Sansar 2019 Product Meetings week #5: release R29 summary

Scurry Canyon shooting game by FullSpectrum

The following notes were taken from the Sansar Product Meeting held on Thursday, January 31st. The full video of the meeting is available here. These notes highlight information pertaining to the upcoming R29 release, and user engagement discussions.

Upcoming Release Highlights

Emotes  / Animations Fix: there is an issue with the current release that can see some odd behaviour with animations, particularly for those in VR. There will be a fix for this in the next release, however, it will mean that users with custom animations will have to re-assign them to their perferred emotes. This will only have to be done once.

Teleport Portal Feature: the next release will include a new chat-driven teleport portal feature. This allows a limited time portal to be created in an experience that can be used by anyone to teleport to another experience. The command will take the format “/portal”, and the portal will exist for around 2 minutes.

So, for example, if you are with friends in an experience and decide you all want to visit Aech’s Garage, one person in the group can type:

/portal https://atlas.sansar.com/experiences/sansar-studios/ready-player-one-aech-s-garage

The rezzed portal can then be clicked on by those wishing to use it to transfer to the other experience until the portal times-out and vanishes. Should this prove intrusive, the Lab will consider adding an option for experience creators to block the capability, if required.

VR IK Improvements: updates to the IK system should mean that hand movements will not lag so noticeably behind actual hand movements when in VR. This is part of work to improve overall IK responsiveness.

R29 should also see the removal of the height calibration menu and storing a person’s height when using VR. There will still be options for setting it, if required (such as when a headset is being used by two different people); but where the headset is only used by the one individual, once height is set, it will be saved, and it will no longer be necessary to re-calibrate in different sessions. In addition, it will also include the ability to manually adjust the recorded height.

Hidden surface removal algorithm: this should seem significant improvements when selecting / updating your avatar looks (the in progress spinner shouldn’t appear for quite so long – the reduction in time estimated to be from the current 20-30 seconds to around 7 seconds.

Edit Server Fixes: R29 will include a number of Edit Server fixes. It is hoped these will help reduce the number of Edit Server disconnects experience creators can be faced with when working on a scene. This work is part of the overall effort being put into stability across the entire platform.

User Engagement

Avatar Movement / Controls

There have been complaints (and still are) about various aspects of Sansar’s control options (many of the complaints on Steam, for example, target the “non-intuitive” set-up of the VR  hand controller options).

One area of frustration many have is in avatar movement. In SL, for example, using the D key will orient the avatar and camera so the avatar is clearly facing the direction it is walking in. In Sansar, the camera will remain in place as the avatar walks to the left or right, giving what can be an odd “strafing” slide to the camera until it is re-oriented.

The problem here is which sort of controls are best: it might be argued that the “strafing” approach is something common in games, while the SL approach is more “non-standard”. However, users coming via Steam seem to be experiencing issues with turning their avatars when walking. So, the lab is seeking feedback on how best to consider possible improvements.

Quest / Progress System and user Engagement

To help new users, LL are working on a “quest / progression” system for Sansar.

  • Initially this will be a tutorial style option for new users, designed to take them through a basic quest and learn to use the basic controls (VR and keyboard), carry out tasks (pick things up, use them, drop them, teleport, etc), complete with some form of rewards / progress system that will deliver them to their Home Space on completion.
  • It will likely include a “come back and do this later” opt-out to allow people who are joining Sansar to attend a specific event (e.g. a show or performance) to log-in and get directly to the event, rather than being diverted into this on-boarding process.
  • Over time, the Quest / progress system will be opened out to experience creators, so they can embed it within their own games / quests, offer their own rewards / prizes (initially via the store), etc.
  • This system will (eventually) include infrastructure and capabilities that will include: information on the current quest a user is playing; how far they have progressed; what their upcoming task(s) is / are, etc.
  • Ideas put forward by both the Lab and creators at the meeting) for quest / game environments that might be built on this system include:
    • Hunts of some description, which also might be across multiple experiences, should experience creators have their builds included and add rewards to the quest.
    • Escape Room style games.
    • Story-based quests  – mysteries to be solved, etc.
    • More social-style games were also suggested, such as board games, card games, etc., that can easily be played by a group of friends.

