Some Quick Notes on the First Sansar Product Meetup Since the Platform Was Bought By Wookey

I missed this Product Meetup due to various virtual work meetings today, so I am just now watching the livestream on Twitch in order to get caught up.

Daisy Gator also livestreamed today’s meeting (thanks, Daisy!):

One of the big pieces of news is that Sansar is actually planning to work on support for mobile devices (both Android and iOS): “I think that the intent is to be a steaming service, so you’ll be streaming Sansar to your phone rather than rendering directly on your phone.” (In response to a question, Sansar is not working on support for the Oculus Quest VR headset.)

Another piece of news is that Sansar’s popular community manager, Galileo, found another job during the hiatus (with the company making the game War Dragons), and this week is his last. Lacie will be the new Sansar community manager.

Galileo left us the following thank you video:

As I expected, body sliders on the avatars is not a priority. The focus will continue to be on events: “Our plan is to get these huge events going with tons, thousands of people, hopefully, in here.”

Sansar will remain PG13; there are no plans to allow adult content.

As far as the team knows, the existing collaboration with Marvelous Designer will continue.

With respect to Sansar’s availability via Steam (which I think has been a disaster), they are currently looking at the situation. So there are no details yet on whether or not Sansar will stay on Steam.

I understand that Inara Pey was at this Product Meetup, and I look forward to seeing her usual detailed notes. When she posts them on her blog, I will link to them here.

UPDATE 4:56 p.m.: Well, that was fast! Here is Inara’s report on today’s meeting.

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!

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.