be no major changes to the avatar skeleton. However:
    • When fully body deformation is introduced, there will be a new range of default avatars offer different shapes, builds, etc.
    • There may be a few minor tweaks to the base avatar.
    • Body morphing will use the same system as in place for the face.
  • The collision capsule doe the avatar has changed with Avatar 2.0, and this has caused some issues with levels in building, doorways, etc., seeming to be too low for the avatar to move under.
  • Avatar 2.0 introduced different movement speeds according to height. This was done as an experiment, and the Lab is looking for feedback on it.
    • This has already caused some issues in games involving running / running – smaller avatars can no longer easily participate as they are unable to jump far enough / high enough.
    • A suggestion has been to keep the feature, but make it optional or controllable at the world level.
  • Will there be a way to give hints on the morph bones auto-rigging system? The system is still being fleshed-out, and discussion like this will be held through Discord.
  • When importing an avatar with skin, will Sansar accept the weights applied by the creator, or will parts of it always be auto-weighted?
    • Animated skin weights will always be used as is specified by the creator.
    • The auto-skinning to the morphs is actually to a completely different skeleton not currently available to creators and comprising 300+ bones with 8 influences per vertex. LL are just trying to have the system take care of all interactions with it, so that creators don’t have to worry about the complexity of trying to skin to it.
    • However, the Lab is looking for a way to allow creators to indicate which elements they wish to pay attention to / ignore – hence why ear control points are currently masked to assist with hair.
  • Will the shadow lighting used in the Look Book be improved? Yes, this is being worked on.

Face and Deformation

  • Some feedback is that the deformation options are not as nuanced as anticipated (e.g. limited scope to change the shape of the head; greater variety of eye shaping options, etc.)
    • Some tools for managing facial deformation didn’t make it into this release, including some pre-made shapes for eyes, nose, etc.  These will be added. Other suggestions, such as changing the shape of the back of the head independently of the forehead, will be noted for consideration.
  • Texture uploads (skins):
    • This is being worked on, but release time is currently not clear. As per previous meeting notes, providing the ability is dependent upon updating the licensing system to incorporate the avatar, so that creators can sell their skins, head presets, etc.
    • More default skins could be provided, but the Lab would prefer to offer the upload ability, mentioned above for users to upload their own skins.
  • Will it be possible to create and sell face morphs for those who are not comfortable in using all of the deformation tools? Yes. That’s why there are the preset slots within the face tools. The same will be true for full bodies created using the Sansar base avatar, once full body deformations have been introduced and everything has been hooked into the licensing system.
  • All of the ear control points in the auto skinning are masked off (except for the root) in order for hair to work. This will be iterated on to improve it, but for now it means that ears on uploaded mesh heads do not respond to ear morphs in the facial deformation tools.
  • Can sliders be provided to adjust how much of a facial area / feature is selected in order to help fine-tune changes when using the deformation tools / to make is easier to select smaller areas? This would require a vertex-based editor rather than a control point based editor. So, no.

Clothing

  • Will rigged items (hair, etc), be resizeable:
    • No plans outside of resizing as part of the avatar uniform scaling, as seen as problematic due to overall impact on other avatar elements – animations, etc.
    • Clothing rigged to the Avatar 2.0 skeleton should morph with the body (when deformations is available) and head.
  • Can the MD adjustment tools be modified to allow non-uniform stretching / scaling? Unfortunately, MD does not support this.
  • Will there be some form on icon in the Store / avatar inventory to denote MD clothing made specifically for Avatar 2.0 (and that should fit without adjustment / transformation?). Yes, this is being considered, together with tags.

Nexus

  • What are the goals LL hope to achieve with socialisation in the Nexus?
    • What’s been deployed is just the start – social spaces, quests etc., more to come.
    • Example: Lab is looking at ways groups of people can meet in the Nexus and then travel together.
    • It’s also recognised that not everyone will wish to be dropped into the Nexus when logging-in, so the Home Space will likely be re-visited in the future for people to get to it more directly.
  • Are behaviours at the Nexus being monitored? Will changes be made based on people’s behaviour? Yes.
    • Use of the Nexus is being monitored from end to end – how people behave, socialise, react to the portals, respond to the quests, etc. These observations will inform development and enhanced of the Nexus.
    • Direct feedback from individuals is welcome, but the observation of behaviours and actions of users actually active within the Nexus.
    • The Nexus, Prime Portal and Codex will remain – but changes will be made on the basis of behaviour and feedback.
  • To make group travel easier, would it be possible to allow a users to drop a personal portal for a destination they’ve selected from the Prime Portal, so they and their friend to jump to a world not in their Codex, without everyone having to select the destination from the Prime Portal individually? – Will be looked into.
  • Logging-in to the Nexus means that if someone has to shut down the client while editing their appearance in Look Book, there is a risk that they will be logged into the Nexus naked. Can this be prevented? For now, don’t shut down the client leaving your avatar naked in the Look Book!
    • Also remember you can avoid the Nexus when logging in, by clicking the cancel button alongside the load progress bar and going directly to your Home Space.
  • Spawn point issues:
    • A number of people have “fallen through” the Nexus when logging-in, prompting a re-spawn. This has been noted by the Lab and is being looked into.
    • Multiple people arriving at the spawn point appear inside one another until they move. There is supposed to be logic at the spawn point to prevent this, and it will be looked at.
  • The current avatar cap per Nexus instance is 20 – this will be raised in accordance with the performance status LL gather from users.