For new users, there needs to be a clear distinction between goals and achievements. For example, Making 10 new friends might be considering an (unadvertised?) “achievement” within a quest, were a new user happen to do this as they played it; but it would not be a stated goal of the quest (as in, “you must now gain 10 friends in order to proceed to the next level”). This is to avoid new users lobbing multiple friend requests every time they come across other people and possibly annoying them. However, going to X, solving Y / overcoming Y to receive Z from the store, would be a goal / reward.

Another idea put forward is a system of badges / medals that can be received through repeated engagement in the platform. This type of system is used within Steam and is apparently popular there, and High Fidelity utilise a similar system as well.

Platform Promotion: VR AND Desktop Accessibility

One issue seen with Sansar gaining new users is that it is frequently perceived as “VR only” (this is a common form of feedback among Second Life users – I’ve seen it in comments on this blog).

In 2018, the Lab adjusted some of their advertising to de-emphasise the VR aspect of Sansar (such as removing some of the VR bias from the Sansar.com homepage); but conversely, there are still events that are promoted with this bias – Comedy Gladiators being a case in point (e.g. Comedy Gladiators, from Comedian Steve Hofstetter, Takes Live Entertainment to New Heights with Real-Time Ticketing & Physical Merchandise Sales in VR – Linden Lab press release, November 29th, 2018).

It’s been acknowledged by the Lab, that more needs to be done to emphasise the fact that Sansar can be enjoyed directly from the PC desktop without the need for a VR headset.

In Brief

  • Simple Scripts: it is widely felt these are under-utilised by experience creators. One issue is the lack of detailed documentation / tutorial material to go with them. This is apparently being addressed by the Sansar team.
  • 3D Mouse systems: following repeated requests from creators and machinima makers, initial steps have been taken to investigate whether support can be added to Sansar.
  • Other points of discussion, such as bugs, questions on specific aspects of content creation, etc., can be obtained by watching the video.
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Sansar 2019 Product Meetings week #3 w/audio

Sansar Social Hubblog post

The following notes were taken from the Sansar Product Meeting held on Thursday, January 17th. The meeting was chaired by Stanley, the Director of Product for Sansar at Linden Lab and who was marking his first time leading a product meeting. Also in attendance (who I noted) were Cara, Aleks, Leslie, Nix and Stretch Linden.

Stanley has been with the Lab for some six months, and has been working closely with the Product team with a focus on improving the consumer experience, particularly the integration with Steam.

Sansar Dollars To US Dollar Conversions

On Wednesday, January 16th, 2019, Linden Lab published a Sansar blog post outlining Sansar Dollar to US dollar conversions. The post follow-on from changes announced in December related to Sansar becoming available on Steam – specifically the closure of the SandeX, which has been replaced by a flat-rate exchange rate for S$<>USD transactions.

The latest blog post outlines the key points of the new exchange process. In short:

  • Sansar dollars can be converted to USD at the rate of S$250 to $1.00. However, anyone who created their Sansar account before December 31, 2018, can exchange at the legacy rate of S$143 to $1.00 through until  December 31, 2019, after which the conversion rate for all accounts will be S$250 to $1.00.
  • The Process Credit page has been re-enabled for moving USD to PayPal accounts. However, to allow for processing of funds that may come via Steam, processing may take up to 30 days to complete a request.

However, there is more – and it has been somewhat negatively received.

  • Only “Earned Dollars” can be cashed out. That is, only S$ obtained via the sale of goods / services. S$ that are purchased or received as a gift / tip cannot later be cashed out (although all S$ held before the January 16th blog post have been converted to Earned Dollar Status).
  • It has been calculated that, even allowing for easements elsewhere in the system, creators are losing some 60% of potential income when cashing out.

