The Blog Celebrates Five Years!

It was exactly five years ago today—on July 31st, 2017—that I wrote my first blogpost on this blog. It was to announce the public beta of the social VR platform Sansar, which at the time was owned by Linden Lab (the makers of the still-popular virtual world, Second Life).

At the time, this blog was called the Sansar Newsblog, because that was the only metaverse platform I wrote about. Over time, I began to expand my coverage to include many other social VR platforms and flatscreen virtual worlds, and on February 10th, 2018, I changed the name to the blog.

One of the advantages of using your real-life name as your blog name is that you can go off on tangents, and because it’s you, you never go off-brand! 😉 And so, in addition to “news and views about social VR, virtual worlds, and the metaverse” (as the tagline for this blog states), I have written about artificial intelligence, the crypto/NFT space, and notably, my experiences during the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic.

Over the past five years, my blog has become more popular, and I have even been interviewed by publications such as The Globe and Mail newspaper and New Yorker magazine. I’ve also been a guest on several podcasts about the ever-evolving metaverse.

In 2018, I set up a Patreon (from which I earn a small amount of money, enough to cover my hosting costs), and I also set up my Discord server, which now boasts over 685 members representing any and every metaverse platform!

In retrospect, creating the Discord was one of the smartest things I have done. I have made so many new online friends who are also keenly interested in the metaverse! I rely on them to alert me to news and events happening on the various social VR platforms like VRChat, and in the flatscreen virtual worlds like Second Life. Honestly, I get half my new story ideas from them, and I thank them! And I believe that the members of my Discord are the single best team of metaverse bullshit detectors on the planet! 😉

Some statistics from five years of blogging:

  • 2,553 blogposts (which works out to 1.4 posts per day, over 1,827 days)
  • Over 1,280,000 blogpost views (my busiest month so far has been January 2022, with over 40,100 views!)
  • Over 720,000 blog visitors from all around the world (top ten countries in order: United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Germany, Australia, Italy, France, the Netherlands, Brazil, and Spain)
  • Over 1,500 comments!
  • Over 450 blog subscribers via email or WordPress

My Top Ten Most Popular Blogposts in 2022:

Please note that, for a few months in 2022, I did test out Patreon patron-exclusive blogposts, but I have since decided that it’s not worth the hassle (also, Patreon has changed its rules and that particular plug-in no longer works in WordPress unless I upgrade from “Patreon Lite” to “Patreon Pro”). Accordingly, I have now unlocked all my previously-restricted blogposts, and you should be able to access and read all of them. Please note that all these blogposts are safe for work, even the ones which discuss adult or sexual topics.

  1. The Dirty Little Secret of VRChat—Hidden Adult Content (which to my bemusement, is still, far and away, THE most popular blogpost on this blog, mainly because it comes up as the first result when you Google “vrchat adult”)
  2. Welcome to the Metaverse: A Comprehensive List of Social VR/AR Platforms and Virtual Worlds (Including a List of Blockchain Metaverse Platforms)
  3. A Step-by-Step Guide on How to Get Started in Decentraland (and Some Caveats for New Users)
  4. Clip and Save: Ryan’s All-In-One Guide to Freebies in Second Life
  5. LGBTQ Spaces in Social VR and Virtual Worlds: Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Trans, and Queer Places in the Metaverse
  6. List of Non-Combat, Open-World Exploration/Puzzle/Life Simulation Games
  7. 3DX Chat—A Brief Introduction (and the Biggest Problem with Most Adult Virtual Worlds)
  8. Shopping for a New Penis in Second Life: Any Recommendations?
  9. Exploring Sleep Worlds in VRChat
  10. Second Life Steals, Deals and Freebies: Free and Inexpensive Mesh Heads and Bodies for Female Second Life Avatars

As you can see, sex is popular, as can be seen by numbers 1, 7, 8, and maybe 5 on this Top Ten list! However, as I have stated in my ever-popular list of social VR, virtual worlds and metaverse platforms:

Please note that there are two categories of metaverse platforms which I will not endeavour to cover on this list:

• Products aimed at the teen/tween market (mostly on mobile devices, e.g. IMVU); and
• Purely sexually oriented or “adult” virtual worlds and social VR

Why? Well, I’m not interested in either category, and I will the herding of those particular categories of cats to other people… I’ve got my hands full as it is!

However, you can expect a complete overhaul and reorganization of my list of metaverse platforms (item #2 in my Top Ten list above) in the second half of this year.

