Changes to Sansar Store policies and news on upcoming releases

(courtesy of Linden Lab)

Linden Lab has announced forthcoming changes to their Sansar Store policies.  Specifically, the changes comprise updates to the listing guidelines, together with new eligibility requirements for those listing goods on the Store.

To quote the blog post specifically on the eligibility requirements:

As of October 2, 2017, you’ll need to have a credit card on file for your account in order to sell in the Sansar Store. Adding one is easy – just follow the steps here.

Free account holders will be able to sell up to 50 items at a time. Subscribers at the Creator level or above will have no limits on the number of active listings they can have in the Store. Note: if you have more than 50 listings in the Store when this change goes into effect on October 2, 2017, your items may be de-listed, so please take a moment to review your items to avoid the inconvenience of having to re-list them.

New polices and requirements are being introduced for the Sansar Store

There has been a degree of negative feedback on these points in particular, and a part of the meet-up on Wednesday, September 27th – which was to discuss ideas and feedback for the Sansar Market – initially focused on the announcement. During that part of the meeting, the Lab sought to clarify a few things:

  • The overall number of creators using the store affected by the 50 item limit is regarded as “super low”.
  • Those who were invited into the Creator Preview with a free account will be able to continue with their current levels of listing (if over 50) through until the end of October 2017. The October 2nd change only applies to those joining from the Creator Beta launch onwards.
  • The 50 listing limit includes free items.
  • The move for having payment information on file is intended to help deter fraudulent activity within the Store from the outset (e.g. the legal selling of goods through an unverified account – something which has been / is an issue with the SL Marketplace).
  • This is only the first iteration of Store policies. The Lab is listening to feedback, so ideas and alternatives might be fed into things as time goes on.
  • One area of confusion lies with the term “credit card”  – which actually covers the likes of debit cards which have Mastercard / Visa verification – although there is concern not everyone has access to these as well.

Some  creators expressed a preference for a PayPal option to be implemented (PayPal is currently only available when cashing-up Sansar Dollars). This is coming, but no confirmed time line could be given. In addition, a suggestion was made for people to be able to offer alternative forms of identification for verification. This is something the Lab has done for SL merchants cashing-out from that platform, and hasn’t been entirely without its own problems.

Further feedback and discussion on this and other topics can be found on the official Sansar Discord channel.

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

Wednesday, September 27th also saw the Lab issue some information on the next couple of major releases for Sansar. These are:

  • The Discovery release: due at the end of September / beginning of October, this release will include an improved Atlas for the Sansar client, and object interaction for Desktop mode users. You can read more about this release in advance in my Product Update.
  • The Friends release: (presumably following the Discovery release at the end of October / beginning of November), this update will see the improvements to the Atlas continue, make it easier to connect with other Sansar users, and will also include changes to make it even easier for people to publish their experiences.

I’ll hopefully be following both releases as they happen, and have updates on them in these pages.

Sansar product meetings 2017: week #36 – Aug/Sept release

People gather at Astro Port for the first Friday September 8th 2017 Product meeting

The following notes are taken from the Sansar Product Meetings held on Friday, September 8th. 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 9th meeting took place at Mold3D’s Astro Port. The official meeting notes are generally published the week following each pair of meetings.

The meetings are chaired by Jenn (aka Xiola Linden) from the Community Team, and feature various members of the Sansar teams. Cara, Carolyn and Jeremy joined the Friday, September 8th meeting.

August / September Release

The long-awaited August / September release arrived on Friday, September 8th, 2017. Highlights of the release are noted  below (please refer to the release notes for full details of this release, including known issues). Note that many of these features are still work in progress, rather than being final / polished versions.

Terrain Editor / Sculpting

Experience creators can now edit terrain objects in Sansar: create mountains and hills, create dips, craters and valleys or uneven terrain (“noise”). This is the first iteration of these tools, and features will be added over time.

Simply drag and drop a terrain plain (in one of four texture defaults) from the system objects panel, then use the sculpt tool and options to shape it. Individual plains can be placed together to create as big an area of terrain as required (within Sansar’s own limitations).

