Linden Lab Hires Consulting Firm Twofivesix to Survey Sansar Users

feedback-1977987_1280.jpg
Image by Tumisu on Pixabay

It would appear that Linden Lab has contracted with an external consulting firm to interview Sansar users. Someone on the official Sansar Discord server mentioned that they had received an email and wanted to know if it was legitimate or a scam.

I was curious and I did a little digging around in my email inbox, and lo and behold, there was this email message from three days ago:

TwoFiveSix

The agency checks out; here is Twofivesix’s website. They appear to be a gaming consulting firm, with a focus on videogames, esports, and virtual reality. Shortly afterward, Derrick Linden posted an official announcement to Discord:

Hi everyone!

Some of you have already reached out about this, but as a general heads up: we’re working with an outside firm at the moment to help gather and distill user feedback—all part of a broader research effort. If you have received an email from TwoFiveSix that mentions a survey, do not be alarmed – you are NOT being phished! This is a REAL opportunity to share what you think. Big thanks to those of you who’ve gotten in touch, and those of you who’ve already taken the survey! Feel free to drop us a line with any questions you have.

So I decided to fill out Twofivesix’s application form. They are operating on a very tight timeline; they basically want to complete all their hourlong user interviews between January 15th and 22nd! So please go check your email inbox for a message from them, and fill out the application if you wish to be considered for an interview and a US$50 AMEX gift card. What have you got to lose?

I do find it rather reassuring that Linden Lab has hired a professional consulting firm to get more feedback about how people feel about Sansar and what they would like to see happen on the platform. Involving a neutral third party which anonymizes answers might make it easier for negative comments and feedback to be submitted to, and heard by, the company.

It’s no secret that this is a do-or-die, make-or-break period for Linden Lab’s Sansar, especially given the rather lacklustre response to the platform’s launch on Steam so far. They’ve now got to pull out all the stops when it comes to figuring out what factors will make Sansar a success, and what things will drive people away.

As I have said before: Fasten your seatbelts, it’s going to be a bumpy night!

Advertisements

Editorial: Linden Lab’s New Sansar Dollar Conversion Policy Penalizes Musical Performers and Other People Who Receive Tips in Sansar

sam-truong-dan-627874-unsplash
Photo by Sam Truong Dan on Unsplash

Yesterday, Linden Lab finally relaunched their Sansar Dollar Conversion page since their shift away from the SandeX, as part of their launch of Sansar on Steam. However, there are a few new stipulations that people need to be aware of before they try to cash out their Sansar dollars:

Today’s the day. Our Sansar Dollar Conversion page is officially live!

What this means, in a nutshell: creators like you can once again convert their Earned Sansar dollars into US dollars.

How this differs from our old Sandex system:

  • Earned Sansar dollars represent the Sansar dollars you’ve made from selling items in the Sansar Store. Only Earned Sansar dollars are eligible to be converted into US dollars. Earned Sansar dollars can be converted into USD here.
  • Sansar dollars that were bought, received as a gift, or received through a promotion do not count as Earned Sansar dollars. As an exception, any Sansar dollars you have before today have been automatically converted into Earned Sansar dollars, regardless of how you acquired them.
  • When spending or gifting Sansar dollars in Sansar, you automatically draw from non-earned dollars first before spending any Earned Sansar dollars. This is to maximize the amount of Sansar dollars eligible for conversion when the time comes.
  • As stated in our December blog, the conversion rate from S$ to USD will be S$250:$1. Anyone who has created their Sansar account before December 31, 2018 will receive a legacy conversion rate of S$143 to $1 until December 31, 2019, after which the conversion rate for all accounts will be S$250 to $1.
  • We’ve also re-enabled the Process Credit page to allow you to initiate moving USD to your PayPal account. Please allow up to 30 days to complete a request.