This latter point was of particular concern at the Product Meeting, but the Lab’s hand is forced on the matter due to Sansar now also being provisioned through Steam, there is also concern as to whether the S$ > USD exchange rate might undergo further adjustments other than that planned for the end of 2019.

There are currently no plans to introduce adjustments to the cash-out exchange rate beyond those indicated in the blog post, which amount to anyone cashing-out paying around 60% in commissions. To help offset this, the Lab no longer takes a commission on any store-based transactions between users; they only take a commission on the cashing-out of S$.

Even so, and not unreasonably, creators feel that the shifting of fee payments to the cashing-out process means they are effectively subsidising the Steam integration, particularly given that – by the Lab’s own admission – the majority of users in Sansar are still coming directly into the platform, rather than via Steam, yet Steam still take a cut of the cash-out transactions.

The Lab acknowledge this is currently one-sided, but given they have no means at this point in time to accurately judge how much of an impact Steam will have on Sansar’s usage, they have erred on the side of caution. But whether in time the commission percentages could be adjusted, very much depends on how traffic flow through Steam develops over time, with changes to the cash-out process liable to be considered very carefully before being implemented.

It was asked whether Sansar could be provisioned through Steam “without the money part” in order to simplify matters. The problem seen with this approach is it would exclude Steam users from any economic engagement in the platform (as their transactions must come via the Steam wallet), reducing their interest in using the platform (no ability to buy avatar accessories, good, etc.).

The Future With Steam and Other Providers (e.g. Oculus)

Linden Lab see Steam as the “industry standard” for accessing games and for using VR with games. As such, they are unlikely to move away from the current partnership. However, if over time the relationship with Steam does not prove beneficial to Sansar in terms of growth, use, economy, etc., the platform is not in any way locked-in to Steam on a permanent basis, and so a future separation is not impossible.

The Oculus store has also been looked at as a potential channel for Sansar, and talks have been held. However, because of the relationship between Oculus and Facebook, this had proven a lot harder, but is still being worked on.

New User Experience

New User Experience Steam “versus” Sansar

There still seems to be a perception that users coming to Sansar via Steam have a different new user experience to those coming via Sansar.com. Aside for the sign-up process, this is incorrect. Sansar as provided through Steam is no different to Sansar accessed via the website / direct client download: all users go through the same on-boarding experience with their Home Space and the client tutorial, and the new Social Hub.

Enhancing the New User Experience

There are internal discussions at the Lab on further enhancements to the new user experience, such as adding some form of achievements / cosmetic awards system or similar, in order to encourage engagement (particularly among Steam users).

One of the issues Sansar faces (like Second Life) is how it should be pitched, simply because the potential use-cases are so vast and different. Creators, for example, have different reasons to try the platform to consumers; even gamers with an interest in modding view things differently to those purely interested in game play. Thus, the Lab is still juggling with approaches.

In terms of Steam, one of the most basic areas in determining how the appeal of the platform could be improved is via the constructive feedback offered through reviews, given that when provided, these most frequently involve comments on the “non-standard” approach to how control options are laid out on the hand controllers.

Gaming Templates

In keeping with previous Product Meeting summaries in these pages, the Sansar Team is working on various game-style Sansar templates (e.g. shooting games). It is hoped that when these become available, they will encourage creators / users to utilise them within their own experiences, further helping to drive engagement in Sansar.

These templates have also seen the Lab considering issues such as scoring mechanisms, persistence of scores / progress between sessions, etc.

Upcoming R29 Changes

The upcoming R29 release (the first for 2019) includes some further VR updates related to a user’s “connection” to their avatar.

  • One of these will be for the avatar to be more in sync with a users body movements, rather than lagging behind, as can be the case at the moment.
  • Another is to provide better control of arm movements (although this wasn’t clear to me, I assume this is related to keeping the arms more naturally in line with the avatar’s body when moving the hand controllers around).

