Book Review: Sansar Creator’s Guide, by Carl Fravel

Pasted image at 2017_08_02 12_51 AMI had blogged earlier about the first published book about Sansar, the Sansar Creator’s Guide, written by Carl Fravel. I agreed to write a review of Carl’s book in exchange for a free copy. Here is that review.

The book is only available in Kindle format from the Amazon store (here’s the link), and it sells for US$9.99. (Your price may vary depending on the currency used in your country’s Amazon store. In Canada it is selling for CDN$7.90.) The book has an extensive index and a helpful glossary of major terms used in virtual world building in general, and Sansar in particular (“experience”, “scene”, etc.).

I enjoyed reading this book. It was easy to read and Carl keeps the jargon to a minimum. There are a few sections that are much more technical, such as the section on how to create a skybox. I would recommend setting the more technical sections in this book aside until you are ready to tackle them. Carl also talks a bit about the social and philosophical aspects of virtual worlds, things which are often forgotten in other, more technically oriented, guides.

The book’s major sections are:

  1. Using Sansar
  2. Creating a Sansar Experience
  3. Creating Your Own Content
  4. Making Great Experiences
  5. Creator’s Alley – A Gallery of the Work of Gifted Artists
  6. Idea Box
  7. Generating Revenue with Sansar
  8. Glossary of Sansar Terminology
  9. Additional Resources

There is a section devoted to Blender. I was able to follow Carl’s excellent step-by-step instructions to create a very simple object in Blender, texture it, export it as an FBX file, and upload it into Sansar. The instruction level assumes that you do already have some familiarity with Blender, but you do not have to be an expert to gain value from it.

There are some omissions and inaccuracies that I discovered. I reported them to Carl and he might be making a revised edition to sell on Amazon. For example, there are detailed step-by-step instructions on how to create an object that teleports you to another location within the same scene when you touch it. Carl forgot to mention that the object must have a collision mesh, and be set to dynamic, for this to work.

In Part 7 of the book, Carl states “In Sansar you can control the access to your Experience in a way that allows you to not only put conditions on participation (age, dress code, etc.), but charge admission, or memberships.” This is incorrect. None of those features exist in Sansar right now, and it is not known when they will be available.

Also in the Appendix of tools, there is a mention of game engines such as Unity and Unreal, neither of which Sansar supports. Sansar has built its own in-house engine and Linden Lab CEO Ebbe Altberg has said that they did that deliberately in order to avoid the problems frequently encountered when external game engines are updated. (For example, the virtual world Sinespace is built on the Unity engine, and creators are often warned not to install the latest update to Unity until all the bugs it created in Sinespace are fixed.)

Aside from these few minor quibbles, this is a very useful and well-written book. It’s the kind of resource that is useful to have open in a tablet (or a separate window) while you are running the Sansar client software, so you can refer to it. I can recommend it to anybody who wants to learn more about becoming a builder and creator in Sansar.

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