Ebbe Altberg Talks to The Irish Times About Second Life and Sansar

Outside Blarney Stone

Marie Boran of The Irish Times has been talking to Linden Lab CEO Ebbe Altberg about Sansar and, inevitably, that also means talking of Second Life too.

The article is entitled Virtual reality is giving Second Life a second lease of life and although it starts off with some negative commentary around Second Life, the article actually goes on to make some positive points about Second Life.

The article also points out that Linden Lab do not consider Sansar to be a replacement for Second Life :

The idea is not to replace Second Life or even phase it out, says Altberg, who describes it as “a very healthy virtual world that will be very healthy for a long time to come”. It is celebrating its 14th birthday this summer and continues to have a dedicated team continually improving content and interaction experiences.

An interesting point is made regarding Second Life in terms of it not being easy to find what to do unless you’re inside Second Life and have familiarised yourself with the platform. Sansar will take a different approach, but let’s not forget that Second Life has also started to take a different approach, when Linden Lab announced that places pages are available to all land owners, the blog post also mentioned :

Many of these pages will also soon be discoverable via popular search engines, such as Google. This means that more people than ever have the potential to learn about your Second Life place!

Sansar sounds as if it will start with the aim of being more easily discoverable for people.

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Jem Alexander Brings Some Reality To Virtual Reality Discussion

Jem Alexander over at Develop has published a two part look at Virtual Reality, where we are now and where we go next. These posts are excellent in terms of the reality they bring to the discussion of virtual reality. Part 2 also features a few quotes from Linden Lab CEO Ebbe Altberg, I’ll come to that later.

Part 1 : VR Check-In Where are we now focuses on developers. The article starts by pointing out that the hype cycle has cooled somewhat, although developers are still very excited, we’re not there yet and it’s a slow ride.

Part of the issue is that there are different headsets and hardware requirements, this is a challenge, but not a showstopper for developers. An arguably larger issue is that hardware remains expensive and then there’s the issue of room space.

Lukas Roper, a freelance games developer seems to think the choice of hardware is good as it will improve the quality of VR experiences, but he is also quoted as saying :

“However, as much as engine developers and headset manufacturers present supporting a headset as a simple task, it isn’t, and for each platform you support, you have separate issues to consider.”

Eventually we will need standards regarding hardware so that developers and users can get similar experiences, but early competition to set those standards can definitely be good.

In terms of room space, developers seem to be keen on the idea of seated and room scale experiences, they will of course be different experiences and this is summed up well by Owen O’Brien, CCP Newcastle’s Executive Producer on EVE: Valkyrie when he says :

“I don’t think large audience size and bespoke VR experience have to be mutually exclusive. Not everyone has enough space for room scale of course, but equally you can create a bespoke VR experience that is seated. It totally depends on the market you are going after. At CCP we are pushing forward on both fronts, with EVE: Valkyrie being the seated experience and Sparc our standing experience.“

I agree and a one size fits all solution would be limiting for VR.

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Sansar Springs Closer

Sansar Screenshot 2

Linden Lab’s Sansar is said to be heading for an Open Beta spring release, this has been exemplified by a new video (which I will embed at the end of this post) and a slew of articles on the subject.

The articles show some of the hopes, aspirations and excitement surrounding Sansar. We also see that some people appreciate the work done by Linden Lab and its community when it comes to Second Life, as well as pointing out that Second Life got some things wrong.

Ben Lang over at Road To VR writes : New ‘Sansar’ Video Glimpses More Virtual Worlds Made on the Social VR Platform. The article starts with Second Life, which is a very good place to start :

There’s no denying that Linden Lab did some things right with Second Life, a $500 million GDP in 2016 is a testament to that. But they also did some things wrong, even Linden Lab CEO Ebbe Altberg will admit.

“Between the Creator and the Consumer, Second Life never really settled on which was our primary customer,” Altberg told Road to VR in an interview at the company’s San Francisco headquarters in January.

The article also touches upon something that will feel different to Second Life users, which the eagle eyed may notice in the video. Visting Sansar experiences looks like it will be a case of visiting individual experiences, in a similar manner to High Fidelity and back in the day, Cloud Party.