R29 should also see the removal of the height calibration menu and storing a person’s height when using VR. There will still be options for setting it, if required (such as when a headset is being used by two different people); but where the headset is only used by the one individual, it shouldn’t be necessary to re-calibrate between sessions.

Continue reading “Sansar 2019 Product Meetings week #3 w/audio”

Sansar 2018 Product Meetings #50

The following notes were taken from the Sansar Product Meeting held on Thursday, December 13th, the last such Product Meeting for 2018. As usual, Eliot, the Sansar Community Manager hosted the meeting, with Ebbe, Landon, Aleks, Leslie, Kelly and Julia from the Lab.

High-Level Outlook for 2019

Plans are still being finalised for 2019 and Sansar, so there is some reluctance to talk in-depth about what is likely to be coming and when, however, some high-level bullet points for the platform mentioned in the meeting were:

  • Avatar improvements (e.g. face sliders, custom skins).
  • World (experience) creation easier.
  • Making it easier for people to collaborate and group themselves around “things”.
  • Improving the ability to make interactive content and games.
  • See Sansar be more event-driven.
  • Continue to ship updates at a high rate (the average for 2018 being one update per month).
  • Accelerate the rate of change that is being made with updates, as per that last three releases of 2018.
  • Continue to be responsive to feedback to updates and changes.

A major review of plans is taking place over the final working week of 2018, so early 2019 should see the Lab in a better position to offer some insight into what the year may be bringing to Sansar.

Attending Events

Sansar recently hosted its first ticketed event (sadly at a time far too late for most of us in Europe – hint, hint, Linden Lab) – Comedy Gladiators, hosted by Steven Hofstetter (read more here).  The event apparently went well, with the audience spawning multiple instances and able to see the activities on stage. However, one problem did arise in that people wishing to attend the same instance of the event at times found they couldn’t. The Lab is aware of this and looking to make changes that will allow people access the same instance of a popular event like this, and enjoy it together.

One idea is a “party up” system, that allows a party of named individuals access an instance together. This could be extended to things like team-based games / puzzles / activities, where you need to work as a group and / or work best with limited numbers – so each party of players accessing the game / experience would be delivered to a different instance, thus avoiding interfering with others who already have a game in progress.

In Brief

  • Sansar / Steam Desktop mode issue: there is an issue running Sansar via Steam in Desktop Mode that leaves the audio sliders in Settings non-responsive. This is being investigated by the Lab.
  • Improved camera(s) for 2019? a frequent request through 2018 has been better camera options for filming in Sansar. Idea put forwards include a true “flycam” mode that allows for free filming and avatar movement of the part of the person filming; the ability to create multiple (scripted) camera objects within a scene for filming (and the ability to cut between them when recording); having “flyable” scripted cameras, etc. Such ideas are being discussed by the Lab with no commitment (at present) on what might be delivered or when.
  • Freecamming when using a Sit Point: it is not currently possible to freecam (F4) when seated using the Sit point capability introduced with R28. This will be fixed.
  • “Bigger” Experiences: currently, the upper limit on experiences is 4km on a side (the equivalent area to 256 SL regions). There are currently no plans to expand beyond this, as it is the limit at which the physics aspects of the engine start to break down, and the Lab does not want to get into a Second Life scenario with having to work out how to stitch scenes / experiences together and cater for physically crossing being them.
    • Even working to the 4km upper limit is questionable at present, as Sansar does not have any means of LOD (level of detail) handling within it.
  • Finding Sticky Grab: the new “sticky grab” option introduced with R28 to prevent people picking up guns and then throwing them, rather than firing them (left mouse click), is currently a little obscure when setting it in Edit mode, so it is liable to be better surfaced in an upcoming release.
  • Improved Moderation: an upcoming point release (possibly to appear before Christmas) should allow user-to-user blocking (so not only can a troublemaker be muted, they can be blocked and vanish from your view  – and you vanish from their view).
  • In-client Store Improvements: it is hoped that 2019 will see the in-client Sansar Store achieve parity with the web version of the store (filters and filter options, etc).
  • Steam “Fall-off”: A lot has been made about the fall-off in incoming numbers of users from Steam. This was in some way expected, as at the launch on Steam, Sansar was featured on the Early Access home page (actually how I saw it had been launched), and also on the Steam VR section home page. Since the launch, Sansar is no longer front-and-centre on either page.
  • Avatar Rig: this will likely see changes in 2019. Work is already in hand to try to simplify it; other improvements will be made over time.

