The MetaMovie Project is Moving from High Fidelity to NeosVR

You might remember that in episode 7 of the Metaverse Newscast we interviewed Jason Moore about his MetaMovie project, creating immersive, interactive entertainment experiences in virtual reality. The project had a successful Kickstarter campaign, reaching its goal of US$10,000.

Jason has announced that, after he has completed work on his current production, The Heist, he will be moving the MetaMovie project from High Fidelity to the indie social VR platform NeosVR:

Hi Ryan, my plan is to keep The Heist on High Fidelity and run it several more times this summer and by September put it down for good. I’ll keep the domain up and running and might consider some one-time performances, but yeah, for my next MetaMovie, Alien Rescue, I’m 95% sure I’m going to NeosVR. I like their powerful engine and the vibe is more artist and creator focused than VRChat, and while I like Sansar, I am most intrigued by the possibilities in NeosVR. Just need to have one more in-depth conversation with the guys over there to make sure I have accounted for all the tech issues. I’m super excited about Alien Rescue and can’t wait to put YOU through it! It’s going to be special.

…after speaking more with Mr. MegaTronic at NeosVR (I think he’s on the team, handling marketing stuff), I learned they are implementing a plan to offer hosted domains for members at Patreon and Pro levels, which is great and seals it for me: Alien Rescue will be on NeosVR. He also explained their vision for the future (feature parity with other platforms, and then even more). I think NeosVR is a social VR platform to watch. I describe it as the Vimeo to VRChat’s YouTube: more aimed at content creators BUT also cool and inviting and welcoming to the user base… They are designing a powerful engine and creating a warm and friendly environment. According to Chris McBride, only NeosVR can give him the tools to make the types of avatars I require for Alien Rescue (my goal is to help Chris create some of the most original and interesting avatars in the metaverse!).

Poster for Alien Rescue, the Next MetaMovie Project

This is a win-win situation for both parties: NeosVR can nimbly meet any special requests for features needed by MetaMovie, and MetaMovie will no doubt bring in more users to NeosVR and showcase the platform. Congratulations to both Jason Moore and his MetaMovie players and to Tomáš Mariančík and his team at NeosVR! I’m quite looking forward to seeing their next production in their new home.

UPDATE 8:57 a.m.: Jason further explains the reasoning behind his decision to change platforms:

NeosVR is an exciting new platform that has a lot to offer. The engine itself is incredibly powerful and we feel it offers us the most options for building complex, beautiful virtual worlds. Their approach to avatar design is also really progressive. On Alien Rescue we are really pushing the envelope of avatar design – wild, weird and wooly alien creatures – and my avatar designer, Chris McBride, has said he feels that only NeosVR has the toolset to accomplish what we are trying to do. Alien Rescue will be three to four times as complex as The Heist, and we need a close relationship with the platform’s development team if we are going to pull this off. The entire team at NeosVR is highly skilled, incredibly friendly, and they get things done. Finally, the vibe in NeosVR is just right: they are focused on giving content creators the tools they need to do amazing stuff, but non-builders are just as welcomed and the atmosphere, as I think you’ve noticed yourself, is fun, playful, and welcoming. I have learned so much from running the first two MetaMovies in High Fidelity, and for the last 3 years or so have benefitted greatly from their platform and community. I will keep my New New York domain up and running and public in High Fidelity, and I am certainly not abandoning that platform. I really hope that the new direction they are going in – which isn’t really a good fit for my project – will allow them to find some financial footing so they can continue their great work, and if and when they return to a more social VR direction, I will absolutely run another MetaMovie there. But for where this project is going, I need a social VR platform with great tools, a responsive dev team, and a growing user base of friendly and cool people. That’s NeosVR in a nutshell and I am thrilled to be taking the project there.

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Immersed: A Brief Introduction (Yet Another Remote Workteams VR Application, and Why High Fidelity Has Their Work Cut Out for Them)

You know, if High Fidelity expects to break into the remote workteams market with their repositioned social VR platform, they are facing a lot of competition. Just today I stumbled over yet another remote workteams VR product on my Twitter stream, called Immersed:

The tagline in the image reads: “Immersed enables you and others to collaborate by immersing you into the same VR workspace!”. (I had to chuckle at the cartoon man on a tropical beach, merrily multitasking away under a palm tree in his VR headset! Who the hell does that?!??)

Here’s a brief promotional video for Immersed:

UPDATE: this blogpost was automatically cross-posted to my Twitter, where a critic immediately responded to this video, saying:

Vaporware, nobody needs that. If people wanted to share a code screen they can do that already, donning a headset and being an avatar brings little value and help to this in my opinion.

And I must say that I can’t argue with that. (Why would anybody want to wear a VR headset all day while writing software code?)

Immersed supports both the Oculus Go and the Oculus Quest (which makes it somewhat different from other competing products which require a PCVR solution, like the Oculus Rift or the HTC Vive):

Here’s their pricing model:

It looks like the company is charging a one-time US$9.99 fee for 2 collaborators, and a US$9.99-per-month fee for up to 7 coworkers.

Here’s a half-hour YouTube video by RaMarcus covering how to set up and use the 14-day free trial of the Elite level of Immersive (including using the product in an interview with the CEO of the company):

So let’s just run down the list of remote teamwork VR applications I have covered so far on this blog (all in varying degrees of market-readiness):

Probably only one or two of these firms are actually making money at this point (Engage seems to be doing well for itself, and Cisco has deep pockets). And that’s just a list of the business-focused platforms. Many other, more general-purpose, social VR platforms on my list of social VR and virtual worlds would also lend themselves quite nicely to corporate use as well.

High Fidelity is going to have to work extra hard to get noticed in an increasingly crowded and competitive marketplace. Let’s hope they have some good marketing people on their team, and a bit of luck on their side. They’re going to need it. This is not like Second Life in 2003, where Philip Rosedale and his team pretty much had the market to themselves. High Fidelity cannot automatically assume that people will flock to them and embrace them; they are going to have to earn corporate customers by making a better, more fully-featured product. They may have found the consumer market hard to break into; they might find the business market even harder still.

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!

Philip Rosedale Talks About the New Direction for High Fidelity

Philip Rosedale is always a great interview: insightful, engaged, and articulate. Here’s a perfect example, a recent 11-minute interview with GameReactor (a European videogame magazine) at the Gamelab 2019 conference in Barcelona, where he talked about his favourite topic, the metaverse, and the new direction for High Fidelity as a platform for remote workteams:

He argues that the change in the medium and the technology with virtual reality is so profound that it’s unlikely that the same big companies will dominate it, thus creating business opportunities for new companies (like HiFi!). He compares the shift from flatscreen computer use to virtual reality as being similar to the change from radio to television in the last century.

Image from IEEE Spectrum

Philip Rosedale is a true pioneer and visionary, without whom we literally would not have the metaverse landscape that I love to blog about! Even though I am still somewhat annoyed at how High Fidelity chose to handle the sudden pivot away from their original consumer audience, I can certainly understand and appreciate the company’s need to establish a beachhead in one area (remote business teams) and then use that as a base to expand into other areas. VR needs more time to mature. As he says in this interview, HiFi was early to the game. The pivot was the best possible corporate strategy to keep the company moving ahead and generating revenue while waiting for millions of consumers to adopt VR (and eventually, they will).

I do admire Philip and I wish him and his team at High Fidelity the very best (even if I do deliver the occasional critical editorial on this blog).