Definition: Handfasting is an ancient Celtic ritual in which the hands are tied together to symbolize the binding of two lives. While it is most often included in Wiccan or Pagan ceremonies, it has become more mainstream and pops up in both religious and secular vows and readings.
One certain thing that I have learned in writing the RyanSchultz.com blog over these past five years is this: no matter what the metaverse platform, and no matter how obscure or popular it might be, there is always a committed community of die-hard fans associated with it! And the small but active fanbase of the social VR platform Sansar (built by Linden Lab and since sold to Wookey) is the perfect example of that truth. Despite the almost total absence of marketing by Wookey, the userbase continues to create worlds, meet up, and hold various events. It’s heartwarming.
Did you also know? Even within the relatively small user community of Sansar, since its launch in 2017, there have been at least five couples who first met up in Sansar and then connected in real life (and in some cases, even got married!). Actually, it might be six by now…I have lost track! We learned this lesson back in the days of Second Life; the metaverse brings couples together. ❤️
Recently, Sansar ambassador Bluebell (whom I know well from my earliest days in Sansar, and who is a tireless promoter of the platform) and her beau Moggz held a handfasting ceremony on March 3rd, 2022, attended by all their friends who, in real life, were scattered all across the globe. When I asked about having a handfasting instead of a marriage ceremony, Bluebell told me, “Yes, we prefer the old rituals.”
Bluebell was kind enough to share some pictures with me which were taken at the event (unfortunately, I could not be there). Please click on each thumbnail picture in this gallery to see it in a larger size:
Photos provided by Bluebell, Wolfen Howeller, and Mijeka Munro; thank you!
This morning, I paid a long-overdue return visit to Sansar, to check out both of the two-day music festivals that are taking place on the platform this weekend (July 3rd and 4th, 2020):
The Lost World event, held by an organization called Global Music Festivals, is being held in a specially-created world called Lost World, based the Incan architecture of Machu Picchu in Peru (here’s the entry in the Sansar Atlas):
The Lost Horizon Festival, which is associated with the real-world Shangri-La event at the Glastonbury Festival, a five-day festival of contemporary performing arts that takes place in Pilton, Somerset, in England every year (which, like many other events, was cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic):
Two days. Four stages. Fifty-plus performances from a star-studded global lineup, including Fatboy Slim, Carl Cox, Jamie Jones and more. Welcome to Lost Horizon, from the team behind Glastonbury’s Shangri-La – the world’s biggest music and arts festival in virtual reality! Join us from wherever you live, across desktop PC and VR here at Sansar.
These are extraordinary times, and we know fans everywhere are hurting. Which is why we’re thrilled to offer a FREE TICKET to any and all affected by this current crisis.
If you can contribute, we’re also offering a PREMIUM TICKET that helps benefit two important causes – Amnesty International and the Big Issue – and includes some amazing goodies: an exclusive piece of art from Lost Horizon creatives, Instruct Studio; a virtual shirt from Instruct Studio; and more.
While you have to buy a ticket (a free one, or the US$10.00 Premium ticket) to get into the Lost Horizon events, anybody can pop in to visit the Lost World event, which is smaller and feels more intimate.
Lost World (by Global Music Festivals)
The Lost World event features more than 20 live DJs performing sets over two days. The two 12-hour streams will be live broadcast on Twitch and into the Lost World in Sansar especially built for this event. Deejays will play EDM, Trance, Goa, Techno, Psy, House, and Nu Jazz.
When I dropped by this morning there was an appreciative crowd of about 20 avatars gathered, dancing in lockstep to the light show. I found that if I stopped playing my own dance animations and stood still, eventually I, too, would start dancing with the rest of the crowd! I’m not sure how comfortable I feel about a world imposing its dance moves on me, though. (I would have preferred a choice!)
Lost Horizon Festival (by Glastonbury’s Shangri-La)
It’s clear that most people in Sansar this weekend are here for this festival, as this snapshot of the attendance figures (taken from the in-world Codex) indicates:
When I visited, the Gas Tower had over 100 avatars present, while the Freedom Stage and the Landing Zone had about 60 each, and the Nomad Stage about 40.
This being Sansar, I expected the visuals would be top-notch, and they certainly are! You can use your Codex to hop from stage to stage, or start off at the Landing Zone, which features teleporters to take you to the various stages and exhibits:
In addition to the stages, there is an art exhibit called ShangrilART, and a television studio called SHITV, broadcasting films and videos relating to the event. Both spaces were less crowded, giving you the opportunity to take a breather from the much busier music stages.
It was only when you got right up to the stage that the illusion was shattered, as you can see from this shot I took of the deejays behind the booth at the Nomad Stage:
The only problem I encountered was the audio quality, which was consistently choppy and extremely poor while using a VR headset, and better but still a bit choppy while in desktop. I left and revisited several Lost Horizon stages where musical performances were taking place, listening while wearing my Oculus Rift and just on desktop, and there were definitely problems with the sound quality, especially in the Rift. If you are planning to participate in this festival, you might be better off setting your VR headset aside and just using desktop.
One very odd thing that I noticed was the dozens of animated bots that were placed in various spots near the periphery of all three music stages, or under the raised platforms provided for better viewing. You could tell they weren’t other “real” avatars because when you clicked the trigger on your hand controller and looked at them, an avatar name did not appear over them. Most were uniformly dressed in drab, grey colours, and they all cycled through the same dances. It was strange, to say the least.
