Tuesday, February 16, 2016

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Project Sansar Faces Heavy Competition from Major 3D Platforms & Needs "Something Special" to Survive

3D VR platforms

Longtime 3D content creator Dartagan Shepherd had some really incisive comments to make after I posted that side-by-side comparison on Project Sansar and Amazon Lumberyard, arguing that it points to the even greater competitive market Linden Lab's new virtual world faces:

Sure, the capabilities of the engine and tooling is important. I think the screenshot comparison tells part of the tale quite well.

One of the problems with Sansar is that they're coming into the existing game engine market (or an experience engine, if it makes Linden Lab feel better) partway through the game engine pricing wars.

Unity3d had been expensive, as had CryEngine. Unreal Engine came out pretty recently, replacing their UDK product first at $19/month and then knocked it down to completely free with 5% revenue share.

CryEngine went subscription for drastically less, Unity3D dropped their prices, and now Amazon comes out with a free alternative based on their hosting and services model.

How can Sansar compete against all that? Mr. Shepherd suggests some steps:

Sansar is probably going to try to stick with their same monetization by selling currency and their associated sinks, as well as hosting costs and a much higher percentage of their content marketplace as well as whatever other sinks and services.

There's even a more obscure engine called Hero Engine that already has collaborative live game building that handles game currency, handles the hosting, etc.

Facebook and Google are likely to come out with game/VR tools as well with their own business models, and possibly some surprise players will enter the market over the next year or two.

So for people not familiar with Second Life, but familiar with mesh and content creation, game programming, animation, etc., they know that Sansar doesn't exist in a bubble and that there are other choices.

These people will be looking at issues such as not only who has the best rendering capabilities, but also who has the best business model for my game/experience, what platforms does the engine port my game/experience to, what are the restrictions.

By the way, if that Linden Lab Terms of Service comes along for the ride with Sansar? It's going to be a no-go for a lot of people.

But yes, Sansar is coming into a market where people have options. It's not the only walled garden in town that Second Life was and it will have to find a niche or good business model because it won't be able to compete with some of these companies that already have better product, more employees dedicated to engine development and more money to throw at it.

It can be done without being the best engine, but they've got to have something special to offer and be far more transparent. If they handle Sansar with the same attitude that they handle Second Life, it's going to bite them.

There may be hope yet for a metaverse.

This echoes a point made about Sansar by a longtime VR executive: "Community rules. Fidelity does not." Sansar is the only platform trying to be both a professional 3D platform and a consumer community, and far as I know, the only one planned to have its own internal virtual currency and marketplace (which by definition, implies community, at least on the economic level). For that reason, community is the very thing Linden Lab has to get right, and right at launch. Because without it, Sansar has no competitive edge.

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Iggy

I mean, what could go wrong? Linden Lab did such a stellar job maintaining community in Second Life...cough, hack...just ask us educators.

Ezra

What would Second Life need right now to retain all the sign-ups that go down the drain every month? Two things:


1. A viewer that runs at 30-60 FPS at the system requirements advertised.

2. The ability to create on a full region level without it costing $295 a month.


Sure, Second Life's graphics are dated, but not matching Unity, Unreal or CryEngine in graphics probably isn't high on the list of the thousands of sign-ups each month that quit Second Life almost immediately.

As usual, talking about performance problems and tier are old and boring issues, so false dichotomies like graphics compared to game engines are appealing to wonder about, but all Linden Lab has to do with Sansar is make sure the client runs at 30 FPS or higher for most and "land" or whatever it will be called not cost so much.

I know it's up to debate the quality of the 400k sign-ups Linden Lab has said it receives a month for Second Life; whether its mostly bots or alts or whatever, but Second Life has proven the unique things about it like the built-in economy, built-in social network with all its social features, built-in distributed asset management system, all these things are Second Life's unique draw and can become Sansar's distinction from things like Lumberyard.

Sansar already has it's "something special", a carryover of all the things that make Second Life great. It just needs to be without all the things that make Second Life bad, that cause people to never launch the viewer again after week 1.

joe

Haw haw.

cyberserenity

How many companys have two major hit products? Very few. Second life was a great success. Do that again? Naahh. My hope is that all the things the Lab learns developing Sansar will filter down into SL.

JohnC

"For that reason, community is the very thing Linden Lab has to get right, and right at launch. Because without it, Sansar has no competitive edge"
Well there you go then, what we are talking about here is a leopard not only having to change its spots but become a completely different creature. Textures.com, on of the biggest free sources of game textures on the planet, used by all the big game companies, and used by me for years, still has a section in it's FAQ that bans the use of its textures in SL or other LL products. Does this not bother LL that their reputation outside of their own dwindling community is through the floor. Take a read of the Daz or Renderosity forums and you get the same reaction. It is, maybe unfairly, seen as a cheap and nasty place where dedicated designers get ripped off. How do they intend to repair that reputation before they attempt to start anew in the real world. They made their money by creating a closed market where anything created could only be used in their world. But now they want people who have real world saleable skills to create for them. If you are good enough to create mesh assets, then you are good enough to join a real game development company, or create for an established mesh marketplace. And as things stand, telling a potential client or prospective employer that you created assets for SL, has either no effect at all, gets you a “you poor thing” smile, or is best not mentioned for fear of ridicule. Success can of course be measured purely in financial terms, and LL can surely claim that prize, but if you do so then in many cases some of the worse examples of humanity can be held up as icons of industry.