One thing that strikes me immediately is that this new policy unfairly penalizes musical performers and other people who receive tips or gratuities in Sansar dollars from audience members. From now on, income received as a gift does NOT count as “earned Sansar dollars”, and will not be able to be cashed out as U.S. dollars. I think that this is a short-sighted decision on Linden Lab’s part, which might negatively impact the use of the platform by musical performers and other entertainers.

Also short-sighted is the decision that Sansar dollars “received through a promotion” would no longer be eligible to be exchanged into U.S. dollars. This means that, from now on, any contest prizes of Sansar dollars can no longer be cashed out of the system.

On a more positive note, it does look as though people will now be able to move their earned U.S. dollars to their PayPal accounts, which is something that many people have long been waiting for. However, it’s not clear whether or not non-Steam users will be able to buy Sansar dollars via their PayPal accounts, or if they are still restricted to credit cards (from what I understand, Sansar users who downloaded the client from Steam are able to use PayPal to buy Sansar dollars using their Steam wallet).

What do you think? Please feel free to leave a comment on this blogpost, or join the RyanSchultz.com Discord and voice your opinion there.

High Fidelity Begins a Pilot Test of Trade Between Its High Fidelity Coin (HFC) and Ethereum (ETH): Will This Step Jumpstart Its Economy?

HFCtoETH.jpeg

High Fidelity is the first of what I call the “Big Five” social VR platforms (i.e., HiFi, plus Sansar, Sinespace, VRChat, and AltspaceVR)  to set up a blockchain-based in-world currency, called High Fidelity Coins (HFC). On January 8th, 2019, High Fidelity announced that it would begin testing the trade of High Fidelity Coin and Ethereum (ETH; a popular cryptocurrency):

Initially, we will allow users to purchase HFC using ETH. We will conduct trades of HFC in fixed amounts equivalent to $25 or $50 (HFC 2,500 or 5,000). Since HFC is a stablecoin pegged to the US Dollar, while Ethereum varies against the Dollar, the exchange rate between HFC and ETH will fluctuate.

We are currently allowing creators and performers that have earned in-world currency to sell their HFC for payment directly for USD. These trades are handled in-person with High Fidelity staff. As we enter the New Year (2019), we will begin offering automated tools to support selling HFC for ETH.

As we’re still learning about trades for ETH, we’ll begin by scheduling in-person (in-world) trades for users buying HFC with ETH. A High Fidelity banker will specify an Ethereum wallet to deposit your ETH to pay for the trade. You’ll receive HFC from the bank on the successful completion of your trade. You can schedule an appointment here.

If you’re new to the world of blockchain trading, you can learn more about one of the more common trading platforms (Coinbase) here. You can learn more about the steps required to set up a wallet for payment here.

Over time, we see this being our primary method for purchasing and selling HFC. It’s convenient, global, well-governed and broadly adopted. In future, we may enable trades to other cryptocurrencies or tokens, either directly or through third-party exchanges. We also hope that HFC will be used by other VR platforms or applications, making the transfer to Ethereum even more useful.

High Fidelity also published a list of Frequently-Asked Questions (FAQ) about this move:

Who can trade HFC and ETH?

All High Fidelity users will be able to buy and sell their HFC for ETH. An ETH wallet will be required.

What is the HFC to ETH exchange rate?

HFC is pegged to the US Dollar. US $1 = HFC 100. Since the value of ETH floats against the Dollar, the value of High Fidelity Coin floats against Ethereum in turn.

Why is HFC a stablecoin?

Speculation in High Fidelity Coin as a cryptocurrency would be counter to our goal of creating a thriving economy in High Fidelity. If the real world value of HFC changed unexpectedly for non-economic reasons, the potential rewards for creators and those working in High Fidelity would become unpredictable, discouraging users to hold and trade with the currency. We want people to know they can cash out their HFC at any time for a fixed real-world value.

Can we still trade directly for US Dollars?

Yes, but this may be discontinued in 2019.

Will you start trading HFC for Bitcoin?

