Sansar Friends release overview

Courtesy of Linden Lab

On Tuesday, October 31st, Linden Lab updated Sansar with the Friends release, the October end of month major release for the platform. I’ve had a quick opportunity to try things out, and the majority of this article is intended to provide an overview of the key features of the release.

The title of the release is intended to convey the idea that the update is intended to make social interactions easier – such as identifying avatars in Desktop mode and searching for other users. However, the release covers a lot more than this, with improvements to scripting, searching, the Store, publishing experiences and getting information.

Identifying Avatars in Desktop Mode

The Friends release adds the capability to identify avatars in Desktop Mode in a similar manner to that used by VR Mode.

With this release, users in Desktop mode can now hover the mouse pointer over an avatar to display the Avatar Name and Avatar ID. A left-click on the avatar will additionally display buttons to audio mute them, or add them as a friend. If the avatar in question is already a friend, the second button will allow them to be removed as a Friends, if desired (as shown in the image below, right).

Identifying other avatars in Desktop mode

Finding People

The People app within the client now includes the ability to search for people, allowing you to make friends with others without necessarily having to be in the same experience to connect with them.

To locate another user / avatar, open Chat in the Sansar client, and then click on the People button to display the People app. Click on the Search tab to open the search bar (circled below left), type in the Avatar ID for the person you wish to find and click Search. Note that this has to be the Avatar ID not the Avatar Name because the latter are not unique to a particular user. Also, do not include the “@” preceding the Avatar ID.

Providing an accurate Avatar ID has been entered, it will be displayed below the search bar. Clicking on it will display the options to Friend or Audio Mute the avatar in question (the Message option will be available once a Friend offer has been accepted.

The new People Search option

Experience Sorting

It is now possible to sort experiences in both the Client Atlas and the Web Atlas. Entries can be sorted in A to Z order, by recently created or recently updated. The search options are available on the All and Sansar Studios tabs on both versions of the Atlas (it is not available of the Client Atlas Featured tab or the Web Atlas Home tab), and can be found in the top right corner of the Atlas.

The Atlas sort options in the Client (top) and Web Atlas

Also, and with reference to reference to the Web Atlas, the Search bar on Sansar Atlas, Store and Help web pages have been enlarged to make them more obvious.

In-Client Access to Controls Documentation

Controls Info option

The Friends release adds a new option to the client allowing users to directly access the Sansar controls top-level page, which in turn provides links to Sansar’s Keyboard shortcuts, Game controller buttons and VR controls.

The new option, called Control Info can be accessed via  the Client More Options, available from both with experiences (shown on the right) and from the Atlas display.

Script Updates

The following scripting updates are included with the Friends release:

  • Trigger collision events on animated and static objects: it is now possible to trigger collision events against animated objects, and it is no longer necessary to set objects to dynamic to trigger collision events with them.
  • New Reflective base class: to allow different scripts to work more efficiently together.
  • Script property metadata attributes: scripts now have added support for the following attributes: Default, Range, DisplayName.
  • Script event/messaging passing: new APIs SubscribeToScriptEvent and PostScriptEvent make it easier for scripts to communicate using the new Reflective class. See the ScriptBase page.

Other Updates of Note

The Friends update also includes:

  • Voice chat adjustment:  to make voices more audible in Sansar.
  • Revised experience publish flow: refer to the updated publishing guide for more.
  • New Featured tab in the Store: listing store items the Sansar editorial team have selected.

In addition, please refer to the release notes for a full list resolved / known issues, new and updated Knowledge Base articles.

A Note on The Events Feature

Originally planned to be a part of the Friends release, the new events feature which will likely form a part of the Web Atlas, is now slated to appear “soon after” this release.

Feedback

A useful release, particularly for those who prefer using Sansar in Desktop mode, where the ability to identify other avatars has been sorely lacking. The new / updated scripting capabilities are likely to see plenty of use and make for some interesting new options within experiences. I’ll likely have more feedback on this release following the product Meeting on Friday, November 3rd.