In an event that was already packed full of avatars, why did the organizers feel that they needed to add dancing bots to pad the audience? Were these bots included in the user concurrency figures in the Codex listings? I found myself wondering if the poor audio quality would be improved a bit if they were shut down and removed (I mean, having to render all the real avatars in a crowded world is adding enough to the load on my computer’s graphics card as it is; why on earth would you deliberately choose to increase that load by doing something like this?).
So, if you attend either or both virtual music festivals this weekend, be advised that you might have some sound problems (which will be more likely if you are using a VR headset). These are likely not events that users on lower-end hardware, or more restricted internet bandwidth, will enjoy.
Aside from the sometimes-poor audio quality and the creepy dancing bots, I’d encourage you to pay a visit to Sansar this weekend (perhaps your first ever?) to check out the dueling music festivals and experience the platform yourself. Sansar is, still, the most beautiful social VR platform in my opinion, and it lends itself well to events such as this. I’m quite sure that Wookey (the company now running Sansar) wants these festivals to bring many more new users to Sansar—and entice them to pay return visits.
Have fun! I will be popping in an out of these two music festivals in Sansar all weekend, so say hello if you see me!
UPDATE 1:52 p.m.: Well, I signed out of Sansar and signed back in again, and there is a crowd of 188 avatars at the Lost Horizon Festival’s Gas Tower Stage:
While it is so good to see such a large crowd in Sansar having fun (I assume they are spread among multiple instances of the stage), the audio quality is still very poor, especially in VR, but also on desktop at times. For a music festival, I consider this to be a pretty serious problem. Let’s hope that Wookey can find a way to fix this before the Lost Horizon Festival ends tomorrow!
UPDATE 2:08 p.m.: There are now a total of 287 avatars at the Gas Tower Stage, and the sound on desktop is still choppy (I have given up trying to listen in VR). And just now, my Sansar client crashed completely. It would appear that the Sansar platform is experiencing some serious scaling-up problems as more and more people join (it’s evening now in the U.K., where I would expect the bulk of the audience is from). Signing in again, crossing my fingers…
UPDATE 2:21 p.m. Back in again, and I do have one piece of advice for people experiencing audio and/or visual glitches in Sansar: make sure that the Sansar client is the only thing that is running on your computer! I just checked and it is using well over 90% of my CPU just to render the Gas Tower stage and process the sound. Normally I have WordPress open in a browser window, but even something as simple as that brings the whole experience to a crawl, and garbles the music stream.
Now at 315 avatars at the Gas Tower Stage for Fatboy Slim‘s set, and rising…
UPDATE 6:41 p.m.: Well, I decided to pay one last visit today to all three music stages at the Lost Horizon Festival, and I am very happy to report that the music stream quality is much better in my VR headset! I’m not sure what Wookey did (or even if they did anything), but for the first time, I could stand in the middle of a virtual mosh pit in the front of the stage, feel fully immersed in the colorfully and creatively-dressed crowd in my Oculus Rift, and actually enjoy the music.
However, it’s clear that other people are encountering audio problems too. One person in the crowd near me posted to the chat at the Freedom stage:
Is there a www audio stream? I’m still clipping, even in desktop mode and low render; I’ve been trying for over 2 hours now.
Once again, the minute I opened up WordPress in a browser tab to report on this, everything went bad again. (So even if that person were to open up a livestream of the concert to get better audio, his performance in Sansar would take a hit.) It would appear your sound quality is a factor of three variables: how fast your internet connection is, how powerful your computer is, and what other programs you may have running simultaneously.
Your best bet might be to catch the Lost Horizon Festival via Twitch: the Beatport Twitch channel (which gives an overview of several stages at once), or the Lost Horizon Festival channel (which was offline when I checked this evening). There are also, new mobile apps for Sansar, which I will be writing about in another blogpost.
And, as I said before, it just felt right to see so many people in Sansar. Here’s hoping that the attendance at the music festivals this weekend met Wookey’s expectations, and that there are more such events in future.
We are working on our next music festival inside Sansar. Which can be attended in VR also Non VR. The last one was such a success we have been asked to do more, but we’re still looking for some help. We know a lot of people are sitting at home that might want to volunteer a little bit of their time. If you are a Club promoter, Event organizer or have experience in PR get in touch.
Again, I will say this: if Wookey-run Sansar is just going to sit idly by and expect unpaid volunteers to do all the heavy lifting for events (including promotion), then I’m sorry, but that’s just not good enough. In its short history, Sansar has already burned through its first set of volunteers, people who have simply given up and moved on to other platforms (and I am one of them).
If Sansar expects to survive and thrive, then they are going to have to do the extra work to get at least a dozen Global Music Festivals onto their social VR platform! As we saw from the history of the old High Fidelity, simply having big events every couple of months doesn’t work, either; you need a steady stream of live events to keep people coming back, making connections, and setting down roots in any virtual world.
Wookey-run Sansar needs to learn from the example set by competing platforms such as AltspaceVR, which has just been running circles around Sansar lately in their work to attract, cultivate and promote live events. Just compare the event calendars of AltspaceVR and Sansar and you can see for yourself what effective event promotion can do. It’s a virtuous circle: more promotion means more people, who in turn create more events when they see what a platform like AltspaceVR can provide.
MARKETING IS A COST OF DOING BUSINESS, SANSAR. DO SOME. Simply calling yourself a live events platform isn’t enough; you have to back up those words with some action, and put your money where you mouth is. Anything else is lazy, short-sighted, and stupid.