Also, although I still dearly love to spend time there, I will be spending less and less time writing about Second Life on the blog. While my coverage of “Steals, Deals, and Freebies” in Second Life has proven extremely popular, and I have firmly established my credentials as a freebie fashionista, there’s just so many other things that I want to write about! Instead, I would encourage my faithful Second Life readers to join my in-world group, where I will continue to post fabulous fashion freebies as I encounter them in my travels around the grid (group join fee is L$50).

While my formerly blistering pace of blogging has slowed somewhat this year, I do plan to continue reporting on news and events in the ever-expanding and ever-evolving metaverse, and the many companies who are building it!

Cheers!! Here’s to the next five years!

HBO Max Documentary Review: We Met in Virtual Reality

This evening, I finally had an opportunity to watch Joe Hunting’s full-length documentary, We Met in Virtual Reality, which I first wrote about last year. This is my review of that documentary.

Here’s an overview of Joe’s film, taken from his IndieGogo page:

We Met in Virtual Reality is an enchanting portrait of social Virtual Reality (VR) app VRChat, composed of intimate and hilarious moments inside global VR communities. The film presents an emotive impression on this new virtual landscape through a poetic collage of stories, exploring how VR is affecting the way we socialise, work, love and express ourselves; told authentically by the users of VRChat through a warm heartfelt lens. 

The overall narrative is made up of three distinct protagonists each presenting unique stories of discovering a romantic relationship through VRChat, and using VR to cope with poor mental health. These core narratives flow between each other in a linear fashion through Winter 2020 to Summer 2021, delivering a compelling journey amidst the more observational moments in other VR communities.

Filmed entirely inside VRChat using cinematic virtual cameras during the COVID lockdown crisis, this film captures a precious time in an underground cultural movement that will soon shape the world we live in; additionally highlighting contemporary subjects such as of coping with poor mental health, modern forms of sign language, non-binary gender expression and finding love beyond physical interaction. Everyone appearing in the film will be addressed by their virtual usernames without any real life imagery, immersing audiences into a new cinematic documentary experience.

This documentary has three main storylines: the American Sign Language (ASL) teachers teachers Jenny0629 and Ray_is_Deaf, who work at Helping Hands; one couple, DustBunny and Toaster; and a second couple, IsYourBoi and DragonHeart. Both couples first met each other within VRChat. In addition, there are many cameos of a number of other characters, who candidly discuss various aspects of being an avatar on a social VR platform.

Among the worlds explored are a dinosaur theme park, a camel ride through the desert, an improv comedy stage show, a New Year’s Eve countdown celebration, and the Zodiac Club, an exotic dance club. Many of the avatars shown have eye, finger and even full-body tracking, which gives the viewer a really good idea of what you can accomplish in VR (for example, shooting a game of pool, or taking part in a belly-dancing lesson!). This film will be a real eye-opener to the metaverse neophyte who might have thought that being in virtual reality meant that you would be limited to only moving your head and your hands!

There are moments of glorious hijinks in this documentary, as well as some sombre discussions of mental health issues. Joe does a masterful job of editing, moving smoothly from one story to another, and he wisely gives the people he profiles the time and space required for them to tell their stories, each in their own fashion. It’s been a joy to see Joe Hunting burnish his skills as a documentary filmmaker over time!

The decision was made to film the entire documentary in VRChat, so there is no jarring back-and-forth between the virtual world and the real. In fact, one of the underlying messages of We Met in Virtual Reality is that the virtual can, in fact, become the real. The communities and relationships Joe documents are just as authentic as any in the real world! (While this will not come as a surprise to any of my blog readers, many of whom already have experience in countless virtual worlds, it might come as a shock to those who have not yet set foot in the metaverse.)

In fact, the outreach potential of having Joe’s documentary available on a major TV/movie streaming service such as HBO Max means that a lot more people will learn about social VR and the metaverse in general, and VRChat in particular!

I do find it ironic that this documentary—which focuses so wonderfully on the Deaf and hard-of-hearing community of Helping Hands—has been released on HBO Max at the very moment when the VRChat community is in an uproar over an update which has disabled many popular mods intended to serve the Deaf and hard-of-hearing, providing core functionality which the official VRChat client still lacks.

The documentary is available in both closed-caption and described-video versions, and you can watch it on HBO Max in the United States, and through Crave TV in Canada (which carries HBO content). Here’s a list of the other countries where HBO Max is available.

