UPDATED: Comparing Sansar and High Fidelity: A Few Thoughts

High Fidelity VR Talent Show 3 21 April 2017

Caption: Drax interviews a contestant on the High Fidelity VR Talent Show, April 21st, 2017.

Since January, when I upgraded my personal desktop computer to a high-end gaming model and got an Oculus Rift VR headset, I have been exploring in both Sansar (where I was lucky enough to be part of the closed beta test) and High Fidelity (HiFi for short, which has been in open beta for some time now). High Fidelity is the new company of Linden Lab’s founding CEO, Philip Rosedale. And of course, Linden Lab, under the leadership of current CEO Ebbe Altberg, has launched Sansar. It’s only natural to compare and contrast the two VR-capable virtual world products.

There’s lots to love about High Fidelity. Some of the experiences (or sims, or whatever HiFi calls them), are fun and funky, like Mexico. You can take and share snapshots. You can import your own customized avatar (if you have the technical skill to know how to do it). They have a basic, in-world “prim building” tool which you can use to create simple objects. You can stream audio, so you can have in-world performances.

And I must confess that HiFi has just been killing it lately with respect to promotion, public relations, and live-streamed regular content like The JimJamz Show and LIVE in High Fidelity with Michelle Osorio. They’ve hosted popular events such as the first talent show in VR. Linden Lab staff should be taking copious notes on how High Fidelity assiduously promotes their brand via social media. (I do hope that Atlas Hopping with Drax and Berry will become the first of many live-streamed shows in Sansar. And apparently, Shoutcast audio streaming will be coming in the next release of the Sansar client software.)

One thing I also love about High Fidelity is that you can fly! This is something which always gives me a bit of a thrill when I lift off from the ground in my VR headset. And guess what? You can even sit down! 😉 I’m going to keep ribbing Linden Lab about this until they support object animations…something that is also supposed to be coming soon.

But there’s currently no way for content creators to make money in HiFi. There’s a store, but everything is free. There’s currently no way to pay for something, although Philip Rosedale has mentioned that they are looking at using cryptocurrency to support financial transactions in the future. Also, because HiFi is open source, some content creators are unhappy that it’s just too easy for other people to steal your content. Maxwell Graf mentioned this when I interviewed him. He said:

Generally, I am a proponent of open source, but content has to come from somewhere and sometimes it comes from places it shouldn’t and is used the wrong way. I saw a lot of IP and copyright issues that concerned the hell out of me, basically.

But by far the most irritating thing about HiFi to me is the glitchy software update process. High Fidelity automatically installs its Sandbox software (to enable you to host your own content), plus nine assignment client processes in Windows, and these are all running continuously in the background, even if you are not using High Fidelity. Every time I try to update the HiFi client software, I have to manually go in and kill each of the assignment client processes, and the Sandbox software, using the Windows Task Manager. Ever try to kill all nine assignment client processes as they are continually respawning? It’s like trying to herd cats. This is a big, showstopper bug in my opinion.

Over on the High Fidelity user forums, HiFi user Theanine has posted a good comparative summary of the two platforms:

Sansar is really nice, but still has glaring problems. Just as High Fidelity does.

Ironically the things Sansar is strong in, are things High Fidelity sucks at. And vice versa. High Fidelity could really use better lighting and rendering, Sansar is great in that area. But High Fidelity lets you fly, has better voice, and the freedom to upload a completely custom avatar mesh (Sansar, as far as I know, only lets you customize a preset human avatar.) On the other hand, Sansar has official, built-in text chat, and the ability to sell on the store and make money already. But then, there’s also [the] fact that Sansar is Windows only and closed-source, while High Fidelity is cross-platform and open source. I could go on.

In time these differences will even out as both software [programs] improve. I’m keeping a close eye on both, and will be using both. They each have their strengths and weaknesses that make them interesting to me.

I plan to spend far more time in Sansar than in High Fidelity, but I still expect to pop in for a visit to HiFi every so often. It’s very interesting to watch the social VR marketplace as it evolves!

UPDATE Jan. 9th: I have updated my comparison of Sansar and High Fidelity with an infographic.

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12 thoughts on “UPDATED: Comparing Sansar and High Fidelity: A Few Thoughts”

  1. I have been running my own domain on hifi for years on an old surface pro2 and never had this problem updating the sandbox.Im not a networking server tek guy so who knows what u did wrong

    1. Well I should post this bug to the High FIdelity forums I just assumed (incorrectly) that other users were having this problem too. Thank you for commenting Judas!

    2. Judas personally experience may be accurate for him, but I am sure he knows better since the problem you mention does exist, has been mentioned in the HiFi forums many times, and has existed for the last two years. Many people have run into this problem. It comes and goes depending on which devs happened to mangle the installer on any particular build.

      The issue with High Fidelity is simply that is by any technical definition not a beta quality product. It is at best mid alpha. That it is ‘beta’ was merely a victory declaration so that it could be listed in Steam. Nothing except audio in HF is feature complete. It’s best part is its audio spatializer and codec, which is an amazing bit of software wizardry. All the rest is either not complete, missing critical pieces, massively buggy, and worse changing so much that it is not possible to develop something without a new build breaking it. Nonetheless there are a few very interesting demo domains.

      Harsh as this reads, it is the state of HiFi, but it is slowly improving. Perhaps in another two years they will reach true beta – they just need time and a bit more discipline.

  2. You can, in settings, tell your sandbox not to automatically start up. That ends those extra processes.

    Someone from HiFi told me that they plan to change the system to leverage those processes to have your PC running aspects of the world, even when you are not at your computer. They’re planning a true peer-to-peer computing system that would alleviate some of the burden on central servers. I’m kinda bothered by what this will do to people’s bandwidth and computers, especially if they are unaware of their participation in this resource sharing tactic.

    1. I thought that I had already told my sandbox not to automatically start up in the settings. But it seems to be starting up anyways!

  3. As a participant in Second life (2004) I Joined the HiFi experience when was released to the open market. I still find it totally confusing and still rather basic. Yes, you have real mirrors but when attempting to use the SBS 3D, yes I have a monitor capable of this the graphics went nuts. I finally had to kill the program because the video data was being presented at a level I did not consider safe. In less than 60 seconds it drove my GPU from 39c to over 70c. This program after several years of development is far from prime time. I also dislike the TSR’s that are loaded into the system.

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