UPDATED: It’s Official! Sansar Has Launched on Steam

I just checked, and Sansar has now officially launched on Steam:

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Here’s the new promotional trailer from the Steam page:

 

Linden Lab also sent out the following announcement:

SANSAR HAS LAUNCHED ON STEAM!
As of today, December 5th, we are officially live on Steam!

We wanted to give a huge thank you to our current community who have been so supportive, and to extend a warm “Welcome” to all our new community members joining us from Steam!

You can find us on Steam as an Early Access Game, where we’re free to download. Even better, you’ll get to enjoy all the benefits of Steam as a social platform for gamers including full access to our Steam Community Hub!

As reminder, as part of our effort to get onto Steam we have had to make alterations to our currency model, details of which can be found in this blog post.

We can’t wait for you to take this step with us, and we’d love your help in spreading the word!

Here are some things you can do if you’d like to help out:

  • Leave a review on Steam!
  • Host an Event!
  • Enter our Sokoban Puzzle challenges!
  • Make something to sell on the store!
  • Share videos and screenshots of you in Sansar!
  • Stream Sansar on Twitch!
  • Tell your friends!

Be sure to check out events.sansar.com – or find the Events tab in Sansar – to see what events we have coming up in December. You can also join our Discord if you haven’t already to hear up-to-the-minute announcements.  We’ve got some great events coming up, including Comedy Gladiators: A Virtual Comedy Experience (12/10) and the Grand Finals of Star Trek Trivia (12/13)!

If you have any questions, feel free to bring them to our weekly Product Meetup Thursdays at 11am PDT in Sansar!

Here is some handy documentation explaining Steam integration issues:

  • How to install Sansar from Steam
  • How to create a Sansar account using Steam credentials
  • How to log into Sansar using your Steam credentials
  • How to link your Steam wallet to your Sansar account

And there’s a list of Frequently Asked Questions:

Frequently Asked Questions

    • Will I have to use a Steam account or have to launch Sansar through Steam?
      • No. If you have an existing Sansar account, it will still function the same way it always has. Additionally, you will still be able to launch Sansar from the desktop client. Even after we launch on Steam, you will still be able to create new Sansar accounts and download the latest Sansar client, from our website.
      • You can also add Sansar (downloaded from our website) as a 3rd-party program you can launch from Steam.
    • Will I be able to merge my Sansar and Steam accounts?
      • No. We are not allowing account merging at this time.
    • If I want to use my existing Sansar account, can I still login to Steam?
      • Yes! If you are logged in to Steam, and download Sansar through the Steam platform, when you launch Sansar you will be prompted to login with the Sansar account of your choice.
    • Do I have to buy Sansar dollars through Steam?
      • If you created your Sansar account through Steam you have to have to use your Steam Wallet to purchase Sansar Dollars. If you created your Sansar account through our website, we will use the purchasing information we have one file.
    • How do I request a cashout of my Sansar balance?
      • Processing credit from Sansar into your Paypal account is temporarily on hold, but will be re-enabled in early 2019. Until then, if you would like to request a manual payout, you can find instructions on how to do that here.

Have fun! Join the party!

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UPDATE Dec. 6th: Inara Pey has done her usual excellent job of covering the launch of Sansar on Steam on her blog, and she adds a few details I neglected to mention:

The Sansar page on Steam includes a promotional video and a series of images from Sansar. In addition, and to underline the platform’s status, there is also a Q&A element, which addresses a number of questions, including:

Why Early Access?

“Sansar is a place where you can hang out with friends, play games, explore new worlds, and share incredible creations, but we can’t do that without you! Being in Early Access is important to us to make sure we’re hearing directly from the community on what you’d like to see and do in Sansar. Come join us!”

Approximately how long will this game be in Early Access?

“We plan on staying in Early Access until Sansar is the very best it can be. We’re constantly making improvements, and we’re eager for your feedback.”

How is the full version planned to differ from the Early Access version?

