Yes, that’s right, for the first time ever, the RyanSchultz.com blog is throwing a contest! I’m giving away ten free tickets to participate in the MetaMovie’s latest production in NeosVR, Alien Rescue!
VERY IMPORTANT! In order to enter this contest, you *MUST* comment on this blogpost, giving me your name and a using an email address which will be used to contact you if you win. That’s it; that’s all you have to do to enter! 🙂
Please read the entire technical requirements section of the ticket-buying page on the MetaMovie website, BEFORE you enter this contest! NeosVR requires a PCVR setup (i.e. a tethered VR headset). There is also a desktop mode for non-VR users or those who prefer a 2D option; any modern PC with a dedicated graphics card will work for Alien Rescue in Desktop Mode. THERE IS NO MAC VERSION!
I will be using the Pick Giveaway Winner plug-in on my WordPress blog to select ten commenters at random. I will do the random draw at 10:00 p.m. Central Standard Time, on Tuesday, October 26th, 2021, so please do not delay in entering this contest! I will be contacting the winners using the email addresses they have provided when they submitted their comment on this blogpost (NOT via Discord or any other method).
I will email each of the 10 winners to let them know that they have won one Sidekick ticket to Alien Rescue (prize value: US$20), along with a special discount code that can be used for any of the upcoming shows. Winners must buy their tickets from the MetaMovie website via EventBrite, where they will enter the discount code at time of purchase, resulting in the free ticket.
The MetaMovie is exciting beyond words. It may actually be now doing what history will see as the beginning of a brand new interactive movie entertainment industry.
—Karel Hulec of NeosVR (where Alien Rescue takes place)
This afternoon, I had the privilege of participating in the impressive new MetaMovie production Alien Rescue, created and directed by Jason Moore and starring Marinda Botha, Nicole Rigo, Kenneth Rougeau, Craig Woodward—and you!
Yes, you don’t just watch Alien Rescue; you’re a key part of the show! There are two roles: Hero and Eyebot. The Hero is the one audience member right in the centre of the story, where they role-play with the cast. Heroes can say or do anything they want, and they can even affect the storyline (the woman, who was the Hero of the performance I attended, landed up giving a hilarious nickname to one of the characters, which became a running joke throughout the rest of the performance!).
The rest of the audience are small, mute Eyebots, who only communicate with the actors via red, green, or yellow lights, but who play an integral part in moving the story forward (often by scouting ahead and warning the Hero and the other actors to hidden dangers). Even better, you can maneuver your Eyebot to catch the performance as it unfolds from any possible point of view! You can choose to follow a particular character if you wish, or you can just wander around as you please, and follow your fancy.
The actors in Alien Rescue are all professionals with years of VR acting experience, physically located across the globe, from New York to South Africa, from Kansas to Connecticut. This troupe has been working closely together for nearly three years. All the actors used the HTC Vive Pro Eye headset, which features eye tracking, along with the newly released Vive Facial Tracker, which tracks the movements of the mouth and the lower face. These added expressions—subtle shifts of the eyes, a blink or a wink, a slight grin or a strong grimace—help bring their avatars to life. Here’s a demonstration of just how realistic avatar movements can be with these features enabled.
At times, the action splits into two separate conversations or scenes. One example was when we all entered a laboratory through a series of dark, winding corridors, while the two actors ahead of me (leading the group) were having one conversation, and the two actors behind me (acting as a rear guard) were having a second one! As an Eyebot hovering between these two groups, I heard snippets of both conversations, which felt like a very natural and intuitive way to learn more about the characters, much as if you were drifting from conversation to conversation at a cocktail party (only this one was with random, weird alien creatures popping up!).
Speaking of alien creatures, all the imaginatively designed avatars in Alien Rescue were created by the very talented Chris McBride (NeosVR username: Ultranique), whom I interviewed in season one of the Metaverse Newscast (back when he was still practicing his artistry in avatar creation on the former social VR platform of High Fidelity, before he moved to NeosVR to work on the MetaMovie project):
And here’s another Metaverse Newscast interview I did with director Jason Moore (again, two years ago, in High Fidelity, when Alien Rescue was still in its earliest planning stages):
(Fun fact: I was the original Hero, and was the very first person to experience the MetaMovie Project, many years ago in High Fidelity, on their first project, called A Very Old Mystery in New New York.)