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Sansar Discovery release overview

The Discovery Release. Credit: Linden Lab. Location; Colossus Rising

On Wednesday, October 4th, Linden Lab updated Sansar with the Discovery release, the September / October end of month / start of month major release for the platform. I’ve had a quick opportunity to try things out, and the majority of this article is intended to provide an overview of the key features of the release.

Sansar Store Policy Update

Before getting down to the details of the update, the release notes came with some announcements and reminders, including a pointer to the recently updated Store Listing Guidelines and policy, which came into effect on Monday, October 2nd.

However, there has been some negative feedback on the policy change around the requirement for creators to have payment information on file with the Lab (e.g. a credit / debit card).  As such, the policy announcement was updated on Monday, October 2nd, to read:

Following helpful feedback from Sansar’s creator community, we will not be enforcing the credit card requirement at this time.

Requiring sellers to have payment information on file will help us to combat undesirable behaviour in the Store, but we understand that creators around the world may not have a credit card for a variety of reasons.

We are working to support other payment methods, such as PayPal, and plan to revisit this requirement for sellers once we have more available options.

Atlas Updates

The Atlas in both the client and on the web has been updated.

The Client Atlas now has a new Featured tab, and the ability to search experiences (the latter matching the web Atlas).  Search allows users to search by full or partial experience name, creator name, etc. As with the web Atlas, results are ranked in order of closest matching (so for, example, searching “Maxwell Graf” will return a list of Maxwell Graf’s experiences, followed by experiences /creators with partially matching names).

The Client Atlas with the new Featured tab (arrowed) and Search option (circled)

Te Featured tab lists all those experiences selected by the Sansar editorial team, again in the same way as the web Atlas.

The Web Atlas similarly gains a Featured tab, which sits alongside the All and Sansar Studio tabs in the top left corner of the Atlas, which now has a cleaner look and feel.

Desktop Mode Object Interactions

Desktop users can now interact with objects in an experience. Simply move the mouse pointer in an area where there might be objects available for interaction. Any objects you can “pick up”, will be highlighted in blue. Left click on an object you want to “pick up” and it will move to float in front of you.

Desktop Mode object interaction: hover the mouse pointer over objects. Any object highlighted in blue – like the pith helmet here – can be “picked up” with a left mouse button click. The object will jump to float in front of you (shown with the book in the inset image). Left click again to drop the item, or left-click / hold to throw it – the longer you hold, the further you’ll toss it

As you walk and turn, the object will move with you. To stop “holding” the object, LEFT click it again. A quick click will “drop” it, but if you press and hold the left button, you can throw the object – the longer you hold the button, the further you’ll throw the object. See the Sansar Keyboard Shortcuts documentation for more.

There is still some work to be done on this – avatars will eventually be able to hold objects they pick up, so this is only an initial step in interaction. However, I would request the Lab do something about the direction sharp, pointy things float – as shown below, “health and safety” didn’t exactly spring to mind 😉 .

“Is this a machete that floats before me, the sharp bit towards my throat?” The Desktop mode interaction is only in its first iteration, and will have features added. However, it can raise eyebrows over health and safety! 🙂 (With apologies to W. Shakespeare esq, for the misquote.)

Continue reading “Sansar Discovery release overview”

Sansar Product Meeting 2017 week #38: upcoming releases

(courtesy of Linden Lab)

The following notes are taken from the Sansar Product Meetings held on Friday, September 22nd. These meetings are held every Friday at 9:30am PDT and 4:00pm PDT, and are open to all. There is no set agenda (currently), and the meetings are a mix of voice and text, and the official meeting notes are published in the week following each pair of meetings. Venues change on a weekly basis, and are announced in the Meet-up Announcements. The September 22nd meeting took place at the Zen Garden by Sansar Studios.

Bjørn Laurin attended both meetings to talk about the upcoming September / October release, and the next couple of releases beyond that. As such, the discussions were lengthy, so I’ve attempted to bullet-point key aspects of the major topics below, and have included a number of audio extracts of  Bjørn’s comments.

