Project Sansar: Smarten Up or Dumb Down?

The eighth of Canary’s anxieties is about dumbing down Sansar. I think it goes hand-in-hand with the ninth anxiety: too complex. Opposite sides of the same coin, sort of. It is true the Lab is trying to make Sansar appeal to the masses and that an easy to use factor. But, is Project Sansar really going to give us a dumber virtual world?

'Control desk'

‘Control desk’

The term ‘dumb down’ will have different meanings as it is somewhat ambiguous. Another term in the gaming world that could apply would be NERF. Will they nerf SL into Sansar? 

Whenever I think about whether Project Sansar is going to produce a simpler or more complex world I ask myself what in Sansar will be less than it is in SL? What could be left out? Does nerfing or dumbing down Sansar mean less features than SL? Or does it mean restricting what we can build or do in the new world? What building abilities or activities could they leave out?

If we take Linden Lab CEO, Ebbe Altberg, words at face value Project Sansar will be more than Second Life™. He often says similar but better. If the avatar is better, meaning it has a better mesh layout, better texture mapping, better animation weighting, and a better armature/skeleton does that add complexity? It could. It certainly doesn’t sound like the avatar is to be nerfed.

Since the most requested features for the avatar in SL are the things I listed above, it is likely those things will be implemented in Sansar. I would say the skeleton change is going to add complexity. We may have finger and toe bones. So, that certainly isn’t dumbing the avatar down. But, how much complexity would that add? How much harder is it to learn to move a finger than it is to move an arm? We have to figure out how to work with the SL avatar and skeleton now and we complain because we can’t add bones, move toes, etc. So, it doesn’t seem like something people haven’t heard of or learned to do before.

We know objects in the Sansar world are being modeled with Maya. We use Maya for building in SL. So, the ‘external’ tools aren’t getting nerfed. Presumably more of the modeling features in Maya, 3D Max, and Blender that we cannot use for SL will be added to Sansar. To me it sounds more like removing SL restrictions and limits we have to learn to model for SL now. The complexity is already in the tools. That isn’t increasing. Sansar could be more in line with industry standards, thus making it easy for people from other game worlds to build in Sansar.

If you don’t know how to build for other worlds, it is hard to know how hard or easy it is to build for SL and project what it will be like to build for Sansar. That Sansar is planned to be better than SL doesn’t mean it is moving the 3D modeling world to new levels. So, it is conceivable that Sansar will gain features, abilities, and still be simpler than SL because of better compliance to industry standards. Of course that ‘simpler’ is in the sense of the gaming industry.

Will we have materials? To be better than SL I would say yes and materials will likely be handled in more industry standard ways than how it is in SL. Probably like they are in Unity, Unreal, Cry and other game engines. I can’t say it will be more complex than what we have in SL now, as we have most of what is available for texturing available in SL now. But, how we go about it in SL has some odd twists. Sansar may have an even simpler implementation of materials. We will likely have more of the professional features of other game design environments. Again I don’t see it as dumbing down or necessarily getting more complex.

If the Lab is adding more to Sansar, will the viewer be more complex? Will the build process be more complex? We were asking hose questions in anxiety issue #4. (Kiss your Second Life inventory bye?) There I was pointing out that the Lab is designing to make things easier for everyone.

The SL Viewer has 3,000+ controls. So, will the Sansar viewer be dumbed down? Maybe. I have no doubt the controls will be different. But, more or less complex? We will have to wait and see.

If we have more controls and they are more intuitive and more in line with industry standards, is that more or less complicated? Does that make it easier or harder to learn? I think different people will answer that question in different ways. We’ll have to wait for a consensus to form.

4 thoughts on “Project Sansar: Smarten Up or Dumb Down?

  1. I am just guessing here, but LL seem to aim for a much bigger divide between consumer and creator. In SL we all are both in a way and everything is in the viewer to do everything. I imagine that with Sansar, there will be a viewer that only has the basic features for chatting and moving. Nothing else. And then there will be a creators platform that enables people that want to, to do everything else. That would have huge benefits for going mass market but it would make it much harder to cross the line from consumer to creator.

    So far all my guesses about Sansar have been confirmed by the lab later on. I seem to have the same kind of consumer oriented platform in mind as Ebbe. Let’s see about this one . 😛

    • You guessed wrong. Ebbe has told us they are including a mesh editor. We have no information on how comprehensive it is going to be. I imagine something like Cloud Party. But, no one outside the Sansar NDA knows.

      I would say the plugin for a web browser and app for mobile devices will likely be as you think, just the very basics.

      As to placing more emphasis on designers over consumers… that may be broader then one might imagine. We have been told they are starting by providing 3D modeling people using Maya and tools of a similar level first shot, calling them professionals is probably accurate. I suspect professional or hobbyist using Maya, 3D Max, and Blender level tools is more accurate. But, Ebbe has said they are also designing for 3D modeling novices. Just those parts come latter.

      But, because they will add in-world abilities as we provide more personal ID information, the viewer may start with a very limited set of controls and a very simplified UI. They haven’t said how they are going to handle things.

  2. I also expect a more fancy version of cloudparty with a basic mesh building tool. Creators have had an easy ride in Second Life until now. No need to invest anything just their time. Next to that creators were also always able to sell their stuff at dirt cheap prices, 1 Dollar hair and a 2 Dollar avatar. This low cost makes people buy in large volumes. In sansar Linden Lab will apply a heavy tax on everything so products will need to sell for higher amounts in order for Linden Lab having their share. Creators will either need to work for less or charge more to give Linden their slice on each sale.

    Consumers who do not own land in Second Life and only buy clothes will be paying more in Sansar, simple as that.

    As for these experiences, they cost a very large amount of time and work to create. Just ask Madpea games, they are very hard to gain value from.

    Game studios work with million dollar budgets and often take years to produce experiences which they offer then on a steam sale for 10 Dollars. The competition is just massive and the market is saturated.

    I wouldn’t invest months to develop experiences as I know it will cost me more than it makes me.

    I would rather opt to create a phone app instead. Candy Crush sold for loads of money and that is a simple game. In something like Sansar you would be handling a much more complicated setup and only have a small niche community as your customer.

    We will see but from what I have heard so far I have no interest to be honest.

    • Where to you get the idea that the Lab will apply a HEAVY tax? What would a heavy tax be?

      I suppose that Sansar users may pay more for things in Sansar than they do in SL. You say it like it is a certainly. But, the basic nature of humans sets economic laws. Price elasticity is a term used to explain how much prices can increase. No matter what the Lab does or creators do there is a limit users control. They vote with their L$.

      It is much more work to create mesh clothes in SL than classic clothes. But, there is not a corresponding increase in their cost. I see classic clothes going for L$0 to L$1,000 and similar mesh clothes fall in the same range. That would indicate a lack of elasticity.

      I agree it is difficult to get a return on time invested building a game in SL. But, games in general are a major income source in RL. The Lab is looking at how to bring that RL game marketing scenario to Sansar. I expect things to change.

      As to whether the game market is saturated, I don’t know of any data that shows that. I don’t see any shortage of people building new games. Check Steam and Desura.

      Obviously you and the Lab have made different decisions on what to build. The Lab’s experience is in large virtual worlds and their communities. Blocksworld is doing well in the apps area.

      You aren’t interested in Sansar and I suspect others won’t be too. In fact I suspect the majority of the won’t be interested. But, I am.

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