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Thursday, May 11, 2017

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MARGARET

Does he plan to advertise the world outside of this website? I think it has a lot of potential but nobody knows about it. Also the avatars look a little bit goofy. I think they need a lot of work. They don't really hold up to most SL avatars with mesh bodies, heads etc.

Are the avatars final? The people I've seen talking about space were turned off by how cartoony they were.

Also are there any plans to incentivise creators to join? They probably wont until they can make money in it or until SL goes down under, which might be sooner rather than later.

I think after sansar goes public a huge chunk of people will realize that it is not for them at all and might start looking for an SL replacement, and I think he should take advantage of that.

I have a lot more faith in space than I do in sansar that's for sure. I think they should advertise heavily. They really could knock SL off its undeserved "throne". It's everything SL should be in 2017, but isnt.

YsabelleStewart

Hmm, I might try this place out of curiosity. Have a looksee.

One question per user per hour? I just had to cut my list there! Will need to think about this, but some of the questions I have are probably very easy to answer: sim size, sea depth, altitude. (Sneaking a few in there.) However, if I had to pick one, it might be on the specs since we were pondering whether Sansar's specs would be too high for a lot of people.

I'd also.... pushing my luck here... ask about building and whether it's pretty much the same as SL, or whether Space is going for a mesh builder like Sansar seems to be doing.

Adam

Hey there!

Q: "is Space competing against Second Life, or Sansar, or both, or neither?"

Definitely a interesting first question! And an excuse for me to ramble on a tangent!

I think all of the above, and none of the above. If I was pushed, I'd say SL, over Sansar; but ultimately, Space is the platform I'd like to build for myself first.

I come from a lot of older virtual worlds, including Second Life, and prior to that, ActiveWorlds, Blaxxun and Microsoft Virtual Worlds (they launched a cool one back in 1999 which was years ahead of its time. Seriously^.), I've been floating around this space for about 20 years now.

Second Life got a lot of things really right - it briefly hit mass-market and floated into the public consciousness; the first time a virtual world really did that. What, in my personal opinion they got wrong, was a reliance on DIY - every wheel had to be reinvented; and as a result, the interactive entertainment industry passed it by as the technology was out-paced.

If I see good ideas, I am absolutely willing to say 'Hey, they got that right, let's not break a good thing.'; so - we've definitely been inspired by a lot of the best parts of SL (and there's still more we have to implement in the future to get them all). Likewise, we've looked at where SL regressed from other worlds (e.g. a reliance on home-made tools and workflows) and tried not to repeat those mistakes. Experience and hindsight is a wonderful thing.

I don't know enough about Sansar to see where they're going with it - I'm still not sure on the ultimate target market; so I can't really say how we're competing - but we are all hovering in the same 'make VWs accessible space' so some comparisons will be inevitable.

My personal goals with Space are to try break into mass market in a big way. To do that, we've got a few primary focuses:

1- Enable really good quality content. (Check our flickr pool! https://www.flickr.com/groups/sinewavespace/ ) --- this also means supporting artists (and programmers) to work the way they want to.

Game and movie industry artists have been working for 20+ years now on things like physically based rendering, and ultra-high quality fast, easy, and efficient workflows -- we've chosen an off-the-shelf game engine to power our content (and regularly keep it up to date!), because we want to take advantage of all that learning. We ask those same groups of artists for tools feedback.

It also means staying on top of new technologies - we don't think they're ready for prime-time yet, but we've got a working VR test build and a mix of Oculus and Vive headsets in our offices. We've got a feature roadmap spanning the next two years which includes all sorts of goodies for developers (and users).

I want people who build things to be able to make them look their best, perform their best, and finally - deliver them to a wide audience, which brings me to...

2- Make it accessible! We've got a HTML5 client (which is still a beta work in progress) which makes space accessible in the browser in a more basic rendering mode. We've got mobile clients under development at the moment.

But, there's more than that. Accessibility also means making the client accessible to people who've never visited virtual worlds before, or played games. Things like click-to-walk, and big heavily labelled user interfaces. We want total strangers to be able to get acquainted in their first session and not say to themselves "ack! Confusing! How do I do this!?"

The ultimate virtual world is going to be something you can access anywhere, any time, in an optimised manner.

3- Listen to our users and make sure we're working together with everyone involved in the platform to make it successful. We've got three permanent 24/7 chat groups now where anyone can hop in, and ask a question - all our senior management and developers are in these groups. If something is blocking your progress, we want to know about it. Even as we get bigger, I really want to keep this a key part of our company culture.

