VRChat Implements Avatar Performance Blocking to Provide a Better Experience for Oculus Quest Users: Recent Changes Have Led to Some Complaints

VRChat’s Move to Cross-Platform Content Has Led to Some Discontent

VRChat is making more changes to its social VR platform to better accommodate users of the wireless Oculus Quest VR headset, and some VRChat users are less than happy with the overall direction of VRChat, complaining that wired VR headset users are suffering at the expense of wireless users.

In an official blogpost dated June 11th, VRChat announced a new minimum displayed performance rank was added to the platform, mainly to improve performance for Quest users of the platform:

You can choose to block avatars based on their Avatar Performance Rank. This option is available in the “Performance Options” menu, accessible as a button in the top-right of the Safety tab in the main menu.

When you choose a Performance Rank in this menu, all avatars that are below that rank will be blocked by default and replaced with a placeholder avatar. You can choose between “Medium”, “Poor”, or “Very Poor”.

On VRChat for PC, the Minimum Displayed Performance Rank is set to “Very Poor” by default. This means that no avatars are hidden by default on PC. You can choose between “Medium”, “Poor”, or “Very Poor” options.

On VRChat for the Oculus Quest, the Minimum Displayed Performance Rank is set to “Medium” by default. You can choose to change this to “Poor” to permit showing avatars of that rank, but you may encounter performance issues. In addition, you cannot select the “Very Poor” level on VRChat for Quest. In other words, avatars that are ranked as “Very Poor” will never display on VRChat for the Oculus Quest. 

(This is essentially a version of the Avatar Rendering Complexity system which was implemented a couple of years ago in Second Life, where you could “turn off” other people’s avatars which placed a heavier burden on the graphics card of your computer.)

Over on the VRChat subReddit, some users are not happy about all the recent changes:

I am no developer nor a programmer but i can feel if, things get better or worst, and VRChat is 100% getting worse and worse every update and i hate to see it going that way. I have spent 1300+ hour in this game and i loved every minute of it except the crashers. With the resent update I felt like VIVE and Oculus users were pulled down to the sake of Oculus quest users, no hate on them I dont blame them they just want to experience the fun that we had, the only problem that bothers me is the drawing with a pen, it [is] so bad. Hope VRChat team can figure out the best solution for us.

Another user writes:

After reading through some threads, in particular FloppiiiVR’s thread: Thanks Devs to fuck all of us Animators over, I decided to make a thread to clarify a few things and share some thoughts about VRChat’s current state… I’m usually not the type to speak up in public, but I feel like a few things need to be said. The latest patch has brought a lot of mixed feelings in the community and it’s been reflected throughout VRChat, the subReddit and many Discord channels dedicated to the game. Obviously the direction and changes that the devs are going to with the game are unhealthy for the game, whether you agree or disagree with said changes doesn’t change the fact that it’s leading to a lot of drama within the community.

I feel like a lot of this also has to do with the Oculus Quest as it’s far less capable then PC VR. Trying to mix a mobile platform with a PC platform is possible, but it shouldn’t cripple the higher end of the spectrum as it should still be the majority and your main target audiance.

And I have to say, based on the time that I have spent so far in VRChat in my Oculus Quest, that it now feels as if that VRChat has been split into two separate platforms, with very little overlap between them. Perhaps this situation will improve over time as more people create worlds and avatars that can be seen by both groups of users, but it is clear that the most recent changes made to VRChat have not been universally appreciated by its much larger wired VR headset userbase. I predict that VRChat is going to face some signifcant challenges trying to keep both wired and wireless headset users happy.

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Teleporter: A Brief Introduction

Teleporter is a social VR platform for gamers by an Istanbul-based company. WIRED reports:

Founded by Aslan Yerdelen and Dilara Kececi in 2016, Teleporter uses virtual and augmented reality to make eSports events more interactive. Their app can be installed in VR headsets, providing players with a data dashboard about a player’s performance in real time. Teleporter places viewers in a VR arena where they can watch eSport matches alongside other virtual spectators.

