Infographic: Comparing Sansar and High Fidelity

As I have said before, it’s only natural to want to compare two of the VR-capable social virtual worlds: High Fidelity (founded in 2013 by the visionary 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). The two virtual worlds have much in common, but there are some significant differences between them.

My first blogpost comparing Sansar and High Fidelity back in August generated a fair bit of traffic for the Sansar Newsblog, but that post is now dated. Some of the information I gave is no longer accurate because of recent updates to both platforms.

So it’s time for an infographic I created using the free design service, Canva.com, comparing and contrasting both virtual worlds. (Philip Rosedale himself said that my infographic looked good, so I feel fairly confident that it is accurate. I don’t need Ebbe Altberg to sign off on my Sansar information; I am already somewhat of an expert in that particular area!)

Sansar

I hope that this information helps people understand the differences between the two virtual world platforms. There’s a lot of misinformation out there, and I want to do what I can to help correct it. Thanks!

Editorial: Linden Lab Needs to Fix Sansar’s User Forums and Blogs

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Photo by Daniel Páscoa on Unsplash

Inara Pey, in her most recent blogpost report of last Friday’s Product Meetup, says this:

Sansar forums, blogs, etc: it has finally been recognised that the current tool used for these – ZenDesk – is not well suited to the task (YAY!), although fixing this is not a high priority. There have been internal discussions at the Lab about using the platform and tools employed in creating the Second Life forums, blogs, etc., to build something for Sansar – potentially more as a cost saving opportunity then for the sake of functionality. Frankly, I’m still stunned that this wasn’t the route taken from the start given the Lab have the tools and the experience to use them, which could have been easily leveraged, rather than going for a tool entirely unsuited to the task and which presents information in a very unfriendly – and dare I say amateur – manner.

AMEN. I am in 100% agreement with Inara on this. I am going to add my strong opinions on this matter, which I have shared already with everybody (including Linden Lab staff) on the official Sansar Discord forums.

I know that at the casual meetup he attended last week, Ebbe Altberg (Linden Lab CEO) said he wants to have a “consumer launch” of Sansar sometime in 2018 (as opposed to a “creator beta”). But BEFORE they do that, Linden Lab really, really needs to reconsider the software they are using for their community forums/blog/documentation. I mean this truly ugly and uninspiring thing with the too-small font: https://help.sansar.com/hc/en-us.

Frankly, it looks terrible and it projects a bad image for Sansar, which in so many other ways has a professional look and some design appeal to it. They already have a fully-functional, attractive-looking community forums/blog/announcement system in place for Second Life, why don’t they use that? Their official blog in particular really looks TERRIBLE, and it has a HORRIBLE URL to boot: https://help.sansar.com/hc/en-us/sections/115001137103-Official-Blog (hate to say it, but it’s true). Linden Lab should fix this before they kick off any campaign to attract consumers/end-users into Sansar.

I hate Zendesk, it is unattractive and Linden Lab can certainly do better. Look at the Second Life community forums page: https://community.secondlife.com/ and their knowledge base: https://community.secondlife.com/knowledgebase/english/ and their blogs: https://community.secondlife.com/blogs/. Much better than what Sansar currently has!

 

Look at what High Fidelity has, it is much more visually appealing and functional: https://forums.highfidelity.com/. High Fidelity uses Medium (a free solution!) for their blog: https://blog.highfidelity.com/. Let’s compare that with the official Sansar blog:

High Fidelity Blog 8 Jan 2018
High Fidelity’s Official Blog
Sansar Blog 8 Jan 2018
Sansar’s Official Blog

I rest my case!

Twitch, YouTube, and VRChat

According to a recent online article by Polygon, a website that covers the gaming industry, The social VR world VRChat has attracted a lot of attention recently because of YouTubers and Twitch streamers:

Considering that VRChat is only available on Vive and Oculus Rift, the player base is still limited. The reason VRChat has skyrocketed in popularity is because of YouTubers and Twitch streamers who have brought attention to the game. One YouTuber in particular, Nagzz21, uploads near daily videos with his time in VRChat. These include weird dating scenarios, oblong takes on popular gaming avatars, drama happening between players and groups in VRChatand exploring all the different realms.

His videos have become so popular that VRChat Inc. has subscribed to him and promoted a view of his videos.

Unlike Sansar, which has focused so far on human avatars, VRChat (like High Fidelity) allows users to create non-human avatars (which requires some level of technical skill). The Polygon article notes:

Watch any VRChat video and there’s one thing that sticks out: It’s chockfull of characters that you already know. There are strange versions of Spongebob Squarepants, Pickle Rick from Rick and Morty, an assortment of Pokémon and too many anime characters to name.

This is one of VRChat’s biggest draws. Using a combination of character models, VRChat Inc.’s software development kit and Unity, players can create their own (unauthorized) avatars based on other popular figures from games, television, anime and movies.

…Multiple characters from popular culture, including Hank Hill from King of the Hill and Pikachu from Pokémon, can be seen interacting with one another. Players are able to pet Pikachu and Pokémon trainers can be seen in the distance. Much of the game’s appeal comes from players recklessly mixing and matching characters from various franchises and assuming their persona, virtually. Think cosplaying but without the expensive costume and in the comfort of your own home.

