I’ll be honest. I’m not a big fan of computer games (except for the mind-bending, puzzle-solving kind like Myst and Obduction). That’s why I am rather mystified by the whole esports craze. I don’t get the appeal of watching other people competitively playing videogames. But I can confirm that esports viewing is a bandwagon that Linden Lab wants to get on, and a growing market of which it wants to be a part.
Linden Lab recently teamed up with OpTic Gaming (a professional esports gaming organization) and Greenwall (OpTic’s fanbase) to create an esports viewing lounge, called Greenwall VR:
Explore the Greenwall VR experience from OpTic Gaming.
Stream matches, hang out with other fans, and play games while you wait – shuffleboard, throw pong, and more!
And, in order to promote the creation of even more Twitch, YouTube, and Vimeo livestream viewing lounges, Linden Lab has announced a new contest. The Sansar Lounge Contest runs until September 30th, and three prizes of 5,000 Sansar dollars (approximately US$50) plus an Oculus Rift VR headset with Touch controllers (estimated value US$399) will be awarded to the best Sansar lounge experience featuring streaming media in each of the following three categories:
There has been much discussion and sometimes heated debate, both here and on other blogs, about the actual level of usage of Sansar, how to measure that usage best, and what those statistics mean. Galen, who is a very talented programmer who builds and sells scripts under the brand name Metaverse Machines, has put together a useful and informative new webpage gathering together various Sansar statistics. Let’s take a look at what he has given us.
First is a list of current statistics:
The number of Sansar experiences listed in the Atlas
How many people are in how many experiences right now
The peak (and average) number of people in Sansar today
How many Sansar experiences have been visited in the past 3 hours
How many experiences were visited today
How many experiences were visited this month
Galen also lists the four most active Sansar experiences right now, with some statistics for each:
Finally, he presents charts of daily, weekly, and monthly public visitors to Sansar, showing both peak and average numbers, as well as a chart of the number of Sansar experiences built over time:
Galen explains the data in the charts:
The following charts come from data collected using a publicly available API. We take a snapshot of all currently listed experiences and how many people are in them approximately every 10 minutes. The “peak” lines represent the highest concurrent head-count across all experiences measured in those snapshots across the whole day (or week). The averages are computed by adding up the total head-count measures for each day (or week) and dividing by the number of snapshots. The gaps between each snapshot make this data imperfect but very solid. To avoid visual confusion, today’s data is excluded.
Second Life, VRChat, Others Sued Over Virtual Reality Patent
Virtual reality company says defendants infringed interactive theater patent
Company has sued 21 companies over patent
The makers of Second Life, VRChat, and other virtual reality games are facing claims that they infringed an interactive virtual theater patent.
Plaintiff Virtual Immersion Technologies Aug. 30 brought patent suits against seven companies, including Linden Research Inc., Sine Wave Entertainment Ltd., VRChat Inc., and Raytheon Co., Bloomberg Law data show.
The companies are infringing U.S. Patent 6,409,599, which allows people to interact in a real-time, virtual environment with live performers, according to Virtual Immersion’s nearly identical complaints filed…
A Texas-based company filed separate lawsuits on Wednesday against Boeing, Lockheed Martin and e-sports platform Sliver.tv, accusing them of infringing a patent on virtual reality technology.
The complaints filed in U.S. District Court in Delaware by Virtual Immersion Technologies of Georgetown, Texas are nearly identical to six others it filed in Texas last year against several other companies and one that it filed Tuesday in Delaware against Redwood City, California-based virtual reality startup AltspaceVR.
It would appear that Virtual Immersion Technologies is once again issuing patent infringement lawsuits against various players in the VR industry, including the companies behind Sansar, Sinespace, and VRChat. Unfortunately, fighting such lawsuits is a common part of the business landscape in America. Comedian John Oliver did a brilliant video on the problem:
Hypatia is a social VR platform created by a company called Timefire VR, now available for free on both the Steam and Oculus Home stores. According to a VentureBeat profile, it sounds as though the company went through more than its fair share of troubles in an effort to develop and release the product:
The company started working on the game in 2014. It’s been challenging bringing it to market. All told, the company has raised $4 million to date. That’s a tough task for a company based in Phoenix, Arizona.
Early on, angel investors put $1 million into the company. But in 2016, to get more financing, TimefireVR went public via a reverse merger, where a private company allows itself to be acquired by a publicly traded shell company.
Rassás [Jeffrey Rassás, the CEO of TimefireVR] said that the reverse merger was “less than satisfying.” So the company went private about a year ago, reduced its overhead, and kept working on Hypatia. At one point, the company had 28 people. But it has reduced down to a core of nine people now, and it pushed out its launch date until now.
One thing that sets Hypatia apart from other virtual worlds such as Sansar and High Fidelity is that it is a curated experience, where the company has designed and created the world, rather than letting customers build it from scratch:
“I think we are doing something radically different from other VR worlds,” said Jeffrey Rassás, the CEO of TimefireVR, in an interview with GamesBeat. “It’s not infinite, not vast empty spaces. It’s more like going to Disneyland, You get to do fun activities from day one. We are creating an environment where we were hoping to be a bridge to artistic programs.”
When you first enter Hypatia, you step out of a subway station to find yourself in a canal-laced city with old European architecture, which reminded me of Amsterdam. A large number of colourful bots with nametags were wandering about from place to place. There’s a marketplace with art and various other items for sale, and you can even try painting your own masterpiece at one of the easels using the tools provided:
There are also ATMs where you can purchase in-game currency through the Oculus store (it would appear that you get a CDN$20.00 credit to start off with):
There’s a huge graffiti wall next to a table with cans of spray paint in various colours, for you to indulge in a little virtual vandalism, and down the street, there’s a large colourful former church that’s an art studio:
There’s also a theatre where you can grab some props and put on a stage show for your audience. There’s even free fruit for you to throw at bad performers!
So, what do I think of Hypatia overall? Well, I think it’s the kind of place where, after a couple of visits, I would probably get bored. Your creativity is restricted to the easels and walls you can decorate using the brushes and spray paint cans provided. If you want to design and create your own experience from scratch, you’re much better off sticking to Sansar, High Fidelity, Sinespace, VRChat, or Second Life.
However, Hypatia is a wonderful place for children and the young-at-heart to play, create, and explore. Obviously, a lot of work has gone into making the experience cheerful, fun, and easy-to-use. I could see letting a school group loose in here, and everybody having a wonderful time! It reminds me a bit of Rec Room, and no doubt Hypatia is after the same target audience. I wish them every success.