So basically, Teleporter is a VR version of Twitch. I decided to download Teleporter from Steam and try it out (it’s available for free under their Early Access program).

The first time I signed in, I landed in a virtual environment where I saw a prominent sign that informed me that Teleporter was currently closed, but that it would reopen on Saturday evening at 8:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time. It turns out that there is a regular event schedule:

  • Every Saturday at 8:00 p.m Eastern Standard Time
  • Every Sunday 8:00 p.m. Central European Time (3:00 p.m. EST)

So, (at least right now), it’s not a 24/7 kind of thing like Twitch, where you can sign in at any ungodly hour to watch gamers who are livestreaming from around the world.

To be honest, I keep meaning to revisit Teleporter to write up something about it, and I just keep missing my windows of opportunity. I did try to sign in one Saturday evening after 8:00 p.m. EST, only to find exactly the same sign saying “We’re closed”. And frankly, building an open VR space and then restricting access to it to only twice a week is annoying as hell. Perhaps you’ll have better luck getting in than I did.

If you want to follow Teleporter’s progress, you can join their subReddit, Facebook, or Twitter. They also have a Discord server. but I cannot seem to generate an invite link.

My Top Ten Most Popular Blogposts So Far

You never know ahead of time which blogpost you write is going to become popular (which I define here as “most visited”).

For example, I have the rather dubious distinction of being the first hit when you search Google on “vrchat adult” (and that particular blogpost is now my 13th most popular ever). It would appear that many people are interested in finding adult content in VRChat! But here’s a tip, folks: if you’re really that interested in adult content on VRChat, your best bet would be to ask around discreetly and find out who can introduce you to the right people who run invite-only worlds, and not to do a Google search. Just sayin’…

I also appear to have developed a niche as a source of information for people searching for steals, deals, and freebies in Second Life. My most popular blogpost (racking up over 7,000 views) is my post about free and inexpensive mesh heads and bodies for female avatars. A parallel post for male avatars is now my 7th most popular blogpost, with over 2,300 views. And my post about the best freebie stores in SL is my 6th most popular blogpost, with over 2,700 views. Of my Top Ten blogposts, six are about Second Life, including my recent post about changes to fees in Second Life, which has had over 4,800 views so far. So, as you can see, I get a significant amount of traffic from Second Life users on this blog, so I will be continuing my coverage of that platform. (I know that some of my readers are mystified as to why I would bother to cover a 16-year-old, non-VR-capable virtual world.)

Here’s my full Top Ten list:

  1. UPDATED! Second Life Steals, Deals and Freebies: Free and Inexpensive Mesh Heads and Bodies for Female Second Life Avatars
  2. UPDATED: More Details on the Upcoming Ability to Change Your User Name in Second Life
  3. UPDATED! RyanSchultz.com Reader Poll: What Social VR/Virtual World Do You Spend the Most Time In?
  4. UPDATED! Linden Lab Announces a Mix of Good News and Bad News for Second Life Users
  5. UPDATED! Oasis: A Brief Introduction to a New, Adults-Only Social VR Platform
  6. Second Life Steals, Deals and Freebies: The Four Best Freebie Stores in SL
  7. UPDATED! Second Life Steals, Deals and Freebies: Free and Inexpensive Mesh Heads and Bodies for Male Second Life Avatars
  8. Second Life Versus Sansar: Why Linden Lab Can’t Win, No Matter What They Do
  9. Comprehensive List of Social VR Platforms and Virtual Worlds
  10. UPDATED: Earning Money Creating Custom Avatars in VRChat: An Interview with Ghoster

Addressing the Elephant in the Room: Social VR Sustainability

Photo by David Clode on Unsplash

I have been enjoying my self-imposed vacation from the blog. It’s given me an opportunity to step back, enjoy the all-too-brief Canadian summer, and reflect a little bit. I’m going to start easing back into blogging over the next week. There’s certainly no shortage of things to write about!