 

Sansar 2018 Product Meetings #48: Steam and release 28

LOOT Interactive NASA Apollo Museum

The following notes were taken from the Sansar Community Feedback hour held on Thursday, November 29th. A video of the meeting is available on the official Sansar Twitch channel, and timestamps referencing that video are provided in the text below.

Note that the entire discussion is not summarised here – general questions from the 47 minute point onwards are not included – please refer to the video for these. The focus of this article is the upcoming availability of Sansar on Steam and the the December R28 release.

Sansar On Steam

[3:00-5:44] If all goes according to plan, Sansar will be available on Steam from the end of week #49 (week commencing Monday, December 3rd). The platform has already gained initial approval from Steam, and should gain final approval during the early part of the week.

As I’ve previously noted, Sansar will be on Steam as an Early Access programme. As well as the client being available, there will be a dedicated forum and group on Steam.

Reminder: SandeX Closing

A reminder that as a part of making Sansar available on Steam, the SandeX will be closing on Tuesday, December 4th, 2018, and S$ to USD conversions will move to a fixed conversion rate model.

Please refer to Sansar extends to Steam; Lab to end SandeX for more on this.

“Sokoban” Puzzle Challenge

[5:48-8:40] To mark December, the Sansar team is going to be running a series of challenges through the month. These are intended to be fun items, rather than anything to be taken too seriously, and the first up is the Ugly Christmas Sweater Challenge. As the make implies, this is for clothing creators to make an ugly Christmas sweater and upload it to the Sansar Store. For those who can’t make clothing, some sweater templates may be placed on the Sansar Store that can be obtained, textured and used as entries.

Some of the Ugly Christmas Sweater challenge entries

[9:31-12:00] The second challenge is the Sokoban Puzzle Challenge.

Sokoban (“warehouse keeper”) is a puzzle video game in which the player pushes boxes or crates around in a warehouse, trying to get them to storage locations. An experience based on the game has already been created in Sansar, and users are being asked to create and submit their own levels t add to the experience – read Make A Sokoban Challenge for full details, including how to design and submit levels.

Upcoming Features for the R28 (December) Release

The following updates should be part of the R28 Sansar release, which is currently scheduled for some time between the 10th and 13th December 2018 – so it will be available after the Steam launch.

Teleport to a Friend

[15:59-17:35] This is being updated so that it will not work when trying to teleport to a friend in an unpublished experience, and will not show the experience name if you are in an unpublished experience and someone tries to teleport to you.  These fixes are temporary in nature, as they will not scale, so the Lab will be looking to make further changes to Teleport to a Friend in the future to prevent stalking.

Remember, this feature will teleport your avatar to the spawn point of the same experience as a friend, not directly to that friend.

Chat Updates

[17:39-19:00]

  • Nearby Chat and direct messaging (IMs) will have timestamps with the next release.
  • It will be possible to start a direct message (IM) with a friend from the Chat App without having to open the People App.
  • Japanese, Chinese, Korean, Russian and more will also be supported when typing.

[19:03-19:35] Some in VR have noticed the Chat App panel is “too far away” for them to comfortably reach and grab, forcing them to lean forward when trying to manipulate it.

