Sansar is the next-gen virtual world platform from Linden Lab, the creator of Second Life (2003). Due to launch in Spring 2017, Sansar is a new take for the company on virtual worlds, this time built from the ground up with support for virtual reality.
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.
That realization is the basis of Sansar, which represents an entirely new take on virtual worlds for the company. 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. More like the ‘WordPress of social virtual spaces’, the company readily compares.
That means that users will not ‘enter the world of Sansar‘ any more than they would ‘visit WordPress’ to find content online. Instead—much like accessing a website via a URL that’s built atop WordPress—users will seek out and choose to visit individual virtual worlds built atop Sansar.
Sansar is made to serve creators, Linden Lab says; it’s the creators who will build virtual worlds that serve users and customers. At least that’s the hope.
Unlike Second Life, Sansar is built from the ground up for virtual reality. That means everything from teleporting locomotion to native support for VR motion controllers. And while the most advanced creators will build complex virtual worlds that are imported from third-party tools, Sansar does offers users the ability to acquire, rearrange, and remix pre-made assets from inside Sansar itself, including while in a virtual reality headset.
Since inviting the first creators to start building inside of Sansar all the way back in 2015, the company has kept a tight grip on what virtual worlds inside of Sansar actually look like.
A new video released by Linden Lab today (heading this article) showcases some of the first worlds made by creators who were granted access to the platform’s preview. In Spring 2017, the company plans to open the doors so that anyone will be able to download the platform and explore the worlds therein.
During my interview with Linden Lab CEO Ebbe Alterberg back in January, I got to tour some of the virtual worlds build on Sansar:
Giant Movie Theater
The first place I saw was a movie theater. A massive screen sat in a vast outdoor expanse with the night sky overhead. The seats in front of the screen were mostly covered over in windswept sand; as if there was once a huge theater that had deteriorated long ago, save for the screen, seats, and a huge flight of stairs leading down to them. The screen itself really felt massive (I’ve seen a number of other movie-theater VR experience that for some reason didn’t give a good sensation of scale). The screen was streaming a video from YouTube and the audio was playing throughout the entire space. Altberg said creators will soon be able to set virtual sound sources in Sansar so that the theater could have virtual speakers from which the sound originated.
Next was an Egyptian tomb which Altberg said was a real space that had been captured with photogrammetry. As we explored the tomb’s hieroglyphic-covered corridors together it became apparent that Sansar has 3D positional audio built it, allowing me to easily tell where Altberg was even when I wasn’t looking at him. That’s important not only because it helps your mind map the space and people around you more easily (which adds to immersion), but also because in multi-user scenarios, it’ll be much easier to tell who’s talking (which is also helped by automatic lip syncing).
The next space we visited was a beautiful world that looked like a mashup between the Ocarina of Time (1998) and Jackson’s Lord of the Rings aesthetic. It was a bright and cheery village full of green foliage and earthen homes built into the sides of hills; a series of small foot bridges arched across the roofs of one home to the next. The space was very dimensional, with little paths winding up hills here and there, taking us to comfortable nooks enclosed with trees. The space had a definite stylized videogame look to it, but even though it wasn’t aiming for realistic visuals, it was probably the most charming and beautiful place I saw during my tour. In the center of town we came across a big monument of a cutlass that was sticking tip-down into the ground. Water cascaded down from the handled in ordered lines, and poured into pools at the base of the monument. Although the entirety of this virtual space was uninhabited at this stage, it called out to be the starting point of a great adventure.
Learn more are Linden Lab’s Sansar ambitions in our deep dive interview.