San Francisco-based Linden Lab has been working on the spiritual successor to Second Life for two or three years now, and last Tuesday it took one more step towards the launch of its new virtual world. They are now accepting content developer applications for Project Sansar, inviting creators to get in line for early access this summer. Linden Lab plans to launch Project Sansar to consumers later this year.
After a short dalliance with other games and even its own game distribution system a lá Steam, Project Sansar signals a return to what Linden Lab does best: creating economy-based massively multiplayer virtual worlds. Their plans for Sansar include embracing virtual reality headsets like the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive, but there will also be a 2D mode to allow virtual world residents to access Project Sansar with regular desktop machines. Linden Lab wants to eventually extend access to mobile devices as well.
Linden Lab’s CEO Ebbe Altberg describes Project Sansar as a kind of WordPress for virtual reality, allowing companies to build VR experiences without a lot of technical knowledge. “Creating social VR experiences is too hard and expensive today, and that limits the value and growth of this incredible new medium,” he said in a press release Tuesday. “Creating your own VR experience shouldn’t require an engineering team, and Project Sansar will make that possible.” This sounds pretty ambitious, and presumes that there will be a great deal of premade content for the new platform, or at the very least ways for nontechnical people to produce some advanced results. Content creation will still require advanced computer graphics, animation and programming skills to produce anything unique or wholly original, and the Sansar creator’s interface will include conduits for all these.
Linden Lab isn’t the only company engaging resources in pursuit of social VR. Facebook bought Oculus Rift outright last year. Landmark Entertainment is building a Virtual World’s Fair, which could compete with at least some of what Project Sansar aims to offer, but uses a much more ready-built approach, more like the failed Blue Mars project.
Virtual reality could finally be poised for popularity and widespread use, and Sansar could be the killer app. Watch this space.