Ultimately to answer your question directly - I think at the moment we're closer to SL; we've really tried to get that "use case" down and working solid before we expand it too much to the other potential uses of the platform (because as I said above - SL got a lot of stuff really right), but longer term, we really want to be a fantastic way for artists, developers, creators to share (and sell) with new and existing audiences; and that is going to open the door to a much wider potential future - something truly huge.

^ - http://web.archive.org/web/19990508100017/http://research.microsoft.com:80/vwg/">http://research.microsoft.com:80/vwg/">http://web.archive.org/web/19990508100017/http://research.microsoft.com:80/vwg/

(I see a couple more questions above - I'll answer them next, sorry - taking me a little while to compose these responses properly!)

Adam

Q: "Does he plan to advertise the world outside of this website? I think it has a lot of potential but nobody knows about it."
--

Yep! We're starting some more marketing campaigns at the moment - we've been waiting before we had scripting and inworld building in place before we really started those. But absolutely. (and as shameless plug aside - if you run a blog or site that covers virtual worlds, feel free to reach out!)

--
Q: "Also the avatars look a little bit goofy. I think they need a lot of work. They don't really hold up to most SL avatars with mesh bodies, heads etc. Are the avatars final? The people I've seen talking about space were turned off by how cartoony they were."
--

The avatars aren't quite final yet - no - we've been doing a bit of work on two fronts; the first we're working on getting skin rendering looking a bit better. The "cartoony" look we've got at the moment is a side-effect of the enhanced realism our platform can offer.

Specifically the problem comes down to: if we render realistically, you look ugly. It's a very "warts and all" experience - virtual worlds have up until now kind of cultivated a very distinct "look" - it's kind of heavy on the makeup and photoshop. Compounding this (to get technical!) is a lighting issue - if we render lighting accurately, you end up with dark spots in unlit areas that again, look kinda ugly -- the alternative is making the avatars look like they're made of plastic or clay; which isn't great either.

I've been spending some time personally on writing a set of shaders which I'm hoping solves the issue of how 'skin' renders; you can see some pictures here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/144994874@N05/33683633442/in/pool-sinewavespace/ - my goal with these has been faking the lighting 'just enough' that it looks good, but still doesn't look out-of-place in lit or unlit conditions.

The second aspect we've been concentrating on has been body sliders - we've been adding around 180 (I think?) body sliders to our avatar. The key here has been making it work with clothing transparently.

A big issue with sliders and existing solutions was it required a lot of work for creators to inter-operate with, and once an item was uploaded, we couldn't add new sliders that would work with older items. We're working on a new technique which form-fits clothing to avatars (we already do this to delete 'skin' underneath clothing; this is just a souped up evolution) - that way creators don't need to additional work to 'make it work'.

You can see some semi-NSFW examples of the new sliders here on the base skeletons: https://www.flickr.com/photos/144994874@N05/albums/72157680605406623 -- just be aware, this is a really limited selection, the full release includes a lot more.

One of the related features we also need to add is a better tattoo/skin layers system. That's on the agenda, but will probably come in a later release (body sliders is much further up the in-progress chain)

Honestly - long term, we will always be trying to improve our avatars further; because we're not interested in our platform looking dated in ten years time. That's going to be a ongoing and continual investment in the underlying technology (and being based on an ever-evolving graphics engine helps too!)

--
Q: "Also are there any plans to incentivise creators to join? They probably wont until they can make money in it or until SL goes down under, which might be sooner rather than later."
--

We already do! We've done our first payout to creators already, but the market place is live. We're still building an end-user audience - so it might be a little while before you can live off a space income, but we're absolutely all about getting creators onboard and making that possible.

Some of the big issues with marketplaces we're trying to take care of - making sure our marketplace is a trustworthy place full of legitimate creators and content. There's a bit more on that on our websites if you want to know more. (or ask here, I'll happily expound volumes!)

Adam

Q: "One question per user per hour? I just had to cut my list there! Will need to think about this, but some of the questions I have are probably very easy to answer: sim size, sea depth, altitude. (Sneaking a few in there.) However, if I had to pick one, it might be on the specs since we were pondering whether Sansar's specs would be too high for a lot of people."
--

Specs - we've tried to keep things low - we're not requiring a 970+; my main development machine is a nVidia 770 (I've also got a nice new 1080 machine...), and a few of our internal users are on various intel chipsets. Our graphics settings button in the lower-right (the gear icon) can let you tune things to between a 10 year old PC, and a modern day rig.

I don't know we've got enough data to publish formal specs yet, but it seems to be any mid-range PC in the last 5-6 years is good. Older can work, especially if you dial the settings back (reflections is often a performance killer); and newer definitely works (and lets you crank all the nice effects on).

--
Q: "I'd also.... pushing my luck here... ask about building and whether it's pretty much the same as SL, or whether Space is going for a mesh builder like Sansar seems to be doing."
--

OK, so this is a point of divergence with what SL does, and something we've been discussing a _lot_ lately.

