Exclusive – There Is No Secret Second Life Bloggers Club

Picture the scene, Daniel Voyager, Draxtor Despres, Inara Pey, Loki Eliot, Jo Yardley, Nalates Uriah, Canary Beck, Strawberry SinghHamlet Au and myself are all in a darkened room somewhere in Second Life, quite possibly Linden World, which is a top secret bunker. A door opens, the creak echoes in the room and we hear footsteps. Fire lights the room, a wooden torch held up to reveal that Gray of the Lab from San Francisco (AKA Pete Linden, AKA Peter Gray), Ebbe Altberg and Xiola Linden have entered the room.

They look at us, suspiciously, there’s a hush and then we are all asked to swear an oath of secrecy before being handed a dossier entitled “Top Secret”. This dossier contains secret plans from the evil empire with regards to taking over the virtual world under the banner of “Project Sanasr Sansar”. *See comments for explanation of the strike through.

“At least one of you will betray us .. three times to be precise,” Xiola Linden tells us.

“Three of you may betray us once each”, ponders Gray of the Lab from San Francisco.

“All of you belong to us,” cackles Ebbe Altberg and with that they leave the room. The bloggers stand there, cold and in silence.

I look at the dossier in front of me, this is gold. I’ll have countless blogs on this subject. At that point, Strawberry Singh elbows me in the ribs and glares at me “You swore an oath!”

So I’m here to tell you that I can’t tell you about the top secret dossier. What I can exclusively tell you is that Secret Second Life Bloggers Club doesn’t exist. The last person you would entrust with secret plans for virtual world domination is a blogger, seriously.

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Project Sansar Won’t Eat Second Life

Project Sansar Concept Art

Fancy a bite,
My appetite,
Yum yum gee it’s fun,
Banging on a different drum,

There seems to be a concern in some quarters that Linden Lab’s Project Sansar is poised to eat Linden Lab’s Second Life. I’m not quite sure where this concern stems from and that’s before we mention that Linden Lab have another product; Blocksworld, which people don’t pay much attention to in terms of eating too much of the Linden Lab pie.

Yes, Project Sansar is the project that Linden Lab have most employees working on, yes it’s new and shiny, yes it will tie in better with HMD’s than Second Life does. None of this means that Second Life will be swallowed by the Project Sansar shark. A lot of the current concern seems to stem from the recent Lab Chat and a question from long time Second Life resident and all round good guy, Qie Niangao :

Assuming Sansar makes it into a revenue-generating beta, how will the Lab organization be structured to keep SL and Sansar from sabotaging each other’s success?

This has been a problem for the Lab, historically, most disastrously with the competition between Marketplace and the Land product, but this could be worse: the Sansar team has a natural incentive to cannibalize the Second Life business — but if that’s premature, LL could be left with no profit from either product. How will you prevent this?

(Yes, eventually Sansar’s market should be so large that the current Second Life business doesn’t even register as a blip on the adoption curve. But initially, Sansar Marketing will be tempted to feed off SL, potentially leaving neither platform viable).

Good question, which deserves a good answer and it pretty much got one from Ebbe Altberg, Linden Lab CEO :

Well, I’m not sure why we would try to sabotage ourselves in the first place. But they are two very separate teams, from product and design and engineering are two completely separate teams … at some point they meet-up in the organisation higher up, but they are working very independently today.

And there’s some pieces the two products will share. Clearly we don’t want to have to replicate the whole virtual economy pieces, and all the compliance work that goes with that, so that is something we try to make sure we only do once; and that will be a service both Sansar and Second Life will leverage. but other than that, the teams are free to work completely independently on what they think is best for them and their users every day.

However the answer went further, it went into the cannibalisation issue and that’s where things get a bit messy in the minds of some.

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Project Sansar Continues To Make The News

Project Sansar Concept Art

Linden Lab’s Project Sansar remains under a shield of secrecy, even on Linden Lab’s newly revamped website. We have picked up bits and pieces from interviews, such as when Tom’s Hardware spoke to Linden Lab’s Senior Director, Global Communications, Gray Of The Lab From San Francisco (AKA Peter Gray) :

Peter Gray likened Project Sansar for VR to what WordPress has done for the Web; the idea is to make it possible for anyone to create a virtual experience, without the need for a software engineering background. However the WordPress analogy may have fell just a bit short of exemplifying the message Linden Lab were trying to convey, so they’ve added a new analogy, YouTube.