Joe Hunting has crafted a love letter to VRChat, and if you watch only one film about the metaverse this year, We Met in Virtual Reality is that film. Highly recommended, particularly if you are brand new to social VR and VRChat. I give it five stars out of five! ★★★★★

VRChat’s Latest Security Update, Incorporating Easy Anti Cheat, Is Causing Controversy Among Users

Yesterday, VRChat posted the following blogpost to their official blog, titled The VRChat Security Update:

“Modified clients” are a large problem for VRChat in a variety of ways. Malicious modified clients allow users to attack and harass others, causing a huge amount of moderation issues. Even seemingly non-malicious modifications complicate the support and development of VRChat, and make it impossible for VRChat creators to work within the expected, documented bounds of VRChat.

In order to prevent that, we’ve implemented Easy Anti Cheat (EAC) into VRChat.

If you’ve played Apex Legends, Fortnite, Gears of War, Elden Ring, or many more, you’ve seen Easy Anti-Cheat (EAC).

EAC is the industry-leading anti-cheat service. It’s lightweight, effective, and privacy-focused. In short, for any game or platform looking to prevent malicious users from breaking the rules, it’s a powerful solution.

The integration of EAC means that all modified clients are blocked. The problems mentioned above will be minimized if not outright eliminated, improving the VRChat experience for users and creators.

Malicious client modifications are responsible for a massive amount of issues for both our team and our users. We’ve been listening to you cry out for a solution to being harassed, griefed, and constantly crashed, so we’re taking further steps to address one of the roots of the problem.

Our Trust & Safety and User Support teams witness first hand how much damage modified clients do to the platform. 

Every month, thousands of users have their accounts stolen, often due to running a modified client that is silently logging their keystrokes as well as other information. These users – often without even realizing it! – run the risk of losing their account, or having their computers become part of a larger botnet. 

These networks of modified clients perform malicious actions without informing users – such as reporting back user locations to harassers or stalkers, ripping and archiving avatars, allowing mass harassment of users via automated actions, and even acting as nodes for distributed “zombie” botnets. We’ve directly observed this happening innumerable times, and it alarms us!

Additionally, all modified clients – even ones that aren’t malicious – are a burden for creators. We regularly speak to many that have spent hours (or days) debugging user issues, only to realize that the culprit is a modified client. This frustration ultimately has a chilling effect on VRChat creators, hurting their enthusiasm and preventing them from building awesome things. 

This pain extends to VRChat support too – any time we update, we get a massive amount of bug reports that end up just being broken modifications. In addition to burning developer time, this support burden also frustrates less technically-inclined users who didn’t know what they were getting into by installing these modifications.

Now, keep in mind that it has always been against the VRChat Terms of Service to make modifications to the official VRChat client. Those who break the ToS risk being banned from the platform, but (much like earlier flatscreen virtual worlds, e.g. Second Life), there’s really very little stopping an infringer from creating a brand new account to get around the ban.

However, it appears that many users are unhappy with this latest move by the company, which will impact useful mods as well. Among the ways users are voicing their displeasure is by review-bombing VRChat on Steam:

However, this has not gone down well with the game’s community. Modding was a large part of the VRChat experience despite it being technically disallowed. Mods are currently used to address the game’s poor performance as well as to add missing accessibility features such as speech-to-text (via PCGamer).

Recent Steam reviews for VRChat are currently sitting at “mostly negative” as thousands of negative reviews are flooding in from displeased community members.

One such negative review lists the negative outcomes bringing EAC will cause for VRChat. “What EAC will do for VRChat: Lower framerates, increase instability, stop script kiddies, stop “wholesome” mods, accessibility mods, and quality of life mods, Stop [GPU software] from improving your framerate…”

One user with almost 9,000 hours left a sarcastic positive review, stating that the uninstall button works great on the game. Another simply stated, “horrible devs, entirely disconnected from the community and what they want.”

The VRChat development team has yet to address the ongoing community backlash to their decision.

A reportor from TheGamer website writes:

As highlighted by a ResetEra thread, there have been over 5,000 negative reviews filed since July 1. This has brought the recent reviews score down to Mostly Negative despite the game’s Very Positive overall rating. Mods are against VRChat’s terms of service but the community use a slew of client-side addons to fix a lot of the bugs while also adding key quality of life features. But these mods do a lot more than that, making the game safer, and they’re set to break with the anti-cheat update.

Mods such as AdvancedSafety, LagFreeScreenshots, JoinNotifier, UIExpansionKit, and CameraMinus will all be flagged by the anti-cheat, resulting in a ban for users. The community has voiced concern over this with the Discord racking up complaints and backlash as a feedback post on the official website accumulates over 18,600 upvotes.

An anonymous source has shared with me the following message which is circulating among the VRChat hacker/mod community:

As some of you may have noticed, VRChat’s next big update is regarding their new EAC (Easy Anti Cheat).

