25 August 2017

Project Sansar - First Impressions

I've been signed up the Sansar Closed Beta for months but other projects meant I never had the time to go play. Now it's in Open Beta (and so we can talk about it) I thought it was about time I checked it out.

What Sansar doesn't offer (in comparison to SL) is a single shared world - this is far more a "build your space and let people visit" model. It also doesn't offer in-world building (just placement of imported or bought object), or in-world scripting (and scripting is in C++ and needs to be re-imported everytime you make a change, so it looks like a very long development cycle!). What is does offer is (as did SL) is multi-user (well at least multi-avatar), and VR support out of the box. Avatar choices are limited but look OK with some nice facial customisations, but only about 8 outfits (and no colour options!).

VR and using the teleport movement - see light beam

The navigation model is horrendous (in my view) - the camera usually giving a sideways view til you'd been walking for ages. You couldn't use cursor keys to rotate your view on the spot - very much built for gamers with keyboard in one hand, first person view and mouse in the other. Couldn't find a run or fly control so walking around too ages. There is a nearby-TP option where you can point to a place and jump there - but a very short range.

The actual spaces looked pretty good - but they are just imports of 3D models so no reason not to. But interactivity was non-existent in the ones I saw - probably due to the complexity of the scripting. Almost all of them also seemed very dark - they give you lights for your scenes but it seems like many people aren't using them well.

The one location that was stunning (especially in VR) was the Apollo Museum - with a really nicely done earth-moon trajectory and little CM/LEM models all along it and audio to show you what was going on - a superb VR demo.

Having done a quick tour I decided to try building so chose one of the ~8 base locations. Rather than buy from the store I decided to upload some FBX models - which was pretty smooth except for the fact that it appears they only get textured if the textures are PNG - and even then the ones I tried ended up all candy-striped!

One of the biggest issues for me though was that you had no avatar when building - so lose all sense of scale. No issue if you're a 3D artist, but for an SL renegade like me I can never get on with building without myself as a reference. Once you've done the build you save and then "build" - which can take a minute or so, before you can play (another minute or so), so again a slow iterative build process (and the "professional" builds were taking ~5 mins each to download.

Finally I wanted to try scripting. Before I started this morning (as as I tweeted) I thought I might be able to get a Sansar script talking to the bot I was working on, or even one of our PIVOTE APIs. No chance! Sansar scripts are pure C#. It seems at the moment you must edit outside (Notepad or Visual Studio), then import, attach, then build then run - it would take ages to do anything. The C# calls to interact with the environment also look non-trivial (subscribing to changes etc), and only a small subset of Mono/C# functions are supported - not the range that Unity has - so no web calls! There's no way that people will have an easy transition from LSL to Sansar CS - it's a whole extra level up.

So overall - massively underwhelmed. High Fidelity certainly looks far more interesting from a technical standpoint and is closer to an SL#2 - but even that doesn't have the single world thing. AltSpaceVR (if you added object import/placement) is far closer to what I thought that Sansar would be - and the WebGL enclosure idea was/is a superb way to create interactive 3D/VR content at minimal effort. The whole Sansar experience felt like working through treacle, whether exploring or building, - although in first person in VR at least the explore bit was quick.

What it did make me appreciate is what we've done with Fieldscapes. Using that has never felt slow. Its very quick to layout, add interactivity, test and explore - things just flow. And if people want to spend the time then there is no reason why you shouldn't have the same level of eye-candy as the Sansar spaces. But there is just no way that I can see Sansar being a training/education tool - you'd use native Unity or Fieldscapes or something similar, more power or higher ease of use, rather than Sansar which appears to cripple both. And the spaces don't have the immediacy of the AltSpaceVR ones, or the ease of build of the SL ones, so I don't see more casual users taking to it in great numbers. Perhaps if I had loads of time, was a coder/3d artist and wanted to build some sort of fan-space it might be a place to do it, but somehow I doubt even that.

No comments:

Post a Comment