Unlike with Second Life, the Linden Lab is shifting away from having a single massive virtual world, choosing instead to set itself up as an enabler of creators by making Sansar a platform, rather than an all encompassing virtual landscape.

This will feel different to Second Life users initially, but a lot of Second Life is already similar to this model with Islands that can only be reached via teleport. The lack of a contiguous mainland may disappoint but I’m sure people will soon get over that if the experiences are engaging.

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Sansar Marketplace And Sansar Dollars Set For Debut

Project Sansar Concept Art

Linden Lab’s Sansar (formerly known as Project Sansar) has hit the new year running with press reports of a new round of creator invites, a Sansar Marketplace, news of monetisation with the introduction of the Sansar dollar and a video giving a sneak preview of Sansar which appears to have been produced and directed by Draxtor Despres of The Drax Files : World Makers fame. I will embed the video near the bottom of this post.

Dean Takahashi over at VentureBeat reports : Linden Lab debuts marketplace for Sansar VR world. The article informs us that Sansar will allow creators who are already in Sansar to buy and sell content from today. Ebbe Altberg makes an appearance in the article :

This sets the tone and shows creators they will monetize what they create on day one, when we open our doors,” Altberg said. “The buying and selling will get them comfortable with the new platform.

Those of us who are familiar with Second Life will not be surprised to learn that the Sansar Dollar will work in a similar way to the Linden Dollar, with Sansar Dollars being used for purchases and then redeemed for a US dollar to Sansar Dollar exchange rate. Linden Lab will take a cut of these currency transactions, as they do with the Linden Dollar.

The currency and sales transaction fees are likely to be higher than Second Life because the aim with Sansar is for hosting fees to be much lower than they are in Second Life. The VentureBeat article again turns to Ebbe Altberg for further information :

We want it to be low enough that it does not add unnecessary friction to the economy,” Altberg said. “But we do want to get a piece of the GDP and then make the hosting fees for Sansar as low as possible. We charged quite a bit for the hosting fees in Second Life and didn’t have a consumption tax to take part of the GDP. So now we will balance the hosting fees and the consumption fees in the economy.

There’s plenty more to read in the VentureBeat article and I highly recommend that you read it if Sansar interests you. There’s also an article about Sansar by Kevin Carbotte over at Tom’s Hardware : Linden Lab Introduces Sansar Monetization System, Reveals First Video Footage. This article includes an interview with Linden Lab CEO Ebbe Altberg and Gray of the Lab from San Francisco (AKA Peter Gray, Senior Director of Global Communications at Linden Lab).

Pete Linden at VWBPE 2015

The above is a picture of Peter Gray in Second Life, I have no idea how he looks in Sansar!

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The Future Of Virtual Reality Must Be Social

For far too long, Virtual Worlds have been lumped into the gaming category, when they are more than games. There are games within Virtual Worlds, but Virtual Worlds are not just games.

The user generated content aspect and potential of Virtual Worlds has also for far too long, been overlooked or treated with contempt. However as the Virtual Reality hype cycle keeps gaining traction, people are finally starting to talk about more than games.

This brings me on to two articles I’ve been reading today, one about a platform called ROBLOX, which I will confess I’d never heard of before but I’m glad that I now have and the other is about AltspaceVR, which I have heard about before and I’m pleased to see that AltspaceVR is making interesting strides. There are differences with the approaches of these platforms, but they both seem to agree that the future is social.

Before I highlight the article on ROBLOX, it’s probably a good idea to mention what ROBLOX is, so I’ll quote their blurb :

ROBLOX is the best place to Imagine with Friends™. With the largest user-generated online gaming platform, and over 15 million games created by users, ROBLOX is the #1 gaming site for kids and teens (comScore). Every day, virtual explorers come to ROBLOX to create adventures, play games, role play, and learn with their friends in a family-friendly, immersive, 3D environment.

ROBLOX founder, co-created and CEO, David Baszucki, has posted an article on The Huffington Post : Why Co-Experience Is the Ultimate Killer App for Virtual Reality. David is an enthusiast, early on he talks about The Metaverse, Snow Crash and more. David talks about how storytelling has evolved and continues to evolve.

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