The set for Alien Rescue is just absolutely insane in its overall dimensions (the following quote comes from the press kit I received). The production design was by Zach Harris (NeosVR username: Nexulan), who managed the entire design team.
With seven large and detailed maps (game lingo for levels, or areas of a world), Alien Rescue immerses audiences into a dark and spooky sci-fi environment with barely-lit passageways, creepy labs, and eerie soundscapes. The crown jewel is the incredible Blackhawk Spaceship, at 160 meters long (nearly two football fields) and 55 meters high, with four levels and over twenty rooms. And, our maps are all connected using a custom programmed ‘instant teleport’ system that reduces load time from one map to the next to zero seconds. Audiences traverse the world of Alien Rescue seamlessly and instantaneously, without the typical “loading screen” found in most VR games and experiences.
Jason Moore tells me:
Lead Programmer was Raul Anthony “RueShejn” Ybarra. He did all of the programming using LogiX. He invented the ‘instant travel’ system that gave us those seamless transitions from map to map, he’s a freaking genius.
This afternoon’s performance was the last of a series of private, invitation-based shows before the official premiere next week. According to a press release:
This form of live storytelling in the metaverse is truly new, therefore the prestigious Raindance Film Festival has selected the work to have its world premiere there in late October 2021.
I am telling you right now: you do NOT want to miss this event! It’s the most incredible and imaginative thing I have experienced in virtual reality all year (and trust me, I’ve seen a lot in these past twelve months of pandemic lockdown). The MetaMovie project is a genre-defying mix, combining elements of cinematic storytelling, video games, role playing, improv, and immersive theatre into something completely new, different, and exciting. GO SEE THIS! I loved it!!
Now, a few important points. You can experience Alien Rescue in flatscreen, desktop mode, but obviously for greater immersion, virtual reality is the way to go! Experiencing Alien Rescue in VR requires a PCVR setup. All major VR headsets will work: HTC Vive, Valve Index, HP, Oculus Rift, and Oculus Quest (tethered or Air Link). The minimum graphics card requirements are a Nvidia GTX 1060 or AMD RX 570 with a minimum of 8GB of RAM. A wired connection is strongly recommended!
You should know that you will need a higher-end CPU and GPU on your personal computer to experience the show comfortably in VR; I have an Intel Core i5-6600 chip and an NVIDIA GeForce GTX1080 graphics card on my PC, with 16GB of RAM, and I crashed—twice!— while loading the map for Alien Rescue (however, once the world was fully loaded, I encountered few problems). Every so often, one of the actors’ voices would get all robot-y, but any such audio problems were temporary.
The show is approximately an hour and a half long, from beginning to end, and if you stick around, you might even win an award for your participation in a ceremony held in the credits lounge. (I won two awards!)
This new PCVR headset (selling for US$1,990, which is just the price for the headset alone, but you can use Valve Index Knuckles controllers and base stations with it) has the following key features:
Dual Mini LED LCD lenses with a resolution of 2880 x 2720 pixels per eye at 90Hz (which completely removes the screen-door effect seen in lower-resolution VR headsets);
Automatic interpupillary distance (IPD) adjustment (i.e. you just put it on and the device automatically adjusts to your eyes), plus ultra-fast, built-in eye-tracking at 200 Hz;
Weighing in at 617 grams, offering 4 separate adjustment dials for a custom fit, with active cooling and optimized ergonomics for long-duration usage; and
Unlike Varjo’s corporate line of VR/AR/XR headsets, there is no annual software subscription fee.