Home Spaces

[22:24-23:35] The room in which avatars are placed when entering Look Book is to become a Home Space, and will include some light customisation options. The Home Space option will be developed over time to present users with a friendlier environment than the Atlas.

The Look Book “room” is set to become more of a Home Space environment with the next Sansar release, with some initial light customisation options

New User Experience

[24:09-25:28]  The next release will include some client UI “tutorialisation” for new users. This will include various call-outs identifying various parts of the client UI, but these will also be visible to established users the first time the client is run after the release has been deployed.

For the rest of on-boarding, new users will be dropped into the Home Space in the default grey avatar, and will have a list of recommended experiences (based on population within the experiences) they can be sent to.

Continue reading “Sansar 2018 Product Meetings #48: Steam and release 28”

2018 Sansar Product Meetings #45: Look At Me release

Nirvania

Look At Me Release Feedback

  • Typing indicator:
    • Requests have been made to remove the box around the dots and just have the flashing dots when someone is typing.
    • It was also requested that the indicator not pop-up when typing “/” commands for emotes – but as was pointed out, the system has no way of knowing what is being typed until after it has been sent, making it difficult for the indicator to ignore “/” when input.
    • Other UI interactions can also incorrectly cause the typing indicator to appear over an avatar, which the Lab are looking to refine.
  • VR virtual keyboard:
    • Enhancements are already being planned – such as a “emote wheel” to make selection of emotes easier and not reliant on the commands being typed.
    • The Lab would like further feedback on the keyboard and how it might be improved, or options that might be added, if some of the keys should be re-organised, etc.
    • There have been instances where people opening the VR virtual keyboard in (first person view) have found their avatars unexpected walking forward without any of the keyboard buttons being touched.
  • Voice Reset issue: along with the new options to test microphone levels, there is an option to reset the voice stream. However, reports are that when used, the voice stream fails to reconnect.
  • Settings: it’s been noted that in VR, Settings > Control, no longer displays the VR controller options; users only get the desktop keyboard options.
  • UI Buttons:
    • Requests have been made to make them switchable between the left and right sides of the client window, depending on individual user preference.
    • There have also been concerns raised that on very high-resolution (e.g. 4K) screens, the buttons are very small and hard to see.
  • First person avatar view in VR: a preference for seeing the avatar hands an arms when using things like the revised client button set on the left wrist  has been voiced. Eliot noted that the default blue hands are used to cater for avatars that do not have hands and arms (e.g. they have tentacles), so they have a frame of reference when tying to use menus, etc.
  • Hi-Res Texture Streaming: a request was put forward to allow users to select whether or not they want to use the hi-res texture streaming when loading an experience. The point here being that some games – those against the clock, for example – might be dependent upon the scene being fully loaded and ready to go when the user is placed within it.
    • The lab noted there are some tweaks to make to the texture loading, and that in general, there is more to be done to the scene loading to improve load times.
  • Crash issues: there have been a number of crash issues associated with the release (and experienced at the start of the meeting). The Lab is gathering logs, etc., and investigating causes.

Custom Emote Issues

This is something the Lab is aware of. It’s also complex to describe but easy to witness. if someone has a custom animation enters an experience, other avatars of the same gender that are already using the same emote, or attempting to use the same emote, will adopt the same custom animation as playing on the new arrival.

So, for example, if a female avatar enters a room with a “floating” animation they’ve assigned to the “/sit” gesture, any other female avatar using “/sit” will also start to float, even if they previously had their own custom animation assigned to “/sit”. The effect is also cumulative: avatars will switch to play the last custom animation assigned to the emote, until such time as they reset through Look Book.

It’s been suggested that whatever bug causes this be annotated so that in future it might show how animations might be shared in certain situation (such as a “dance bomb” in a club hat could be triggered by (say) the DJ to get everyone doing the same dance – the Time Warp, anyone?).

