The Forty Faces of Moesha! (Courtesy of the Reface App)

PLEASE NOTE: My blog is still on indefinite hiatus; I have made a single exception for this blogpost. After this, I am returning to my self-imposed break from blogging.

As my regular readers know, I had an Afro-Canadian alt called Bumbly Rumpler, whom I renamed Moesha Heartsong in one of my more popular step-by-step tutorials.

Well, I went wandering around the Second Life 2021 Skin Fair, and I was so impressed with this skin by Pepe Skin (called Aquarius) that I bought it and the matching Maitreya body applier and achieved the look you see below! I very rarely buy a skin on impulse, but this was an exception! This is the darkest skin tone, called Goddess.

And I had so much fun putting Moesha through the brand new collection of hairstyle photos now available in the Reface mobile app (which I first wrote about here and here).

Behold, the forty faces of Moesha! (Please click on each thumbnail for a larger image.)

VRChat Lays Out Their Developer Roadmap for the Next Year

PLEASE NOTE: My blog is still on indefinite hiatus; I have made a single exception for this blogpost. After this, I am returning to my self-imposed break from blogging.

Yesterday, VRChat held a two-hour developer-oriented livestream on Twitch, in which they laid out their roadmap for the next twelve months: what’s ahead?

Kent Bye did his usual excellent summarizing of the livestream in a series of tweets on Twitter, but I also wanted to write up a bit about what was said, and what it means. The Twitch livestream (which really gets rolling at about the 9:00-minute mark) covers quite a lot a territory, so please consider this just a summary! At times there was a lot of technical jargon thrown around, particularly with respect to server issues, so be forewarned before watching the livestream!

Ron, VRChat’s chief creative officer, and Tupper, the community manager for VRChat, were the hosts who shared the next year’s roadmap with us, with a plea to keep in mind that things can change, as often happens in software development projects! Other VRChat staff joined to talk about projects they were working on.

They report that VRChat Plus (i.e. premium accounts) has so far been amazing, with lots of support. VRChat Plus on Oculus is coming soon, and VRChat Plus gifting is coming as soon as possible.

There was a discussion of the server growing pains encountered as the number of concurrent users has risen over time. Here’s a picture of the VRChat server team, in VRChat!

Tupper then talked about some of the persistent bugs that the team is attempting to fix: audio bugs, problems in the Social menu, avatar load hitching, etc. (starting around the 27-minute mark in the livestream). He created something called the Bug List Bodyslam (seen in the bottom left hand corner of the following image), a graphical representation which helped determine which bugs were highest priority:

Did you know there was a bug called the “head-pat alignment”? 😉 (VRChat users often greet each other by patting each others’ heads.)

The Art team (Rocktopus and Technobabel) talked about the new user interface (UI). Aspects of the new UI have already been released (i.e. some of the features in VRChat Plus), and will be rolled out gradually over time, instead of one big UI overhaul. There will be a new Quick Menu, which will look like this (video at the 38:00 mark):

A sneak peek at the new Quick Menu

The next section was about improvements to avatar dynamics. bones, etc. Kiro, a client-end engineer for VRChat, joined Tupper for this part of the presentation. Among the new features are avatar-to-avatar interaction: avatars actually being able to touch themselves and each other, sparking visual or audio effects! Please watch the video at 55:30 mark in the Twitch livestream to see this feature in action.

There was much, much more which I have not touched upon in this blogpost, so I would recommend you read Kent Bye’s series of tweets for a better summary, or set aside a couple of hours and watch the Twitch livestream itself. I really do wish that other social VR platforms on the marketplace would do something like VRChat’s annual developer livestream. Some do (e.g. Sinespace), and others don’t (several companies which I will not name).

It’s wonderful to see a company like VRChat respond to its community and lay out its future plans in this way!

UPDATED! EDITORIAL: The Sansar Community Asks Itself—Is It Time to Give Up on Sansar and Leave?

PLEASE NOTE: My blog is still on indefinite hiatus; I have made a single exception for this blogpost. After this, I am returning to my self-imposed break from blogging.

Today’s meeting in Sansar

I attended an extraordinary meeting held in Sansar this afternoon, without any Wookey staff present, where the previously unthinkable was discussed quite openly: is it time for the Sansar community to give up on Sansar, and move to another social VR platform?