XP System

  • XP system in its infancy right now.
  • As new storyline quests are release, the cap on levels will be increased.
  • And achievement system is also under consideration – as a user achieves various milestones, they be able to gain identity / vanity related items associated with their profile.
  • At some point the global XP system will be opened to creators to use and offer XPs to users. There are no plans to provide a means for creators to build their own XP systems using the Lab’s framework (i.e. create an XP system specific to their own worlds).

General Q&A

  • The usual four:
    • High heels for avatars: not on the roadmap at present.
    • 3D mouse support: not on the roadmap, will more likely be a general project to support game pads, joysticks, etc., if done.
    • Valve Index support: something the Lab wants, but no time frame, other than when the Lab get to work on it, it is estimated to be around 2-3 weeks of work.
    • Wiki: the more user-submitted guides that are made to the forum public documentation area, the more weight is given to the case for the Lab creating and offering / managing a wiki.
  • Persistence: yes, news! The Lab has entered into a design phase for persistence. No delivery date as yet, nor specifics, but it is firmly on the roadmap.
  • Can a means be provided for a creator to ban troublemakers from all of their worlds, rather than having to do so individually? This is a part of the on-going moderation tools / abilities discussions the Lab is having internally.
  • The ability for creators to offer rewards to users completing their quests is being worked on and will be arriving “fairly” soon.

Sansar Product Meetings week #35: feedback and Q&A

Courtesy of Sansar on YouTube

The following notes were taken from my audio recording of the August 29th (week #35) Sansar Product Meeting, which took the form of a general Q&A  / feedback session. As always, key points are summaries, but please also refer to the official video.

The Nexus Release

The Nexus Release had been anticipated as being deployed this week, but bug fixing derailed the plans for this. This is to now hopefully make an appearance in week #36 (commencing Monday, September 2nd).

Fees / Commission Rates

In October 2018, Linden Lab announced that Sansar’s availability would be extending to the Steam platform at the end of the year, being made available under that platform’s Early Access programme (and which duly occurred in December). As a part the October 2018 announcement, it was indicated that credit processing fees for Sansar Dollars would increase to S$250 to the dollar, with early access creators receiving a legacy conversion rate of S$143 to $1 until December 31st, 2019.

On Wednesday, August 28th, 2019, Linden Lab announced the conversion rate for all early access creators who process credit from Sansar will remain at the S$143 to $1 through until December 31st, 2020 – so a further year’s extension.

Q&A

Nexus, Prime Portal and Codex

  • People will still be able to access their Home Space once the Nexus Release has been deployed

    Will people always have to log-in to the Nexus, once deployed? What about issues of trolling / harassment? Won’t this increase load times – a scene plus all the avatars?

    • Yes, all users (including Lindens) will by default be logged-in to the Nexus (or an instance thereof).
    • The comfort zone controls, muting / blocking abilities will all be available to users.
    • People will still be able to access their Home Space if they wish / need to, and will be able to cancel the Nexus load to go directly to the Home Space at log-in, if they wish.
    • Avatars are also cached, so allowing for cache limits, if there are avatars previously encountered at the Nexus, this could help mitigate additional load time at log-in / a return visit.
    • Load times and interactions within the Nexus will be monitored closely as well, in case adjustments have to be made.
  • Is there a risk that by making people go to the Nexus whenever they want to discover potential destinations they have not yet visited, people will be less inclined to explore?
    • The hope is that no, it won’t, but it will be closely monitored when first deployed.
  • As avatars can impact an experience when first loading in, could the Nexus suffer with lots of avatars constantly logging-in to it?
    • This is a concern and again will be monitored.
    • It is likely that the Nexus will initially have a lower avatar limit prior to spawning a further instance to try to mitigate this (although it is acknowledged this could cause issues with meeting friends in the same instance of the Nexus).
    • Avatar loading has also been moved to a separate thread to try to minimise performance impacts.
  • Do creators have to go through the Nexus to get to their scenes and work on them? If logging-in the Sansar, yes.
    • However, once logged-in to Sansar, all other routes to edit a scene are available and no further visit to the Nexus is required.
  • Will the Codex make visited experiences visible as a single list, or will it have categories, or will something like the top 10 popular experiences out of those visited be listed first?
    • The Codex will just be a searchable list of places a user has visited.
    • The Prime Portal at the Nexus, however, will be more Atlas-like as it will contain all public experiences (aka “worlds”) and have categories, etc., as well as being searchable.
    • In respect of both, the Lab recognises that they will have to look at ways to improve the discoverability of both existing and new content.
  • Will people be able to set their own home location – such as one of their own experiences, rather than having to go to the Nexus or their Home Space? This idea has been noted.

