I’m Taking a Break

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Photo by Mohamed Ajufaan on Unsplash

I’ve decided to take a break from blogging for a week or two (we’ll see how long I last 😉 ). I’ll still be working with my producer, Andrew William, taping upcoming espisodes of the Metaverse Newscast. See you later!

Please note that I am currently tinkering with setting up my first Google AdSense account, and I’m brand new at this, so you may see some strange ads and messages appearing in various locations on this blog over the next few weeks as I test out the various options. Please bear with me as I work my way up the learning curve on this! Thank you.

The Questing Release: Linden Lab Issues a Major Update to Sansar, Including Dressable Custom Avatars

Today, Linden Lab issued a major update to the Sansar client. You can find all the details here.

The major new addition to Sansar is questing: the ability to set up a series of steps which your avatar completes, in order to win a reward of Sansar dollars (I’m assuming there will be other kinds of rewards in future). Your first quest is to go to the Sansar Social Hub and click on a terminal, and as you complete quests, you can return to the two terminals at the Social Hub to receive more quests related to exploring various Sansar experiences:

This is the start of a complete questing system built into Sansar, which other developers will soon be able to use to create their own quests, hunts, and adventures. It’s intended to be a serious tool for game-builders in Sansar, and I think it’s a welcome addition.

Among the many other updates is the ability to clothe a custom avatar using Marvelous Designer-made clothing. (Note that dressable human avatars have been available for quite a while now; what I’m talking about now is a brand new thing, dressable custom avatars.)

Here’s an example to illustrate the power of this new system, a free skeleton custom avatar by Snow from the Sansar Store (note the new message that you can add Marvelous Designer created clothing to the custom avatar, but the fit will depend on the shape of the avatar):

I selected the skeleton avatar from Lookbook, and added a T-shirt, then clicked the Adjust Clothing button. The T-shirt drapes naturally over the skeleton, and I can adjust it as if I were a humanoid avatar!

Here’s a closeup. You can actually see how the T-shirt hangs on the shoulder blades! This is so cool!

Here’s another example, that should really pull the VRChat crowd into Sansar: custom anime avatars which you can dress as you like!

Also, if you press the Space bar on your keyboard, your avatar jumps. A small thing, but handy at times (you’ll use it immediately on one of the quests). Oh, and you can now also tint the skin of your male and female human avatars to any colour you wish, using the same colour wheel method already used for tinting your hair and nails.

The Dirty Little Secret of VRChat—Hidden Adult Content

You might remember that a while back, I wrote a speculative blogpost about what would happen if one of the more popular social VR platforms were to break from the pack and allow adult/sexual content—only to discover (based on a user tip) that one of them (High Fidelity) already, very quietly, was.

Well, very shortly after writing and updating that particular blogpost, I was informed that a second popular social VR platform, VRChat, also has quietly allowed adult/NSFW content to be served from private worlds, something of which I was also unaware. (Please note that this is not a criticism of VRChat, or High Fidelity for that matter; my personal opinion is that adult content, when properly managed and carefully restricted to consenting users aged 18+, can indeed drive usage of, and business to, certain platforms. It’s one of the things that is currently contributing to Second Life’s longevity, for example.)

My anonymous source tells me:

As someone who plays a lot of VRChat, VRChat for sure allows adult content. They won’t tell you that though. Adult content must be kept to Invite Only or Invite+ worlds, it’s not allowed in public. But the adult worlds are out there.

I’ve seen some interesting art galleries. Also, I’ve seen some really interesting stuff since VRChat allows for custom shaders. A friend of mine made a deformation shader where the mesh would deform to your touch. You can guess what he used it for.

But yeah, VRChat totally allows that stuff, they just pretend it doesn’t exist, but they also don’t do anything about it even when they know it exists. I think it’s a brand thing. They don’t want to become the VR sex place.

Here is a screen capture of one of the rotating messages which appear in the VRChat client as your chosen world is loading:

Please note the curious and very specific wording, differentiating between not-safe-for-work content “in Public worlds (Public, Friends+)” and “streamed or shared from Private worlds (Invite, Invite+, Friends)”.

Invite and Invite+ worlds were introduced back in February 2018:

Invite – Very private. Owner can accept invite requests and send invites. Occupants get notifications that others want into the instance.
Invite+ – Somewhat private. Owner and any occupants can accept invite requests.

