NeosVR on Twitch: Cheerful Chaos Reigns

I’m going to say this again: NeosVR is a social VR platform to watch.

NeosVR recently started a series of Twitch livestream broadcasts where Nexulan plays the role of genial host, gently herding a group of avatars from place to place within NeosVR to demonstrate various cool experiences and features. Tomáš Mariančík (a.k.a. Frooxius), the extremely talented software developer who is building NeosVR, comes along for the ride. They’re doing this to gain followers on Twitch and promote awareness of their social VR platform.

Nexulan

Among the amazing things demonstrated on the most recent livestream were:

  • a working grappling hook to allow an avatar using it to swing from place to place like Batman or Spiderman;
  • a planet launcher that launches custom-designed mini planets into space, where the planets have gravity and you can actually run around the entire circumference of the planet (including being upside down at the “south pole” from the perspective of other users);
  • an actual milkable cow—you pull on the udder and the milk fills a pail!

The livestreams really show off the capabilities of the platform. There’s a wonderful sense of cheerful chaos (even anarchy at times) in these videos. It looks like fun, and it makes me want to explore NeosVR more!

If you’re interested, you can download the software for free from Steam. They also have an active Patreon page, where they are pulling in almost $2,000 a month in donations from supporters!

I leave you with a relatively recent 4-minute promotional video for NeosVR, narrated by the lead developer Frooxius. I’ve posted this before, but it’s worth watching to get an overview of the project if you’re new to it:

If you are interested in following the development of this project, you can follow NeosVR on Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube, or you can join their Discord server.

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Decentraland: An Update

Decentraland has published an update on their blockchain-based virtual world project on their official blog. Apparently, I was lucky enough to be one of the first 200 people invited to visit and explore the platform!

The first of Decentraland’s World Explorers – 200 pioneers including district leaders, moderators and content creators – have been sharing their first impressions. In short, they’re loving their time in Decentraland.

While we continue working to fix performance, iron out bugs and stability issues, we’re letting in 50 more people a week, with a goal to increase this to 2000 weekly active users by the end of September. By this time, we hope to have the user-facing features in place that will make World Explorer the complete experience – like being able to create and edit your Avatars inside the client, wear NFT items from your inventory and crucially – so you know where you are in the world – access a navigation map.

Unfortunately, it would appear that the open public beta has been pushed back until October 2019 at the earliest:

As we round into Q4, we’ll be ready to open World Explorer to the entire community. Once we’re satisfied with the stability, scalability and performance, we’ll then turn our attention to the fun and social sides of the experience. Users will:
– Get proper on-boarding
– Experience better content
– Express themselves with Avatar animations
– Travel to popular and trending places thanks to an advanced World Map; and
– Enjoy a set of social features

While the delays are disappointing, I can understand why they are necessary. Decentraland is up and running, but in my opinion it still needs a lot of work and polish before they can open the doors to everybody! If you missed the photos and videos from my first in-world tour, you can see them here. It looks as though thousands of eager DCL investors are going to have to rely on second-hand reports for at least the next couple of months.

In addition to my blogging about Decentraland, the platform is also capably covered by the dedicated blogs DCL Blogger and DCL Plazas. Matty from the DCL Blogger (another one of the first 200 allowed in) has even posted a couple of videos of his visits to Decentraland:

As you can see from Matty’s videos, there is still a lot of empty space in Decentraland. Hopefully, that will start to fill up as more people deploy their creations! There should be some interesting contributions as a result of the upcoming Decentraland SDK Hackathon. There’s still time to enter the contest, and you could win MANA (DCL’s cryptocurrency) and LAND (DCL’s 16 m by 16 m square plots of virtual land) as prizes.

And I will continue to report on developments as the project moves forward. Stay tuned!

UPDATED! Xaos Princess Checks Out Sansar

You might be surprised to hear that, amid all the doom and gloom over at High Fidelity, people are still pressing ahead with events. Just recently, DrFran hosted a pub trivia quiz in HiFi which I attended (I’m the one in the wizard’s hat):

Pub Quiz Night in High Fidelity

DrFran also hosts a conversational salon every Sunday where people gather to discuss a pre-set topic. The one I attended recently was on sex and gambling in virtual worlds, and it was a fabulous discussion. It’s due to hard-working people like DrFran that there is still a strong sense of community in High Fidelity.

However, there is no hiding the fact that High Fidelity has made a sharp pivot away from consumers towards the business market. Many HiFi users are looking at other social VR platforms such as Sansar. Well-known High Fidelity user Xaos Princess (whom I have profiled before on my blog) has recorded a video of her recent visit to Sansar, where she talks with Draxtor Despres and Theanine at 114 Harvest and then visits four of Theanine’s experiences: Synthwave, A House on the Hill, Stereopixel Arcade, and an in-progress, not-yet-public experience containing his photogrammetric scans of Chinese sculptures and virtual recreations of buildings and bridges he saw while he was living in China.

The video concludes with a point-by-point evaluation of Sansar, done on a interactive whiteboard in High Fidelity:

I noticed that the only thing that Xaos Princess didn’t like was the complete lack of in-world building tools, compared to High Fidelity. Personally, I don’t see this as much of a problem since everybody uses external content creation tools like Blender, Maya and 3ds Max anyway (even in High Fidelity, where she comes from).

