So Sansar is finally open beta and everybody is free of any previous NDA and we can talk openly and freely. So let’s talk open and freely…
So where to start? From a newbie crossover from SL (Second Life) or from somebody who happens across Sansar in the next few months? Let’s start from the first prospect as it is from there that most will dip their toe in from.
EXISTING SL USER
All SL users give up any idea/hope that Sansar is SL V2.0; it is not! To be fair, LL flagged up very early that this was not their intent and in that respect they have proven to be true to their word. So if you were expecting a world of contiguous sims, a world wide chat system and a basic inventory as minimum then you are going to be sorely disappointed as none of this exists at present. Whether this will be developed to my mind is unsure as basics functions like these one would think would be a given requirement in a platform that they tout as “revolutionary”. As a regular SL user I would find it hard to say why you would want to invest time in this platform. Each Experience (sim) that you can visit at the moment has been created by a trusted and experienced Maya (3D software) creator in SL and if touted as revolutionary then it is also woeful. This is not the fault of the creators it is the fault of Sansar in not being able to give them the full modern array of tools that would show off their genius and ingenuity. To date I have not seen one “experience” that has caught my breath. I should state at this point that I’m not VR enabled and this maybe a capture point that I cannot appreciate, however it will be a point that many will also not be able to appreciate for many years into the future.
So what does it offer that maybe familiar? Well visually what you might expect in SL. A well crafted sim that you can look at; in most cases. Scripted interactions are extremely basic in a few and absent in most that I experienced. There is no camera function where you can pan around an “experience” instead you have to walk in prescribed vectors and speeds (Can you fly? Not anywhere I went) and therefore the feel is totally alien from SL or any game environment for that matter; this not revolutionary but retrograde.
Graphics wise it is a very “slight” improvement from SL in that a very limited use of PBR is enabled. This gives a graphics feel of a game originating from 2010 and again is not revolutionary but retrograde to modern standards of the art. This personally was the most disappointing aspect of Sansar. If it was going to be creator based then all the tools of a modern based game engine should have been given to creators to create wonders. Instead they are crippled by the tools on offer, which other platforms/game engines can offer them. Instead you find most experiences playing with lighting to increase effects on a scene rather than experimenting with PBR maps on their models for better enhanced effects.
Communication as it stands at the moment is non-existent. As far as I could tell you could only communicate with people who were in the same “experience” as you and seeing as few people were there in beta then I never saw or was able to speak to anybody; let alone communicate with a network of friends.
NEW TO SANSAR AND CREATION
I have grouped these two together because an existing SL user and a newbie Sansar user will experience the same.
When I was offered a beta creator place (late in the process) I had already seen promo videos from Sansar saying that it would be very newbie friendly. So when the invite came in an email there was a link to a starter tips weblink. However they had already said it was newbie friendly so I decided to jump in without going to the link to see how intuitive it was. I’m a 10yr+ SL resident and have owned Maya for 5 years so if it was intuitive this should be easy for me yes? No! Importing was easy for me, but was incomprehensible to my son and partner and all three of us had no clue how to even see or what to do with a model or the interface once it was imported. After visiting the tutorial link I understood what to do but my partner and son were still at a loss having no SL or 3D previous experience. This is NOT newbie friendly and needs substantive work to my mind if Sansar wants to attract and hold new visitors! Early SL was a learning curve but there was far more help than what exists in Sansar at the moment.
As regards a new user experiencing Sansar I can report that the overwhelming response from my family was, “What does it do?” they understand sandboxes, but for what purpose is Sansar? As a long time user I can understand if it was moving towards a SL V2.0, but if it’s not that what is Sansar trying to achieve?
If not a SL V2.0 then it’s trying to be a game engine like Unreal or Unity and not even offering half the tools that those platforms do or it’s trying to be like those with all the bells and whistles of SL that it has failed to bring across.
As far as I can see Sansar had no idea what it wanted to be, no idea what it is and has no clue where it is going with the limited features it has. SL was the best thing at its moment in time, Sansar is the worst thing at this moment of time; it is neither this and neither that, it is some of what’s gone and a little of what is.