Here’s a link to a brief tutorial on Reddit on how to generate invitation links to private worlds in VRChat. So it’s possible to share a private invitation to a world with only those people you want to come in.

Now, I’m not really sure how to parse this strangely-worded ban on streaming and sharing adult content (isn’t that something that has to happen anyway, even if you’ve been invited to a private world?), but it seems to me that, as VRChat is about to gain a whole whack of new users with its impending launch on the Oculus Quest, that Facebook/Oculus is probably going to be taking a really, really hard look at this (if they haven’t already done so).

Also, I have (sadly, but perhaps not too surprisingly) not been invited to view any adult/sexual content in VRChat, so I cannot confirm what my anonymous sources have told me personally.

I’m already somewhat unpopular among a few VRChat users for even daring to bring up intellectual content and copyright issues on the platform before, and that’s probably yet another thing that may get a bit of a shake-up with the upcoming move to the Oculus Quest. (Not to beat a dead horse. But yeah, I am. And I am now going to let that matter rest in peace, before I sound like the grumpy old man that I am rapidly becoming…**Ryan takes another swig of Geritol, yells at the kids to get off his lawn**)

My understanding is that Facebook/Oculus is going to be much more stringent with its curation of content available to users of the Quest ecosystem, at least compared to the relatively open Early Access program for the Rift. What this actually means when the Oculus Quest officially launches and VRChat is made available as an app on the Quest is still somewhat open to speculation. (For that matter, the same applies to High Fidelity, although I have been unable to 100% confirm that it will launch on the Quest. No official announcement has yet been made.)

However, and before I get accused of being a VRChat basher by publicizing this hidden adult content, I will refer you to a quote I made when I was accused of bashing Sansar by criticizing its launch on Steam:

I want to stress that this is only one person’s opinion, not an official Sansar spokesperson’s point of view. I still remain a strong Sansar supporter, but I would be neglecting my duties as an independent social VR/virtual worlds blogger if I simply posted nothing but “good news” about Sansar, as some people want me to do.

And the exact same sentiment applies to VRChat as to Sansar. I like VRChat, I enjoy VRChat, and I have made some great friends and had some wonderful experiences there, but I am not simply going to be a cheerleader for the platform; I want to be able to report both the good and not-so-good sides of all the social VR platforms and virtual worlds I write about in this blog.

What do you think? Please feel free to leave a comment below, thanks!

UPDATE 5:49 p.m.: Well, this just gets even more confusing. I’ve received a link to the VRChat Community Guidelines, which clearly state:

Inappropriate Content

– Live streaming, advertising or publicly sharing content that is sexually explicit in nature or simulates sex acts is not permitted. Doing so may result in moderation action being taken against your account up to (but not limited to) banning of the offending user account depending on the severity of the act in question.
– Pornography & nudity is not allowed.

So, you can technically visit and see adult content in private worlds if you were invited (as shown in the very careful wording of the screen capture above), but pornography and nudity are against the VRChat Community Guidelines, so if the company actually finds out what you’re doing, they can shut you down. Note that this stance differs markedly from that of High Fidelity, which shifts the onus of responsibility entirely onto those who host their own content on their own servers.

A Blast from the Past: Brokeback Mountain Movie Mashups

All right, today you get something completely different.

As you all know, Google+ is shutting down its social network on April 2nd. I’ve already backed up all my data, but I have been browsing through some old posts and I wanted to share with you some funny Photoshop images I had created, way, waaay back when I was a rabid follower of slash fanfiction based on the characters from the Annie Proulx short story and the resulting 2005 Hollywood movie, Brokeback Mountain.

I was simply obsessed with that movie, which had a huge emotional impact on me, for several years, and I had created these images to amuse and entertain my fellow BBM fanfic fans on various websites, notably LiveJournal. (Anybody here remember LiveJournal? They used to have some great communities back in the day.)

Anyways, here goes (and please forgive my lamentable PhotoShop skills!):

(The blurb actually was taken from something Jake Gyllenhaal and Heath Ledger had to say at some awards show! If the text is too small to read, click for a larger size in Flickr)

(If the text is too small to read, click the image for a larger size in Flickr)

(The text is how I imagined a cishet fangirl would review this movie mashup! If the text is too small to read, please click the image for a larger size in Flickr)
(mashup with the 1969 classic movie Midnight Cowboy)
(Mashup with Moulin Rouge)
(This movie mashup is my personal favourite!)