Obviously, this feature is a massive draw for some people. I’ve even had one Facebook commenter state that she will be making avatars for VRChat exactly because of that freedom to create whatever kind of avatar she wants, rather than create for Sansar. Of course, there is rampant IP theft happening in VRChat; the lawyers are going to have a field day if somebody tries to sell a Pikachu or Mickey Mouse avatar! Right now, it’s the wild west in VRChat, and everything is being given away for free.

Anyway, I thank what Sansar really needs is a few Twitch or YouTube livestreamers with a sufficiently large audience. For example, the phenomenally popular YouTube personality PewDiePie has posted a video of his VRChat adventures that has pulled in 2,828,337 views so far!

Of course, PewDiePie has over 58 million subscribers and makes millions of dollars from his YouTube channel! If I were to start YouTube livestreaming in Sansar, I would not have nearly the same pull! So the key here is not to get just anybody to start livestreaming Sansar. The key is to get a livestreamer with a large audience to start playing in Sansar.

As I have mentioned before, High Fidelity has already started a handful of livestream shows to promote their social VR world. To date, none has quite taken off like the VRChat streamers’ shows, but hey, at least they’re trying their best.

Of course, Drax and Strawberry’s Atlas Hopping remains relatively popular, and both Strawberry Singh and Draxtor Despres livestream each episode to YouTube. And just this month, Sam and Boden Linden launched another planned monthly show where they visit and comment on Sansar experiences. It’s a promising start.

So, what do you think it would take to get someone like PewDiePie to visit Sansar and livestream it? Anybody have any favours they could pull in??

Commerce Comes to High Fidelity

Up until now, one of the major differences between the two VR-capable virtual worlds of Sansar and High Fidelity was that the former allowed the sale of objects, while the latter had only a “free” online store. Well, that has now changed with the beta release of shopping in High Fidelity.

There has been a lot of media attention to this development, as High Fidelity has decided to implement a form of blockchain to prove valid ownership and combat content theft.

Commerce in High Fidelity is currently limited to avatar accessories (not stand-alone objects) and it is currently restricted to just one domain, Avatar Island, where there are four separate stores for you to go shopping.

One thing I noticed immediately is that HiFi has put a lot of care and work into the design of Avatar Island. It looks really good and visually appealing, with helpful signs and maps to help the new user get oriented. Here’s a picture I took in-world of a Japanese-themed store called Usagi:

High Fidelity Usagi Avatar Island 5 Dec 2017

Another nice thing is that there are actual mirrors in the stores so you can get a good look at yourself! We need mirrors in Sansar. (Actually, I first encountered working mirrors several years ago in a little-known virtual world called Twinity.)

Here’s a snapshot of my HiFi avatar (a standard-issue photo-realistic model from the “free” store), wearing a wizard hat and looking at himself in the mirror. I must admit that the ability to adjust what you are wearing just by tugging on it is a very nice feature to have. (I still can’t figure out how to resize avatar attachments if they’re too big, though.)

High FIdelity Avatar Wizxard Hat 5 Dec 2017.png

You can walk out of the store wearing something you haven’t paid for yet, but if you teleport away from Avatar Island, the unpaid-for item automatically detaches itself from your avatar.

HiFi’s currency is called High Fidelity Coin (HFC for short), and anyone can request a free grant of 10,000 HFC as part of the beta test, simply by emailing  info@highfidelity.com and giving HiFi your username and associated email address. I understand this takes about three days to process, so I am still impatiently waiting for some currency so I can finally buy things! (You cannot yet buy HFC using your credit card, as you can with Sansar dollars.)

Another interesting thing about this new endeavour is that it is an in-world shopping model, unlike Sansar’s Web-based Sansar Store. There are even little green “recycle” bins in the stores, where you can deposit items you decided you don’t want to buy after all. The High Fidelity shopping experience goes so far as to include check-out stands in each store, where you “scan” items that you wish to purchase, just like you can do at the self-check-out kiosks at many real-world stores and supermarkets!

I did notice that you have to type in your passphrase on the user tablet which pops up when you use the check-out stands, which is still a real pain in the ass when you are in a VR headset. I’m still not sure how I feel about the whole tablet metaphor in High Fidelity. Sometimes I find it useful, other times I just find it irritating. At least you can reposition it so it doesn’t block your view.

Here’s a YouTube promotional video of the whole in-world shopping experience:

Frankly, I wish we had the option to do in-world shopping in Sansar much as we do in Second Life, but I certainly understand why Linden Lab started off with web-based shopping only (it’s easier to implement). Having well-stocked in-world stores where the creator can arrange the wares to his or her taste has a certain charm and convenience, and I think it adds a lot to the overall shopping experience. In fact, there are already a few Sansar experiences which are essentially in-world showcases for a particular creator’s products, like Alfy’s oYo Showroom. We can expect to see more of these types of experiences as Sansar grows.

Shopping is a popular pastime in most virtual worlds, and people often put a lot of time and care into how their avatars look, and how they decorate their personal spaces. It will be interesting to watch how the retail landscape evolves in both Sansar and High Fidelity.