Second Life 2: Project Sansar is Coming
Peter Grey of Linden Labs, was kind enough to respond to our interview request, giving us information about Second Life’s super-secret big brother that’s under development to take advantage of all the recent advances in Virtual Reality technology. The gurus at Oculus have told us that they see virtual reality as the next big computing platform, and are preparing an infrastructure that can scale to host billions of people, including extensive virtual worlds. Linden Labs has been on the forefront of this, and has developed extensive tools that give the public ability to be creative or social.
I personally loved Second Life the moment it came out, because I had a similar idea 15-16 years ago. At one point I had a meeting with two friend of mine, one of which is a VP at Microsoft and the other worked in Microsoft Research in advanced graphics. I imagined a world where people could each have their own piece of land and could build whatever they wanted to show their creativity. They thought I was nuts, and accused me of having a “Steve Jobs reality distortion field.” Now, conventional wisdom is different and everyone recognizes the value of giving the masses a way to build and create something.
Second Life is now over 12 years old, based on technology from two decades ago, and was never made with today’s VR in mind. So it’s a no-brainer that they’d be working on a successor using the latest and greatest tools, focusing on what they know works and eliminating what doesn’t.
So, here’s the interview… not too much radically new information was given to us, but we can see a bit of where they’re heading with this, and hopefully we won’t have to wait much longer before we get some details about what’s new, different, and better about Second Life’s new universe.
Asked and Answered:
1. Do you have a planned release date upon which the public can start beta testing?
We’ll begin inviting our first alpha users to begin creating on Project Sansar (our codename for the new platform for user-created virtual experiences) next month, and we’ll gradually expand the number of early adopters as we go along. We don’t anticipate a open beta before the end of this year.
2. Do you have any images you’re prepared to release showing the (assumed) new and improved graphics?
We have shown a piece of concept art (attached), but as eager as we are to give the world a peek at what’s possible with the new platform (it’s already looking great!), we’re still holding off on sharing images from Project Sansar for the time being.
3. Will more bandwidth be required and do you anticipate a minimum to run the new system?
It’s still too early to share what the minimum specifications or bandwidth requirements will be for the new platform. For the initial alpha we’ll kick off this summer, it will probably have a relatively narrow supported minimum specification, but of course that will broaden as we move forward.
4. How do you think opening a new and improved world that’s not backward-compatible will affect the old one? Will it feel like a dying world, sad and abandoned? Do you expect your current user base to quickly jump onto the new ship, despite all that’s already been built on the current Second Life world?
Second Life is not going away, and we’ll continue to improve it as we are doing today. Even once we open Project Sansar up to everyone, it will run in parallel with Second Life and users will be able to continue to enjoy Second Life while exploring the new platform.
Project Sansar will be in the spirit of Second Life in that users will create their own virtual experiences, but it’s not a replacement or sequel, and there may be users that prefer to continue to use Second Life and find it meets their specific needs and interests better than our new platform.
5. Will users of the current world be able to easily port some of their creations, such as buildings, into the new world?
We can’t promise complete backward compatibility with all content, but if users have imported meshes into Second Life, they should be able to import those same original files to create on the new platform.
6. Can you talk about some of the technical improvements to the new world, such as larger texture sizes, or more polygons available for avatars?
There will be many advancements and differences when compared to Second Life, but at this point, it’s still too soon for us to share details about the new technology and capabilities of Project Sansar.
What we can say at this point is that the new platform will enable creators to make things at a greater quality and scale, reach larger audiences, and create bigger businesses; experiences created on the new platform will be more accessible (including via multiple devices) and will be optimized for VR headsets; it will be easier to use; and it will have a much lower barrier to entry for those who want to start creating virtual experiences.
7. Oculus is incorporating Nimble into the consumer rift, so are you doing the same, and will there be improved interactions between avatars? For example, could you push another avatar’s shoulder and expect him to fall backward on that side of his body? Or could you lift an avatar’s hair? I’m very curious to know what you are sure you can accomplish, and what you hope to accomplish in this regard. The severe limitation of not being able to feel anything seems to affect this a lot, but I think this aspect of the new world could create the most magic and immersion.
We’re experimenting with a variety of new technologies to make avatar interactions on our new platform even more engaging, from the ways they interact with the environment to the ways in which they communicate with others.
Thanks, and if there’s anything else you’d like to tell us for the article, we’d love to hear about it.
We encourage anyone interested in VR to try out the Oculus Rift with Second Life. Second Life isn’t quite an ideal VR experience – there are frame-rate limitations, for example – but the virtual world has a huge range of user-created, interactive, social experiences to explore – from musical performances to games, art, theater, education, shopping, roleplay, and much more – and all of it is accessible with the Oculus Rift. And, if you’re interested in creating your own VR experiences today, SL is a great test-bed for you to experiment with.
Also, Linden Lab is hiring! Creating Project Sansar, the future platform for user-created virtual experiences is an ambitious undertaking with some interesting engineering challenges to solve. We’re uniquely positioned as the only company that’s already successfully done something similar, and we’re looking for even more talented people to join us as we move ahead. Check out our job listings on our website: http://www.lindenlab.com/careers