Avatar 2.0 and Avatar Related

  • The reference files for the male avatar are the same as the avatar base shape, so yes, the male avatar does look skinny; the explanation for this that LL are trying to make both female and male avatars similar in shape to allow easy sharing of clothing and accessories between the two (so a shirt for a male avatar should fit a female avatar, for example).
  • The similarity is also to help with body deformation (when that becomes available) – so that the base shape for both avatars has a “common ground” for deformation.
  • The base shape is, apparently, intentionally more stylised than realistic. It has particularly been noted by many, including blogger Ryan Schultz that the female avatar’s proportions are off, which has prompted discussion on the Sansar Discord channel.
    • However, it should be noted that this has long been the case with SL avatars, but deformation, etc., means it is possible for those who want a more realistic shape can have it, while those who want more out-of-proportion shapes (e.g. for an alien or something) can also do so.
  • The avatar 2.0 head / face will have (as previously reported) a series of presets to help users define a particular / preferred look.
    • In addition accessories (e.g. earrings, nose rings, etc.) should move as facial deformation / different presets are used.
    • There will also be a translation / rotation tools to allow accessories to be moved around and positioned.
    • Auto-skinning will be applied to that accessories should automatically follow a part of the face that’s in motion (so a lip ring should follow the lip movements, for example).
  • Will the bounding box for the avatar be increased in size? This is something the Lab is looking at, but no firm commitment to change as yet.
  • Will avatar 2.0 be scalable at release?
    • Uniform scaling, as with avatar 1.0, yes.
    • Non-uniform scaling, no, not until full body deformation is released.
    • Head scaling will be possible separately to the body.
  • Avatar texture caching: there is an ongoing project to improve how avatar textures are handled and cached / logged. The work should be surfacing in one or two near-future releases.
    • An initial element of this will be a cap on per-avatar textures within an experience. Avatars entering the experience with their texture load below the cap will be seen as intended, those over the cap will have textures downsampled to bring them under the limit.
    • This might be extended to be handled on a client basis – so those with more powerful systems can crank the limit up, for example.
  • Will avatar 2.0 have a user-adjustable height offset to prevent feet / shoes appearing to sink into the ground? Not currently planned. If there are significant issues, test cases should be forwarded to the Lab to see if adjustments to the IK system are required.

General Q&A

  • The usual five:
    • High heels for avatars: not on the roadmap at present.
    • 3D mouse support: not on the roadmap, will more likely be a general project to support game pads, joysticks, etc., if done.
    • Valve Index support: something the Lab wants, but no time frame, other than when the Lab get to work on it, it is estimated to be around 2-3 weeks of work.
    • Wiki: the more user-submitted guides that are made to the forum public documentation area, the more weight is given to the case for the Lab creating and offering / managing a wiki.
    • Persistence: the Sansar devs would love documented requirements on where and how persistence might be needed / used, particularly as persistence is under consideration at the moment.
  • Collaborative building in Sansar plus the ability to build experiences for others:
    • Collaborative building within a single space still very much on the cards. Is still a question of when the Lab can get to it, and also how to manage the permissions (who can do what within the scene).
    • Building for others is seen as something the Lab also want to make possible – with creators able to build scenes or entire experiences and making them available through the Sansar Store to others – but again, no time frame on when this will happen.
  • Moderation within an experience (e.g. giving the ability to provide others with the ability to ban people from a scene, to administer / manage it on behalf of the owner, etc). Also on the roadmap, but no overall time-frame.
  • Vehicles:
    • Something the Lab would like to do, but there are complexities: how is control of a vehicle subscribed? How to provide a good level of responsiveness to vehicle handling through the scripting system, etc.
    • Initially, what is being proposed is more “remote control” style vehicles, operating at lower speeds – presumably rideable, rather than just mini RC cars and things.
  • Event related:
    • Will the ticketing system be exposed to creators, and will creators be able to use it to charge for entry to events?
      • No plans to expose the ticketing system or allow creators to change for events (both of which appear to be a change from past statements).
      • Major reason cited is complexity of transactional management and tracking between users.
      • Suggestions for potential ticketed events (paid or unpaid) should be proposed to Linden Lab.
    • Can event creators have access to the number of people who register interest in an event (e.g. to help determine it date / times need to be revised in future similar events if 50 register interest and only 6 show up)? Yes, this has been considered by the Lab, along with other events improvements; it’s just a case of when and how things will be tweaked.
    • Can there be special LL-derived physical world prizes (e.g. “Sansar Early Access” t-shirts, etc.), people can win, so helping encourage engagement and involvement in events within Sansar – and help promote the platform? Will be taken into consideration.
  • Why is there an option to set a re-sale price for clothing when we cannot actually allow others to re-sell it? Because the capability hasn’t been released, and requires the on-going work in integrating the permissions system with the avatar system – but the ability to allow re-sale is coming.

