The Sansar Newsblog Has Changed Its Name to RyanSchultz.com

The SansarNewsblogis now

I have decided that I’m not going to wait for Linden Lab to issue brand guidelines for Sansar. I am rebranding the Sansar Newsblog under my own name. (I’ve held the domain name for well over a decade, and this is the perfect place to finally use it!)

All of the old blogposts are still searchable and accessible, and almost all the Sansar-related blogposts have been tagged with the tag “Sansar” to make them easier to find. All the old URLs should still work as before.

Along with the new name comes a new focus. I will no longer be focusing near-exclusively on Sansar in this blog. Instead, I will be expanding my coverage to provide “News and Views on Social VR, Virtual Worlds, and the Metaverse”, as my new blog tagline now states. Platforms covered will include, but not be limited to:

Note that I do not plan to write much about Second Life and its many Opensim-based spin-offs; there are already over a thousand avid bloggers who do an excellent job of that! I plan to focus on the newer platforms, especially those that support virtual reality.

I will be closing the Facebook and Google+ groups I created for the Sansar Newsblog, and creating new groups for this rebranded blog.

Easy Sansar Content Creation Using Microsoft Windows Paint 3D and Blender

Several months ago I wrote about using Microsoft Windows 10’s Paint 3D program to create content for Sansar. Using Paint 3D is so easy that a child could use it to create great-looking three-dimensional content! But unfortunately, there were some problems with importing linked objects from Paint 3D into Sansar, as well as with the huge size of the imported objects.

Draxtor Despres and Vassay have worked together to create this YouTube tutorial video which explains how to use the free Blender software to fix the problems in mesh content created using Paint 3D. Drax and Vassay used this workflow to create the fun and funky content you can see in Drax’s experience, called Meet the Draxies. It’s got a wonderful cartoon-like feeling to it, which is actually very easy to recreate!

Basically, there are six steps to using Blender to fix your Paint 3D-created mesh object:

  1. Import the FBX-format file you got from Paint 3D;
  2. Rescale the object (to fix any potential size problems in the object);
  3. Decimate each part of the object (to cut down on the number of polygons in your object);
  4. Set the normals of each part of the object using the Set From Faces feature;
  5. Create UVs for each part of the object using the automatic Smart UV Project feature;
  6. Select all the parts of your object and export as an FBX-format file.

This is an excellent tutorial video, which takes you through the workflow step-by-step. My only quibble with it is that Drax doesn’t give enough information about the all-important roughness and metalness maps, which you need to include so your Paint 3D-created mesh objects look the way you want them to in your experience. (Linden Lab recently released an update to the Sansar client software, so a lot of mesh objects created before the change now have an unnatural shininess to them.)

So here is a bit more information on the metalness and roughness maps. These are just PNG-format image files, which can be as small as 2×2 pixels in size. You can create them in PhotoShop or GIMP or any graphics program. They are essentially one of the 256 shades of grey between pure black and pure white. Here’s a diagram from OldVamp that shows what an object looks like when you change the metalness and the roughness maps:

Sansar Metalness and Roughness Maps Better

Most of the time, you are going to want to use a white roughness map, and a black metalness map (the ball in the bottom right corner of this diagram). If you want something really shiny, you are going to use a black roughness map and a white metalness map (the ball in the upper left corner of the diagram). You should only use a white metalness when you want a metal object. Here’s another example of roughness and metalness maps, using a brass object:

Sansar roughness metalness brass.png

And there you go!

Medhue’s Animated Animals in Sansar

Medhue, who is well-known in Second Life as a talented creator of animals for Zooby, has brought his animated elephant from SL to Sansar! He’s also brought over an animesh horse he is currently working on in SL. You can visit them at his testing experience in Sansar:

Medhue has told us that he is not going to put products up for sale in the Sansar Store, as his personal protest against what he considers to be the too-high commision fees charged by Linden Lab. However, he has said that he is willing to create tutorial videos for Sansar. He’s already posted ten videos for Sansar creators on his YouTube channel. You can also access Sansar kits, resources, and tutorials on his website.

A Weird Promotional Video for Mark Space

Mark Space is lauded in a very strange video by a YouTube user channel called BuzzStyle, promoting the company’s apartment decoration contest. Jaguar and Land Rover are among the many companies name-dropped in this video as having “cooperation agreements” with Mark Space (whatever that means).