“We want Sansar to be the place where people can connect with communities and celebrate what they love through immersive virtual experiences, interactive events, customizable avatars, and easy creation. That’s why we plan to develop even more features around socialization, interactivity, personalization, and creation – elements that enrich the social experiences our platform enables. Plans will change based on your feedback, and we’re always listening and learning.”

What is the current state of the Early Access version?

“Right now, Sansar lets you host and attend virtual events, play games, explore user-created experiences, and buy and sell merchandise in the Sansar Store. Meet friends for a watch party and tailgate. Buy clothing and accessories for your avatars, or objects for the virtual experiences you build.”

The sansar.com log-in page now allows web log-ins using Steam account credentials (l). Sansar and Steam integration allows logging-in to Sansar using a user’s Steam credentials (r)

The launch blog post also has some important words for existing Sansar users (or those who have already created a Sansar account). these include:

  • Existing users can still access Sansar directly from their downloaded version of the client, and use all the capabilities with it, including creating new accounts; they do not have to use Steam to log-in.
  • However:
    • Existing Sansar users with a Steam account can add Sansar to their Steam account and launch it from there it they wish
    • Or if they are logged into Steam and opt  to launch Sansar via Steam, they will be prompted to log-in to Sansar with the account of their choice (Sansar, Steam or Twitch).
  • There will be no direct merging of Sansar and Steam accounts (“at this time”).
  • User with an existing Sansar account can continue purchasing Sansar Dollars using the payment information they have on file with Linden Lab.
    • However, users signing-up for Sansar via Steam must use their Steam Wallet to purchase Sansar Dollars.
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UPDATED! Editorial: Linden Lab Launches Sansar on Steam—Will It Entice More People to Use Sansar?

Sansar Steam

Note: I woke up very early this morning to write this editorial. Once Linden Lab makes their announcement (which is expected today), I will make a new blogpost with that information. UPDATE: It’s now official—Sansar has launched on Steam.

Today I also am getting feedback from many Sansar users that I have been way too harsh and negative in this particular blogpost, so…

***Please READ THROUGH MY ENTIRE BLOGPOST, INCLUDING THE SECOND UPDATE, thank you!***

Linden Lab has a problem (although they won’t label it that). Fewer people than they probably expected by now are using their social VR platform, Sansar. They’ve tried a few things (like partnering up with esports leagues and popular Twitch livestreamers), in an effort to ignite the fire that made VRChat suddenly so popular earlier this year. Frankly, they’ve had very little success so far. And they’re probably scratching their heads and wondering what it’s going to take to get people to try Sansar—and stay.

So, on October 29th, 2018, Linden Lab made a major surprise announcement:

Sansar has come a long way since we started the project. In 2018 we have devoted an enormous amount of effort to improving the end-user experience, and will continue to do so.

Given those improvements, we believe we are quickly approaching the point where we want to start bringing a large number of users onto the platform. This is an important milestone for us and especially our creators. One of the foundational principles of Sansar is that creators must be able to profit from their creations. For us to make that a reality, we need to give our creators a large audience of customers.

The cornerstone of our growth effort will be to put Sansar on Steam. Steam is where more than half of the VR market goes to find software. It also is a huge pool of users who are interested in our space and are likely to have the hardware required to run Sansar.

Why has Linden Lab decided to take this step? Well, as they said above, they want to get more customers for Sansar, and they know that making the platform available through Steam is going to put it in front of a lot more eyeballs. People who might not have known about Linden Lab or Sansar before. And (most importantly) people who are more likely to have an Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, or Windows Mixed Reality VR headset than the general population. These are the hardcore gamer crowd, who tend to be early adopters of technology. Linden Lab wants these people.

Linden Lab is betting that, if can get sufficient numbers of Steam users to try out Sansar, that a significant number of them will become regular users: exploring, socializing, building experiences, and shopping for items from the Sansar Store. It’s a risk, but it’s a calculated risk. And Linden Lab is willing to get into bed with Steam to do it (even if it means closing down their SandeX Sansar dollar exchange, which happened yesterday).

