UPDATED: Seven Things That High Fidelity Does Better Than Sansar

It’s only natural to want to compare two of the newer, VR-capable social virtual worlds: High Fidelity (founded in 2013 by Philip Rosedale), and Sansar by Linden Lab (the company founded in 1999, also by Philip Rosedale, before he left to start HiFi; the current CEO is Ebbe Altberg). With similar roots, the two virtual worlds have a lot in common, but there are still some significant differences between them. Earlier this year, I recently posted an infographic comparing the two platforms (which I probably need to update).

Now, my preferred virtual world happens to be Sansar, but there are some areas where High Fidelity still has an edge over Sansar, at least right now:

Making friends: You can “shake hands” with another avatar and they are automatically added to your friends list in HiFi. Very natural and very cool.

Paying an avatar: You can pay or “tip” an avatar directly from the tablet UI in High Fidelity, something you can’t do in Sansar.

Spectator Cam: This is a very useful and fun tool. The Spectator Camera is a camera you can use, along with recording software such as Open Broadcaster Software (OBS), to record or livestream what you and your friends do in High Fidelity. They even had a film festival in HiFi consisting entirely of videos recorded using this device! I went to the premiere, it was great fun!

Blockchain: High Fidelity stores currency, object information, and identity on the blockchain. It’s a new, relatively untested technology which some feel is problematic, but Philip Rosedale has embraced it boldly. Sansar has decided to go in a different direction with a commerce system very similar to its flagship product, Second Life.

In-World Building Tools: High Fidelity does offer you the option of building items in-world, in a way very similar to the “prim building” in Second Life. It’s still a crude tool, but it works. There’s no such ability in Sansar, nor is one planned as far as I know. Most content creators in HiFi and Sansar do decide to use external tools such as Blender or Maya (or even Windows Paint 3D!) to create content, then import it.

Have I missed any other advantages to High Fidelity over Sansar? Please let me know in the comments, thanks!

UPDATE 7:32 p.m. Alezia Kurdis on the HiFi user forums reminded me of one thing that High Fidelity has that Sansar doesn’t—your avatar can fly! Thanks, Alezia!

UPDATE May 15th: Expert HiFi avatar creator Menithal comments on another feature that High Fidelity has that Sansar currently lacks—custom-rigged avatars! (Sansar has decided to go in another direction with avatar customization with its integration with Marvelous Designer, but you cannot design, create, rig and script customized avatars like you can in High Fidelity and VRChat):

You also have a lot more control over custom avatars;

  • On the fly Scripting and scripts that can run only on your client
  • CUSTOM avatars, not just customizable ones with attachments
  • In-world freedom to do things

Let me give some examples:

You can manipulate object behavior on the fly, instead of relying on things to occur: Like in this silly video where i just experimented with Attaching a camera to the end of a stick, then making it physical. I also bound my track pad to change my emotion state on the fly while in the HMD.

Avatars can also be, honestly a lot more expressive, in HiFi compared to Sansar, due to the ability to have completely custom shapes instead of attachments, which also are completely doable (my coat is an attachment I can change on the fly)

There also is quite alot of flexibility of creation of addons: like the clap script, allowing you to clap while in HMD. Scripting it self extends the possibilities to be quite large:

Or even cast a spell using gestures and vocal control, if you have the scripting know-how. This also demonstrates me switching out my attachments via a script.

Or if you have an avatar with many bones, you can create an avatar specific customizer

This ofcourse has gone even further and allowed the use of flow bones in High Fidelity, where bones are simulated as well by others touching them.

Then there is

  • Running
  • Flying

And everything can be done while in HMD, without having to jump on and off it. A lot of the features are way deeper than the surface.

Thanks, Menithal! Although I must note that you can indeed run in Sansar…but flying would be nice to have *sigh*

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UPDATED: Second Life Town Hall Events with Linden Lab CEO Ebbe Altberg, April 20th

Linden Lab CEO Ebbe Altberg, whom I have slowly gotten to know over countless Sanar Atlas Hopping events over the past year, is a pretty cool guy. He’s had to juggle a lot of balls in the past few years, leading Linden Lab as they continue to support, develop and expand Second Life’s features while building a next-generation VR-capable metaverse platform with Sansar. It’s not an easy job. Sometimes, no matter what he does, he just can’t win.