Sansar Product Meetings week #34: Nexus release overview

Get ready to enter the Sansar Nexus (image courtesy of Linden Lab)

The following notes were taken from my audio recording of the August 22nd (week #34) Sansar Product Meeting, which focus on the upcoming Nexus Release (Release R36). Additional questions on store updates, etc., are not included in the notes below – please refer to the official video.

The Nexus Release – Key Points

The Nexus Release will see the deployment of some major new aspects of Sansar: Avatar 2.0 (discussed in previous Product meetings, with a recap below); the Nexus, the Codex and the first deployment of the experience points (XP) system.

This release should be deployed during week #35 (commencing Monday, August 26th, 2019), unless any last minute issues cause it to slip (there is reportedly “a lot of bug stompin'”  going on).

The Nexus

  • A new concept for Sansar intended to present it as more of a “multiverse” of experiences  – or “worlds” as appears to be the new preferred term (a-la The Oasis and Ready Player One) – rather than a platform of (largely) individual settings.
  • All users will be automatically delivered to the Nexus on logging-in to Sansar (existing users will not be delivered to their Home Space, although this will still be accessible via the Look Book.
    • As such, the Nexus will also somewhat replace the current Social Hub as an initial destination for people (by using the TP portal from their Home Space).
    • However, the Social Hub will continue to exist, but as an additional location for joining quests, etc., rather than being a “core” hub.
  • As a part of the quest element, the Nexus introduces the concept of a new Sansar “back-story” incorporating quests.
    • The first of these quests involve an NPC called Agent Primus, who also plays a role in the new New User Tutorial (see below).
    • Additional quests will be added over time to this basic structure.
    • In time it is hoped that creators will be able to hook into this back-story and offer their own quests off of it / related to it.
  • The initial release is focused more on the idea of quests and game-play in Sansar – future updates will further introduce the Social, Creator and Explorer Guilds.

The Prime Portal

The Prime Portal is at the heart of the Nexus.

  • It is a new means of discovering worlds within Sansar.
  • It is both an in-world object and a UI element (the latter is triggered by the former).
    • It will effectively “absorb” the client-based  Atlas.
    • It will not in any way supersede the web-based Atlas, which will remain as a means of viewing worlds  / events whilst not logged-in to Sansar. However, future planned updates will see the web-based Atlas undergo some changes.
  • The Prime Portal will be supported by a number of “categorised” permanent portals.
    • There will be an events specific portal, for example.
    • Another will (initially) point to all the popular worlds (e.g. by visitor numbers) that users have created. This will gradually be expanded.
    • Other portals may be added to direct users to worlds developed by Sansar’s content partners (e.g. Monstercat, Roddenberry Entertainment, etc).
    • The Sansar team is keen to develop further such permanent portals in collaboration with experience / world creators.
  • The Prime portal will be searchable, in much the same way as the Atlas currently is.

New User Tutorial Element

  •  A key part of the Nexus is a new New User Tutorial, which must also be completed by existing users when they log-in for the first time after the Nexus Release has been deployed.
  • Within the tutorial, Agent Primus will teach users the basics of Sansar – movement, controls teleporting, etc.
  • In particular, the tutorial will allow new users to obtain their Codex, another key part of the release.

The Codex

  • A new menu tool intended to make re-visiting Sansar experiences easier (described as a “device” you carry with you and that triggers a new UI element).
  • Each new world you visit is automatically added to your Codex
    • For well-travelled Sansarians will be seeded with the worlds they’ve visited over the last 2-3 months.
  • It is designed to work alongside all the other means of discovering Sansar experiences – using experience-to-experience portals, via the use of URLs, etc., – these will automatically be added to people’s Codex if not already listed.
  • Users will have a personal Codex they can curate themselves.
    • Worlds will be listed in the order of most recently visited first.
    • Those a user does not wish to return to can be deleted.
    • All of the worlds created by a user will be also listed and accessible through their Codex.
    • There is potential for the Codex to be linked to the rewards system, so users can obtain rewards based on their use of their Codex.
  • In addition, users will be able to view the Codex listings of their friends and of experience creators, and use the links in them to visit places in Sansar.
  • Codex listings can be searched in a similar manner to the current Atlas.
  • In addition, the Codex interacts with things like the Prime Portal and other portals to “activate” them on approach.
  • It is seen as a means for users to directly tailor Sansar to suit their own preferences / needs / wants – people can curate the experiences recorded, share them, etc., and move freely around Sansar as they chose / dependent of what they want to do based on past experience, as well as using the Prime Portal to discover new worlds and activities.

Events and the Nexus / Codex

  • As noted above, there may be a permanent portal in the Nexus that is dedicated to events.
  • In addition, ALL events will be visible to, and accessible from, a user’s Codex, regardless of whether or not they have visited the experience being used to host the event.
  • Live / in progress events will be given priority (appearing first) as they are obviously time-limited.

