High Fidelity Cancels Future Multi-Con VR Events: Has Big Event Fatigue Settled In Already?

Promotional Image for the First Multi-Con VR Festival in High Fidelity

Recently, High Fidelity hosted what was to be the first of three successive “avatar cosplay” themed events, called Multi-Con VR (here are some pictures taken at the event). The company decided to throw some serious cash around to entice people to enter the contest (US$16,000 in total prizes, plus US$300 paid out in High Fidelity Coin for every avatar entry accepted into the contest).

Well, it would appear that High Fidelity found the response to the first Multi-Con to be rather underwhelming, and has decided to cancel the next two events:

Thank you for a wonderful Multi-Con VR: Anime + Animation.
While this experience was groundbreaking and a success in many ways, we’re not seeing sufficient demand for events of this type. As such, we’ve decided to cancel upcoming Multi-Con VR dates.

Translation: We were expecting a big crowd, but we didn’t get one. One thing that I have noticed is that High Fidelity isn’t afraid to switch gears if something isn’t working. For example, they had originally planned six successive monthly stress tests, only to stop after the first three and switch to big monthly events instead (like last November’s FUTVRE LANDS Festival). That event proved to be a raging success, but I have noticed a definite drop-off in user interest and attendance at HiFi events since then (including Multi-Con VR). Obviously, the company has noticed this too, and has decided to try something else instead.

Some on social media have commented that High Fidelity was just throwing money at people to get them to use their platform:

They literally resort to bribing people to get them to log in these days. And even that isn’t working.

And while I am not so harsh as this particular commenter (who shall remain anonymous), I must confess that I myself am not a fan of big showy events, which at best give only temporary spikes in concurrent user figures. In the end it doesn’t come down to how many people you can pack onto a single domain for an event; it’s about how many people you get to stick around and keep coming back.

High Fidelity has decided that they weren’t getting the bang for the buck they were expecting, and they will invest their money elsewhere, perhaps coming up with new and different events in future.

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VRChat and Rec Room Will Be Coming to the Oculus Quest This Spring

VRChat has just announced via Twitter that they will be one of the social VR platforms that the upcoming Oculus Quest standalone VR headset will support:

Image Sent Out in Today’s Tweet

In my earlier blogpost discussing which social VR platforms the Quest would support, there was a bit of debate as to whether or not it would be even possible to pare down the VRChat experience so that it would run acceptably on the Oculus Quest. It would appear that the company has successfully been able to accomplish this difficult feat.

It’s not clear whether VRChat will be one of the applications available at the official launch of the Quest, or sometime later. (We still don’t know when the Quest will be launched, other than “Spring 2019”.) It’s also not exactly clear what technical compromises will have to be made to the full-blown VRChat experience currently available to people using the Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, and Windows Mixed Reality headsets.

But wait, there’s more news! VRChat is not the only social VR platform to make an Oculus Quest-related announcement today!

UploadVR reports today that Against Gravity’s Rec Room social VR app will also be available for the Quest. Again, it’s not clear whether the platform will be available on the official launch date of the Oculus Quest, or sometime later. They add:

We’ve long thought of Rec Room as one of VR’s most important apps. On top of playing together, players can also customize rooms to their own look and then share them with others to provide new types of experiences. In January, we reported that the game had reached over one million players.

Against Gravity also confirmed to UploadVR that the Quest version of the game will support cross-play. this is a key feature for Rec Room, allowing those with an Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, Windows VR headset and even a PSVR to meet up online. Adding Quest to that mix should help expand the player base.

So, both the number one (VRChat) and number two (Rec Room) most popular social VR platforms will be available for the Oculus Quest. This will open up a large new potential audience for both platforms. The question remains, though: how well will both virtual worlds stand up to the flood of new users? Interesting times ahead!

Cyan Launches Crowdfunding Campaign for Firmament, a New VR-Capable Open-World Exploration and Puzzle Game

As I wrote about earlier, I have decided to branch out a little bit from my usual coverage of multi-user, social VR platforms and virtual worlds, and I’m going to start to look at some non-combat, open-world exploration and puzzle games such as Eastshade, which really caught my attention recently with its beautiful scenery and refreshing, non-combat-focused gameplay.

Of course, the first truly popular and successful game of this nature was Myst, first released by Cyan in 1993, which became the best-selling PC game of all time until it was eclipsed by The Sims in 2002 (source: Wikipedia). Cyan has an impeccable pedigree when to comes to building and releasing these type of games. It’s a niche market which they basically created from scratch with their evocative, mind-bending puzzle games that were so different from all the first-person shooters out there. Their games have attracted quite a following over the past 25 years!

Well, guess what? Today, Cyan launched a Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign to raise the necessary funds to create a brand new, open-world exploration/puzzle game, called Firmament. It’s being designed from the ground up to support users in VR headsets (Oculus Rift and HTC Vive), as well as Windows desktop users. Here’s their promotional video:

Cyan’s desire is to raise US$1,285,000 in only 31 days, a very ambitious goal! But if any company has the talent to pull this off, it is Cyan. I truly enjoying playing Myst, Riven and the other games in the Myst series back in the day, and I have also worked my way through their previous VR-capable puzzle game, Obduction, in 2017, which was extremely challenging and rewarding to play! So signing up for this Kickstarter is almost a no-brainer for me.

Here’s an earlier teaser trailer issued last March, which gives a bit more of the backstory:

This is an All-or-Nothing Kickstarter, meaning that Cyan has to meet their fundraising target in order to collect all the money. If they fail, everybody keeps their original pledged amounts. But I don’t think Cyan will fail. It’s actually been quite entertaining to watch as the live update of the total number of backers and the total dollar amount pledged inch their way up over the course of the day:

Raising the first 15% of your goal in less than 24 hours is a truly remarkable and enviable achievement! At this rate, they will reach their goal in a week!

So, if like me, you have fond memories of playing Myst and Riven, you might want to consider making a financial pledge to support this project. There are various levels of support, ranging from a small contribution of US$7.00 towards keeping the development team in coffee and donuts, all the way up to the highest-level full-blown prize package for a US$5,000 pledge:

You’ll join us for the 20th anniversary of Mysterium, the fan-based Myst-Con held at our headquarters in Spokane this year. Spend a day (Thursday, August 2nd) at Cyan with the team as an honorary Cyantist. Tour the studio, get a look behind the scenes, ask questions of the team, then join Rand [Miller, Cyan’s CEO] for an exclusive private group dinner! This package includes dinner, airfare (up to $800), and four nights’ lodging. We’ll also add your likeness to the game (but we can’t tell you where)!

Here’s a link to their Kickstarter where you can get all the details.

Firmament art by Joe Perez of Cyan, Inc.

Sansar Pick of the Day: Wurfi’s Little Gallery

One of the best uses of virtual worlds is to enable you to create and curate your own personal art gallery! Sansar user Wurfi, who is an accomplished photographer in Second Life, has made a one-minute YouTube video showing off his new gallery in Sansar:

I think that this sort of cross-worlds pollination (showing off one virtual world to users of a completely different one) will become more popular over time. Who knows, it might even bring some more budding photographers into Second Life! If you want to visit in person, here’s the Sansar Atlas link.