During the Feb. 24 community meetings with Sansar creators, various members of the Sansar development and marketing teams updated our community on the latest Sansar news and improvements. Sansar team members participating in one or more of the meetings included: Linden Lab CEO Ebbe Altberg, Lead Community Manager Jennifer, Senior Director of Global Communications Peter Gray, Director of UX & Design Samantha Kim, and Senior Producer & Audio Artist Torley.
The Sansar team discussed the next version of Sansar, slated for release this week, which includes the following new features:
- The introduction of avatar customization - Create a more unique identity with new support for face morphing sliders that can blend between common appearance settings, and the ability to swap some hair, skin tone, and clothing options. Eventually, expect direct facial editing. This first version is intended to establish a foundation we'll build on, so although there are a limited variety of combinations, expect more choices in future releases.
- Early support for scripting - The new version introduces limited support for uploading scripts to your inventory. Scripting support will expand in future releases, but this initial effort allows you to find the overall number of agents (avatars) in a scene, detect when agents enter/leave a scene, and other capabilities.
- Easier login - There will be a new login checkbox that allows Sansar to remember your username and password, fulfilling a frequent creator request.
- Automatic updates - After this next release, Sansar will auto-update, so that moving forward, creators won’t have to manually download new versions.
- More fixes and improvements - The next release also includes:
- A small change that allows creators to enter Edit Layout and Publish a scene while staying in VR (so you don't have to leave that mode to publish).
- Removal of the tangent binormal requirement for FBX format files, so Mudbox and Zbrush exports are now supported. We’ve also significantly sped up the time it takes for FBX importing.
For a full list of new features, see the Release Notes section of Sansar.com once the next version of Sansar is released.
The community had an opportunity to ask questions, report bugs, and make feature requests to the Sansar team. Here are some highlights of those discussions:
- Tips & Tricks - Shortly before this discussion, some creators shared their tips and tutorials on the Sansar forums, including:
- Setting Up Light Position Properly by COCA Yven
- Design Tips for your VR Visitors: Avoiding Sickness & Adding Delight by Punkerella Summers
- Feature Requests & Feedback - There were several new feature requests and other product feedback from our community, including:
- A meeting participant asked if Sansar will eventually be developed for consoles that support VR, such as the PlayStation 4. Pete indicated that it is possible that Sansar will be supported on more platforms in the future, but initial development is only targeting the PC via Vive and Oculus platforms.
- Another creator asked when Sansar will support more advanced graphics tools and features, including subsurface scattering, translucency, and PBR shaders. Pete indicated that some of these features are already on the roadmap for a release in the next month or two, including environment maps, material editing and assignments, fullbody IK for avatars, global illumination, and customizable media streams on a surface.
- Better inventory organization was requested to help streamline the creation process, according to one creator. Ebbe indicated that several organization methods are being looked at for development, including tagging and folders.
- Multiple users will eventually be able to create an experience together in Sansar, according to Ebbe. There will also be advanced permission settings that help creators identify who has access to an experience. No specific timeline was offered, but we expect that these features will be active later this year.
- In the near future, Sansar.com will be updated with more precise system recommendations that detail minimum and optimum bandwidth specifications.
- A community member asked about whether Sansar will support procedural content creation (such as SideFX Houdini), which can be used by creators for efficient and fast creation of dynamic content. In response, Ebbe took note of the request and will share the request with the development team.
- Some newer creators expressed frustration at the “barrier of entry” to creating things in Sansar compared to the creation process in game engines like Unreal Engine 4 (UE4). Specifically, they addressed the need for more guidelines and clarity for creators. In response, Ebbe stressed that Sansar is still in alpha compared to the more mature UE4 platform, and also clarified that Sansar is different than UE4 in that it is a “full stack” social VR creation product that does not aim to compete with or replace UE4. In particular, Sansar intends to solve the unique problem of creating a full environment (not just objects), then easily sharing that experience with other people.
- One creator expressed concern that consumers might not understand that Sansar is accessible via both desktop computers and through HMD devices in VR mode. Pete indicated that the marketing team intends to promote Sansar as a creative platform for VR users but that it also works in desktop mode. However, a key selling point is that creating a social VR experience in Sansar is less costly and complex than using other platforms. In addition, there will be various Sansar experiences that are a lot better in VR, which is a key compelling factor to get an HMD.
- The Sansar Store - There were some comments and questions about future plans and policies associated with The Sansar Store.
- Some participants had questions about the role of 3D model market TurboSquid, which has recently tested listing some items in The Sansar Store. Ebbe clarified that The Sansar Store will be open to all kinds of sellers, including hobbyists, individuals, brands, creators, and teams. The Sansar team does not plan to give preferential treatment to any one type of seller.
- The goal with The Sansar Store is to eventually support better content discovery via personalization and/or smart algorithms in a recommender system that prioritizes placement for each community member.
- Ebbe indicated that there are opportunities for early creators to carve out a unique niche that will grow as Sansar grows. In addition, creators can distinguish their creations by making objects with added interactivity that are far more functional in Sansar than static models. For example, a lamp that turns on/off with a switch would be more useful than a static lamp that can’t be interacted with.
- We'll eventually explore Sansar supporting a feature that allows customers to test an item before purchasing, also known as "try before you buy".
- In addition, Pete clarified that there are no plans for Linden Lab to sell our users' Sansar creations on other third-party platforms.
- A creator asked about support for the ability to resell and transfer items bought from The Sansar Store. Pete indicated that the Sansar team is looking at the potential for a licensing system that would allow sellers to specify next-user restrictions. This would enable creators to potentially block resellers from undercutting sales on the original seller's creations. Similarly, the Sansar team is looking at how to enable creators to be compensated when their creations are sold as part of a larger experience or system. As an example: if you create a wheel for a car and the overall car is sold by another creator, then we’d like to make it so that you get a cut of the larger car transaction.
- Monetization of Sansar - There was great interest from participants on how Sansar will be monetized. In response, Pete reiterated that consumers coming into Sansar are ultimately our creators' customers. The Sansar team is working hard to ensure that our platform empowers creators to be as successful with as low cost a barrier to entry as possible, so that everyone can get their creations out a wide audience as easily as possible. He acknowledged that there are lots of internal discussions about eventual revenue models, including premium subscription services and the possibility of Sansar getting a small percentage on each revenue transaction. However, no specifics are ready to be announced yet.
- Open Beta Timeline - In response to a question about the timeline for Sansar availability to the general public, Pete shared that there's no firm date yet, but he expects Sansar will open to all creators in the first half of 2017. The initial focus of Sansar is on creators that can develop experiences and content, rather than consumers who might want to explore Sansar experiences.
The grouping of look-a-likes, as we bid a fond farewell to the clone syndrome and hello to the beginnings of customization. Stay tuned!