Hello and Welcome to My Blog!

A quick note to my regular readers: this blog post will be pinned to the top of my blog for the next few weeks. You can go to the main page of my blog and scroll down to see my most recent blog posts. Thanks!

Hello, I’m Ryan Schultz, and you’re probably here because of that article that Patty Marx wrote for the December 9th, 2019 issue of New Yorker magazine, titled Taking Virtual Reality for a Test Drive, where she mentions me and takes a quote from my blog:

… I decided to try a social VR platform. These digital 3-D stomping grounds allow groups of people, represented by avatars, to gather in real time for concerts, sporting events, dance parties, writing workshops, or meetings, or just to hang out. Ryan Schultz, a reference librarian at the University of Manitoba and a VR blogger, credits them with lifting his depression. Describing himself in the realm outside his Oculus, he wrote, “To be honest, I kinda suck at this whole reality business.” Now he straddles both cosmos, a recent high point being an evening in which he joined five hundred avatars in a marathon game of drag-queen bingo.

Since July 31st, 2017, I have been writing a blog about social VR, virtual worlds, and the metaverse (you can find my definitions of those and other terms here). I specialize in writing about a particular niche of virtual reality, called social VR: open-ended social experiences in virtual reality that you can share with other users who are on desktop or in VR (as opposed to games, although social VR can also include games).

If you’re new here, there are five different ways to explore my blog:

In addition to my blog, I am the host of a fledgling YouTube show called the Metaverse Newscast, where I interview the personalities behind social VR, virtual worlds and the metaverse, on the various platforms.

I invite you to join the RyanSchultz.com Discord server, the world’s first cross-worlds discussion forum! Over 300 people from around the world, representing many different social VR platforms and virtual worlds, meet daily to chat, discuss, debate, and argue about the ever-evolving metaverse and companies building it.

And effective Nov. 20th, 2019, I am the embedded reporter for the new virtual world Sinespace, writing about the people, news and events on that platform! Sinespace supports both desktop and VR users.

If you want to advertise on my blog, here are my current rates. If you have any business matters you wish to discuss with me, or if you just have a comment, please feel free to drop me a line using my Contact page.

Thank you for stopping by! Oh, and I also have a Patreon, which helps me cover my WordPress hosting costs for the RyanSchultz.com blog. Thank you to my patrons! Whether or not you are a financial patron, thank you for your continued support! It means the world to me.


Editorial: Decentraland Is Paying for Contest Entries (And Why This May Backfire)

On Nov. 8th, I wrote about the Decentraland Builder Contest, which is currently underway and runs until Dec. 15th, 2019. You can refer to my previous blogpost for all the details on the contest, or you can check the Decentraland website.

One thing that I did not know about the contest is that each accepted entry will receive 200 MANA, which works out to about US$5.00 at the current exchange rates. I understand that you can submit up to 20 entries per person, which means that a user who submits the maximum number of entries earns 4,000 MANA, worth about US$100. (This information comes from a recent blogpost on the DCLPlazas blog, which is a good source of news about Decentraland.)

This reminds me of how High Fidelity was offering US$300 per accepted entry to an avatar contest at one of its final big events (this was before its abrupt pivot earlier this year to promote business use of HiFi for remote workteams, and an attempt to rein in runaway costs). For a while there, High Fidelity was spending money like a drunken sailor, and I am starting to wonder if the same thing is starting to happen over at Decentraland, which has been extremely generous with its contest prizes this year.

I have absolutely no problem with large cash prizes for contest winners, and I know that contests encourage the creation of good content, which drives usage of the platform. But in my opinion, paying for every single contest entry is only going to encourage a flood of people gaming the system with the maximum number of contest entries, just to collect the most money they can and then cash it out.

This is essentially bribing people to use your platform, which means that as soon as the money stops flowing, fickle users, who were there only because they were paid, will abandon the platform (which is exactly what happened to High Fidelity).

One of the things that is starting to concern me about blockchain-based virtual worlds like Decentraland is how they seem to encourage a rather mercenary approach to their in-world economy. It doesn’t help matters that land is such an expensive commodity in DCL, which almost makes it imperative to be able to use it to generate revenue. (A year ago, DCL even launched virtual land mortgages, for those who could not afford to pay for their LAND up front.)

Want to play a hunting game? You’ve got to pay for the arrows. Want your choice of avatar username? You’ve got to buy one. One person on the official Decentraland Discord server recently asked whether they would be allowed to erect a paywall in front of a constructed scene, so you couldn’t even look at it without paying. Everybody seems out to make a buck.

