UPDATED! Black Friday and Cyber Monday Sales in Second Life, Sansar, and Sinespace

Here is my first-ever attempt to summarize all the Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales taking place in Sinespace, Second Life, and Sansar. (Unfortunately, I was unable to get any news about sales from High Fidelity.)

Second Life

There are quite a few handy Black Friday sales listings which you can consult, each of which lists dozens of stores having sales:

There’s also an extensive Flickr gallery of Black Friday 2019 sales, compiled by NadySapa, which is well worth a browse:

Also, I have been told that Stone’s Works Black Friday Sale is going on now. Select Vendors in the store are 25% off, and look for the Giant Red Display outdoors for deeper discounts starting at L$35. (Thank you!)

Sansar

You will notice that there’s not a lot of Black Friday sale news in Sansar, and there’s a good reason for that. One content creator told me:

If we had an option to adjust all prices in our stores with a percentage I would have set everything on sale. But since it is a click nightmare to adjust them one by one, I am not going to bother personally.

And I suspect that many Sansar sellers feel the same way.

However, a couple of content creators are having Black Friday sales. One of them is Mishya, who has dropped the prices of all the clothing in her store to S$49 each.

Another one is FULLSpectrum (Medhue and Bagnaria’s store in Sansar), which is having a buy-one-get-one-free sale on their custom human avatars. Bagnaria tells me:

FULLSpectrum Black Friday Special (November 26 -November 29): TWO FOR ONE | Buy any FS avatar and get a second of the same value or less for free. You will automatically get your money back for the second avatar you buy. For obvious technical reasons you need to be friends with FULLSpectrum to get your money back. Contact Bagnaria for support.

Since most of FULLSpectrum’s custom avatars cost around 800 or 900 Sansar dollars each, this is a real bargain!

Sinespace

Trilo Byte sent me the following ad for the special Black Friday / Cyber Monday sales offered byTrilo Byte Design and BlakOpal Designs, saying:

I’m not sure how much you know about us, so I’ll give you a quick backgrounder.  BlakOpal and I have been making art together in the real world since 2006, and in the virtual world since 2008 under the BlakOpal Designs brand.  We’ve been making content in Sinespace since 2016, and as with Second Life the focus of our collaborations is clothing.  Beyond BlakOpal Designs, I also make content on my own and release that under the Trilo Byte Design brand.

BlakOpal Designs Holiday Bundle

  • Includes Swank Holiday Tophat, Wooly Mittens & Knit Scarf
  • Only 500 Silver (SineSpace promotional currency, all users start with 30K Silver and can earn more in quests)
  • Available now through 25th December, 2019

BlakOpal Designs: Moto Jacket, Black with Rose available for Male or Female avatars

“Kick some serious bootie in this tough leather jacket! Heavily studded, embellished with embroidery and has a large graphic print on the back. Waist-length, and designed to look awesome with anything you wear, from basic jeans to thigh-high boots and short shorts. Features high quality model, advanced materials, and cloth physics (where available).”

‘High quality model’ is our plain language way of saying it uses SineSpace’s clothing LOD system.  The way that works is we create 3 different versions of the jacket; a regular version, a lightweight version for low end systems, and a high quality version for more powerful machines or when there aren’t many users in the region.  SineSpace automatically serves up the best version for that user and the region they’re visiting… maximum quality and minimum lag.

Regular Price 149 gold, on sale for only 49 gold through 2nd December, 2019

Trilo Byte Design: FairField 3 Bedroom Deluxe Home & Region

  • User adjustable time of day and day/night cycles
  • User adjustable lighting in each room
  • Swappable Materials Support – you can change the walls, moldings, exteriors and more!
  • Click to open/close doors and automatic garage door
  • Birds in the sky, deer and rabbits in the woods
  • Efficient filesize allows plenty of room for furniture & decor, even on SineSpace free plan

Regularly 999 gold, on sale for 499 gold through Monday, 2nd December, 2019

Here’s a blog post Trilo Bye did on the Fairfield home, it’s got much more detail about the house and links on demos and tutorials on how some of the features work.

Happy Black Friday/Cyber Monday Shopping!

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A Look at How Cutting-Edge Game Company Research Is Being Used to Make Sinespace’s Human Avatars Ever More Realistic-Looking

This blogpost is sponsored by Sinespace, and was written in my new role as an embedded reporter for this virtual world (more details here).

I want you to take a good look at the person in this photograph:


Actually, this is not a photograph of a real person. This is a completely computer-generated game character, an example of the astounding progress that AAA videogame companies have recently been able to achieve in creating realistic-looking digital simulations of humanity.

This picture was taken from a presentation made at the 2013 Game Developers Conference by Jorge Jimenez and Javier von der Pahlen at Activision Blizzard, where they talked about the recent major strides in research in this area of computer science.