Again, for ease of reference, some of the audio extracts comprise comments made at different points in the conversations, which I’ve attempted to bring together to offer a cohesive flow of information. There is ambient background noise in the audio, as there is currently no way of disabling this in the Sansar client. Similarly, any sounds of background typing is due to others in the meeting leaving their microphone open while not speaking.

Discord Channel

The official Sansar Discord channel launched on Thursday, September 21st. 2017. The channel is designed to act as an extension to the Sansar user community, allowing them chat with one another, make friends, plan meet-ups in real-time, exchange ideas, etc. Discord works on the web, a desktop app, and a mobile app, allowing users to stay connected wherever they are.

The Sansar Discord FAQ provides full details on the channel. Joining is a case of following this link and the instructions provided. Those who do not already have a Discord account will have to create one as a part of the process.

Sansar Store Focus Group Meetings

There will be two sessions focusing on discussions and feedback on the Sansar Store in week #39. Guidelines on intent and scope of the meetings and their location(s), will be published on the Sansar blog ahead of the first meeting. However, the dates / times are:

  • Monday, September 25th, 15:00-16:00 PDT.
  • Wednesday, September 27th, 14:00-15:00 PDT.

Upcoming Releases Overview

The Lab is referring to the next release as the “Discovery release”, of which highlights include:

  • Easier discovery of experiences in the Atlas
  • Branded stores on the Sansar Store
  • The ability for users in Desktop mode to be able to interact with objects in an experience (picking things, up, throwing them, etc.).

Currently, this release is scheduled for deployment on Thursday, September 28th, 2017, depending on final bug fixes / QA.

Bjørn also indicated that fashion and avatar customisation has risen closer to the top of the pile of upcoming features following the Discovery release. He specifically notes work on hair together with skin shaders for the hair and avatar skin; the upcoming fashion / clothing support releases, and coming options for experience owners to be able to monetise their experiences (e.g. ticketed access, etc.).

Desktop Mode Object Interaction

  • In the Discovery release.
  • Will allow those running Sansar on  the desktop to have a similar level of interaction with in-world objects as those using VR. Desktop user will be able to pick up objects, “hold” them, throw them, drop them.
  • Objects around an avatar with interaction will highlight on a mouse-click, allowing the user to select which one they want to pick up.
  • Initially  will not include animations: clicking on an object will cause it to float over the avatar’s hand. However, future releases will support “holding” objects (and eventually “picking up” objects see more on animations below).
  • There is some debate within the Sansar team in giving creators an explicit means of differentiating between users in VR mode and users in Desktop mode, or in allowing the platform to handle it internally.
    • Games designers see the ability to differentiate as “critical” to allow better design of control options, and which can be used by players in either mode, and Bjørn leans more towards this approach.

Atlas Improvements

  • The Discovery release includes a search option in the client version of the Atlas and a new Featured tab for featured experiences.
  • Future improvements for the Atlas will include a Favourites / Bookmarks tab, an Events tab and the ability to sort listed experiences.

Store Branding

  • Will be part of the Discovery release.
  • Comprises the ability to add a masthead logo to creator’s items. Details of masthead sizes available on the Discord channel.
People gather at the Zen Garden for the Friday, September 22nd meet-up

Beyond The Discovery Release

Avatar Identification in Desktop Mode

  • Possibly appearing in the October  / November release.
  • This will most likely offer the same capabilities as VR mode currently has: click on an avatar and see their name, offer friendship, mute them.

Fashion and Clothing

  • For the most part, fashion and clothing will be handled as a single release rather than a series of iterative releases over time adding essential capabilities.
  • The exception to this will be handling clothing layers which will be handled in two parts: separation of the current clothing bakes from the avatar and then the rest of the capabilities.
    • The separation of the bakes will see clothing initially defined as either a single, complete layer (e.g. socks, underwear, pants / skirt, blouse / shirt, jacket all-in-one), or possibly as a “top” layer (e.g. undershirt, shirt, jacket) and a “bottom” layer (e.g pants, underwear, socks, skirt).
    • Further division of individual clothing layers will come in the future, but is seen as a more complicated task.
  • Clothing will naturally fold, flow and fall like real clothing and cloth from the initial release.
  • The Sansar Store will also be updated with the “main” fashion update is released to more fully support clothing.
  • Bjørn’s hope for the “main” fashion release is December 2017.
  • Due to what is involved with support for fashion / clothing, there may be a requirement for creators to sign NDAs – Jenn will be reaching out to creators about this in due course.