In this promotional video, read from what appears to be a press release by a creepy computerized British male voice, Mark Space is referred to as “VR startup”. As I already noted in a previous blogpost, arranging flat images of furniture within 360-degree photographs is NOT virtual reality! Visit my apartment in Mark Space and see for yourself. That’s all there is to see right now, just 360-degree photographs. No actual 3D spaces.

Why people are investing in this virtual world start-up is a mystery to me. Again, as with Decentraland, it seems to come down to people jumping aboard when they hear the magic word “blockchain”. They’ve already raised a fair bit of cryptocurrency, according to this screen capture from their website:

Mark Space 20 Feb 2018.png

According to this page from their website, Mark Space has already raised over 8 million dollars (US):

Total Raised Mark Space 20 Feb 2018.png

And, unlike Decentraland, Mark Space actually has places you can visit now. But what they are currently offering is not terribly appealing. I don’t get it. I really don’t see what the attraction is here, why people are investing millions of dollars. Compared to what virtual worlds like Sansar, High Fidelity and even 14-year-old Second Life has to offer, this is a product of questionable utility. How are the trendy boutiques in the Mark Space demo any better than a fully-featured website using Shopify?

Mark Space is another blockchain-based virtual world to watch, from the sidelines, as it evolves over time. I wish them well, but like Decentraland, I predict a bumpy road ahead.

Sansar Pick of the Day: HoverDerby

HoverDerby 1 19 Feb 2018.png
Daisy Gator Standing in Front of the HoverDerby Welcome Sign

A common complaint I hear about Sansar is that it’s pretty, but there isn’t a lot to do yet. Experiences like HoverDerby (put together by Galen, Jasmine, and Drax) are going a long way to counteract the suggestion that there isn’t anything to do in Sansar! It’s the first competitive team sport in Sansar (well, if you don’t count the 5-A-Side Soccer Stadium) and it’s great fun to play, or even to watch!

HoverDerby 4 19 Feb 2018
Watching a Two-on-Two HoverDerby Match

HoverDerby is still in beta; Galen and Jasmine are still working on it, but it is already playable. The game is pretty simple. Step on one of the red or blue teleporter pads to join a team (red or blue) and get onto the playing field.

You hover around the field, using the triggers on your hand controllers to fire at the other team members (if you’re in desktop mode, press the Spacebar or the F key to fire). If you hit your opponents, they can no longer fire at you or anybody else, and they have to get back to their circle of safety before they can fire again. The navigation takes a little getting used to, but you quickly get the hang of it.

HoverDerby 2 19 Feb 2018.png

Matches last five minutes. The team that has captured the most opponents wins (in case of a tie, the next capture decides who is the winner).

Note that you do not need to have a VR headset to play HoverDerby; can also play in desktop mode as well as in VR. Full instructions are on the board next to the blue and red teleporters.

Every weekday morning at 9:00 a.m. Pacific Time/Sansar Time, a group gathers at HoverDerby to practice their game. Drax sometimes livestreams the games too. Hope to see you there soon! As I said, it’s great fun!

UPDATE 1:41 p.m.: Turns out there is already a website for HoverDerby!

AltspaceVR: A Brief Introduction

Nobody was more surprised than I was when Microsoft stepped in at the last minute to save AltspaceVR. Most people assumed the virtual world was doomed when they announced last July that they had run out of money. But obviously, Microsoft felt that the product was worth saving, as their potential foot in the door in the increasingly crowded room of social VR apps. God knows they have enough money to do something interesting with it. God knows AltspaceVR needs someone to pour money into it.

AltspaceVR is a California-based company which was founded in 2013, and which launched its social VR application in May 2015. So they’ve been around for a while now.

My biggest problem with AltspaceVR is the platform’s avatars. They are dreadfully cartoony. I can only assume that they made this deliberate design decision so the avatars are very quick and easy to render on a platform that supports not only the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive headsets, but also Google Daydream, Samsung Gear VR, and the numerous Windows Mixed Reality headsets, plus Windows computer desktop users. But I find them to be butt-ugly, and terribly unappealing. Let’s hope Microsoft has plans to upgrade them.