Historically, one of the biggest problems in making digital humans is the Uncanny Valley effect: when people’s reaction to a humanoid object that imperfectly resembles a human being ranges from dislike to outright revulsion.

Here’s a good example, again a picture taken from that presentation; you can tell that something is not quite right, and you might find this picture rather creepy as a result:

What’s wrong here? Well, for one thing, real human eyes have a slightly translucent quality; when you look at a person, you can actually see a little bit of the back of their actual eyeball, instead of the flat, opaque, billiard-ball type eyeballs you see here.

Now compare that picture with the improved version:

See the difference? It’s subtle things like this that make or break the realism of an avatar in virtual worlds.


Sinespace is hard at work improving avatar skin textures. AAA games use high-resolution (4K or 8K) skin textures with lots of additional detail maps for closeups, but they are huge files—about 120 MB of data after compression! Even worse, they consume 500 MB or more of GPU (Graphics Processing Unit) RAM. In other words, it would only take a small crowd of avatars wearing these high-resolution skin textures to make even the best computer graphics cards cry and bring most virtual worlds to an absolute stand-still.

Sinespace has decided to create a new set of “universal” skin maps for both male and female avatars. If you select the “High Quality Skin Shading” option in the Sinespace client, it will include these new pre-baked skin maps (they simply get added to the existing skin maps on the avatar).

Here’s a slide from Sinespace’s Chief Product Officer, Adam Frisby’s recent keynote address showing you what that looks like:

Notice the new sliders for skin bumpiness and even skin age!

Sinespace is taking and applying some of the lessons learned from the cutting-edge research conducted by AAA game companies like Activision Blizzard in their quest to make more realistic human avatars.

For example, yet another avatar skin improvement that Sinespace will be working on is something called SSSS, which stands for Separable Sub-Surface Scattering, which refers to the way that light bounces around and even through human skin. Like the human eyeball. human skin is slightly translucent and not 100% opaque. You can see this if you hold your hand over a bright light source; you’ll see a reddish glow where the light is going through slightly.

You might not know that the skin shaders in Sinespace already have subsurface scattering, using an older algorithm pioneered by Activision Blizzard, but this will be a “new and improved” version. Sinespace will also be working on multi-layer skin improvements to avatar skin; human skin actually consists of multiple layers, which subtly changes the reflective properties of your skin.

In addition to improvements to avatar skin, there will also be new avatar eyeballs coming soon, which will feature moisture and occlusion settings to more closely resemble the real-life human eye! As you can see from the previous pictures, even these small changes can make a big difference.

However, none of these changes are going to help if they slow down performance. So Sinespace is also hard at work on rendering optimization, with the result that the amount of RAM used in your computer to display each avatar in a scene will be lowered dramatically (which means less lag in big crowds!).

This is exciting work. Sinespace is going to have increasingly realistic-looking human avatars over the next few years!

BIG NEWS! Sinespace Will Become the First Paying Advertiser on My Blog, and I Will Become a Paid Embedded Reporter for Sinespace

It is now official (except for all the invoices and other paperwork being sent back and forth), and I wanted my faithful blog readers to be among the first to know.

I will now be accepting paid advertising for Sinespace on my blog (my first such sponsor, for which I am grateful). Please note that this advertising is completely separate from the WordPress WordAds and Google AdSense ads which I already run in certain places on my blog.

Here are my advertising rates, if you are interested. By no means is this an exclusive arrangement; the more advertisers I can get, the better!


In addition, I will become a paid, embedded reporter for Sinespace, writing 4 to 8 articles a month to cover all aspects of the platform and the people who use it: content creator profiles, event coverage, the rollout of new features, etc.

I would like to thank Adam Frisby and his team at Sine Wave Entertainment for this unique opportunity. And I’m still trying to wrap my head around the idea that I will be paid for doing something I love!

I do want to thank you all for your kindness and support in the 2-1/2 years I have been writing the RyanSchultz.com blog. I could not have embarked upon this journey without you!

The RyanSchultz.com blog will continue, I will continue to write about other social VR/virtual worlds, and I will remain an independent blogger. In the case of Sinespace, obviously I am going to have to have a conversation with Adam and his team about my editorial independence. I do have a certain style and viewpoint, my readers have come to expect that style and viewpoint, and I don’t expect that things are going to change dramatically. I promise I will keep you posted.

This is a brand new endeavour for me, another step on the road of monetizing the work I do in social VR, virtual worlds, and the metaverse, and another step on the road of turning a beloved hobby into a career I hope to pursue full-time when I retire from my job at the University of Manitoba Libraries. (The current plan is for me to retire at age 60, four years from now. We’ll see what happens. I’ll take things year by year.)