The following announcement was just published to the Featured News section on the Second Life website:

As part of our year-long 15th anniversary celebration, we’re making numerous appearances inworld to talk about Second Life and the Second Life roadmap directly with our communities! These  ongoing meetups and events will provide opportunities for you to interact with and ask questions to Linden Lab executives and staffers.

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To kick things off, Linden Lab CEO Ebbe Altberg will be holding two “Town Hall” chat sessions on April 20th at 9:30 a.m. (SLT/Pacific) and 1 p.m. (SLT/Pacific). Ebbe will be sharing his vision for Second Life in 2018 and beyond, as well as taking questions from the community. Got a question for Ebbe? Post it in the Community Forum thread “A Conversation with Linden Lab CEO Ebbe Altberg” in advance of next week’s meeting. Questions will be selected from submissions for as many as can be answered in the time frame. To join either meetup, head over to one of these Town Hall Regions in Second Life on April 20.

So, you have one week to submit your questions for Ebbe to the linked-to forum thread above!

UPDATE April 23rd: Linden Lab has posted a compilation video of questions and answers from both sessions.

UPDATE April 24th: Inara Pey has posted an excellent summary of the Town Hall meetings on her blog, with audio excerpts.

Forbes Covers HoverDerby in Sansar

 

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Screen capture of the Forbes article by Charlie Fink

 

Charlie Fink has written a very detailed and complimentary Forbes article in their Tech section about Sansar.

Titled VR Action Sport Hoverderby Opens In Sansar, Charlie gives a good overview of all that Sansar currently has to offer, touching on many of the experiences I have already covered in this blog, such as C3rb3rus’ Eternity and 2077, and the Hollywood Art Museum exhibits of the Lost Art of Star Wars and the Art of Drew Struzan.

But the main focus of the article is the HoverDerby experience that Galen, Jasmine and Drax have been building and promoting over the past several weeks. Charlie writes:

When [Linden Lab CEO Ebbe] Altberg showed me the new user-generated multiplayer game, Hoverderby, I realized immediately this is what I had been looking for in Sansar all along: a place where people would gather and collaborate or simply watch in a group. As I have said repeatedly in this column: People are the killer app.

One of the reasons AltSpaceVR struggles and Rec Room is succeeding is because in VR you need to know who you are, where you are, and what you are supposed to be doing. HoverDerby addresses that. It might or might not work for all sorts of reasons, scale being one, but it’s the right idea.

The article also addresses the continuing need for interactivity in Sansar, which needs more than just beautiful experiences to visit:

Draxtor sums up the challenge Linden Lab faces. “The passive consumption of beautiful worlds will always be secondary to social engagement.” Altberg agrees, “Sansar, like Second Life, is at its best when it’s social.” Drax says there is more social action cooking. “We have some more social games coming.  Circling around 114 Harvest starting in late May we are giving away houses to rent and will do daily community hangouts with board games and scavenger hunts and book clubs.” Personally, I’d love to see more action sports like Hoverderby.

I want to rent one of the houses on Harvest Street! Please get me on that list, Drax!

And I was surprised to find I was also mentioned in Charlie Fink’s article, taking a direct quote from this blogpost in which I briefly describe the rules of HoverDerby. Thanks, Charlie! It will be interesting to see if I get any resulting uptick in traffic to the blog. (I also recently received a complimentary shout-out from Strawberry Singh, thank you so much Strawberry!)

All in all, this is quite the positive public relations coup for Linden Lab. Congratulations to Ebbe and his team!

Second Life Versus Sansar: Why Linden Lab Can’t Win, No Matter What They Do

Second Life Versus Sansar

Will Burns of the Andromeda Media Group has written a blogpost about a recent visit he paid to Linden Lab, which is pretty much required reading for anyone who’s interested in Second Life or Sansar (Wagner James Au of the New World Notes blog alerted me to this).

It’s very clear from reading his blog that Will thinks that Linden Lab, or at least Linden Lab’s CEO Ebbe Altberg, is focusing on Sansar at the expense of Second Life. Will says:

Why Linden Lab is so hellbent on pushing Sansar while effectively ignoring Second Life, or treating it like the wicked red-headed step-child internally, is anybody’s guess…

While I was at Linden Lab, I definitely got the feeling that Sansar was the main focus with a near total avoidance of discussing Second Life or its future. It’s technology evangelism at its peak.

As far as Ebbe is concerned, he’s all-in for Sansar while Second Life is … somewhere in the basement level with the engineers.

