SL Press has an article up about the rumor that Project Sansar will be built using the Unity3D game engine. See: Project Sansar to run on Unity3d. The title makes it sound like a fact. While they give good reasons for saying it is Unity3D, it is still a ways from a conclusive confirmation. It also is a bit misleading to my way of thinking.
PS: 9:50 AM PST: Note Pete Linden’s comment at the end.
The latest information I can find where Ebbe Altberg says anything about voxels is to say they are experimenting with them. Early on there was more talk about using voxels. Voxels were a big thing for High Fidelity too. But, recently we haven’t heard much about voxels from either project.
TerraVol: Voxel Terrain Engine – is a Unity3D product. This type of engine is for generating terrain from parameters. Like; how high do you want your mountains, depth of the sea, rolling terrain or cliffs? In SL we model our terrain, each vertex. The guess is TerraVol would be used to generate terrain in Project Sansar. I would expect this to work well in forests and natural terrain. I’m not sure it would be that great in a cityscape. So, we likely will have alternate ways to build terrain. No one from Linden Lab is saying just yet.
Using Unity3D and the TerraVol engine is also a big step toward Android compatibility. So, while not solidly confirmed, I suggest you NOT bet against it.
Unity also provides a ‘browser plugin’. So, it would provide a built in compatibility for those having only a web browser installed. If that leaves you wondering about Google and Firefox’s 2013 move and 2014 action to eliminate plug-ins from their browsers, see: Google/Firefox Dropping Plugins (2013).
I haven’t done any Unity development. I have done a bit of development using the Unreal engine. I chose Unreal because the project I helped with was already being built in Unreal. When I was looking at the engines Unreal had their free to use if you did free to play. So, I leaned that direction because of cost not any great technical advantage.
As far as I know they are similar. In most cases they deal with pre-made, optimized content that is downloaded as part of the initial game install. The concept of a massive collection (as in petabytes) of user made content downloaded on the fly is not part of the package. But, it has been a couple of years since I played with either.
Since casual and one time use of ‘experiences’ is a primary goal of Project Sansar, a huge initial download before being able to enter the experience isn’t going to work.
Remember Blue Mars? There was a screen where you picked your ‘experience’ or world, waited for it to download and then entered. People don’t have that kind of patience with marketing information. Google, Amazon, and others marketing research is showing that web pages, or in generalities ‘the information’, has to arrive as fast as possible. For every 100ms of delay 1% of sales is lost. (Ref) No commercial enterprise is going to be interested in developing a promotion that takes minutes to load.
There are other limits that Unreal and Unity have which the Lab is going to have to work around. So, my thinking is that Unity3D and TerraVol may be parts of the Sansar system. But, to say Sansar will be run on Unity, or any other known game engine, is an incomplete statement.
If Project Sansar is not adding value and abilities beyond what Unity can provide, then what would anyone need the Lab for?
Those that use Unity generally provide a game and its content, not a platform. We know the Lab, from their statements and actions, is not interested in providing content in Sansar any more than they are/were in Second Life.
Below are examples of what people are doing with Unity’s terrain engine and voxel editing.
Below we are shown how real world terrain is brought into Unity3D. The last 5 minutes I found more interesting.
PS: Please read Pete Linden’s comment below.
The Unity terrain editing we see above may be a clue to the editing in Sansar… or not.