Caption: Drax interviews a contestant on the High Fidelity VR Talent Show, April 21st, 2017.
Since January, when I upgraded my personal desktop computer to a high-end gaming model and got an Oculus Rift VR headset, I have been exploring in both Sansar (where I was lucky enough to be part of the closed beta test) and High Fidelity (HiFi for short, which has been in open beta for some time now). High Fidelity is the new company of Linden Lab’s founding CEO, Philip Rosedale. And of course, Linden Lab, under the leadership of current CEO Ebbe Altberg, has launched Sansar. It’s only natural to compare and contrast the two VR-capable virtual world products.
There’s lots to love about High Fidelity. Some of the experiences (or sims, or whatever HiFi calls them), are fun and funky, like Mexico. You can take and share snapshots. You can import your own customized avatar (if you have the technical skill to know how to do it). They have a basic, in-world “prim building” tool which you can use to create simple objects. You can stream audio, so you can have in-world performances.
And I must confess that HiFi has just been killing it lately with respect to promotion, public relations, and live-streamed regular content like The JimJamz Show and LIVE in High Fidelity with Michelle Osorio. They’ve hosted popular events such as the first talent show in VR. Linden Lab staff should be taking copious notes on how High Fidelity assiduously promotes their brand via social media. (I do hope that Atlas Hopping with Drax and Berry will become the first of many live-streamed shows in Sansar. And apparently, Shoutcast audio streaming will be coming in the next release of the Sansar client software.)
One thing I also love about High Fidelity is that you can fly! This is something which always gives me a bit of a thrill when I lift off from the ground in my VR headset. And guess what? You can even sit down! 😉 I’m going to keep ribbing Linden Lab about this until they support object animations…something that is also supposed to be coming soon.
But there’s currently no way for content creators to make money in HiFi. There’s a store, but everything is free. There’s currently no way to pay for something, although Philip Rosedale has mentioned that they are looking at using cryptocurrency to support financial transactions in the future. Also, because HiFi is open source, some content creators are unhappy that it’s just too easy for other people to steal your content. Maxwell Graf mentioned this when I interviewed him. He said:
Generally, I am a proponent of open source, but content has to come from somewhere and sometimes it comes from places it shouldn’t and is used the wrong way. I saw a lot of IP and copyright issues that concerned the hell out of me, basically.
But by far the most irritating thing about HiFi to me is the glitchy software update process. High Fidelity automatically installs its Sandbox software (to enable you to host your own content), plus nine assignment client processes in Windows, and these are all running continuously in the background, even if you are not using High Fidelity. Every time I try to update the HiFi client software, I have to manually go in and kill each of the assignment client processes, and the Sandbox software, using the Windows Task Manager. Ever try to kill all nine assignment client processes as they are continually respawning? It’s like trying to herd cats. This is a big, showstopper bug in my opinion.
Over on the High Fidelity user forums, HiFi user Theanine has posted a good comparative summary of the two platforms:
Sansar is really nice, but still has glaring problems. Just as High Fidelity does.
Ironically the things Sansar is strong in, are things High Fidelity sucks at. And vice versa. High Fidelity could really use better lighting and rendering, Sansar is great in that area. But High Fidelity lets you fly, has better voice, and the freedom to upload a completely custom avatar mesh (Sansar, as far as I know, only lets you customize a preset human avatar.) On the other hand, Sansar has official, built-in text chat, and the ability to sell on the store and make money already. But then, there’s also [the] fact that Sansar is Windows only and closed-source, while High Fidelity is cross-platform and open source. I could go on.
In time these differences will even out as both software [programs] improve. I’m keeping a close eye on both, and will be using both. They each have their strengths and weaknesses that make them interesting to me.
I plan to spend far more time in Sansar than in High Fidelity, but I still expect to pop in for a visit to HiFi every so often. It’s very interesting to watch the social VR marketplace as it evolves!