Other Discussion Points

Avatar Deformations

People in VR are experiencing issues with their avatars being deformed in certain situations. For example, a tall male using the female avatar can find the avatar deform or adopts odd shapes, even after the height has been adjusted, almost as if the avatar is “too small” for the person using it. Another seems to give avatars massively broad shoulders, resolved by re-logging. The Lab is aware of these issues and investigating them. If anyone does encounter such issues, the request is to make clear notes on what they were doing  (steps taken) when the problem occurred and file a bug report.

Animation Preview

It’s been noted that there are some glitches with the animation preview capability, such as preview recordings now always playing back on the Sansar Store, or the entire preview playback glitches while playing.

New User Experience

The new default avatars

A part of the new user experience was deployed with this release. In short this:

  • Automatically assigns a unique account ID (seen after the @ symbol in name tags), base on the avatar name + a numeric sequence.
  • Delivers new users directly to a populated experience with a new default grey avatar.

It was mentioned at the meeting that new users will receive a tutorial on the client to get them started when first entering Sansar.

However, it was not clear in the discussion as to whether or not the tutorial aspect has been deployed with the Look At Me release. My own testing suggests it has not: while I was delivered to a populated experience with the new default avatar (see image, right), there was no associated tutorial. While I have reached out to LL to try to confirm the tutorial’s status, at the time of publishing these notes, I had not received any reply.

In Brief

  • Will Sansar support full body tracking? In time, yes, but not on the immediate horizon. The Vive trackers are helping with this, allowing data on hip and foot movements to be collected for use with IK, but Oculus is some way behind in their tracking systems.
  • Currently, when the Chat App is opened and there is available text, it will default to the top of the text (i.e. the oldest comment), rather than scrolling to the bottom of the chat and the most recently made comments. This is a known issue, and part of a number of bugs in the App the Lab will be addressing.
  • Rotating rigged and animated meshes: again requested, to help with bringing NPCs to life. This is apparently “on the list” but seen as a big task.

 

2018 Sansar Product Meetings #44: Steam – with audio

Wurfi’s Little Gallery – blog post

The following notes are taken from the Sansar Product Meeting held on Thursday, November 1st. These Product Meetings are open to anyone to attend, are a mix of voice (primarily) and text chat.

Given the recent announcement concerning expanding Sansar’s availability to Steam, the meeting focused on questions, comments and feedback related to this. Notes:

  • While some more general topics were raised, in a desire to abbreviate the length of this update, I’ve intentionally skipped topics were specific answers weren’t available in favour of focusing on the Steam feedback.
  • The order of these notes does not match the order of discussion in the meeting; topics have been grouped together for ease of reference.
  • Audio extracts from the meeting on the Steam change are included. But again, please note they concatenate comments made at different points in the meeting in an attempt to present them in a more concise order for easier digestion.
  • For those who prefer, the entire meeting can be viewed via Twitch.

On Steam

Why Steam?

  • LL believe that given the improvements made thus far, coupled with the remaining 2018 releases, will make Sansar an attractive proposition on Steam.
  • In being out at physical world events, Lab has hit the question of where people can “find” Sansar – with most asking the question pointing to Steam. Thus, Steam is seen as the place to be.
  • Also, Steam is – as the official blog post indicates – where the highest density of people with hardware that can meet Sansar’s requirements tend to be
    • As noted in my article on the decision, this is regardless as to whether Steam users are VR enabled or not, given Sansar’s Desktop mode.
    •  This is not to say that LL isn’t working to reduce the minimum hardware specs to run Sansar, however these are currently tied somewhat to the state of tethered VR, and may not be changing that much in the foreseeable future.
  • Some reports had headlined the Steam change as a “move”, implying Sansar will only be available through Stream. This is incorrect (hence why I referred to the change as “expanding” to Steam).
    • Sansar will still be available for download from the Sansar.com.
    • Linden Lab is in discussions with Oculus VR to make Sansar available through the Oculus Store.
  • The decision to use Steam is about trying to grow the Sansar audience and gain a much broader cross-section of feedback on how the platform could be improved.
  • With the launch of Sansar on Steam there will be a significant amount of ad spend to help promote Sansar and raise awareness of the platform.
    • There will also likely be new attractions in Sansar to encourage Steam users into the platform.
    • Closer to the launch date effort will be put into establishing a Sansar community on Steam, again to raise awareness that Sansar is coming to the service.
    • Sansar will be on Steam as an Early Access programme, which will hopefully set expectations among Steam users and help mitigate negative reviews.
  • There are no current plans to integrate Sansar with the Steamworks SDK.