Unfortunately, I can’t embed Xaos’ livestream (which was done using Periscope), but you can view it at this link. Please note that Xaos’ audio is very low and you will probably need to use headphones or earphones to hear what she is saying, although it does get better later on in the video. Also, the livestream video is three hours long! Despite this, I’d still encourage all users interested in social VR platforms to set aside the time to watch this; it’s always illuminating to get an “outsider’s” perspective on a platform you already know.

UPDATE Aug. 5th: Xaos Princess has now put a version of her Periscope video up on YouTube:

Note that this is actually episode two of a series titled Xaos Tours the Metaverse. Episode one, of course, was about High Fidelity, and it is available on YouTube:

By the way, Xaos also did a point-by-point evaluation of High Fidelity at the end of her tour, and she does not pull any punches:

It’s interesting to compare the two whiteboards. Xaos (who is obviously an expert at High Fidelity!) feels that HiFi is lacking in three areas: learning curve, gamification, and user concurrency (?!). I’m kind of surprised at the latter, but according to Xaos’ video, she gave it a red frowning face because of High Fidelity’s sudden shift in direction leading to doubt and insecurity among its users, which is understandable. Perhaps “user concurrency” would better be termed “level of usage”.

I look forward to future episodes of Xaos Tours the Metaverse!

Autodesk, Feeling Pressure from Blender, Offers “Indie” Versions of Maya and 3ds Max Software

The overwhelming majority of people who create mesh content for virtual worlds use one of the following three software packages instead of the rather limited in-world “prim building” tools provided by products such as Second Life and High Fidelity:

  • Blender (which is free to use and always will be);
  • Maya by Autodesk (which costs US$1,545 per year); and
  • 3ds Max by Autodesk (which is also US$1,545 per year).

Given the choices, it is not surprising that Blender is extremely popular, especially among those indie creators who are not associated with major game design companies that can afford the outrageously expensive Autodesk software costs. A vibrant and supportive user community has sprung up around Blender over the years since it was first released as freeware in 1998:

In May 2002, Roosendaal started the non-profit Blender Foundation, with the first goal to find a way to continue developing and promoting Blender as a community-based open-source project. On July 18th, 2002, Roosendaal started the “Free Blender” campaign, a crowdfunding precursor. The campaign aimed for open-sourcing Blender for a one-time payment of €100,000 (US$100,670 at the time) collected from the community. On September 7, 2002, it was announced that they had collected enough funds and would release the Blender source code. Today, Blender is free and open-source software largely developed by its community, alongside two full-time and two part-time employees employed by the Blender Institute.

Wikipedia

Recently, Blender has released an updated version of their software (Blender 2.80), which includes a new user interface and many new features. And major game development companies such as Ubisoft (Assassin’s Creed) and Epic Games (Fortnite) have thrown their support behind Blender:

Assassin’s Creed maker Ubisoft has followed Epic Games in supporting open source 3D creation tool Blender by joining the Blender Foundation’s Development Fund as a corporate Gold member. The move will see Ubisoft fund online support for Blender developers, while Ubisoft Animation Studio — a division of Ubisoft Film and Television — has also committed to using the tool in-house and contributing to various open source Blender projects. 

The news comes a week after Epic Games donated $1.2 million to the Blender Foundation through its MegaGrants program, with company CEO Tim Sweeney praising the tool as an “enduring recourse within the artistic community.” Those remarks were echoed by Pierrot Jacquet, head of production at Ubisoft Animation Stdio, who also saluted the “strong and engaged” Blender community.

Obviously, Autodesk is feeling the heat. Today I learned that the company is now trying to entice content creators with new, “indie” versions of their flagship products, Maya and 3ds Max. The restrictions for Maya Indie are:

  • Your annual gross revenue from design work must be less than USD$100,000 per year
  • Only one license can be used per user or organization
  • Offer is only available to users in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the U.K. or the U.S.

The cost? US$250 per year (only 16% of the full-price version). The website also announces:

Autodesk Maya Indie is the same industry-standard product used by professional studios, at a price point accessible to those who are just starting out. If you are a recent graduate or freelancer with less than USD$100,000/year in revenue, you can get started now. Please note that this is a limited-time offer.

“Act now, supplies are limited!” This is a standard come-on. I seriously doubt that Autodesk is going to rescind its offer in the face of competition from the popular, similarly featured, and totally free Blender software. The same offer, with the same terms, applies to 3ds Max. CGPress reports:

Comments by Chip Weatherman suggest the limited time disclaimer refers to the fact that this is a pilot program to “determine how and where we expand it. Much like when the telecom companies offer a new channel in select areas to see how to roll it out, this is similar.”

The Indie versions of Max and Maya are fully featured with no restrictions on render size, file format, plugins etc. There is a limit of only one indie license per business in addition to the income cap mentioned above. Users should also be aware that the license will auto-renew at full price, but this can be avoided by disabling automatic renewal and resubscribing to the Indie license once it expires.

True fact: when I was learning how to create avatar clothing for Cloud Party (a nascent virtual world bought out by Yahoo! and closed in 2014), I used the free student version of Maya (mainly because my teacher used Maya in her tutorial videos at the time). However, I doubt that I will shell out US$250 a year (which works out to $330 Canadian) when I can use the equally powerful and well-supported Blender. I would rather put that money towards the upgrade fees for Marvelous Designer, which I still plan to use to create my avatar fashion empire 😉

Competition in markets is a good thing; it drives down prices while it encourages software makers to add features and improve quality. It will be interesting to see how this all plays out!