Clothing Physics
  • Clothing physics will be part of the initial release.
  • It’s currently not clear whether cloth physics will have to be assigned prior to upload, or if it is something done from within Sansar (such as by right-clicking on an item in Edit mode and selecting a “make cloth” option).
  • Bjørn indicated that the process will not be complex but there will be two specific routes to achieve different sets of results for clothing.
  • There is vagueness around how things will work due to contractual obligations, but some may be familiar with the tools the Lab are using to making clothing in Sansar work.

Avatar Updates

  • The back-end avatar rigging will be changing over the next “one or two months”.
    • These changes will not be visible to the casual user, but the changes will facilitate clothing design and will allow designers to create their own clothing.
    • One consequence of this is that all current outfits will break – however Bjørn indicated that all broken outfits will be replaced.
  • Future avatar updates will include the ability to change the avatar shape – more body fat, less body fat, etc. However, these will not be in the Discovery release.
  • As part of the work on hair (noted towards the top of this article), it will be possible to blend hair styles with the face, and things like masks or facial tattoos with hair and facial features, so they all work naturally together, and  masks / tattoos respond to facial movements.
  • Aside I: the individual working on the avatar design spent ten years on developing the characters in the Halo game series.

Continue reading “Sansar Product Meeting 2017 week #38: upcoming releases”

Sansar Product Meetings 2017: week #37

City Park by Lex4Art, the location for the Sansar product meet-ups, Friday, September 15th

The following notes are taken from the Sansar Product Meetings held on Friday, September 15th. These meetings are held every Friday at 9:30am PDT and 4:00pm PDT, and are open to all. There is no set agenda (currently), and the meetings are a mix of voice and text. Venues change on a weekly basis, and are announced in the Meet-up Announcements. The September 15th meeting took place at City Park, by Lex4Art. The official meeting notes are published in the week following each pair of meetings.

Cara (morning session) and Carolyn (afternoon session) from the product team attended the meetings. However, Cara’s microphone pick-up was not particularly good; couple with background office noises, this made it hard to hear her at the morning session.

Release Feedback

It has been a week since the August / September release, and feedback is now coming in, with some issues being highlighted, including:

  • Terrain Editor: some users have found that when incorporating terrain plains into their builds, everything works OK in Edit mode, but on publishing assorted problems can occur, including not being able to access the published experience. Suggestions for checking the issue is to try re-publishing the experience without the new terrain element to ensure it is accessible / eliminating the problems, and try publishing a simple experience with edited terrain / recreate the existing scene to see if the issues repro. Experiences exhibiting this issue should not be deleted.
  • Undesired object movement / re-positioning:
    • Some users have found that objects which appear correctly positioned and aligned when editing a scene can appear misaligned / out-of-place (see here), although one person indicated they were seeing similar prior to the release.
    • Others have reported objects in both edit and published mode have relocated themselves following the release.
    • Some have found that while a published experience looks correct, if they go to Edit mode to edit the scene, the objects are all incorrectly placed. Apparently, the support response to this issue is to delete all affected items with new versions from inventory – although this is subject to verification.
  • Physics Changes: At least one user has noticed what might be physics changes since the update, with the pins in his bowling alley displaying a persistent wobble.
  • Scripting:
    • Script breakage:some users found their scripts were broken following the update, requiring they be replaced.
    • The LLCameraForward camera vector behaviour is no longer consistently tracking the movements in third-person view (although it is still working as expected in first-person).
    • Trigger Volumes have been reported as not working for one of the headset hand controllers (not clear if this is the Oculus Touch or the Vive hand controllers). Details on the issue weren’t clear at the meeting. This is now being looked at by the Lab.
  • Avatar VR Shuffle: when a user in VR mode enters first-person view, their avatar starts performing a strange little shuffling dance, which stops when exiting back into third-person. This might be related to a known issue when VR first-person view can result in the avatar moving around a little when it is supposed to be standing still.
  • Scene Objects Window: there is a bug which prevents users from scrolling all the way to the end of a long list of object containers when using the scene objects window in Edit mode, which can leave items and options unreachable. The Lab has noticed the same issue and are working on a fix.
  • Edit mode font size: while not specific to this release, there have been complaints that the default font in the Edit mode UI is too small for some people to comfortably read.
  • Streaming: only supports a single stream at a time without updating the scene and re-publishing the experience. For Sansar to work with music events featuring multiple artists / DJs, this will need an update to support multiple streams. While not on the roadmap for immediate delivery, the Lab is considering “avatar emitters”, which would allow sounds from specific artists or presenters at a talk, etc., to be heard throughout an experience.