XP System

R36 will see the initial deployment of the Sansar experience points (XP) system.

  • This is intended to track users’ progress throughout Sansar. Within this initial deployment, users will be able to earn XP by completing quests  offered in the Nexus (up to a maximum level of 8).
  • In the future, additional ways to earn XP will be offered, together with the means for creators to offer XP as a reward for their own quests.
  • The existing quests available at the Social Hub will be included in the XP system, and those who have already completed them will be automatically granted the associated XP.

The Thinking behind These Changes

Why Introduce the Nexus  / Prime Portal?

The Nexus and Prime Portal are seen as a preferential means of introducing users to Sansar over the current Atlas because:

  • They are rooted “in” the platform, rather than being a somewhat nebulous element of the client UI. Both for a physical place and object people can visit and form an association with.
  • The Nexus gives incoming users a sense of purpose by presenting them with things to do, to obtain, etc., through the quests whilst additionally helping them to see the much large potential of Sansar with its many worlds that are awaiting visits, exploration, etc.
  • It provides a more natural social space.
  • It thus offers something of a “wrapper” around Sansar that hopefully makes it easier to comprehend by those coming into the platform, encouraging them to both engage and return.

Making Sansar More Social / Directed

  • Sansar is a social platform, so a more interactive hub like the Nexus is seen as a means of better opening the opportunity for social interactions to occur.
  • Similarly, the Codex is seen as a means of both encouraging social interaction and for directed play, by allowing users to share the worlds they’ve visited with one another, to visit them together, etc., more easily than is the case with a more impersonal Atlas
    • For example, a friend who gives you the URL to  world is more likely to be attuned to what you like / provide more informative background info on that world that might be the case if you just randomly scroll through the Atlas to find it.

Are These Updates Intended To Turn Sansar in a Games Platform?

  • Not directly – as noted, concepts such as the Social, Creator and Explorer guilds will be introduced for those with specific interests in those areas.
  • That said, these features do include an over-arching questing system, XP system, which are associated with games, but are provided here to offer creators and users with the capabilities to create and participate in a wide range of interactive activities – games, guided tours, learning experiences, etc.
  • The idea remains to provide people with the tools and the freedom (subject to Linden Lab’s and Sansar’s Terms of Service!) to create anything they like and which is of interest to them, their friends or a much wider audience of users.

Avatar 2.0 – Reminder

Pre-release Creator Programme now in progress.

  • Designed to allow creators who create avatars, avatar wearables, accessories, etc to have their content tested by the Lab ahead of the avatar support being added to the client.
    • The Lab may only initially be reviewing around 2-4 items per creator. Additional items submitted will only be reviewed once all creators making submissions have been seen.
    • Creators are obviously free to test their items in their own 3D editor of choice, if preferred, and wait until the launch of Avatar 2.0 to make any necessary adjustments.
  • The programme will be discontinued one or two days prior to the Nexus release being deployed – so time is now short for creators wishing to make use of it and who have not as yet submitted items for testing.

Official Documentation

Avatar 2.0 and Marvelous Designer™ Clothing

  • A set of tools for Marvelous Designer™ will be released with Avatar 2.0.
  • These will allow creators and users to scale, translate and rotate their MD clothing assets to better fit avatar (so a user can take a human jacket and scale it to fit an orc avatar using the Avatar 2.0 skeleton, for example).

Too Early? Too Confusing?

Concerns remain that Avatar 2.0 is being released too early and could confuse users. For example, it will allow head / facial deformation (to a much greater extent than previously possible), but will not allow body deformation.

While the latter isn’t possible with Avatar 1.0, the fact that additional deformation abilities are being added to the face / head but not the body is being seen by creators as potentially confusing / frustrating users who might otherwise anticipate a more flexible system.

Special Office Hours: Fees / Commission Rates

There will be a special Office Hours meeting in week #35 (commencing Monday, August 26th, 2019) specifically to discuss Sansar fees, Store commission charges, etc. This will also be accompanied by a blog post on the subject, and those interested should keep an eye on the Events section of the web Atlas for details.

Sansar Product Meetings week #33: feedback and Q & A

Who said you can’t dance in Sansar? The June Organic Light Show by Mario2 Helstein

The following notes were taken from my audio recording of the August 15th (week #33) Sansar Product Meeting, which formed a general feedback and Q&A session. Not all topics are covered, notably those that were as case of requests being noted rather than being given a detailed reply, or passed on answering as the subject specialists from the Lab were not in attendance for the meeting.

Note on meeting videos: the Sansar team have resumed posting videos of meetings to You Tube, which allows me to once again embed their recordings in these updates (although at the time of writing, the video for this particular meeting had yet to be uploaded –  I’ll update when the video is available). This means the notes for those meetings I was able to attend between May and August 2019 have now been updated with their video recordings.

