As Linden Lab ramps up the hype for Sansar in anticipation of open beta, we’re seeing a slew of carefully produced videos that almost, but not quite, give us a clearer idea what to expect when the doors are finally opened to the masses. In terms of selling Sansar, I’m sure they’re achieving what they set out to – certainly, the graphics look pretty stunning, and I’ve been impressed with the apparent ease with which it appears you can adjust lighting to get the perfect effect for your creation (although this does suggest there will be no Sansar equivalent of Windlight). However – for me at least – none of these glossy videos address any of the critical questions users have about the new platform: Will it run on an average spec computer, and if so, what will it look like? What’s it going to cost? And, will the average Joe be able to build inworld?
That last point is especially unclear from what we’re being shown and told. Everything I’ve seen so far has been about full time and/or professional or commercial creators producing gorgeous, but for the vast majority of aspiring builders, completely unattainable standards of build quality. That’s a pretty grim outlook for those of us who like to dabble and who may find that there’s nothing for them in Sansar, quite apart from which, I really don’t fancy pottering about in a world that is pretty, but largely sterile and lacking in the personal touches and quirkiness that giving everyone free range to build allows.
Then there’s the single massive selling point of Sansar, which in my opinion is also its greatest failing. It’s abundantly clear that Sansar is primarily a VR platform – and that’s not necessarily a good thing. How many of us own the full range, if any, of the necessary VR kit? And, for those of us who don’t, how many would be willing to splash out on goggles, gloves and whatever else we need on the off-chance that Sansar is going to deliver everything we hope for, and more? I’m guessing those are pretty low numbers. Which means that a large number of us are not going to get the full Sansar experience and may find ourselves limited in how we can interact on the platform.
We’re nowhere near a ‘Ready Player One’ scenario yet, where plugging into a VR rig is as routine an activity as brushing your teeth, and we’re still a long way from it being a practical interface for connecting to the virtual world. When I watch the Labs’ videos of people building and manipulating objects inworld, all I see is hands waving about and heads twisting in all directions… Not a problem if you live on your own, in a house devoid of fixtures and obstacles, and are not prone to neck and shoulder problems, but a real issue if you plan to access Sansar whilst sat on the sofa, laptop on your lap, with your significant other sat next to you attempting to watch ‘Game of Thrones’! Presumably, being headset oriented also means that typed chat is going to be pretty much out of the question… Well, I’m sorry, but I’ve really no interest in listening to, or participating in, voice chat – if I wanted to do that, I’d use Skype.
This whole VR focus raises another issue for me too: I primarily head off into SL to chill and relax. I routinely have a drink and nibbles next to the keyboard and will frequently also be surfing the Web or using other applications at the same time. Those are all things I simply won’t be able to do if I’m all geared up… I won’t even be able to leave my post to go to the loo without going through the rigmarole of disconnecting then reconnecting every single time! Also, I’m sure that many of you, like me, spend a lot of time inworld undertaking potentially ‘hazardous’ and ‘energetic’ activities – hangliding, pursuing zombies and dancing the night away are all fun and relaxing activities when conducted through the keyboard, but if VR expects you to move those bodies in real life to produce the same outcome inworld, then it’s going to be very hard work, a lot less fun, and a great deal more dangerous! I don’t log in to keep fit, but that’s the implication.
I desperately wanted to like Sansar – I wanted to be the Steller Sunshine of the new world, but that dream is rapidly fading, and the more I see of Sansar, and the longer the Lab leaves us with unanswered questions, the less enthusiastic I become. It’s starting to look very much like it’s not the virtual world for me, and now I’m starting to worry if I’ll ever log in at all.
I hope I’m wrong.
The nature of reality
Is pure subjective fantasy
Space and time and here and now
Are only in your mind
Oasis – The Nature Of Reality