The "problem" with inworld build tools is we can never do as good a job as Autodesk, Blender or anyone else for that matter. All the major 3D products have hundreds or thousands of developers and testers, and years of feedback. The benefit of inworld tools is that you can make simple stuff easily, and also build 'live'.

Recently we added our inworld build tools - those are part of the new 'Floorplan' Room Editor, they've been built for people to use a interface that is part Unity3D, part "Fallout 4", part "The Sims" -- it involves using things like prefab pieces (and if they are designed to slot together, you can use snap nodes, or the automatic alignment tools to do just that).

But, they are limited to pastiche - you can only build by using another developers content (e.g. someone can sell a pack of walls or ceilings); which is similar to how mesh in SL operates.

True inworld building, ideally would be better than primitives - something using true procedural modelling tools similar to the ProBuilder and Archimatix tools for Unity3d which I've both been playing with lately. Powerful, but still easy to use.

I really can't promise the 'when' on that - it's something we're considering, but we've got a fairly full-up roadmap for the next while, and this'd be a big feature if we added it; but I absolutely get where it's "good" -- the key is, when we do it, I want it done right. I want a solution that'll stand the test of time, 10 years later, as being the sensible solution. We've got a lot of history to look back on of where things have been done well, and where they've been done poorly.

That said - I do know our "full on" build tools (which involve firing up the unity editor) do have a learning curve, so we're looking at some ways we can simplify that for developers, so you can get started faster. (The downside to a toolset with 10,000 tools - is learning it all can take some time, and it can seem a bit daunting --- the payoff is it looks great, and takes much less time once you do.)

YsabelleStewart

Hi Adam, thanks for your answers. There's a lot to process. Accessibility seems a big issue, so I liked what you had to say about that. And I was interested in the reference to a trustworthy MP since some creators in SL are issuing constant takedown notices. Good customer service on both that and in general are vital to retain user confidence.

It all sounds very exciting, and I liked the Welcome Region photo on Flickr. Nice realism there. I didn't know the problems behind getting avatars realistic, so interesting to read about that. The body sliders though should offer a lot of flexibility.

I'll probably sign up and see what the place is like!

Adam

Thanks! (Yeah - I should have been given a word count in my answers. Haha.)

Our marketplace is basically a audited marketplace - we know everyone who has content for sale on it. Payouts only happen once we definitely know who you are; it means uploading ripped content is both harder, and you're much less likely to profit from it. Technical solutions really can't work to stop content theft - only good policing and policy can; so we've built with that baked into the design.

Re: Lighting - it's a hugely complex topic, you'd be stunned at the work done even in real life cinematography, to keep people out of direct light, and to add hidden lights to ensure things look right on film.

The key in virtual worlds is doing the same thing, in a way which looks visually consistent (a big reason our stuff looks cartoony in space right now, is because it's contrasting more realistic lighting used on scenes and items - but if dropped the same lighting model into an older renderer; it'd look good) - I really could talk for hours just on this topic alone (and I have, if you catch me at 2AM in our main creator chat...)

Bacon & Eggs


Are you actively seeking development money to expand & accelerate your project? Are you seeking business backers on the professional level such as high fidelity has done.

For some we have to see your idea being invested in from the top before we can take the time,effort & resources to diverge from our lucrative business in SL to invest in from the bottom.

(tiny 2nd question)

Why no great voxel build tools like in Landmark? are you stuck on the idea that only imported content & a marketplace can generate the best revenue stream? did not those ideas have a double edge sword effect in Second Life/OpenSim.

(tiny 3nd question)

Have you considered offering those left behind in OpenSim maybe life boat of sorts with incentives to come in Space? maybe a migration option?

Adam

Q: "Are you actively seeking development money to expand & accelerate your project? Are you seeking business backers on the professional level such as high fidelity has done.

For some we have to see your idea being invested in from the top before we can take the time,effort & resources to diverge from our lucrative business in SL to invest in from the bottom."
--

We're VC backed already by two London funds; we'll be expanding dramatically once we've completed our core platform features and got beyond the beta stage. We do also have physical offices with people in each; both in London & Shanghai.

Obviously we don't want to waste anyone's time - we've been working on this for a long while, and want to make sure it's a success. If you've already got a profitable business in virtual worlds - we'd like to give you some opportunities to diversify, and get in on the ground floor. We're a pretty open company - and always happy to chat about plans, concerns and upcoming developments. :)

--
Q: "Why no great voxel build tools like in Landmark? are you stuck on the idea that only imported content & a marketplace can generate the best revenue stream? did not those ideas have a double edge sword effect in Second Life/OpenSim."
--

Best tools for the job - I'll get back to voxel based tools in a moment, but mesh based build tools are the cutting edge still. We tend to look at what AAA video games are doing for what we should be doing - we're actively reading papers from SIGGRAPH, GDC, and so forth - and polygonal modelling isn't going anywhere.