In future, we may enable HFC trading for other cryptocurrencies, including Bitcoin.

Why aren’t you just using ETH in the first place?

High Fidelity has developed its own cryptocurrency, HFC, since traditional blockchain currencies are not suitable for a virtual world environment. Specifically, ETH is more of an asset class than a stable trading currency. Its value varies over time, making it difficult for traders to use the currency in fair exchange for goods. Additionally, HFC trades more quickly and without built-in transaction fees. Currencies that rely on a proof of work method to generate and confirm blocks (e.g. Bitcoin) currently require too much time to be used as a real-time transactional currency.

This is uncharted territory for High Fidelity, and a step not without some risk, despite their assertion that they want HFC to be a “stablecoin”. Many other social VR and virtual world platforms will no doubt be watching closely to see how well HiFi’s economy adapts to this change. High Fidelity is still having a bit of difficulty getting its economy off the ground, and encouraging content creators to make and sell products on its Marketplace, at least compared to the relative success of the Sinespace Shop and Linden Lab’s Sansar (where the Sansar Store now boasts well over 18,000 items on sale). Linden Lab and Sinespace currently have no plans to introduce cryptocurrency on their platforms, as far as I am aware.

Could this move backfire? Given the constraints that High Fidelity has put in place, it seems doubtful that this could fail. However, many Ethereum owners will likely hesitate before exchanging their hard-earned cryptocurrency to HFC. While HFC might prove a safe haven in the current bear market, it may also prove a trap in times when ETH is soaring in value. Frankly, blockchain-based virtual worlds are just too much of a risk for me to even contemplate investing a penny, and I would urge anybody who does to do every single scrap of their homework before investing in any cryptocurrency.

A Nasty Dispute Between Improbable and Unity Puts Several Virtual Worlds/Games in Jeopardy

Worlds Adrift 11 Apr 2018
Worlds Adrift is one of the virtual worlds impacted by the disagreement between Improbable and Unity

The Guardian newspaper reports that a spat between two companies, Improbable and Unity, has put numerous virtual worlds/games in jeopardy:

[Improbable’s] core product, a cloud-based server system called SpatialOS, allows video game developers and others to build enormous virtual worlds that exist and operate independently of player action.

SpatialOS only works in a finished game when paired with a graphics engine capable of displaying those worlds on the computers, phones or games consoles of players.

On Thursday, the developers of one of the largest commercial engines, Unity3D, told Improbable that a change to the engine’s terms of service was intended to block SpatialOS, and all games created that use the technology – including those which had already shipped – from working with Unity.

“Unity has clarified to us that this change effectively makes it a breach of terms to operate or create existing SpatialOS and Unity games and in-development games, including production games,” Improbable said on its website.

The company added: “Unity has revoked our ability to continue working with the engine for breaching the newly changed terms of service in an unspecified way.

“Overnight, this is an action by Unity that has immediately done harm to projects across the industry, including those of extremely vulnerable or small-scale developers and damaged major projects in development over many years.

“Games that have been funded based on the promise of SpatialOS to deliver next-generation multiplayer are now endangered due to their choice of front-end engine. Live games are now in legal limbo.”

Among the virtual worlds/games which are suddenly impacted by this dispute are Worlds Adrift (which has already launched) and Seed (which is a promising virtual world/MMO still in development).

Frankly, this sort of dispute is one of the reasons why companies such as Linden Lab and High Fidelity build their own game engines, even though that means it often takes longer to add new features. For example, both Sinespace and VRChat are built on top of the Unity game engine (one of the companies involved in this particular fight), which means that they have to carefully check for things that break whenever Unity issues an update to their game engine.

Then again, Linden Lab and High Fidelity need to do that when they update their in-house game engines as well. But at least they have complete control over the situation. I’m sure that the developers of Worlds Adrift and Seed are feeling rather powerless tonight.

Thanks to Gindipple for the heads up!