Quest Update 3 – August 15th

A third Quest release update was made on August 15th, 2019, which included both quest and profile improvements.

Quest Updates

  • Further Quest panel tweaks – notable a progress bar that records the number of objectives within a quest that have been achieved.
  • Scripts should no longer crash when the Quest Objective Controller script receives an Objective Complete event message that is missing agent data.
  • Users should no longer be blocked on completing locked objectives from quests offered by a quest character.

Profile Updates

Profiles receive an overhaul with this update. The panel has been enlarged and includes two panels:

  • Profile: includes buttons to send a direct message to the user; gift them Sansar Dollars; send a friend request to them (if they are not a friend) or remove them as a friend (button toggles automatically depending on their relationship to you); report and block a user.
  • Creations: lists all of the user’s creations (if they have any). This includes Sansar Store items, published experiences and snapshot uploaded to their Sansar web profile. Clicking on any of these options will display the relevant part of the web profile or take you to the user’s Store page.
  • Bio: a field (editable by the user owning the profile) for writing biographical notes (via Socialise > Edit My Profile then clicking on the bio field in the profile panel). If a web profile has been written by a user, it will be displayed here and any updates made in this panel will also be appear in the web profile).

In addition, the profile picture for the user contains:

  • A mute / unmute button for voice chat.
  • What appears to be an initial pass at an achievement indicator surrounding the profile image.
The new Profile panel for Sansar users – click for full size, if required

Finally, profiles for other users can now be accessed by clicking on the user’s profile image in any the chat or the quest info panels.

Avatar 2.0 – Reminder

Pre-release Creator Programme now in progress.

  • Designed to allow creators who create avatars, avatar wearables, accessories, etc to have their content tested by the Lab ahead of the avatar support being added to the client.
    • The Lab may only initially be reviewing around 2-4 items per creator. Additional items submitted will only be reviewed once all creators making submissions have been seen.
    • Creators are obviously free to test their items in their own 3D editor of choice, if preferred, and wait until the launch of Avatar 2.0 to make any necessary adjustments.
  • The programme will be discontinued once Avatar 2.0 has been released, when creators will be able to test their items directly in the client.

Official Documentation

Avatar 2.0 and Marvelous Designer™ Clothing

  • A set of tools for Marvelous Designer™ will be released with Avatar 2.0.
  • These will allow creators and users to scale, translate and rotate their MD clothing assets to better fit avatar (so a user can take a human jacket and scale it to fit an orc avatar using the Avatar 2.0 skeleton, for example).

XP System

There has been a lot of discussion about the upcoming Experience Points (XP) system via Discord. The feedback tends to reflect what is already under discussion / in development within the Sansar team. As such, while open to making changes based on suggestions and ideas from the community, what is already being developed addresses most of the ideas thus far put forward.

Direct Teleport Links

A frequent request is to have the ability to direct users to a specific point within an experience when teleporting to it, rather than them being directed to a spawn point. With quests and linking experiences, this has taken on greater import (e.g. if you enter a building in a quest by being teleported to another experience representing the building interior, when leaving, you should be returned to the “door” into the building in the originating experience – not to the spawn point).

LL has asked for creators to give specific use-cases via Discord on how this might work. Should it be a spawn point that has to be specifically requested (e.g. via a script)? Is it something that could be specified via an X, Y, Z coordinates heading? Is it something that should be restricted at the experience level so only certain scripted objects can trigger the teleport (imagine a key for a door that the user must obtain)?

Current Development Focus

Mention is often made of a roadmap for Sansar development. As a part of this, some of the high-level items the Sansar team is looking at include:

  • Further updates to the quest system – tools, UI, adding in storylines, NPCs, building new quests, adding the rewards system, etc.
  • The upcoming Avatar 2.0 release and the build-out of that capability.
  • The upcoming XP system.
  • Extending the current LOD system (focused on avatars) to include textures as well to help further reduce the load on client graphics memory.  Eventually, the system will extend outward to include scene content as well.

