Second Life creator Linden Lab's virtual reality platform might be getting closer to actual reality. The company just announced that it's invited the first outside testers to Project Sansar, its working title for a new VR world that is expected to open in public beta next year.
Second Life, which maintained a core group of devoted users and a steady economy even after fading from public view, was a virtual world in its own right — just not one that was meant to be experienced through a headset. Although Linden hacked in Second Life support for the Oculus Rift development kits last year, the long-term plan has always been to create a totally new, VR-native network to run alongside the older platform. That was revealed earlier this year as Project Sansar, which is being touted not just as a world, but as "WordPress for VR." Linden Lab has described it as infrastructure that will let users create their own VR experiences and visit other people's.
Project Sansar has been billed as the "WordPress of VR."
Today, Linden Lab says it's inviting a small number of people to kickstart that process. Beyond that, the scant details suggest that Project Sansar is still in an early state. A company spokesperson says the first testers are "talented 3D content creators Linden Lab knows well," which could indicate that it's drawing from the pool of Second Life architects and designers. For now, Project Sansar doesn't have its own building tools, so they'll be using the Maya modeling software and exporting the results into the game (something that's also common in Second Life). The final release is supposed to have its own tools and support a variety of third-party software.
Project Sansar's first visitors are mostly, it seems, testing very basic functionality; they'll make their own environments and look at those created by other users and Linden Lab itself. As we've previously heard, more members will be added over the course of 2015, a beta version is supposed to launch alongside the consumer Oculus Rift headset, and a finished release could be out by the end of next year. Besides VR headsets, Project Sansar will support traditional PCs and, eventually, mobile devices.
So far, the general public hasn't seen anything from inside the world, just the stylized concept art above; Linden Lab was vague about when we might see more. But the project evokes some very familiar tropes from science fiction, including the VR-themed novel Ready Player One. Linden Lab also isn't the only company working on a platform for virtual worlds. The company's founder and ex-CEO, Philip Rosedale, has been showing off a conceptually similar system for the past year. An alpha version of his program, known as High Fidelity, is currently available for download.