One of the two moderators, RAG, read the following statement from one user, Henry Grumiaux, in order to get the discussion going:

I suggested this topic [because] I started to suspect that Sansar, as a platform for social and content creation, is about to die. Just few months ago, the nights at North America used to be the peak time of Sansar. Now at US/CAN night this is a desert. And all of us actually we just interact one each other in the events. No, I don’t think that Sansar is about to close the doors, but the focus is events. And considering this surge of events that we are experiencing, I believe that Wookey is doing a great job. However as I said…community is no longer the focus, so Wookey is not doing anything to increase the community. On the last 10 to 12 months we saw huge commercial events with hundreds of people attending, but no one become a Sansarian. Just enjoyed the event and never returned – Or maybe returned and get bored and decide to just return on the next huge event because this is a desert. Yes, Wookey can help, but they don’t. Those people on the events registered the e-mail in order to signup to Sansar. So, it could be easy to Wookey to use this database and produce a simple weekly email containing the events of the community, new experiences, new things that we create and put on the market place, etc… to attract people and make the community grow. Cheap marketing campaign, but Wookey is not interested because there is no interest to invest in community. I respect, as I said: the focus of the platform is the events, not our events, but you know…commercial events, so I don’t blame Wookey, they are just a company trying to make money and this is not wrong. But we need to think about our future as enthusiasts of metaverses. We like to hangout, we like to create contents, etc… And it could be a good idea for us to share alternatives to Sansar.

While there are a small number of people who joined Sansar because of a live event, they are the exception that proves the rule. It is now very clear that, as RAG said above, that Wookey’s sole focus for Sansar is live events, and all the company’s energy is on that.

The problem is that people who come for events tend not to stick around to become part of the Sansar community. Wookey apparently does not intend to invest in building a community outside of live events, a task which they have left to the current userbase. Dr. Fran said “you ignore the community at your peril,” noting that Wookey staffers no longer bother to attend many community events.

One person present, Tahla, a relatively newer user, said:

Altspace has like admins most of the time in the campfire (main world people start off in) so there’s always someone available to help new people. Sometimes Sansar is completely empty and if I was new and didn’t see anyone at all, I wouldn’t be interested in staying. Thankfully, when I started quite a few people were in here every day. The volunteer greeter thing here was a cool idea but they actually have to be passionate about helping new people when they see them in the Nexus, because getting started here can be confusing when you don’t even know how to dress yourself. There needs to be a full tutorial and a portal for the tutorial in the Nexus.

The lack of tutorials for such basic things as how to dress yourself is seen as a significant problem in Sansar. In addition, there is no easy way to find user-created games in Sansar, since Wookey has never bothered to create a category for games in the Codex! Throw in the unfavourable cash-out rates for content creators in Sansar, and it all adds up to a highly frustrating situation for those people who have stuck around.

In short, Sansar has been in serious trouble for quite some time, and there are few signals that Wookey is even listening to its current userbase in their focus on live events. People are getting fed up, and there is now an open revolt being discussed.

At today’s meeting, I said something that I have never blogged previously: that there is a 50/50 chance that Wookey-run Sansar will fold this year or next, a statement with which many of the people present agreed.

The remainder of the our conversation centered on which social VR platforms were worthy of investigation as suitable possible destinations for the Sansar diaspora. Among the platforms whose pros and cons were discussed were:

  • Sinespace
  • VRChat
  • AltspaceVR
  • Neos VR
  • Tivoli Cloud VR (which is based on the old High Fidelity source code)
  • Vircadia (which is also is based on the old High Fidelity source code)
  • Helios
  • Core (a games platform which I have not written about before; more info here).
Many issues of concern were raised at today’s meeup

UPDATE April 14th, 2021: The MusicOasis team asked me to include the following statement, which I was happy to do:

Our recent MusicOasis’ OpenMic (OM) subject was ‘Metaverse Diversity’. We thought the topic would generate an interesting discussion of virtual worlds in addition to Sansar. We were inspired by one of our OM regulars who wanted to voice a particular point of view about fears of Sansar failing and where would one go if it did. This opinion was aired first and launched a vigorous and varied discussion about all things Wookey/Sansar and other virtual spaces. To our MusicOasis ears, this was a successful show that is open to all opinions and allowed a lot of point of views to be heard. Ryan Schultz is a valued regular attendee blogger. In a few posts after the OM event he implied that Sansar was on the verge of collapsing and quoted a couple of participant’s statements (with permission). We do not have a problem with any of Ryan’s opinions but wanted to clarify our MusicOasis’s position on this matter. We do not believe Sansar is in imminent danger of failing and are in fact working hard developing new venues and programs to promote its growth. We do feel that there are many areas in need of Wookey development and attention such as creating more creator friendly building tools, game engine enhancements, avatar development, and certainly reducing the onerous 64% fee on converting Sansar dollars to US or other currencies. But we feel, Sansar is in good shape, IS attracting attention through its current programming and should be a viable member of the Metaverse for the time being. Thanks, the Music Oasis Team