On one side of the equation I can see why Ebbe would be all-in for Sansar. I’d assume Linden Lab spent a stupid amount of money developing it and couldn’t afford to pull the plug, and so he was likely told to produce an ROI come hell or high water.

Welcome to the board of directors world.

In a way, I’d assess that [former Linden Lab CEO] Rodvik [Humble] made a mess and Ebbe is still trying to clean up and/or salvage things…

As a CEO, Ebbe has a choice to make – He is the captain of the Linden Lab ship, but he also decides what sort of captain he wants to be: Captain Picard or Captain Ahab.

Right at this moment, he’s showing qualities of Captain Ahab, in the blind pursuit of Sansar (Moby Dick). But I believe he’s intelligent and an overall great guy. Smart enough not to sabotage his own efforts and company.

After all, Second Life is still the goose that laid the golden egg. It didn’t die, it’s just being actively starved and strangled by the aforementioned organizational changes and CEOs.

Which is really unfortunate, because I also believe Linden Lab also has some brilliant and creative people there with their hands tied, and who absolutely love Second Life and want to make it better.

My opinion?

I think that Ebbe Altberg and his team at Linden Lab can’t win no matter what they do. If they continue to throw too much time and money at Second Life, Sansar will suffer and they’re betting the future on Sansar. (I’ll bet you anything that none of the dozen people LL recently laid off were working on Sansar.) Yet if they try to promote Sansar, as Ebbe clearly did with Will on his visit, folks who are wedded to Second Life get upset. Or people will say that SL is “being actively starved and strangled”.

Face it: Second Life’s glory days are now behind it. Its heyday was approximately from 2006 to 2008, a decade ago. Its fervent fans absolutely hate to hear people say it, but SL is now merely coasting along, not growing but slowly declining over time, the recent Bento-inspired mesh avatar renaissance notwithstanding. You can see vast tracts of abandoned land when you fly over the continents. It’s still profitable—very profitable—to Linden Lab, but it’s having trouble attracting new users, and the now-dated technology of the platform can only be extended so far. In the general news media, SL is being portrayed as quaint but outdated, and attractive only to those somehow lacking in their real lives, as this painfully-titled recent article from The Atlantic makes clear. (Ouch.)

I can also predict pretty confidently that Sansar’s glory days will lie ahead. I think it’s off to a good start. It only makes sense for Linden Lab to put the focus, the time, and the money on a product which (hopefully) will become the next successful virtual world, the next Second Life.

Virtual reality will only gain greater consumer market share over the next decade (it’s definitely arrived now with the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive, and it’s not going to go away), and Sansar is being built from the ground up to support VR. Ebbe’s right when he says that he needs to design Sansar for VR first because that’s the hardest bit to get right. That doesn’t mean that desktop users (still the majority of Sansar users) are going to be ignored. It just means that LL has to work that much harder to try and provide feature parity between desktop and VR headset users.

Maybe it’s inevitable that Second Life adherents feel hard done by. Their world is starting to shrink. People are starting to move on. It’s only natural to feel that Linden Lab should be pouring all their resources into keeping SL going forever. But, for better or worse (and I believe it’s for the better), Ebbe Altberg and his team from Linden Lab have made their decision to move boldly ahead with a new, VR-capable platform that will hopefully have a much longer lifespan.

Everybody cross your fingers. We’re in for some interesting times ahead. And no matter what Linden Lab does from this point onwards, somebody’s going to be upset.

Atlas Hopping, Episode Seventeen

I missed this past Saturday’s Atlas Hopping, because I was at the Second Life Blogger Vlogger Network Christmas party., where I won a bunch of prizes! (I started up a separate WordPress blog for Second Life just as a testbed, for the BVuNiversity blogging/vlogging course I am attending on weekends this December/January.)

As he had last week, Linden Lab CEO Ebbe Altberg once again joined the band of explorers and answered questions. (See the YouTube video livestreams below.)

Berry and Drax visited Stasis Interrupted, Chapter 1 by Tyler Scarborough (and Tyler joined them as a guide). Sorry, just one experience this week!

Here’s Drax’s livestream of the event (warning: there’s some choppy audio in this). Near the beginning, Strawberry recounts the story of the recent take-down request from Linden Lab of her SL tutorial video and its resolution.

And here’s Strawberry’s livestream: