UPDATED! Notes from Yesterday’s Sansar Product Meetup: What’s On the Software Development Roadmap

I heard through the grapevine that yesterday’s Sansar Product Meetup was to discuss future developments to Linden Lab’s social VR platform.

Screen capture from the Twitch video of the Sansar Product Meetup

But no, I didn’t bother to come into Sansar for this meeting; I watched the hour-long Twitch livestream the next morning, coffee in hand. I am still on an extended, self-imposed break from Sansar, but I don’t think that watching a previously-recorded livestream (and blogging about it) is breaking that rule.

Here are a few of my notes from yesterday’s Sansar Product Meetup, regarding plans for the platform for 2020. Galileo, the Community Manager for Sansar, led the meeting, and Boden, SeanT, Lacie, Cinno, and a few other Linden Lab staff were also present (I didn’t catch everybody’s name). The audio on the Twitch stream at times was very uneven, and the sound cut out completely at one point, so I may have missed a few items in this report.

Any editorial comments in these notes are in italics.


Among the new features planned for the next few releases of the Sansar client:

  • New emotes system. You will not have to go into the character editor to select emotes. You can use hotkeys to play emotes instead of selecting them from a menu.
  • New starter avatar looks in the carousel, with more variety possible for first-time users.
  • Twitch extensions (a new feature for streamers; I have no idea what this means).
  • Scene-based animations (e.g. animations that are enacted when you enter a scene or world)
  • Having items in your backpack change according to certain events and triggers.
  • Improvements to moderation tools (internal use first, then eventually passing them on to end users).
  • Group travel and group chat (by the end of next quarter).
  • Improvements to the instance picker.
  • User Interface improvements (Binah is working on this).

After announcements, Galileo opened the floor for questions from the audience in attendance at the Product Meetup. Items and issues that came up during this question and answer session included:

  • Individual avatar volume controls are likely to come in the second quarter of 2020, as part of the roll-out of the UI redesign.
  • Skin textures and body sliders: Linden Lab is looking at skin textures in the first quarter of 2020, and they hope to have this feature released sometime over the next couple of client updates. “The body sliders are further out, for sure, but skin textures are closer.” (Editorial note: I’ll believe it when I see it. My understanding from various sources is that most of the Sansar avatar team was laid off in October, which will significantly impact further avatar customization plans.)
  • No planned changes to any income splits between creators and Linden Lab. (Editorial note: Again, no big surprises here. Some content creators are obviously still feeling cranky about the percentage LL takes when selling items on the Sansar Store, and cashing out profits.)
  • Various people reported problems with the avatar files in Blender, which Linden Lab has not yet had an opportunity to look at.
  • There are no plans for extending shader capabilites (and yes, there is still someone left on the shader team, despite rumours to the contrary). Linden Lab may bring him out to a future Product Meetup to answer questions.

Those are pretty much the highlights of the meeting, from what I can see. I’m glad that Linden Lab is still having regular Product Meetups, even though I still don’t expect to see any major new features showing up in any future releases in 2020. (The planned updates to the emote system are certainly very welcome, though.)

UPDATE Jan. 18th, 2020: As usual, Inara Pey has a much more detailed breakdown of what was discussed at this meeting. Thanks, Inara!

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Why Linden Lab Is Building Its Own Engine for Sansar, Instead of Using Unity or Unreal

Inara Pey has done her usual excellent job of expertly summarizing last week’s Sansar Product Meetup, where the topic of discussion was why Linden Lab decided to build their own game engine for Sansar, instead of using an off-the-shelf engine such as Unity or Unreal.

So, rather than reinvent the wheel, I am just going to point to her blogpost, and tell you to go over there and read it all. Among the Linden Lab staff present at the meeting were:

  • Richard Linden, Sansar’s Chief Architect
  • Jeff Petersen (aka Bagman Linden), Linden Lab’s Chief Technology Officer 
  • Landon McDowell, Linden Lab’s Chief Product Officer

So you can get the scoop straight from the people directly involved.

While I think the reasoning for this decision is very sound, the unfortunate fact remains that since Linden Lab is a smaller company with limited resources, feature development will tend to lag behind off-the-shelf engines like Unity and Unreal, which have bigger development teams and lots of users. However, as mentioned in Inara’s notes, backwards compatibility of user-generated content (UGC) is a key issue that needs to be addressed in any successful virtual world. I still think that Sansar is on the right track.

UPDATED: Notes from Today’s Avatar Customization Product Meetup in Sansar

I decided to come in-world to report on this week’s important Sansar Product Meetup, which was entirely focused on Linden Lab’s plans for future avatar customization. This is an opportunity for Sansar users to hear LL’s plans and provide feedback on what features they would like to see. Nearly 60 avatars were present at the meeting, an over-capacity crowd which lead to people landing up in separate instances of the experience (something that Linden Lab really needs to address going forward).

People who could not attend today’s meeting can follow one of three livestreams. Two attendees are livestreaming today’s Product Meetup: Daisy Gator at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=auVnsfdJ5jw and Ryzo-Rin at https://www.twitch.tv/ryzorin. The official Sansar Twitch stream can be found at https://www.twitch.tv/sansarofficial.

Cara reported that there will be more avatar sliders, first for the face and then the body. The new default human avatars will have maps on the body itself, and you will be able to use your mouse to click and drag to adjust your features. This would be a different way to adjust your face and body than using simple sliders, and it sounds exciting!

Linden Lab is considering adding an avatar height slider, and they are also looking at uniform scaling to make larger and smaller but still proportional avatars (e,g, giants and pixies).

Linden Lab also wants to push for more custom avatars on the marketplace. They are also looking at the ability to dress custom avatars using clothing created in Marvelous Designer within the next couple of releases of the client software, according to Cara. The AABB bounding box on the avatar will be expanded to allow for such things as larger wings, for example.


Cara and Lacie Address Questions from the Audience

They also want to add more avatar attachment points, and they also want to look at improving the accessories so you can adjust the item while wearing it.

High heels: not one of Linden Lab’s priorities at the moment. Many users want to have this ability though, sooner rather than later.

Custom skins: Linden Lab does want to open up the ability to upload and sell custom skins on the market.

The current humanoid skin type will be tintable (as hair and nails are now), but the next-generation avatar will have a skin type which will use subsurface scattering and shaders to look better, and will require a different way to tint it.

Animated attachments: not a current priority.

Hotswapping avatars (between saved looks in the Lookbook) is a feature that Linden Lab would like to set up for us to be able to use (i.e. not having to go into Lookbook to change an outfit but doing it instantly).

It was a very good meeting, short of actual delivery dates, but still giving us a glimpse of where avatar customization is going within Sansar. I think many of the people who attended the meeting were very pleased with the announcements that were made by Cara and Lacie.

UPDATE Feb. 15th: Inara Pey, who does a much better job of summarizing these weekly Product Meetups than I do, corrects a mistake I made:

“Hotswapping avatars (between saved looks in the Lookbook) is a feature that Linden Lab would like to set up for us to be able to use”

As a point of clarification, Cara actually said this is something the Lab is *unable* to support at the moment – and no indication was given that this is being looked at. What she did mention was that the idea of some kind of “personal inventory” of objects “carried” by an avatar is still under discussion at the Lab.

Thanks for the clarification, Inara! You can find her detailed report on the meeting here, including audio excerpts.

Avatar Customization to Be the Theme of a Special Valentine’s Day Sansar Product Meetup This Thursday

This Thursday, which also happens to be Valentine’s Day, there will be a special Product Meetup focusing on avatar customization. Lacie Sansar (who appears to be the acting community manager for Sansar while Linden Lab is searching to fill the position after Eliot left) has posted the following message to the announcements channel on the official Sansar Discord:

I’m *extremely* excited to announce our *Special Edition* of our Product Meetup this upcoming Thursday.

We will focus on discussing the highly requested upcoming features for even **more** Avatar Customization & we want to hear your feedback.

Without further ado…*lets get customizable* this **Thursday, February 14th** at **11AM PST**

See you there, Sansarians. 😉

https://events.sansar.com/events/Lacie-Sansar/product-meetup—special-edition—lets-get-customizable/bf6f3ac0

We’re already got endless customization of such things as hair, clothing, and accessories, but I am still really happy to see this announcement because I and others have been badgering Linden Lab for months now to address several issues related to customization for the default human avatars:

  • more face sliders and the addition of body sliders (height, weight, etc.)
  • customized skins which can be bought and sold on the Sansar Store

So if, like me, you are keenly interested in these sorts of topics, we get an opportunity to tell Linden Lab what we want to see!