Sandex, Fees and Transactions

  • SandeX is to be discontinued in order to achieve compliance with Valve’s requirements for Sansar to appear on Steam.
    • In short, the SandeX floating exchange rate for S$ purchases is too volatile for Stream, and the Lab’s position as a mediator did not fit with Steam’s model.
    • This means the Lab has to switch its position to selling S$ directly to users, who can then spend them within the platform.
    • Creators can then come back to Linden Lab to convert their S$ to fiat currency through the existing credit process.
  • Sansar Dollar purchases, conversion rates and fees:
    • The conversion rate for buying Sansar dollars will remain at 100/1 (100 Sansar Dollars for US $1.00).
    • The 250/1 (or legacy 143/1) rates will be applied to converting S$ back to USD when cashing out.
    • The legacy rate will be available through until at least December 31st, 2019, which is regarded as being the checkpoint date at which it might be changed.
  • Item sales fees:
    • The 15% transaction fee on the sale of items through the Sansar Store will be removed.
    • The transaction fee on gifting will remain.

  • The credit process for creators cashing out of Sansar will remain more-or-less the same as it is at present.
    • Steam will not be a part of this process.
    • It will not be possible for creators to convert S$ they have purchased back into US $ (so only amounts earned through the sale of goods can be converted).
    • The current fees involved in the credit process will be retained to cover charges the Lab faces in allowing cashing-out as a money transmitter.
  • Sansar Dollar purchases:
    • Buying Sansar Dollars through Stream will see a 30% fee charged by Steam in addition to the Lab’s fees.
    • The Lab’s fee on S$ purchases will also be 30%.
    • Buying Sansar Dollars directly through Sansar.com via credit card will not be subject to the 30% Steam fee.
  • The 30-day request period in credit processing is being introduced to meet with Steam’s transaction processing requirements. In short:
    • A consumer can purchase $S through Steam and immediately use them to buy items on Sansar.
    • Currently, the creator(s) receiving the S$ can then cash out in some 5 days.
    • However, LL will not receive any payment from Steam for the original S$ purchase for 30-60 days.
    • Therefore, the 30-day request period is being introduced to offer a balance between LL paying out to creators and receiving income via Steam from consumer purchases of S$.

There have been mixed feelings over the fee changes, with some creators feeling they are being hit with additional purchase fees and longer credit processing lead times. Others feel that overall, the move will be a net gain when considering the abolition of the 15% sales transaction fee plus the potential for a greater volume of users passing through Sansar and making purchases.

There was some confusion on the use of “eligible creators” in the blog post. The term was intended to indicate there will be no change in who can cash out from the current situation.

Goods Pricing

There was a brief discussion on whether the changes for Steam such have creators increasing their prices.

  • The legacy conversion rate of 143/1 (S$143 to the US dollar) is intended to match the current exchange rate for converting S$ to USD, and so creators shouldn’t need to feel an immediate need to alter pricing.
  • However, with the licensing system fixing the amount of royalties creators can obtain in perpetuity  on their licensed products once sold – and given at some point the S$ to USD conversion rate will become S$250 to the dollar – some creators might opt to alter their pricing structures now so as to compensate any loss of revenue as a result of the future change in the conversion rate.

Continue reading “2018 Sansar Product Meetings #44: Steam – with audio”