A First Look at the Sansar Nexus

The Nexus Loading Screen

Well, I will say one thing about the Nexus, the brand new central social hub in Sansar. It’s gorgeous, like something straight out of a science fiction movie! Linden Lab obviously put a lot of care and attention to detail into the environment design, story line, and quests they have built around this new gathering hub, and it shows.

First, if you’re the kind of person who likes to read through the instructions before diving in, here’s the new Sansar documentation for the Nexus. But if you (like me) just want to dive right in, let’s go!

The Nexus

But before you can explore the Nexus, you must first complete a tutorial quest, called the First Portal:

There was a bug the first time I tried this, and I found I had to go back to the Nexus and restart the quest for it to work properly. Basically, a hovering presence (an NPC named Agent Primus) takes you through the basic avatar movement and teleporting functions, and at the end of the quest you are given your Codex, which I understand is a tool used to collect and organize the worlds which you visit in Sansar, to make it easier to revisit them later. You can get more information about the Codex here.

After you complete the First Portal Quest, you return to the Nexus to receive a second quest from Agent Primus, Welcome to the Nexus, where you explore what the Nexus has to offer:

Here’s a few more shots I took while exploring the Nexus. There’s a map, but it’s probably best just to wander around to get the lay of the land. You can keep your quest window open in the upper right-hand corner of your screen if you’re not sure how to proceed.

At the centre of the Nexus is a gleaming Prime Portal, making a faint mechanical sound, which you activate by clicking on one of the lighted pillars which surrounds it:

This pulls up the reassuring, familiar Sansar Atlas and Events listings:

Now, for me, the jury is still out over whether it is an improvement or an inconvenience to have to go to a physical place (the Prime Portal at the Nexus) to see the Atlas and Events, as opposed to just pressing a button on the left-hand side of the screen as we used to do to access them. The idea is that the Nexus acts as a sort of physical library or experiences (or worlds, as they are now calling them), from which you can make selections to add to your personal Codex, which is what has replaced the Atlas when you do press that Go button to the left of your screen:

The idea is that the Nexus will become an even busier version of the old Sansar Social Hub, much like the idea that people will visit the library to check out books, mingle, and socialize. As a librarian who understands the value of the library as a social space and a learning space, I’m willing to suspend my initial skepticism and give it a shot to see how well it works out.

And, I gotta tell you, the Prime Portal is stunning! It has an imposing air of gravitas, reminding me of builds like the Ivory Tower of Primitives in Second Life:

But a still picture doesn’t so it justice. Here’s a brief video of it in action:

Off to one side of the platform is a club called the Socialite Guild, where you walk through a blue pulsing curtain and are instantly teleported to a dimly-lit, futuristic nightclub. Walk back through the curtain and you’re back at the Nexus.

In a ring around the Prime Portal are circular specialty portals, such as this Events Portal. (Note that many of these portals are not yet set up.)

So, overall, what do I think? I think this is pretty impressive so far. It remains to be seen if this sort of innovative thinking and attractive design will help Linden Lab with its goal of enticing newcomers into Sansar, inspiring them, and encouraging them to come back often for return visits, eventually becoming a member of the community.

As Linden Lab CEO Ebbe Altberg himself said recently on the official Sansar Discord server: “Retention, retention, retention, people.” I think this is a step in the right direction. Congratulations to Ebbe and his team for all the hard work they’ve put into this update! I think Linden Lab can be proud of what they’ve done here.

UPDATED! Sansar Product Meetup, August 22nd: the Nexus, the Codex, the Prime Portal, and Avatar 2.0

Sansar Product Meetup, August 22, 2019

I popped into this week’s Sansar Product Meetup as I was curious about several of the new features in the next release of the Sansar client software. According to the Atlas listing for this event, there were 57 avatars at the meetup!

A blogpost yesterday by Linden Lab raised a lot of questions about the next release, code-named Welcome to the Nexus. They plan to update Sansar next week, unless something unforeseen happens.

One new feature is called the Nexus, a central hub for Sansar, where people can log into and find other users, plus a series of quests with a story arc. The current Sansar Atlas will be replaced by the Nexus.

There will be a brand new tutorial for newcomers to Sansar, which leads into a series of story quests, to provide a framework for directed play. Linden Lab will require all users (even those of us who have been around for years now!) to go through that new user tutorial at least one (in order to collect their Codex, which is discussed below). In response to a question about users being forced to do quests they don’t want, Nyx Linden replied on the Sansar Discord:

Getting through the first time user experience, if you are an experienced user, will take maybe 30 seconds, and we’re going to enable ways to dismiss quests you’re not interested in, so people who don’t want to do the story lines we make totally can skip them.

Users will spawn in the Nexus as opposed to their home space (where they can access their Lookbook), but the home space will not go away. The Nexus will replace the Sansar Social Hub, but the Sansar Social Hub will not be shut down; it will be repurposed with additional quests.

There will be a new XP (experience) system which will be tied to the quest system. If you have already completed some quests, you will be awarded some XP points.

The Prime Portal is the place in the Nexus where all worlds are available to visit and explore. There are also a series of permanent portals to help user explore experiences. For example, there will an Events portal. Another portal will be for creators. These portals will evolve and change over time, based on user feedback. There will be a permanent Monstercat portal. You will have to go to the Nexus to use the Prime Portal, which will be the primary way to find new worlds.

A brand new feature called the Codex lists all places you have already been to before. You have your own personal Codex that you bring with you, and it records all worlds and experiences you have been to. You can curate this list of worlds, removing those you don’t want to visit again. You will also be able to access the Codex of your friends and other creators.

While the Nexus is a place, the Codex will be something you carry around with you from place to place.

Events will be treated slightly differently from before. You will be able to see all upcoming events in your Codex. You can also access events from the Prime Portal. This will be a dedicated section just for events, in both the Codex and the Prime Portal.

And, in a significant piece of news, the different places you can visit in Sansar will now be referred to as worlds instead of experiences. (This is going to be a big problem from us Sansar oldbies, who have gotten used to referring to them as experiences! It’s going to hard to change a habit.)

Cara Linden gave a very brief update on Avatar 2.0, which should come out next week. More information is available here. There will also be a new feature to allow more adjustment of Marvelous Designer clothing so they work better with the new avatars. Also, you will be able to re-position accessories and other avatar attachments.

In response to a question about whether it is too soon to release Avatar 2.0, Cara said Linden Lab wanted to push out the new face deformation features as quickly as possible, followed by body deformation support later on. The sooner this change to avatars is implemented, the less broken content on the Sansar Store that needs to be updated.

It sounds as if this next release is going to be a major one! I’m very much looking forward to it.

UPDATE 4:04 p.m.: There was a lot of information conveyed in that one-hour meeting, so I have reached out to Linden Lab to ask them to read this blogpost and tell me if I made any mistakes in reporting.

Also, having had a chance to let things percolate in my brain for a while, I am not convinced that having users spawn in the Nexus (as opposed to their private home space/Lookbook) is such a good idea. Jessica Outlaw has written at length about women feeling unsafe in social VR (which I have written about here and here on my blog), and she advocates for having a safe space for people to retreat to.

I sure the hell hope that Linden Lab did some usability testing on all this. However, I have a sneaking suspicion that we are the ones who are going to be doing the usability testing for them, and that Linden Lab will only roll features back if there is a disastrous response, unexpected serious bugs, or an overabundance of trolling, griefing and harassment at the new Nexus. I guess we’ll see what happens.