This means that any mods you may have been using, VRChat is requiring you to get rid of them on this next update. You won’t be able to launch the game until done so.


Still waiting on more information from VRChat regarding this entire situation. I will be keeping an eye out and will update here as well.

As you may have noticed, VRChat has released an open beta that includes Easy Anti-Cheat, which prevents use of mods.

Playing cat-and-mouse game with anti-cheat developers is not something that could be won by a modding community as big and open as ours, so if this open beta makes it to release as-is, this would mean the end of wholesome modding.

Now is your chance to tell VRChat that this is a dumb change. It does not solve ripping or crasher avatars. It probably won’t stop malicious mods, as they’re way smaller and can evade anti-cheat easier. Nor do they open source their code, meaning you never really know what you are running, and risk getting your account stolen, or worse.

However, it prevents you from having unlimited avatar favourites. It prevents you from using anti-crash mods. It prevents you from using all other mod features you’ve come to enjoy. It prevents you from using safe, open-source mods that never made anyone’s experience worse.

So, we recommend that you cancel your VRC+ if you have it, and do not launch VRChat for at least a week to produce a visible player count drop. Encourage your friends to do the same, even if they don’t use mods themselves. Anti-community measures like these from a greedy corporation should be protested as loudly as possible. You can take the time off VRChat to explore alternative platforms – Neos provides a different experience, and ChilloutVR aims to be similar to what you know (you can even auto-convert some of your avatars!). Or you can choose to experience other VR and flatscreen games together with friends you’ve made in VRChat.

This is not really a “security update”. It much more of a “we’re too afraid of people doing our job better than us” update.

You can upvote a Canny post here.

Stay tuned—it looks like things are going to get interesting! 😉

UPDATE 9:39 p.m.: ThrillSeeker spends the first ten minutes of his 15-minute weekly VR news update discussing this story, making an excellent case that VRChat should have implemented the accessibility features provided by some mods before implementing EAC and cutting off thousands of users who relied on things such as speech-to-text:

He makes some excellent points, and ones that VRChat should listen to.

UPDATE July 28th, 2022: Tech website Kotaku has published an update to the situation, titled The World’s Most Popular Social VR Game Is In Turmoil:

Whether this week’s Security Update will go down as a decisive turning point in the history of the VRChat community or just a larger-than-usual blip remains to be seen. But two things are certain: A lot of players are angry, and the Security Update is here to stay.

Mid Summer Dreams: Delights from Blue Moon Enterprise in Second Life

Solas NaGealai (a.k.a Solas Enchantment) is the proprietor of the fantasy and historical clothing store BlueMoon Enterprise, as well as collaborating with Bee Dumpling in Silvan Moon Designs. I have known Solas for years (we first met in Sansar), and I absolutely love her work, which is beautifully detailed and well-textured.

If you teleport to the BlueMoon Enterprise store, and join the store group for free, you can pick up this lovely Daisy dress as a free group gift in-store:

But what I really wanted to show you today is the outfit Vanity Fair is wearing: the glorious Mid Summer Dreams gown. Recently, Solas has begun a creative collaboration with artist and sculptor Silas Merlin (the two met via Sansar as well), and this has led to some delightful surprises, including the sculpted, winged mask which is a part of this outfit!

First, a couple of suitably dreamlike shots taken in the enchanted forest of the Lost Unicorn sim:

Here’s a well-lit picture so you can appreciate all the wonderful details of this outfit—I just adore these rich, jeweled tones!

Vanity Fair is wearing:

  • Gown and Mask: the Mid Summer Dreams outfit by BlueMoon Enterprise (L$450)
  • Flats (not shown): Amy flats fatpack from KC Couture (L$199)
  • Choker: Jade star necklace fatpack by Miu (I picked this up as a free gift long ago)
  • Wings: these are a free gift from BlueMoon Enterprise! Just click on the gift panel shown below. These animated wings come in two versions: a rigged set, and an animesh set which you can reposition as you like (e.g. for a tiny or child avatar):

Vanity is also wearing:

  • the Kimberly Catwa Bento mesh head
  • the Maitreya Lara mesh body
  • Daria skin by The Skinnery
  • my favourite forest green Darcey eyes by Suicidal Unborn
  • for hair, I selected the simple, pulled-back bun hairstyle already in your default Second Life inventory. Just open your inventory, and scroll down to the very bottom of your inventory window to find the Library folder. It’s in Library / Accessories / Hair Design Options / Pulled Back Bun folder. It’s free, completely adjustable, tintable, and uncomplicated, and it fits well under hats and hoods, too! I use it all the time.