However, there’s absolutely no guarantee that simply putting Sansar on Steam is going to be enough. For example, the statistics clearly show that High Fidelity’s launch on Steam in late 2016 has, so far, had very little demonstrable impact on its usage levels, aside from the spikes of users attending the monthly stress testing events and the recent FUTVRE LANDS virtual reality festival.

Whether or not Ebbe Altberg and his team at Linden Lab want to call it that is a moot point, but essentially, what we have here is the “consumer launch” of Sansar I had blogged about back in April 2018. My major concern then was that Sansar did not yet have enough features to attract and retain new users. So let’s take a quick look at the 12 things I thought that Sansar should have before a “consumer launch”, according to that April editorial:

  1. Better avatar customization features. We have a few facial sliders, zero body sliders, and no custom avatar skins. The avatars look good, and there are plentiful clothing options, and you can dye your hair any colour under the sun, but you really cannot customize your avatar to the extent you can in other social VR platforms like Sinespace. Nope.
  2. More and better avatar animations: OK, here at least we now have custom emotes, plus a few more dances and the ability to sit down on the ground. Still needs work. Half a check mark (and I’m being generous here).
  3. Particle effects: Fire? Water? Fog? Smoke? Nope. Just kludgy workarounds. High Fidelity already has this feature, and builders such as Noz’aj are using it to great effect in domains such as Beyond.
  4. More interactive content: At the moment, there isn’t nearly enough interactive content in Sansar, although the situation is slowly improving as the scripting abilities are built out over time. But note that two of the most popular Sansar games to date, Galen and Jasmine’s HoverDerby and Gindipple’s Combat Zone, have both shut down because of the developers’ deep frustration with the current scripting limitations and user interface issues in Sansar. At this point, we seem to be going backwards, not forwards. I’m not even going to give this half a check mark. UPDATE: Please see Bagnaria’s comment below.
  5. One or more community hubs: Nope. Linden Lab’s position is that the users can create their own hubs, and some have tried, like David Hall’s Avalon experience.
  6. Greeters: Nope. Other virtual worlds like Sinespace and High Fidelity have paid greeters whose job it is to welcome guests, answer their questions, and make them feel comfortable. As I said before, it’s a business cost. You can’t just rely on volunteers. Hire people. Put them in your community hubs. Pay them (in Sansar dollars, if you prefer).
  7. The ability to pay an avatar directly: Finally, something we do have! Check mark.
  8. Paypal support: Still no Paypal support.
  9. More functional and attractive user forums and blogs: We are still stuck with Zendesk, which is butt ugly and makes Linden Lab (and Sansar) look bad. The Sansar blog is especially horrible. FIX IT. Fail.
  10. Better communication and collaboration with livestreamers and other potential promoters like bloggers and vloggers: This has had mixed results. The UmiNoKaiju thing was a total bust, as far as I can tell. And so far, I am still one of the few people blogging about Sansar. Linden Lab has failed to gain much traction with livestreamers, vloggers, and bloggers when it comes to Sansar. Fail.
  11. More contests: (sound of crickets chirping) Fail. Linden Lab needs to have more contests (and have more and better prizes for those contests), in order to encourage and reward the creativity of Sansar’s userbase. Period.
  12. More regular events: OK, this is another area where things have much improved since April. The Sansar Events calendar is starting to look pretty good. Check mark.

FINAL SCORE: 2½ out of 12 (numbers 2, 7, and 12). In my books, that’s a failing grade. Now, do you see why I wanted Linden Lab to wait another six months to a year before launching on Steam?