Now, that's said - voxel tools are cool; Landmark's tools were written by someone I had a chat with a few years ago; I've even written some myself which are similar. There's a couple of problems:

  • Instancing and batching. If you have lots of materials with different shaders on them, Voxels really hurt the GPU. You also can't really efficiently texture voxels in a precise manner.
  • Storage and transmission; they're not efficient. You can compress them to a degree (and there's a lot of innovative ways people have come up to do that with). This also means streaming the content is kinda rough - it can be done (Landmark proved that), but if you also stream in textures and everything else, it gets kinda heavy - especially as you increase the spatial resolution
  • You can build with those already through some Unity add-ins that are compatible with space. There's one called Voxeland which a few of us have been using. (I built a neat tropical island with that tool: https://www.flickr.com/photos/144994874@N05/31788925204/in/pool-sinewavespace/ a while ago)
  • Animation. Voxels can't be animated easily. One of our big features is anything can be easily animated on a timeline visually, within the editor. Voxels are great for static content, not so great for anything dynamic.

Getting a voxel editor like the one I authored a few years ago, into the inworld build tools would definitely be cool - but for now, I think they're still pretty niche in the types of content you can make (great for terrain, with some really sophisticated tools you can kinda do architecture, but not much else); so I don't want to rely on them being the backbone of our tooling.

For reference, the old system I made: https://www.flickr.com/photos/144994874@N05/albums/72157683697918975

--
Q: "Have you considered offering those left behind in OpenSim maybe life boat of sorts with incentives to come in Space? maybe a migration option?"
--

We have considered a migration option, then someone else went and found a way which did just that. Now, this is subject to the Space rules that you own all the content, and have all the rights to do it - but there is a OAR to Unity converter out there, Austin Tate documented it for Space here:

http://blog.inf.ed.ac.uk/atate/2016/11/18/sine-space-gerry-anderson-regions/

I would still probably recommend learning the Space tools versus just importing content - and the reason for that is that content authored natively for space will generally look better, load faster and be more efficient.

For avatar content - we do have a internal tool which we developed as a byproduct of some of our research into clothing fitting; which can refit humanoid clothing content designed for other products or applications, to the space master skeleton fairly well. We're not releasing that to the public at this stage, but we can run it for people who approach us, verify their status as a merchant and who want to get their feet wet, and we'll send back the converted results. :)

Wagner J Au

Thanks for all the excellent questions, all! Adam is going offline but will return to answer any remaining queries when he has time.

Adam

Thanks everyone for the questions. :) Been fun answering them.

I'll pick this up tomorrow when I'm back up. And if anyone wants to reach out 1-on-1, my inbox is always open: adam@sinewavecompany.com

MARGARET

Thank you for answering my questions! You're doing amazing I have to say. The world is looking quite promising. For the first time in my life I can honestly say I could see something replace SL..and its not sansar. LOL

I've been following your development quite closely and have full confidence in the platform :) I wish you all the best

Kay T.

Adam, hello! Thank you very much for doing this Q&A :) I'm late for the party, but since you have promised to come back, perhaps I still have a chance to have my question answered, so here it is:

So, I have joined Space, and I do see myself potentially contributing to it, even though I'm a total beginner in Blender and even more so in Unity (hope this doesn't mean I'm there too early!). However, at the moment, it feels like I am on my own there. When I am online, I can hardly find anybody else. I know about the forum, but if I've a short question with a 1-2 word reply, I probably should not create a new thread for it. Is there some real-time chatroom, like a Skype or a Discord one, where space people connect? I promise not to litter it with questions that Wiki can answer, but just to know that I'm not alone in this would really encourage me to be more invested in space. Thank you!

Adam

Hey Kay, welcome! Yes - we do actually have three skype groups; this one here is the new user learning one which has about 40 or so people in it at any one time (the other bigger group has about 150 but usually is a bit more technical & jargon-y)

Space Learning Group: https://join.skype.com/ExmdzsMXwNt9

Space Developer Group (Larger): https://join.skype.com/wrsA9b33efU7

The forums are fine though - and if you do get stuck, please reach out to us, either IM us inworld, on skype, or on the forums or even email. We're always around to help out. :)

Look forward to seeing what you make!

Natasha Seery

Adam, you are pushing the boundaries yet again. I have every confidence in you blasting past the finishing line leaving brilliant, but tired old SL lagging behind. You work so hard, congratulations!

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