The blockchain/cryptocurrency community is a world apart, and most current Decentraland users and investors do not see this sort of setup as strange. But I wonder how well this will play out with the casual, non-crypto visitors which DCL needs to attract in order to survive and thrive long-term. Will potential users be put off by having to pay for everything, even buying their username? I guess we’ll find out once the doors open to the general public.

Bryn Oh Opens a New Artistic World in Sansar: “I See Our Movement As the Immersivists”

Canadian artist Bryn Oh (whose work in Second Life I have written about before) is opening a new art installation in Sansar on Friday, December 6th, 2019, on which she has been working over the past year, thanks to some financial assistance from the Ontario Arts Council.

Titled simply Hand, Bryn Oh describes the artwork as follows in a recent post to her blog:

Hand is the story of a girl named Flutter who carries something precious in a suitcase.  You follow her story in the same world that my others characters inhabit, and some of these you will recognize furthering their story and place within the world I have been working on for over a decade. 

Bryn created Hand to be best experienced in a VR headset, and she has some insightful observations on the use of virtual reality as an art form:

I believe that the virtual reality medium is a new art form which, in my case, focuses on immersion.  Throughout art history many artists have striven to immerse the viewer in their sculpture, painting or even cinema. They want you become lost in their artwork whether it be compositional methods such as the eyepath leading the viewer around a painting, to cinema where they turn off the lights, turn the sound up high with a screen large enough to reduce the peripheral vision distractions to a degree where the immersion is strongest. They overwhelm or control your senses, then tell you a story which, if well written, will take the viewer away from the world for a while.  We had the Cubists, Impressionists, Surrealists, Modernists and I see our movement as the Immersivists. 

Having been very impressed by Bryn’s art to date in both Second Life and Sansar, I look forward to experiencing her latest creation!

How You Can Win Up to US$5,000 in Sinespace’s Contests for Content Creators

This blogpost is sponsored by Sinespace, and was written in my new role as an embedded reporter for this virtual world (more details here).

Did you know that Sinespace has weekly contests for content creators? Each week’s winner receives US$500, and contests will run weekly through to February, and perhaps longer.

Last week’s contest winner, Punkerella and Booradley, came up with something I’ve never seen before, in any virtual world: colourful, interactive sea slugs!

In addition to the weekly contests, there are two major contests taking place over the next few months, with some seriously sweet prizes:

  • Out of This World: Create a unique, interactive and outlandish environment using the Sinespace SDK. The theme is “out of this world”, so create something unique, quirky and alien-like. The winner receives US$3,000 plus 1 year of Exclusive Creator membership. The runner up gets US$2,000 plus 1 year of Exclusive Creator membership. The contest deadline is Dec. 20th, 2019. (More details here.)
  • Carnival Games: Create a unique and engaging mini game using the Sinespace SDK and Lua (Sinespace’s scripting language). The game can be any carnival-themed game, from maze run, shoot the aliens, to anything you can imagine. The gameplay needs to have a way for players to score normal and bonus points, along with a leader board. The game can be single-player, PVP or PvE. The contest winner receives US$5,000 plus 1 year of Exclusive Creator membership. The runner-up gets $US2,000 plus 1 year of Exclusive Creator membership. The contest deadline is Feb. 10th, 2020. (More details here.)

You can get details on upcoming contests, plus see all the entries for past contests, on this page. To find out more about becoming a content creator in Sinespace, here is some information to help you get started.

Second Life Steals, Deals, and Freebies: Apple Fall

I don’t usually blog about deals on items for your home and garden, but Apple Fall is having such an amazing sale that I am going to break that rule, just this once!

In a message sent out to the Apple Fall Facebook group, the store announced:

Apple Fall is having a Black Friday Sale! And guess what? Everything is L$50, or less! We are not kidding you.

The Sale has begun, and we hope you are ready to grab everything Apple Fall related, and stuff those inventories to the max.

The sim will only have 12 residents at a time due to technical difficulties, we won’t close the sale anytime soon as we don’t want any of you to miss out.

Apple Fall offers the highest-quality home and garden furnishings, buildings, and skyboxes. And yes, EVERYTHING in the store, from tiny teapots to huge houses, is L$50 (or less) each! This is such a great deal that it was worth fighting to get into the sim (as you can expect, it’s jam-packed). It looks as though the sale will continue for a while, but I would still advise you to get down to Apple Fall as soon as you can, since I don’t know when this sale will end.

So even though I have no land to place it on, I decided to buy the Harwick Manor house for only L$50 (hey, it was on sale!):

Apple Fall Hardwick Manor

I also picked up some lovely furniture from the new Fulwood Collection for my Linden Home in Bellisseria:

Apple Fall Fulwood Collection

There’s also a corner in the store with numerous freebies, including a wingback chair in three colours. Also, there are a few nice freebies on the chest table in the Fulwood Collection display in-store. So hurry down!