My worst nightmare is that we are going to have a repeat of Sansar’s open creator launch, when dozens of people trooped in, looked around, declared themselves dissatisfied, and left, never to come back. And even worse, told their friends how bad Sansar was. Linden Lab cannot afford to make a bad first impression with a brand new bunch of Steam users. And Steam users can be truly brutal in rating their experiences if they feel a product is not up to their standards, as High Fidelity has already learned: 

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A selection of negative reviews of High Fidelity on Steam

And, if you think that user reviews are not important, think again. I read user reviews for new apps on the Oculus Store all the time, and if they are mixed or bad, I don’t buy. The same applies to Steam. A recent Queen’s University research study showed that Steam users left negative reviews more quickly than positive ones, and that boring games were reviewed worse than buggy games:

Lin and the team also found that while most reviews are written after around 13 hours of play, “the majority of negative reviews” are posted within the first seven hours. Additionally, free-to-play games see a spike in reviews after just one hour of play.

Linden Lab better have a SWAT team on call to handle unhappy reviewers on Steam! This is part of the new landscape, and they’d better be responsive.

So cross your fingers and say your prayers. We are entering a new era.

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Image by peter67 on Pixabay

UPDATE: Bagnaria has taken me to task for saying that scripting is “going backwards instead of forwards”. I have decided to post her comment in full in this blogpost, since people often skip the comments and what she has to say is important:

While I agree that Linden Lab should have waited a few months longer, I do not agree with what you are saying here regarding interactivity : “At this point, we seem to be going backwards, not forwards.” Here is why:

We have seen a large influx of new interactive experiences since Linden Lab introduced Simple Scripts about two months ago. Simple scripts have enormous potential. The best example I can give is Scurry Landia which is one of the most interactive experiences in Sansar right now. We made much of its game logic simple script compatible. Also many of it’s individual games can be completely wired up using nothing but the Linden Lab provided simple scripts. The Lab also provides the source code of all their simple scripts. FullSpectrum and many other creators are releasing dozens of additional simple script compatible add-ons that we created for everyone to use without having to code. That includes some more complex animation controllers, the ability to add puzzles, digit displays and very soon weapons and relatively soon vehicles. The key point is that any coder can add more script functionality in a way that can talk to other simple scripts. 98% of what one can do in Scurry Waters right now will be possible without writing any additional code.

When more people discover that simple scripts are like LEGO blocks that do not require writing any code, they will realize just how powerful that is to create interactive experiences.

The other part to that is that Sansar engine can not only host stunning visuals. It is doing a phenomenal job at handling all the scripts and animations we are throwing at it. Scurry Waters uses hundreds of scripts. Everything is moving and it just proves that it is possible to create engaging interactive experiences at this point and we are really just at the beginning of that accelerating evolution.

We are in the early stages, but I continue to be willing to invest my time in Sansar because I know how much is possible already and we creators are barely able to keep up utilizing all the new features we are given. In regards to interactivity Sansar is a very short distance away from becoming truly amazing and I do believe this will make enough difference to finally create a WOW.

So, as a result, I hereby give Linden Lab another check mark for item 4 on my list from last April…which brings it to a final score of 3½ out of 12.

SECOND UPDATE: I am getting feedback from various Sansar users today, who feel that I have been way too harsh and negative in this particular blogpost.

I want to stress that this is only one person’s opinion, not an official Sansar spokesperson’s point of view. I still remain a strong Sansar supporter, but I would be neglecting my duties as an independent social VR/virtual worlds blogger if I simply posted nothing but “good news” about Sansar, as some people want me to do.

There are indeed many truly wonderful things about Sansar, and I want Sansar to be a success! And please keep in mind that Sansar is still a BETA platform, and in constant development. There has been much good progress over the past two years. But I still feel—STRONGLY—that Linden Lab should have waited six months to a year before releasing Sansar on Steam. And I stand by my statement, and I feel I have supported it with my arguments. (Perhaps the tone was a little too sarcastic.)

When Linden Lab makes their official announcement, I will either update this blogpost, or (because this is getting ridiculously long as it is) I will start a new one.