AltspaceVR.png

I personally found it extremely funny that Microsoft felt they had to tart up the default AltspaceVR avatars in the following promotional video titled “Ushering in the era of Windows Mixed Reality”, issued in October 2017, shortly after they bought AltspaceVR.

If you click on the following YouTube video, it should start around the 15:40 minute mark, which is where the AltspaceVR segment occurs. I can assure you that the avatars used in this Microsoft promotional video were ones with completely redesigned and customized heads, which are NOT available to current AltspaceVR users! User avatar customization options in AltspaceVR are very limited, still. Truth in advertising, hmmm…

There are a few interesting regular events happening in AltspaceVR, notably VR Church, an initiative launched by Pastor D.J. Soto (WIRED article), which I wrote about in an earlier blogpost on religion, spirituality and virtual reality. (SacredVR also holds weekly guided meditation events in AltspaceVR.) Of course, religious events are hardly new to virtual worlds; Second Life has had churches operating almost from the very beginning.

AltspaceVR is worth keeping an eye on, if for no other reason than to see what Microsoft plans to do with their acquisition.

Sinespace: A Brief Introduction

Sinespace is a new virtual world created by a company called Sine Wave Entertainment, whose CEO is Adam Frisby. Adam is a well-known figure in virtual worlds. Before joining Sine Wave Entertainment, he founded the Azure Islands, a community with a peak of 400 regions in Second Life, and DeepThink, a leading virtual world development company. He was also one of the founding developers of OpenSimulator, the popular open source platform used by countless virtual worlds. (I also believe that Sine Wave is the same company which sells avatar animations in Second Life, although I need to confirm this with Adam.)

Sinespace is based on Unity, which is a cross-platform game engine used to develop both three-dimensional and two-dimensional video games and simulations. This is a different approach from Sansar, which is building its own engine from scratch.

Here’s a few things you might not know about Sinespace:

  • Sinespace already has cloth physics! Yes, you can wear a skirt which moves as your avatar does. Here’s a short video demonstrating this feature:
  • Sinespace has an experimental VR viewer! Adam let me try it out. Unfortunately, I can’t get it to work properly yet with my Oculus Rift headset. But virtual reality support for Sinespace is coming soon.
  • Like Sansar, Sinespace regions can be quite large. Adam gifted me a dune buggy and I drove endlessly through their Grand Canyon sim! (They also have great vehicle physics.)
  • Sinespace is home to a speaker series called The Delphi Talks, which consist of live interviews and discussions about art, games and stories. Here’s a YouTube playlist of recent Delphi Talks.
    Screenshot 2018-2-18-08-54-45
    The site of the Delphi Talks in Sinespace

    To learn more about Sinespace, here’s their user forums, their Facebook, their Twitter, and their Google+ group. Go explore!

Sansar Pick of the Day: Orphanage of Angels

Orphanage of Angels is a new horror Sansar experience created by Sergio Delacruz.

In his description, Sergio sets the scene:

In 1961, in the St. Croce orphanage (Italy) twelve children and five sisters disappeared. Research continued in the institute and surrounding territories for two years, with no results until 1970, when, in a niche of a basement, were found several children’s bones. For that reason, the institute was renamed “Orphanage of Angels”. What happened there?

You start off in a small urban apartment in the present day. There’s a bulletin board on the wall, with old news clippings and photographs of the orphanage. As you approach the door of the apartment, it automatically opens onto a hallway leading to a glowing entrance portal. As you cross it, you are transported to the Orphanage of Angels.

Orphanage of Angels 1 18 Feb 2018

There is a truly creepy atmosphere in this experience, as you explore the abandoned orphanage, trying to figure out what happened here. The orphanage is dimly lit, and there is a thunderstorm raging outside. Occasionally a lightning flash illuminates the interior.

Orphanage of Angels 2 18 Feb 2018.png

One feature that I saw here, that I haven’t yet seen in any other experience, is the clever use of pop-up messages which appear on your screen (or in your VR headset) at certain locations:

Orphanage of Angels 3 18 Feb 2018

I won’t spoil the experience by giving too much away. Be sure to explore every part of this orphanage, and don’t forget the basement! This is a very well-done, atmospheric experience and Sergio is to be commended for this work in pulling all this together. The question is: are your nerves up for Orphanage of Angels?