General Q&A

  • Persistence: the Sansar devs have been discussing the various requests for persistence (e.g. script persistence) that have been received (use cases still welcome) and determining which use cases should work from those which may not work, and are in the midst of determining what capabilities might be provided in a first pass at persistence.
    • It’s noted that any work that may come out of this may not initially address all use cases, but the aim is to define what can be rolled out in a reasonable time frame that addresses as many achievable use cases as possible. This will then be extended as necessary.
  • Valve Index headset support: LL have a couple of the headsets on order and do want to provide support, but time frames for doing so still TBD.
  • Store related:
    • Can a bulk update button be provided for things like discounted item prices to make it easier to update multiple items during sale events organised by Sansar? Currently not on the roadmap, but under consideration as part of the overall drive to provide more Store features and abilities.
    • Is the ability to bundle items of the same type (e.g. multiple colour versions of the same shirt or dress) on the Store coming? Not currently on the roadmap, but is something the Lab wants to provide.
  • Avatar and avatar accessory related:
      • How soon will the ability to deform the full Avatar 2.0 skeleton using sliders be behind the initial release (facial deformation will be possible with the first release)? Potentially a while because a) the deformation system is seen as needing to be hooked into the licensing system; b) skin texturing support (including custom uploads and layering) is seen as being a higher priority, as it has no other dependences.
      • The hope is to have body deformation available within a year – possibly a lot sooner.
      • Lack of fully body deformation is already being seen by some creators as something that could result in users reacting negatively to avatar 2.0 simply because it will be seen to be limited in much the same way as the current avatar.
    • Can the tri count for hair / headgear be increased to allow for more complex hairstyle and hair with hats, etc? Increasing tri count limits for hair and other assets in being considered internally, but no specific details or time frame on what might happen currently available.
    • Will additional default options for things like hair be provided by LL? Yes.
      • In particular, the deployment of Avatar 2.0 will see all hairstyles and rigged accessories supplied by Linden Lab replaced with new items.
      • Some inventory / look Book options will be changing as well – such as how skin selection works, in part in readiness for supporting custom skin uploads from creators.
    • Will things like flexies be supported for hair, etc? No. However, in the future, it is hoped that accessories like hair can use their own skeletons to provide them with flexibility via animations.
  • Will it be possible to host events in experiences other than your own – e.g. in Sansar Studio experiences? That is a longer-term goal. For experiences by other creators, this may involve a mechanism by which the experience can be purchased or rented or borrowed.
    • There are updates that are required to the events system before this can be deployed.
    • As a short-term measure, if someone wants to host an event in a Sansar Studios experience / Lab-created experience, they should contact either Galileo or Lacie Linden to discuss their ideas / requirements.
    • If there are specific venues types that would be useful, suggestions should be made via Discord, and attempts will be made to furnish more experience templates that users can obtain and host events within.
    • This also feeds into a wider discussion on monetising quests and events, something the Lab is also discussing internally.
  • Can individual volume controls for users be better surfaced in the client? This is something the Sansar team want to look into.
  • Can UI scaling be added to the client to address issues of elements being too small to read on 4K monitors? Again, is something the Lab plans to address.
  • As a lot of Sansar seems to depend on building-out the licensing system, why can’t this just be a focus in itself? Because that’s not a practical way to work: projects such as Avatar 2.0 (and others) have their own unique hooks that have to be added into the licensing system, and these can really only be done as a part of their own projects, rather than some form of “licensing project”.

Sansar: Questing Office Hours – questing best practices

Members of the Sansar Quest team (standing and facing towards the camera, with Community Manager Galileo hovering among them) at the Questing Office Hours, Friday, August 9th, 2019

On Friday, August 9th, 2019, members of the Sansar questing development team, together with the platform’s Community Manager, Galileo, held a QuestingOdffice Hours discussion group. The video of the meeting is available on Twitch (which unfortunately, WordPress.com won’t let me embed), and the following is a summary of the key discussion points.

At times the discussion strayed into areas of product re-sale, the Sansar Store, future general enhancements (Desktop parity with VR in the UI, vehicles, and so on), collaborative building, etc. These are excluded from the notes below, as they have been covered in various Sansar Product Meeting notes in this blog; for details of specifics discussed in the meeting, please refer to the video.

Related Articles

Quest System – Purpose

  • To provide a mechanism by which directed play capabilities can be included in Sansar experiences, be they developed by Sansar Studios or by creators.
  • Can be considered a framework for telling stories / leading people into game play within experiences and even to help creators develop events that can engage with users directly.
  • In addition, it has been designed to work alongside the experience points (XP) / progression system, itself to encourage user engagement more broadly as they can earn XPs and “level up” in Sansar no matter what they do or where their particular interest in the platform lies (i.e. those who like to attend event or just spend time exploring or socialising can earn XPs as level up just like those who play games and / or engage directly in quests).
  • Quests, the XP system and rewards (the latter two still to be released) form what the Sansar team regard as a Core Loop of capabilities to help keep users involved in Sansar.
  • Initial requirements for the quest system included:
    • Having a defined start point, such as through an NPC type of character, offer the ability for players to interact with characters and objects, present quest creators with a means to guide players through their quests, allow structured, multiple objectives as a part of a quest / game, and present a means to build interactions, activities, objectives, into a cohesive story.
    • Providing hooks into Sansar’s Simple Script library so that interactivity, etc., could easily be built without the need for complex scripting, whilst also providing an API that those with more coding experience can then leverage as well, allowing them to make better use of scripted items already in their scenes.