We (Sinespace and I) will start off slowly, take things day by day, and see what happens over the next few months. If either I or Sinespace decide that this arrangement isn’t working out, either side can terminate it with no hard feelings. I believe that this is a win-win for both of us, and I am excited to see what comes next!

A New Partnership Is Born…
Photo by Cytonn Photography on Unsplash

So, what do you think? As always, you can leave a comment on this blogpost, or you can join the RyanSchultz.com Discord server, the world’s first cross-worlds discussion forum! Over 300 people from around the world, representing many different social VR platforms and virtual worlds, meet daily to chat, discuss, debate, and argue about the ever-evolving metaverse. And we’d like to extend an invitation for you to come join us!

UPDATE 2:45 p.m.: Adam Frisby has stated on the RyanSchultz.com Discord server, in response to questions asked about my editorial independence with respect to Sinespace:

Just speaking officially here – I have a strong preference if Ryan is independent. I have zero intention on us interfering on anything. We do want to be able to cover interesting stuff our users are doing, and that’s the goal—let Ryan find something interesting to talk about, and we’ll support his efforts doing so.

Thank you, Adam!

Sinespace Celebrates Its 3rd Anniversary: Highlights from Chief Product Officer Adam Frisby’s Keynote Speech

The virtual world Sinespace has been celebrating its third anniversary with a week of in-world events, culminating in a keynote address given today by the company’s Chief Product Officer, Adam Frisby.

I had a long online chat with Adam before his presentation today, talking about various new features coming soon to Sinespace, and the following are some notes I took during Adam’s talk (Adam was also kind enough to share his presentation slides ahead of time with me, for which I thank him profusely for making my reporting job so much easier!).

Adam Frisby’s Keynote in Sinespace

Adam started off with a report on what had happened with Sinespace in 2019. Sinespace’s development team has doubled in size. Among the features worked on were:

The company has also been very hard at work on improvements to the default human avatars in Sinespace (which is actually already in the live release now). This major update to the avatars offers more accurate (less stylized) human proportions, with a new, powerful system of custom slider shapes or “morphs”. (Adam says that no pre-existing clothing will be broken.)

A new set of universal skin detail maps will be added to the existing skin maps on the human avatars. Adam shared a slide of what the new skins will look like, and I must admit they’re rather impressive:

There will also be several improvements to avatar clothing: a new auto-rigging algorithm, and blend shape support (for example, adding features such as dress length sliders to clothing). Sinespace already has support for in-world cloth physics, as you can see in the video below, and this functionality is expected to be improved even further in future software releases.

It’s now very clear that, despite experiencing some significant problems with upgrading Sinespace to Unity to 2018.3 in the past year (“the hardest we’ve ever done in ten years with Unity”, Adam says), the platform has benefited greatly overall from choosing to use Unity as an underlying game engine. In fact, Sinespace is now working in association with Unity, which offers the company even better support and more access to Unity engineers.

After some problems in marketing in 2019 (they fired the external company that was doing their marketing after one particular fiasco), Sinespace has just hired a new Vice President of Marketing, Al King.

So, in summary, 2019 was a big year for the Sinespace team in terms of building the product (mostly behind the scenes) and getting ready for a scale-up. Adam admits that the team has learned some expensive lessons, but ones he prefers that they have made before the platform scales up. Sinespace has also been watching competing platforms make some mistakes too, and hopefully learning from them. (For example, Sinespace has wisely decided to postpone a launch on Steam.)

And among future projects is a big push to provide mobile support (Sinespace has a full-time team devoted to this now, and there is an Android beta app already up on Google Play). They also want to improve the built-in screenshot capability, integrating it with social media. Another focus is improving what they call “the first five minutes” experience of new users, to encourage user retention.

Oh, and I saved the best for last: a brand-new contiguous mainland with in-client parceling, streamed regions and content, and a very cool new feature—voxel terrain editing, including the ability to dig caves and tunnels and create islands in the sky! (And Adam stated in my earlier chat with him today that they have implemented voxels “properly”; these are not the simple cubes used by Cryptovoxels!)

Here’s a couple of brief video previews Adam was kind enough to share with me of the voxel terrain editor in action (the second shows the digging of a cave):

And you can build mind-bogglingly large terrains using this tool: Adam’s test parcel for the voxel terrain editor is 96,100 cubic kilometres. (Approx. 23,000 cubic miles): 131,072 metres by 131,072 metres by 5,600 metres in size!

Oh, and did I mention? There’s voxel water, too!

An example of voxel water in Sinespace

So, as you can see, Sinespace is starting to look better and better all the time! And they are busy implementing features that many other social VR/virtual worlds cannot yet match. I must commend Adam and his team at Sinespace for doing a lot of hard work behind the scenes on the platform, and patiently biding their time before a full-scale product launch (perhaps sometime in 2020?). I’m quite looking forward to seeing how the platform evolves over the next year!