However, there are also a few drawbacks to the Varjo Aero: there is no built-in audio and, even worse, no built-in microphone! (There is, of couse, an audio jack to attach an external set of headphones.) Also, as Jamie Feltham notes in his review of the product on UploadVR:
So let’s start with what has been my biggest issue in my time testing the headset. Yes the Aero is impeccably clear and I’ll touch on that in a second, but over the past four weeks using the headset I’ve noticed significant peripheral distortion when rotating my head. As I look away from a virtual object or surface, it appears to warp as if not entirely solid. Only the very center of my view looks stable. It’s incredibly distracting (which, ironically, is only enhanced by the clarity of the display).
In pretty much all the apps I’ve tested, including big-budget titles like Half-Life: Alyx and The Walking Dead: Saints & Sinners and indie projects like Gorn and Sweet Surrender, it’s been a noticeable issue.
Crucially, Varjo itself knows about this. I’ve been on multiple troubleshooting calls with the company over the past few weeks to talk about it and have been repeatedly assured that this is a software issue it’s aiming to fix with subsequent updates. In fact, the company says it expects to have its Base software fully ready for the Aero in December, which is when it also expects the first units ordered today to arrive.
And, of course, the YouTube VR vloggers were all over this new release! I have attached review videos by Thrillseeker, Cas and Chary, and Sebastian Ang of MRTV below (if you only have time to watch one, watch Thrillseeker’s; his mind is just blown by the Varjo Aero, although he also notes the visual distortion Jamie mentioned, and says that the company assured him that they would fix the issue before shipping product):
As Thrillseeker says in his review video, improvements to virtual reality hardware and software are accelerating, and slowly but surely filtering down to the consumer market! It’s an exciting time to be in VR!
I leave you with another video showing how the Varjo Aero VR headset is being used in aircraft pilot training:
You might be surprised to learn that there is a large and active Russian-language community in Second Life! Second Life – FREE is a little-known-about Russian-language group on Vkontakte, the Russian version of Facebook. It’s the largest VK community dedicated to free and inexpensive things in Second Life. (Use the Russian-to-English translator in your Chrome browser to read the posts in this Russian-language community. You do not need to set up an account on VKontakte; just click on the “Not Now!” link whenever a pop-up appears asking you to log in.)
This group is hosting the Creepy Russian Village Hunt in Second Life for Halloween, with prizes from a variety of vendors, ranging in price from free to L$25 each. The hunt object is the traditional Russian nesting doll!
I was particularly taken by the Russian/Slavic design elements of the womenswear prizes, so today Vanity Fair is modeling a few of my favourite prizes from this hunt. I won’t be telling you where to find these elusive dolls, but I will share with you my top six tips for successful hunting in Second Life.
Please note that in order to take clearer pictures of the hunt prizes, I changed the default sky settings of the sim to Nam’s Optimal Skin 1. You might want to leave the lighting at the default setting to really appreciate the atmosphere of the creepy village! (The pictures I took of the sim are stills from a promotional video for the hunt.)
This lovely Mavka peasant dress, the prize from Silk Road, costs only L$25 and comes in both white and black versions. The Mavka dress comes in sizes to fit Maitreya Lara; Meshbody Legacy and Legacy Perky; INTHIUM Kupra; eBody Reborn; and Kalhene Erika mesh bodies.
Here Vanity is showing you two different hunt prizes from ERSCH, the very Russian Laerta head ribbon (which comes in three pieces; you can detach the right and left bows), and the Alice dress, which comes in bloody and non-bloody versions (there’s also another hunt prize consisting of the same dress, but in black instead of white). The ERSCH prizes are only L$15 each. The Alice dress comes in the following sizes: Maitreya Lara and Petite; Belleza Freya; Meshbody Legacy and Perky; INTHIUM Kupra and Kups; and eBody Reborn.
This beautifully embroidered red, white, and black Adela gown is one of the hunt prizes from ANTAYA (Maitreya Lara size only; L$25):
Another prize from ANTAYA is the Hilda gown (Legacy and Maitreya sizes; L$25). I found the Maitreya Lara version of this garment includes an auto-hide which automatically alphas out your hands and feet, so you will need to reset that using your Maitreya alpha HUD (it’s a small bug, but one I’d have thought the creator would have caught while testing).
There are many other prizes in the hunt; you can see them all here. (Don’t forget to turn on the automatic translation in your Chrome web browser!)