See Working with terrain in the Sansar Knowledge Base for more information.

The Terrain toolbar with the sculpt and paint master controls highlighted, and option buttons to their right
  • Terrain plains can be sculpted on in defined areas, from around 32 metres on a side up to 256 metres on a side.
  • The paint tool can be used to apply textures (from pre-set families of four) to the sculpted terrain, with automatic attempts made to blend textures with height / depth (e.g. so grass gradually gives way to rock). The brush size for painting can also be varied in size from (approximately) one metre in size upwards.
  • The textures / materials associated with the editor are currently limited to only working with one family of four textures / materials at a time, although creators can hot swap between them.
  • This is not voxel editing, and is currently restricted to height maps, so no tunnelling into terrain at present. The sculpting tool is somewhat similar in approach somewhat similar to the Second Life terraforming tool, presenting a view of the terrain and the selected tool overlaid on it at the appropriate size, although unlike SL a choice of tool shapes is offered (round or square).
A terrain plain show a raw sculpt of a hill (left), and with smoothing being applied (right). Credit: Jeremy Linden
Future Terrain Editing Capabilities

The ability to add use custom terrain textures and height maps is coming soon, together with support for mega textures. The latter will allow more textures to be blended together at a time, which are then  composited together when an experience is published.

Jason (aka Widely Linden) indicated that the roadmap for terrain editing in Sansar currently includes (exact implementation still TBD):

  • A hybrid form of terraforming, using height maps for efficiency when sculpting the terrain, then switching to a voxel element when creating tunnels / caves, etc., which is then “stitched” into the mesh height map.
  • The ability to “geo-paint” environments – use a painting technique to add boulder, rocks, vegetation, etc., onto a terrain map. This will likely start with pre-defined geo elements, before moving to allow users to define their own elements.

A suggestion from Maxwell Graf to assist in making custom height maps (once they can be imported), is to consider installing Unreal or Unity (both free) and then purchasing a terrain editing tool for the relevant engine, and using that to create terrains, then export the height maps for import into Sansar (once possible) It was also noted that Visual Studio 2017 comes with Unity support, and it is easy to add Unreal support.

.OBJ File Format, Animated & Multi-part Object Import

The Animated objects capability isn’t, at this point, fully animated mesh – there is no ability to import or use a skeleton for an object (a-la SL’s animated objects project), although this is coming.

Future Capabilities / Ideas

Also coming in a future release for animated / multi-part objects, are collision meshes. These will allow can be bound to rendered meshes for collision purposes. So a multi-part cable car could have collisions enabled on specific parts to allow avatars to ride it. This has already been done as a test with the gondolas in Colossus Rising.

The cable car gondolas in Colossus Rising demonstrate how collision volumes can be bound to a rendered mesh object to allow interaction (in this case riding a gondola) with an avatar. This ability will be part of a future update to the animated / multi-part objects capability forming part of the August / September Sansar release

Jason indicated that – further into the future, and via a scripted / API meachanism which the Sansar product team is considering – animated objects should allow for very dynamic things like trees which not only sway in a breeze, but which move in accordance with the (changing) wind direction / force (rather than just randomly moving) or stop swaying if there is no wind. The same scripts will also be able to trigger associated sounds of the wind in the branches when affected by a breeze.

New Stereoscopic Media & UV Animation Shaders

A series of new shaders in the materials editor:

  • Standard + Emissive + Stereographic
  • Media Surface + Stereographic
  • Standard + Emissive + UV Animation
  • Standard + Alpha Mask + UV Animation.

UV animation supports both scrolling UVs and flipbook UV, and brings the ability to animate things like water, animated lighting, etc, in Sansar. Currently, these have to be configured and applied prior to upload, but future updates will allow editing and refinement of the maps post-upload.

Trigger Volumes

Trigger volumes allow scripted events (e.g. teleporting) without the need for dynamic objects, allowing for more flexible interactions inside events.

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