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A first impression may last

Hello all,

I have a long history of working with innovators if I am not the one who's inventing and some 35 years experience with software. I have learned that some companies value a first impression of a product and I feel like I need to share this as long as it's still possible because my impression of Sansar will change over time. Long story short, let's get started. I am testing without a VR headset. 

After initial hiccups with the client (I then decided to close Firestorm) it finally started up and I was able to login. The character customization section ended up to scroll through avatars endlessly because I had this idea to hold a cursor key instead of just quickly pressing it (it ended up recording a thousand keypresses). In the end I had to edit my character 3 times until it would actually use the one that I selected. This still needs some development. 

In the meantime I realized I cannot go full screen at all. Maybe this feature is still missing.

The login window and character customization look pretty ok, however the customization possibilities are so limited that this will not make people happy. It has probably been mentioned a thousand times already, I haven't even checked: Avatars need to be able to wear custom clothes, hair, layers. People  want to customize their avatars. There is hardly any exceptions. They know it from games and virtual worlds, they will not accept anything less. It should be a top priority before release.

The main menu looks good. It's an extraordinary easy step to jump right into experiences. Compared to Second Life this is something very refreshing. 

I ended up being able to go absolutely nowhere. I would crash back to main menu because the experience couldn't be loaded. After a while I gave up thinking that the servers are having an issue and instantly had the right idea. Sansar would react extraordinarily bad on HTTP inspection done by enterprise firewalls. Using a Sophos XG firewall that would scan HTTP requests I was unable to load any experience (this works fine with Second Life) so I basically had to turn vital parts of my network security off. Since I feel Sansar is geared towards business users this will be a real issue and it has to be fixed. As a network engineer, I will be happy to assist. 

Joining my first experiences. Graphically I see things I would expect from good Second Life creations. Mesh. Materials. Better clouds. Better lighting effects (yay, godrays). I learn I can move around with cursor and WASD keys. Why this camera shaking when I move left or right? And why is it so hard to fine tune the direction I go to? I will need an hour to realize how it is a much better idea to hold the left mouse button and move the mouse while walking forward. Walking backwards and rotating comes with interesting bugs like walking into wrong directions randomly. 

So here I am. I want to do something. I am left-clicking objects. Right-clicking objects. Nothing. All I can do is walk around and into physical objects. Physics seem pretty ok. I find the chat button, I realize how to see nearby people. I never find anyone to talk to. Not a problem, maybe I'm the only one testing at the moment. I am trying everything to find ways to interact with things. After a while I start pressing all keyboard buttons to find out I can throw balls. I don't realize how I could sit on chairs. I cannot run, I cannot fly. I can only walk, nothing else. There are no right-click menus, no hover tips, no nothing. This is an extreme pre-alpha experience, even taking into account that Sansar is probably meant to be as easy as possible. People cannot do anything except of walking, talking and gtfo.

I have yet to see moving objects that are non-phantom. I keep throwing balls at stuff and watch physics (looks like Havok) and play with its glitches. After a while I log into the Sansar website to search for keyboard shortcuts. Finally I realize I can move the camera independently from my avatar position. That's a good start but it stands no chance at how avatars can move in SL, and there is especially much to do with camera movement. I like how my avatar walks differently when I am walking up or down a mountain. How my feet fit uneven ground. Now that is something new. Thumbs up.

I like the clouds, much better than in Second Life. The atmosphere seems to be nice to work with. I have yet to see animated water. It does not appear to exist anywhere. What a real pity. And while at it, what about shaders finally? Now that would be a huge step forward. Not like the competition cannot do this :)

After a while I give up trying to do stuff in-world. I think to myself this is still a creator's preview so let's have a first impression of this and let LL do their job adding user features before I even judge things that are simply not there yet.

What has been one of the most exciting parts of Second Life, being able to edit objects live in-world has been completely abandonned. You would leave the experience and go to an editor for your eyes only. In the late days of Second Life most stuff would also be developed out of world and then just uploaded but it would still be placed and decorated on a live server, not in an "offline" editor. How can LL have forgotten that creating in-world while others are watching and collaborating was most likely what got all of us hooked in the first place? Create and get instant and live feedback and have testers work with your stuff right after recompiling it. I have to remind myself, this is not Second Life....

So I am in the experience editor, I see a pPlane1 with familiar arrows to move, rotate and resize. I rotate the plane slightly and save it. Then I view my experience. My plane is not rotated. Didn't it save? I go back to the editor. It was saved! So why would I not see it? Alrighty, let's rotate it back anyway. Where is the snapping? Can't find out how. I go to object editor and find rotation values. Wow, it's set at X0, Y0, Z0 but it is clearly rotated by about X45. Something's wrong here. I rotate it manually until I believe it is right, I just failed to snap an object rotation back to defaults :)

I look at system objects... Ah, an inventory. There is some stuff, let's drag it onto the plane. I can't? Let's right click it. Nothing happens. Ah, this is a texture. Interestingly I can move scripts onto the plane, but not textures. I go back to System Objects and find some objects to move onto my plane and experiment with. The interface seems to be extraordinarily simple at a second glance. Have to get used to the fact that advanced properties are to be found within the scene object menu instead of being submenus of the properties window. 

I go back to sansar.com to find some example scripts. C freaking #. Naturally, I get a shock. I imagine myself porting around 2500 scripts to Sansar. 

I realize my very first experience of Sansar is so different to Second Life that I am still a bit under shock. During my first 2 sessions I have not managed to find out how as an explorer I can interact with objects with the exception of collisions and text commands. 

There is nothing much that completely wipes me out of the seat yet with the exception of VR headset integration, 3D audio, audio materials, some interesting light effect possibilities such as godrays and finally.. finally... good looking shadows. 

I remember I had read that visitors of my experience may not be able to see each other because they would end up in different clones of my shard. This thought drives me mad. What a huge step backwards, probably needed for performance reasons. 

After a first session of (especially) exploring and editing an experience I must say... The overall status of this product looks very alpha to me. Nice interface but very alpha features. I can only hope LL takes a lot of time to finalize this instead of pushing out an unpolished product with way too much missing. This product needs more beta-testers, it needs a lot of user input. It needs many many more possibilities. And there is nothing wrong at looking how things were done perfectly right in Second Life. Doing new stuff from scratch is not always better, even taking into account this is a different product with a different approach. 

I will be happy to continue testing and to create an experience. But at the end of this day I am left with one thought: I am wondering why Second Life viewers were not redesigned from scratch and the already existing platform extended for easy VR experiences, Why Oculus project viewers were suddenly just dropped and a new product came out of ashes. Why two products when they could have become one. 

I guess I will find out why. I am curious enough. But for now, back to SL, I am missing it after only 2 hours of testing Sansar. 

 

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