It’s generally requested that all reproducible issues are reported on the issues forum, together with updates as people further test things.

People gather beneath the media screens at one end of the park

Sansar Roadmap and Work in-Hand / Being Planned

The public roadmap is approaching a point where it can be released. However, this will not be a blow-by-blow of everything that is coming and precise dates. Rather, it will provide a high-level overview of significant releases – avatar customisation, further terrain editing capabilities, clothing and fashion design capabilities, etc., together with indicators of when they may / should be appearing in releases. Some of the current work either in-hand or being planned includes:

  • Atlas improvements: the ability to search the client version of the Sansar Atlas (the web version can already be searched), hopefully making it easier to location / discover experiences of interest. This should be in the next Sansar release.
  • Height Maps: as noted with the August / September release, a planned update to the terrain system will be the ability for users to upload their own custom height maps (not clear if RAW files will also be possible), and custom textures with terrain.
  • Making text chat visible to users in VR mode: this is currently being worked on, a may appear “in a couple of months”.
  • Desktop interaction: the foundations are being laid to allow Desktop mode users have greater interaction with in-scene objects.
  • Avatar identification in Desktop mode: the ability for users in Desktop mode to more easily identify other avatars. No time line on availability as yet.
  • Social capabilities: further social capabilities are being planned, including group-like capabilities. However, details are not clear (again) on what form these will take or when they will be available.
  • Collaborative building: this is being actively worked on, however, it is dependent upon a number of other factors (e.g. the permissions system). So again, no time line on when it might appear as yet.
  • Better inventory organisation: this is also in the planning phase, is a part of the roadmap, but specifics have yet to be released on what it will be, nor is there a time line. This is already proving to be a major pinch-point for creators, as there is no means to organise via folders or rename inventory items or even search inventory, etc., and is thus impacting people’s ability / drive to create.

Requests

The meeting saw a couple of new requests made:

  • Texture Atlas support: a texture atlas allows for easy re-use of textures across objects / UV maps. This sort-of sits between texturing and modelling, and allows textures to be-reused across multiple objects / UVs without multiple draw calls to the system. This is one of an ongoing series of questions around textures in Sansar and future plans for textures / materials / reflections, etc. Jenn and Cara are going to look at getting one of the Sansar team directly involved in this side of the work to come to a meeting and answer questions.
  • More attachments / support for multiple attachments on a single point: currently, there is only one attachment point on Sansar avatars (the neck).  This is because multiple attachment points proved to be buggy when first deployed. While such things need to be constrained (there is already a complexity limit when uploading attachments), having more attachment points  / the ability to attach more than one item to an attachment point is seen as needed by some. Further work on the avatar as a whole is planned, and this might include improvements to attachment handling.

There is also the request for LL to provide a means for people to offer updates to their products. This is liable to be a topic for detailed discussion at the Sansar Store focus meeting, due to take place at the end of September 2017.

Continue reading “Sansar Product Meetings 2017: week #37”