“Rydell had a theory about virtual real estate. The smaller and cheaper the physical site of a given operations, the bigger and cheesier the website. According to this theory, Selwyn F.X. Tong, notary public, of Kowloon, was probably operating out of a rolled-up newspaper.”
William Gibson, All Tomorrow’s Parties
Wheeling around Second Life a couple weeks ago, I noticed that the majority of the love that Linden Labs once put into the virtual world had migrated to the company’s latest project – Sansar. And then I discovered it was in open beta testing. Time to make an avatar…
After selecting a flavor of hipster dipshit from a short list of preconfigured beardless children, I started jumping into a few sims … er, “Experiences.” Sansar is being built with the idea that it will be experienced on a VR headset plugged into bleeding edge hardware. I toured it on a 1050p monitor with a GTX 1050 Ti and an Xbox controller. Your mileage may vary.
Overall, Sansar is impressive in a very limited way. Linden did away with many of the conceits that weighed the Second Life experience down, such as the idea of a cohesive world, crazy freedom of movement, instantaneous transportation to half-loaded sims, prim-based graphics, “land” purchasing, and … a “second” life with ridiculous character names.
With it’s thumbnail-based browser, discreet sims, and default user spaces, Sansar borrows a lot from the now-defunct Playstation Home. It’s no surprise to see Home veteran Loot appearing on Sansar celebrating the 50-year anniversary of the Apollo moon landings with two of the best showcase sims I’ve seen on the platform:
With a healthy dose of imagination on my limited setup, this is where I can see Sansar truly shining. A VR-focused virtual world with easy development tools really could bring virtual museums and even virtual “real” places into the eyeballs of students or disabled individuals who would not otherwise be able to experience them. The Egyptian tombs rendered with near photorealistic quality by Linden Labs also highlights this potential:
The demos and experiments available on the service today strongly highlight Sansar’s far more modern rendering potential for fantasy spaces and impossible architecture:
But, never fear, thanks to a very accessible personal space customization interface, Second Life’s shitpost aesthetic is still alive and well:
There are no robo-strippers or sex balls littering the landscape just yet. Sansar’s scripting is pretty rudimentary, mostly consisting of objects that can play audio and visual media or teleport you to other parts of an experience or another experience entirely.
And there are bugs. Oh, the bugs. Experiences frequently fail to load. The game controller setup reverses the X axis on the camera stick, and there is no option to change that. I’ve seen fare share of crashes.
But, overall, Sansar appears to be avoiding mistakes of the past and trying to create the virtual world of the, hopefully, VR-powered future.