Yesterday, Gindipple shared his most recent compilation of Sansar user concurrency statistics, and while they do show a slight increase in the average number of users over time, it’s clear that users have not exactly rushed to embrace Sansar in the way that Linden Lab has been hoping:

Inara Pey has done her usual excellent job of summarizing last week’s Sansar Product Meeting, and she shares the following item from the discussion:

It’s now almost two years since Sansar opened its doors to the public, and general user concurrency is still only in or around the mid-20s level. This has raised questions of Sansar’s sustainability, and whether the Lab have set any goals for the platform that need to be achieved in order for it to be continued, etc.

Landon McDowell, the Lab’s Chief Product Officer, and the person most directly in charge of Sansar’s development, responded thus to one of these questions:

I am not going to put any date on the board. I think we’re taking this day-by-day, week-by-week, month-by-month, release-by-release, and we want to see what is happening and what is resonating and what isn’t … I believe steadfastly in the future of virtual worlds, that what we’re doing here is really important … Are we happy with the result? I’m not happy with the result; I would want a million people in here today, and we’re obviously not there.

But in terms of sustainability, I think we know what our limits are, and we are proceeding accordingly. If we have 50 people in here in a year then yeah, I’m going to be really massively disappointed. I think everybody here is working hard to make this an absolutely monumental success … I feel that everyone that’s here is here because they’re digging something about what we’re doing, and I want that to spread like wildfire quite frankly. So we definitely have hopes and ambitions.

But again, I’m not going to put a dot on the board of, “this date and this time, this number of users”. I think we want many more users in, and we want them relatively quickly, and we go from there.

While it is good news that Linden Lab appears to have no internal make-or-break date for Sansar, the fact remains that the company is putting time and money into a platform that, so far, is not attracting a lot of use.

The elephant in the room of social VR, not just for Linden Lab but for all companies in this marketplace, is sustainability. Many companies are pouring resources into various social VR platforms, in hopes that they will be able to relight the same spark that ignited over a decade ago with Second Life. Most projects have not had a great deal of success yet. The few social VR platforms which have attracted some attention to date (VRChat and Rec Room) face a daunting transition to an in-world economy, plus a slew of technical problems trying to shoehorn their experiences into wireless VR headsets like the new Oculus Quest in order to reach the broadest possible potential audience. Add to that rumours that Facebook is reportedly working on a major social VR initiative for all its Oculus VR hardware users, which will likely upend the current marketplace. The road ahead is rocky indeed.

Given the significant compromises that have had to be made to VRChat in order to get it to run at all on the Quest, and the rather disappointing results, it seems Linden Lab’s decision to not support an Oculus Quest version of Sansar is a wise one. Inara reports:

Oculus Quest support:  As has been previously indicated, this is not currently on the cards. The Quest processor and general capabilities are seen as being unable to handle to quality of content LL want to provide without massive amounts of auto-decimation, which can be problematic. However, as the capabilities of emerging VR systems continues to improve and Sansar improves in terms of performance limits, the hope is that the two will converge at some point in the future.

And that convergence may come sooner than you think. It is interesting to note that at least one eager early adopter has reported that he is able to use the PC streaming app ALVR to play Sansar on the Oculus Quest. (“PC streaming” refers to the use of sideloaded Quest apps to enable your desktop computer to stream VR games directly to your Quest. You’ll have to sideload the app onto your Quest, and then install a coordinating PC program before you can start playing. These programs, such as ALVR and VRidge, are new, highly experimental, and currently require a certain level of geek skills to set up and use. But they will no doubt become easier to use over time.)

Image by Pexels from Pixabay

However, as Landon McDowell says, I’m still a fervent believer in the future of virtual worlds. I still believe it’s a question of when and where, not if, social VR takes off and virtual worlds have a renaissance. High Fidelity’s recent pivot towards business users is just one example of a social VR company adjusting its sails to meet evolving conditions. Expect more such shifts as the market grows and changes.

Stay tuned! As I often say, things are getting interesting!