Joe Guy

Perhaps a better question is, why do people quit Second Life after the first week?

There's a bottleneck there, that needs to be opened.

Issa Heckroth

"For that reason, community is the very thing Linden Lab has to get right, and right at launch. Because without it, Sansar has no competitive edge."

Were all doomed.

Clara Seller

Yes, this whole Sansar scenario may end up playing out like a fable for LL all the way back to Philip Linden. Something about running away from home will doom you to failure. You know, sometimes it takes a village to make you successful.

It's looking more and more like the Debbie Downers were actually seeing the writing on the wall, about Sansar, long ago and far away.

Maybe that fable will also include something about blaming, shaming, and casting away the truth in favor of getting in good with the mean girls crowd. Their silence has been deafening lately.

Pathfinder

I still look at http://www.lindenlab.com/careers now and then, idly hoping to see some interesting community development positions. Virtual worlds and their communities are still in my blood, and I'd love a chance to help something like Sansar grow like SL did in its heyday.

I wish tech companies would understand that community development + technical development are two things that need to happen *simultaneously*.

zz bottom

Inara's Pay, sadly someone who claims to sail and fly, still advocates as Ebbe, the no ned for a global map on Sansar.
They really should say this:
Sansar is not to replace Sl but to replace Hypergrided open sim.

metacam oh

I still feel like there is an opening for a game engine / virtual world that is easy enough for everyday people. Lumberyard isn't there yet. HiFi I can't even get to load, let alone learn the complicated process to do anything there. Theres just nothing close to what SL was for creating a 3d environment for the everyday person. I cant afford Maya or 3ds, and I dont know C++ but I was able to teach myself javascript and LSL. I still think this niche is there. The everyday person who wants a plot of virtual land is not going to use Lumberyard or Unreal engine etc etc

dante

I have not seen anything about sansar that makes me want to even try it out. I don't know where they got the idea that we were all into canned 'experience', but i can tell you that is not remotely interesting to me, or most of the people i know.
Those of us that aren't big time creators aren't seeing much of interest in this new world at all, especially since it's looking like we will have to be using some program out-of-world to create even the simplest things.

I'll be happily at home in SL, puttering around, going to live music shows, talking to my friends, meeting new people, exploring the grid - all the wonderful things we do there in spite of the problems, till they turn off the lights. From there, i have no idea, but i doubt it will be sansar

pussycat catnap

As horrific as Linden Lab is at doing community management, they're the only one even trying.

The competition sees this all as a bunch of corporate sandboxes to demo the new car at the annual auto show, or to show off the new pharmacy drug, or to tour you around a building plan.

Linden Lab made a community, even if not doing the best job at it and at several points in time actually trying to kill it off so they could instead... showcase the new car at the auto show...

But Linden Lab also learned, from brutal failure, that nobody really wants to see the new car at the auto show in a 3D world, and nobody really wants to demo the pharmacy drug or well... assorted other corp uses.

Or rather they might... but that use is limited and short term. Sure a LOT of VR options will chase it, but none of them are chasing the community...

Linden Lab might try again to abandon community - but if they do they will be just another fish in the pond.

They may suck at doing community, but it looks like at least in generation 2 of VR, they will again have no competition.

Generation 2 is going to be where all of the other companies realize why isolated disconnected showcases are not going be the way to make it big as a commercial product. As open source, free, or adware - sure. But Minecraft owns that space on the 'regular user' end... though the professional user is still up for grabs.

We will probably see the 'corporate VR' be dominated by a player like Google that makes it free in exchange for mining your data for analytics info and putting adverts on the gateway app.

Generation 2's community world likely will be Sansar, and it will have just as mismanaged a community as generation 1's SL has had... but somehow thrive because the tech industry still doesn't get it... and won't bother to try competing.

zz bottom

Pussycat, the latest developments on the banning of Sl users, makes all fear that not even in Sansar LL will ever be successful in managing Users expectations.
Right now, LL is treating its customers un a manner this is utterly unacceptable.
See Mona's latest post, even Her could not have a good word about this subject.
How can any right now, feel any hope for Sansar?

Bandor Tyrell

As a long time SL user, creator and also a developer of Unity, Cryengine and now Lumberyard, I am rabidly awaiting Sansar. For me it represents the happy medium between the power and graphics of a real 3D game engine with the ease of use, in world creation and absolute flexibility of Second Life. My concern is that it is being made by Linden Labs. Will normal people actually be able to afford to use it? That remains to be seen.

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