Sansar “sans a lot”

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.


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.


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.


A rose by any other name…

Second Life’s Strawberry Singh’s Memes seem to be growing ever popular.  I caught the latest (Reasons for Your SL Name) while browsing through some other friends’ blogs where the subject has been linked or mirrored.  I visited Strawberry’s site to list mine, but the list was already huge so I dropped it on a friend’s site slchatter instead as a starter post there.

I thought though that I would mirror my post here on my own blog because one, I haven’t posted in a long time due to real life, two, my name does have a back story to it and finally three, to wonder how important your name can be and how tied it can be to your online persona.

The 1st Sy Beck

Sy Beck’s first hour in Second Life

So first off, the reason my name is what is…

In a day long ago when instant opinions and comments were but just a twinkle in the future for internet trolls and bloggers people would express their outrage and admiration through a now near defunct media, made of carbon, called a “newspaper” and more particularly through their “readers’ letters” section.

As a small part of my job for a now previous employer my colleagues and I would regularly write faux letters to either represent our cause or defame another to the letters pages. As an amusing sideline to this dreary weekly task we would also attempt/bet to see what was the most ludicrous name and subject matter we could send in and get published, which would exemplify the readership of whichever newspaper we were writing to.

So for example left leaning papers would receive letters from a Mr Ivor Balfelov complaining that too much money was being spent on nuclear missiles aimed at the Soviet Union and not enough on the “East Hackney – Lesbian Pathways into Art, Organic Farming and Motherhood Project.”

My particular favoured target was the right-wing leaning, if not falling over, The Telegraph. A readership so mad and frothing that any novel idea wrapped up in a Union Flag, declared British and guaranteed to annoy Johnny Foreigner would be acclaimed by its readership and therefore most probably printed by the editorial staff.

I had many noms de plume, among then Rufus Heron, who appeared variously as Rear Admiral Rufus Heron, Brigadier Rufus Heron and Rufus Heron Emeritus Professor of Icelandic Studies at the University of Buenos Aires. My favourite though was the Reverend Simony Beckhander of Littlehope Parish, Adelaide, Australia. Who lamented the story of some talented clergymen who end up in the back-end of nowhere while others less talented, but with better connections end up in the plum jobs. I think there had recently been a dubious appointment to some bishopric within the Church of England. Amazingly they didn’t pick up on the double entendre of his name and location and printed it. The following day they issued an apology to readers who had telephoned in to tell them that it was a shameful hoax and that it had been an unfortunate editorial oversight on their part.

Anyway, cutting to the chase, as I developed an online persona I always liked to choose this name as a lucky talisman and a reminder that all is not always as it seems online. As regards Second Life I wasn’t able to choose Beckford, but Beck was available. Surprisingly, Simony Beck wasn’t available then and I didn’t want to be a Simon so I contracted Simony down to Sy and thus Sy Beck was born.


Sy Beck circa 2013 (Photo by Caitlin Tobias)

So there you have it.  While composing the above though and in thought afterwards I was reflecting on the development of my online persona from the early days of internet chat (IRC-yes I’m that old), to forums, to online games and MMOs up to the present with the social media revolution of FB, Twitter et al.

In the early days of IRC I would frequently use my real name and even add my city location on to the end of my name.  I remember many times when I freely passed my phone number and/or address to friends I had made online with the offer of look me up when you are in town. Likewise, others too passed their information to me.  So my persona online then was as real as my real life persona; I was who I was, end of.  Those were the innocent days though and the like of which we will probably never experience again.

Somewhere though in the early to mid 90s it changed, sites you thought you could trust or had everything setup to provide a secure network or database were regularly hacked for lols or darker intent.  At that time I, like many others, started to take all reasonable precautions to my protect my identity and other vital information and not leave it in trust to some faceless internet entity.  Anytime I logged on somewhere I would be inventing a new id or username, I always faked birth dates and home locations whenever I knew it was unnecessary information that was being requested.  In short I was giving away as few clues as possible to any potential exploit.  I then found though that it was becoming increasingly hard for my real friends (online or real life) to actually find me on the net or even know that I was sharing the same forum as them.

So around about the time that MMOs and online gaming were taking off I started to coalesce my various online ids/usernames down to just a few until a few months after I joined Second Life when I decided that my online persona would be known across all the internet places I frequented as Sy Beck or some close a variant as a site would allow me.  He was also given his own email addresses, blogs, Flickr accounts and a PayPal account linked to a bank account that has no relation at all with my own real life banking accounts, has no overdraft facility and which I only top up with cash deposits.  He has become to all intents and purposes a self-standing, self-supporting internet entity.

Is he still me though?  There are times when I wonder.  I’ve certainly said and done things under the guise of Sy Beck that the real life me has felt shame for doing and other times applauded because I’ve known I wouldn’t have been able to do such a thing with my real life persona.  I think in the whole world there are four people who know that Sy Beck is me and would be able to call me up on my phone or come round and knock on my door.

There is though the other real life me on the internet, who has to do his banking and shopping and occasionally chats and broadcasts on FB and Twitter, but he seems to lead a far less exciting and less creative life than Sy Beck.  I can’t say for sure now whether Sy Beck is an extension of me or I become Sy Beck when online.  They are for the most part identical, but the differences can be acute.  It is an astonishing thing though to join a new gaming or online environment and have somebody whisper you to ask if you are the same Sy Beck from either; Second Life, InWorldz, Steam, WoW or some other internet area and then to proudly respond, “yeah, that’s ME.”