Second Life studio Linden Lab launches open beta for Sansar, a VR world where you build and monetize your own VR content.
Since its earliest announcement three years ago—but ramping up considerably during the limited preview period this past winter—there’s been quite a bit of chatter about Sansar (formerly codenamed “Project Sansar”). Many have wondered if the project will be able to capture the public consciousness like its forebear—particularly as Second Life founder Philip Rosedale has spent these same years growing High Fidelity, a social VR platform with a totally open-source ecosystem.
Well, wonder no more: today, Sansar enters its open beta. Anybody can sign up and start building for free—and building is exactly what the minds behind Sansar want you to do; that’s why they made it so easy.
“Sansar is completely drag-and-drop,” said Linden Lab VP of Product Bjorn Laurin. “You can create things with normal 3D tools—Maya, 3D max—but you can also just go into the Sansar store. There’s no limit to your creations. It’s for everyone. You can be a hardcore Maya user, for example, and do things, but you can also come in and not know anything.”
Sansar was engineered to be a creator platform for all, allowing users of all experience levels to create and share their experiences.
“Anyone will be able to sign up for free, download Sansar, and go and explore these creations that others have published or get started creating their own,” said Senior Director of Global Communications at Linden Lab Peter Gray. “It’s easy to share your audiences with a link and bring your audience in that way. You can also choose to list your experience in our Atlas directory, which is open to the public. A lot of the experiences that our preview creators have made are listed in that directory where you can browse and explore, from games to educational spaces, historic recreations, sci-fi experiences…it’s just about everything you can imagine.”
This notion builds on ideas that Linden Lab CEO Ebbe Altberg discussed with Kent Bye during last year’s SVVR on the Voices of VR Podcast:
How do I create my VR experience?
VR experiences can be created in a number of different ways—ranging from creating and importing your own 3D assets (ie. Unity, Maya) to purchasing assets from the Sansar Store and building directly from within Sansar. Because the platform is available for both VR and PC—and can be experienced that way as well—users can trust that what they build will have broader reach than VR-specific apps. Of course, what Sansar offers that Second Life never could is the ability to build from within VR.
“One of my favorite experiences in Sansar is building in VR,” said Laurin. “It’s something that’s never been done on this level before. Imagine the room you’re in now—you just have two controllers and move everything with them however you want. It’s kind of fun to move a car in VR, or a big house, or a forest.”
It’s unlike any feeling Gray has ever experienced.
“You’ve got superpowers,” said Gray. “Moving mountains over your head, you can change your size—become a giant and look down at things, or become ant-sized and stand under a leaf and see what it looks like on the ground. Anything is possible.”
Every Sansar experience comes with its own unique link that can be shared across social media channels, blogs, email, or wherever else the creator chooses. Each “instance” of an experience is currently set to allow 35 concurrent avatars—though this number will increase over time—and automated instancing means that the experience can scale as the number of participants increases.
How about the money?
Sansar lets you earn real money from your virtual creations by selling them in the Sansar Store.
“There are a lot of different ways to monetize in Sansar,” said Laurin. “One of them is: you can work in a tool like Maya or 3Ds Max, you create something and upload it to Sansar, we take care of the baking and everything, drag it into your experience, and put it on the Sansare Store and sell it for like a few bucks or whatever price you want to put on it.”
For the creators just looking to purchase assets rather than build their own, Laurin explained that the nature of the large-scale market means these goods will be able to be priced in a way that aligns with the number and habits of the buyers.
“It’s not going to be like [buying] a 3D model today,” said Laurin. “It’s going to be a couple of bucks for a house, for example, one buck for a chair, ten bucks for a car—you set the price.
Down the line, creators will also be able to monetize entire experiences—whether those are social gatherings, games, or other events that don’t even fit into an existing IRL category.
“In the future, you will be able to set up ticketed events in Sansar,” said Laurin. “Set up a concert, set up a club, where you charge membership fees. All that stuff will arrive; it’s something we’re working to have very soon.”
So far, only 2000 creators have been working in the limited preview, and the results are already surprising and delighting the Sansar team.
“People have been creating all kinds of things, from smaller narrative games to historical places,” said Laurin. “In fact, in the store, somebody uploaded all of Stonehenge at natural scale. I bought it for five bucks and put it in one of my experiences.”
In addition TurboSquid has made hundreds of additional high-quality 3D models available in the store, with plans to integrate the company’s StemCell initiative so that the TurboSquid modeling community can easily upload and sell more 3D assets through the Sansar Store.
As to the cost of the platform itself, the beta will be free for everyone to use and to build three experiences. The subscription plans scale up with additional capacity and customer support, starting at $9.99/month.
Because Sansar is a social platform first and foremost, a great deal of development has gone into the more personal aspects of the world(s). As mentioned previously, each experience allows for 35 simultaneous users, with new instances created as more people want to give an experience a go.
Since people care quite a bit about how they look, Sansar has also invested in the availability and customizability of its avatars. A recent partnership with IKinema lends a deeper sense of full-body realism using state-of-the-art inverse kinematics, and another partnership with Speech Graphics will help produce complex facial animation and lip-syncing.
Of course, this is just the beginning of a whole new way of engaging with virtual worlds and virtual creation.
“We’re very excited to be opening the doors to everybody,” said Gray. “We’re extremely proud of Sansar as it is right now, and all the incredible creations that previewers have already made with the platform. It’s still in an early stage, and it’s only going to get better and better; we’re thrilled to expand the number of people who will be able to create in VR now and looking forward to the future as well.”
To dive into the beta, head to the official Sansar page and start building.