John Gaudiosi of Fortune has been speaking to Linden Lab CEO Ebbe Altberg and posted an article entitled; How ‘Second Life’ Developer Hopes To Deliver The ‘YouTube For VR’. The YouTube analogy is a good one because it encompasses more than just the creation aspect, as Ebbe Altberg explains in the article :

“Much like YouTube, Sansar will empower people to create, share, and profit from their own social virtual experiences,” Altberg says. “Doing that today requires an engineering team—it’s hard and expensive, and that limits the use-cases for VR. That’s similar to the old days of the web, so we sometimes also use WordPress as an apt analogy.”

Unless you work for Linden Lab or are in the top secret Alpha you won’t know which analogy works best, time will tell on that front. However YouTube is widely known as a platform where people create content and make money. Whereas that link between creation and income isn’t so clear when it comes to WordPress, although that route is available via use of WordPress too.

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Ebbe Altberg Talks To Geek Dad

Project Sansar Concept Art

Derrick Schneider over at Geek Dad has been talking to Linden Lab CEO Ebbe Altberg about Project Sansar. There’s not really a lot new in this article, but every article seems to reveal a little bit of something that may have been missed or overlooked in other articles. These pieces are slowly starting to fit together.

For example Derrick posts :

What happens when your Second Life city gets too many people inside? Lag. And then you’re sort of stuck. In Sansar, says Altberg, a successful multiplayer experience can automatically spawn a new instance of itself when you hit some limit: Linden’s jobs website asks for experience with Amazon Web Services, so it’s easy to see where they’re going: Scale up behind the scenes so the creator doesn’t have to think about it.

I don’t think it’s any surprise that Project Sansar is looking at cloud based delivery, this has probably been mentioned before. I know instancing has been mentioned before and I know I’ve had someone post that instancing has been mentioned before when I’ve posted about instancing! So a lot of the information about Project Sansar is already out there, but it’s scattered.

However an interesting part of the Geek Dad article comes in terms of experiences. Linden Lab have invited people to alpha test Project Sansar and one point that has been mentioned is that Linden Lab are currently looking for people with Autodesk Maya experience. Now you may have thought this was to get 3D models inworld, but it appears there’s more to it than that :

The initial focus is letting people make experiences, and the authoring tools will reflect that need. “How many things in your home did you make,” asks Altberg. “But it still reflects your identity. We didn’t make the chairs in this room or the table,” he continues, gesturing around to encompass the reinforced brick walls, “but we are making an experience.”

There’s a lot more in the article, including talking of a Project Sansar downloadable client and talk of content ratings, with Ebbe suggesting that Linden Lab do not want to impose strict censorship, but it seems they do want content ratings to be there from the outset, which I think most people would agree is a sensible idea.

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Linden Lab Talk To Tom’s Hardware About Project Sansar

Project Sansar Concept Art

When I was a lad, ok when I was younger, older than a mere lad, tom’s Hardware would be a site I would go to for information about graphics cards and such like. The site had a reputation for being trustworthy when it came to reviews of hardware, plus the community had a reputation for being helpful and knowledgeable.

These days tom’s Hardware is known for more than just, well, hardware and that is exemplified by an article published today by Kevin Carbotte; Project Sansar: The Forthcoming Successor To Second Life Will Focus On VR.

The article is based on discussions between Kevin Carbotte of tom’s Hardware had with Linden Lab’s CEO, Ebbe Altberg and Linden Lab’s Senior Director of Global Communications, Gray of The Lab From San Francisco (AKA Peter Gray).

There’s nothing earth shattering or new in the article, but it does build on other articles in helping to cement some ideas about what the future may hold for Project Sansar. Again we read that land costs will be lower, sales taxes will be higher and that Project Sansar will be comparable to WordPress in terms of ideology. The idea with Project Sansar is to make things bigger, better and easier and here we do come to something that has not been discussed that often, the engine :

Peter Gray likened Project Sansar for VR to what WordPress has done for the Web; the idea is to make it possible for anyone to create a virtual experience, without the need for a software engineering background.

Linden Lab is creating its own proprietary rendering engine to make this happen. I asked why the company took this direction rather than use existing options, and was told that the problems the company has run into over the years with Second Life made it clear that the company needed an engine designed from the ground up for this platform.

The company needed the ability to make the creator tools simple to use, a task for which the current available engines are not suitable. Project Sansar offers a whole package, including the underlying multi-user functionality, hosting, assets and tools. Additionally, Linden Lab is designing Project Sansar to be accessible through several different media.

There has been some speculation as to what engine Linden Lab were using with Project Sansar, the answer is incomplete but it looks like it will be their own engine.

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