Thursday, 21 January 2016

Linden Lab - Project Sansar - Big Worlds - Universal Avatar - No Map

Just digesting the Q&A session with Ebbe Linden - Virtual world developer Linden Lab's CEO.

How big are Sansar Worlds ?
It was great to hear Ebbe Linden talk more openly about Project Sansar.
OK, Big worlds confirmed - up to 4km x 4km in size. That's pretty big for any virtual world or game experience, with portals to additional or complimentary/friend worlds or themed areas. It appears that initially, on first release, there will be no stitched together worlds with sim crossing issues. This is fantastic news regarding world size, it's great news for the whole VR community and especially great news for RP community game developers and anyone wanting to do vehicle based games or experiences. Vehicle content creators and developers will be some of the biggest cash earners in Project Sansar. Big worlds are vital for full immersion in any virtual world experience. Nobody wants to get to the edge of the world, still wanting more.

The Universal Avatar
OK confirmed. Sansar has some kind of Universal Avatar that can travel with it's inventory, to any world that allows entry of said Universal Avatar (I'm coining the phrase !). Also, themed worlds that have their own specific avatar needs are supported .... So, power to world developers. If you have an ancient Chinese world you can force avatar choices on new users. So for instance, you wouldn't be able to enter Clan of The Cave bear World dressed as a Cowboy or a fairy or a fashionista if it's not in the world rules. This is again great news for RP communities and experience makers, who in Second Life, have often had their immersive experience broken by inappropriately dress visitors/avatars. It's rather nice to see Linden Lab clearly recognise the way that people have been using Second life and have this reflected in the fabric of Project Sansar from the start.

Inventory Systems
I'm not sure how inventory systems will work if there is a Universal Avatar for 'Everybody Welcome' type worlds, along side specific themed worlds that demand a specific dress code or custom avatar. But the fact that both will be possible is exciting stuff.

Project Sansar - Open API ?
One of my questions to Ebbe was ....
Will Sansar have an open API and support editor extensions similar to Unity ? For instance extensions like visual scripting tools e.g Unreal's Blueprint/Kismet or Unity's Playmaker

Ebbe seemed somewhat reluctant to answer this question ..... perhaps they just haven't made up their minds about open API, editor extensions etc.  Perhaps there are some security issues with the Linden Dollar and shopping inworld in Sansar that make open API's problematic. But regardless of how difficult an open API would be to implement, I think the Linden coders should be made to jump through firey hoops to make it happen as an open API would dramatically super-charge and empower world and experience developers. Stuff that Linden Lab coders just don't have time to do, because they are working on all the back end and foundation stuff to make multi-user worlds possible. An open API would tap the power of crowd sourcing and third party developers.

I was really hoping that Sansar would support open API because I am a scripting/coding dumbo and there is no way I can learn C# in a hundred years, even with a great tutor. I am an artist and a tad dyslexic, so C# or any coding language is absolutely worse case scenario for me. But I can learn and use visual scripting tools. This is the awesome power of the Unity game engine with it's open API.

At the Unity Asset Store you will find a delicious and tasty array of editor extensions that empower Unity developers in the most astonishing ways. I don't expect Linden Lab to create their own visual scripting tool but if Sansar had an open API, third party devs could port existing tools to Sansar. There are some seriously impressive editor extensions at Unity Asset Store. Click Here To See Editor Extensions.

Project Sansar - No Visual Map ?
I can understand why Linden Lab are reluctant to develop a visual map of Sansar Worlds. I suspect their reluctance is about not wanting any governance issues rather than it being a complex or difficulty thing. But I think it's a grave error not to have a visual map representing the worlds and experiences that we can visit. Probably one of the first things the Lindens learnt back in the early 2000's was that even though they had the overlord Goveror Linden watching and protecting us all from trolls, griefers and copybots .... it just wasn't possible and never will be possible to police virtual worlds, especially if it goes mainstream this time around. Ebbe said as much when he mentioned that it wasn't scalable in any way to try to police the worlds. But no visual map of worlds  means that anyone creating a Sansar world, a virtual experience, who has a portal via a web page or web site, to their world, has to compete with the millions of other web sites and web experiences out there. Under these conditions it will be too easy for Sansar and Sansar worlds to get lost in the noise.

OK, I get the Wordpress of virtual worlds idea, it's a lovely analogy and approach. But I don't think it works in the same way with 3D worlds and experiences. Human beings have used maps for hundreds of years because they help you find stuff more quickly. Ever heard the phrase Treasure Map ?  That's what the Sansar map should be .... it should be a Treasure Map ... a map of discovery .... a human and 3D way to find and discover new experiences in an intuitive, organic and familiar way, that no 2D website or list of web pages can ever compete with.

Please Linden Lab, re-consider whether you should have a visual map of discovery. Just because there is a map of worlds, it doesn't mean you have to govern them or are responsible for what goes on inside those worlds. No visual map is a step backwards, not a step forwards.

Villages have maps. Towns have maps. Cities have maps. Islands have maps. Jungles and forest have maps. Countries have maps. And treasure has maps. Sansar should have a map.... the ultimate map. A map of virtual worlds and experiences to explore and discover.