How to Write a Quest

  • Some obvious considerations: what is the quest’s purpose? What are the likely levels / objectives going to be? How will users initially engage with it (e.g. is the quest the reason for the experience, or is it a part of an experience / group of experiences and people can engage with if they so wish, or can ignore if they prefer)? What is the end-point? What interactions will be required for finding / achieving objectives?
    • The above will generally inform as to the overall complexity of the quest, allowing the structure to be better defined.
  • Think about narrative.
    • Is the quest a game type of activity or multiple games within an experience? If so, you can probably get away with basic game play instructions: where / how to start, what to do, how to know when the objective is achieved.
    • If the quest is more adventure / exploring / progress oriented? Then consider more in the way of narrative: an outline of what the quest is, who the players are, what must be done, where it can end, etc. Keep the narrative flow present as objectives are presented / achieved.
  • Set expectations from the outset, and keep in mind how you might what to change things up / add twists in the case of things like adventure-type quests.
  • Consider progression carefully – how will players move from objective to objective? Is there a risk of becoming confused (e.g. setting out to complete one objective only to encounter the start of another and getting sidetracked into it).
    • Proximity and time are important: do you really want to send users after an objective that requires they travel from one end of an experience to the other (or even to another of your experiences) that takes large amounts of time to do, risking boredom?
    • Be aware of “rubber banding” – sending a player from and back to the same point when they are trying to complete objectives. This might work for certain types of game play, but can quickly become repetitive and boring if used with something like an evolving, story-driven quest, where point-to-point progression through the quest and the environment(s) in which it is set can be more engaging.
  • When building a quest across multiple experiences, consider (again) the route and how the player will engage with each experience.
  • For narrative-style quests, think about using “reveals” that might suddenly change the story somewhat for the player and re-pique their interest (e.g. walking through a cave and finding a door that, when entered suddenly moves the player to an entirely new environment that catches them by surprise).
The two Quest Givers at the Sansar Social Hub

Using Characters (NPCs) In Quests

  • Quest giver characters are currently in development with the Lab.
  • These will do things like: introduce a quest to a user; provide a list of available quests within an experience (from which the user can select), and to acknowledge the completion of a quest.
  • Characters will also have the ability to send players onwards to other characters with whom they can interact for other quests or for objectives.
    • Part of this is intended to help with quests that are dependent on one another: if you complete “quest A” then character B will allow you to commence  “quest B”, if you haven’t, character B will direct you to find character A so you can perform “quest A”.

Upcoming Quest Updates / Improvements

  • Current work is iterating on the quest interface to make it more informative (as per the August 7th update) and to keep it clean and easy to understand.
  • The progression / XP system is being worked on as well, this will include updates to the avatar profile panel (presumably to display achievements).
  • Later in the year the Sansar team will be releasing some first-person quests, which will include further scripting improvements.

General Q&A

  • How can a player inform a quest creator their quest may be broken (e.g. an objective will not complete) if they are not friends? Most likely tag and contact them via the Sansar Discord channel, or use the Sansar Quest channel on Discord.
  • Can Sansar Dollars be earned playing quests?
    • Only in the Sansar-provided quests (such as those at the Social Hub).
    • Creators will be able to offer objects as rewards (up to 3 per quest) in a future update, but they will not have the ability to offer Sansar Dollars.
    • The latter point will include the ability for creators to offer choices of rewards (e.g. take either A or B), and will eventually include the ability for players to follow a link to the creator’s Sansar Store, should they be interested in browsing / purchasing more items.
  • Will it be possible for users to at some point exchange rewards within a quest (e.g. carry out a form of trading “I’ll give you my two left-handed widget wranglers for that turbo whack-a-mole mallet”)? Such a system is on the roadmap using NPCs but no time frame for delivery at present.
    • This might include a quest-specific “soft” currency unrelated to Sansar Dollars or with fiat value.
    • The XP system might also be tied-in to this as well.
  • Can finding quests be made easier it’s not obvious in the Atlas?
    • One way being considered is for experiences published with complete quests will have a small icon associated with them when listed in the Atlas.
    • Another idea under consideration is for a portal or category to be made specifically for the most popular quests.
    • These ideas, if adopted, won’t be deployed until the quest system has been made a little more robust, feature-wise.
  • Can creators obtain data on how many people have participated in / completed their quests? Currently this data is being compiled manually by the Lab and then published to Discord. More robust / automated mechanisms are planned.
  • Are multi-player and / or repeatable quests on the roadmap? Yes, but no delivery dates available.
  • Can there be a means for users to abandon / drop a quest if they don’t want to complete it? Yes, and this will allow users to restart the quest.
  • Will there be a more complete quest journal for users, showing the quests they’ve participated in, completed, rewards gained, the experience(s) associated with a quest, etc? Yes.
  • Will quest givers support audio options (so users can hear as well as read about the quest)? Technically possible now (but not easy) to achieve. Could potentially be made easier.
  • The quest pop-up listing quests in progress for a user is seen as an irritating nag, although its usefulness as a reminder is understood.
  • Creators would also like (as per the week #32 Product Meeting) these ability to:
    • Reset specific objectives in a quest, rather than an entire quest.
    • Be able to add further objectives to an existing quest (such as news “chapters” to an evolving story) with user able to resume the quest and complete the new objectives without having to re-do the entire quest just to reach the newer objectives.