Rec Con is Coming to Rec Room September 24th to 26th, 2021!

Rec Con, the virtual fan convention held in Rec Room, is back! According to the official announcement:

Rec Con 2021 is coming SOON™! We’re back and can’t wait to have you join us at Rec Con on September 24th, 25th and 26th, 2021. We’ve done a bunch of work to make sure Rec Con is even bigger and better this year!

Grab a friend, party up, and let’s get together to explore the Rec Room community and beyond!

Rec Con is a free community event where players from all around the world meet up for various activities, Q&As, exhibit halls, panels, special events, and more!

We’re planning special events, panels, and afterparties featuring Rec Room developers, game devs and industry speakers, YouTubers, and musical guests. This year we have exciting new technology that allows special events to be broadcasted live to hundreds of rooms – events will no longer have to be limited to 40 people!

This event is free and you don’t need to register; just look for the special ^RecCon room in Rec Room. The programming schedule and special events will be announced later in September. Some events will also be livestreamed on their YouTube channel.

See you there!

Rec Room Hosts the RecLympics

Popular social VR platform Rec Room is holding a major event over the next three weeks in August: the first-ever VR Olympics*!

According to a report in VRSout:

This weekend marks the start of the inaugural Reclympics, a VR competition hosted by popular social VR platform Rec Room. Over the next three weeks, competitors from around the globe will go head-to-head in a variety of custom-made VR games in hopes of returning home with a coveted gold medal.

The Reclympics will feature seven games in total:

  • Archery
  • Discus Throw
  • Dodgeball
  • Laser Tag
  • Paintball
  • Stunt Runner (a solo competition in which players parkour their way through a complex obstacle course)
  • Ultimate Frisbee

The entirety of the summer games will be broadcast live on YouTube during the scheduled event times. You will need to register for the events, and you have to have at least a Level 30 Rec Room account in order to participate. You can read all the details here. (The registration deadlines for Stunt Runner and Laser Tag have already passed, but you can still register for the other events.)

Thank you to Rainwolf for the heads-up!


*Hmmm, I wonder if the official Olympics knows about this, and what they think. The Olympics have always been very touchy about their intellectual property!

Rec Room Adds Full-Body Costumes

Rec Room‘s current avatars are pretty basic, consisting of a head, torso, and hands, but in a brand new feature, the social VR platform allows you to create full-body costumes with arms and legs!

A couple of examples of Rec Room’s new full-body costumes (image source)

Scott Hayden wrote in a July 13th, 2021 story on Road to VR:

Ever since the social VR platform Rec Room launched in 2016, its avatar system has notably lacked full-body inverse kinematics like you see in its contemporary VRChat, which essentially leaves users with a stylized appearance lacking arms and legs. Now the studio says it’s releasing an update that will allow you to buy more articulated avatar outfits which should add more flexibility to how you can look in the game.

The studio tells us that the new costumes will let you look like “almost anything imaginable.” 

Here’s an 8-minute YouTube video walking you through the process of creating a full-body costume:

Full-body costumes will no doubt be added to other user-generated content such as avatar accessories, rooms, and gadgets, which form part of its Community Commerce initiative. Scott Hayden points out:

And the name of the game is content creation, it seems. The studio says it now hosts over five million user-generated rooms. With its mounting currency-earning opportunities for users, the company seems to be well on its way to paying out to creators what it says should amount to $1 million by the end of 2021.

This content expansion follows a landmark $100 million financing round, bringing the company’s valuation to $1.25 billion. This makes Rec Room one of the most valuable VR companies outside of platform holders Facebook and Sony.

In the coming months, Rec Room is also readying an Android version which will feature cross-play with all supported platforms, which include iOS devices, PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox Series X, Xbox One, PC via Steam, Oculus Quest, and all SteamVR-compatible headsets.

It would appear that Rec Room is going to strength to strength! The social VR platform is especially popular among the highly-desired youth demographic, attracting many children and teenagers with easy-to-use in-world building tools. The addition of full-body costumes will provide a new way for users to flex their creativity!

For more information about Rec Room, visit their website, join their Discord, or follow them on social media: TikTok, Twitter, Instagram, Reddit, and YouTube.

The Perks of Virtual World/Social VR Premium Memberships: Are They Worth It? What Do You Get?

Second Life (which I still consider to be the perfect model of the mature, fully-evolved virtual world that the companies creating the newer social VR platforms would be wise to study) has two levels of membership: Basic (free), and Premium. How Premium membership in Second Life works: for US$99 a year (or $32.97 quarterly, or $11.99 monthly), you get a set of benefits and perks over free, Basic user accounts:

Second Life Premium Membership (source)

VRChat is another platform that decided to offer a comparably-priced paid premium membership level last December, called VRChat Plus (which I first wrote about here). Now, upon first reading of the perks such a membership would offer me (see below), I was less than impressed (probably because I have been spoiled by all the goodies Second Life Premium memberships offer me in comparison).

Among the (relatively) small number of features for VRChat Plus users is the ability to set a user icon to display in a circle next to your user name:

But in conversation with Voices of VR podcaster Kent Bye last night via Zoom, he raised a point that I had hitherto failed to consider, Given my well-documented, one-man, scorched-earth campaign against Facebook and Oculus for, among other things, forcing Oculus headset users to get Facebook accounts and their toxic advertising-based business model which scrapes and strip-mines users’ personal data, why would I not support an alternative way for VRChat to earn a profit?

I stopped to think of what VRChat would be like with Facebook-like advertising, and I positively shuddered in revulsion. So this evening, I pulled out my credit card and ponied up for a VRChat Plus membership (US$99.99), so I now have the familiar “red Ryan” logo displayed next to my username in world (which has sort of become an icon for my brand, as I use it everywhere else, too). If it helps other users in VRChat recognize who I am, then I think it’s worthwhile.

My familiar “red Ryan” user icon

So, I have decided to do a quick survey of the major social VR and virtual world platforms, and find out whether or not they offer a paid premium service, and if so, what you get for your money.

Second Life

My alt Moesha Heartsong, sitting on the porch of her lovely Victorian Linden Home on the continent of Bellisseria (one of the many nice perks you get with your Second Life Premium membership)

Second Life Premium membership (currently priced at US$99 a year) offers you the following benefits:

  • A weekly L$300 stipend (basically enough to buy a nice outfit or pair of shoes for your avatar every week)
  • A L$1,000 sign-up bonus for first-time Premium users (can only be used once)
  • Priority entry when regions/sims are full of avatars (in other words, if a Basic user and a Premium user both try to get into a packed sim at the same time, the Premium user gets priority; this comes in handy at crowded shopping events, and I have made use of this perk often!)
  • A 1024m² virtual land allotment for use towards a nice starter Linden Home or a parcel on the Second Life mainland; this is another benefit I do take advantage of!
  • Expanded live-chat customer support (which I have used on occasion!)
  • Premium virtual gifts (frankly, kinda useless to me)
  • Exclusive access to Premium areas and experiences (such as building sandboxes)
  • Increased cap on missed IMs (which I never use)
  • Increased group membership limits (I make use of my groups ALL THE TIME! A freebie fashionista can NEVER have too many free group slots for store groups, freebie groups, etc. Basic accounts have 42 group slots, but Premium has 70;)
  • Voice morphing (never used it, myself; most SL users never use voice, anyways)
  • UPDATE 11:36 p.m.: Animesh (animated mesh) creator Medhue tells me that SL Premium members can attach two animesh items (e.g. pets such as Medhue’s delightful animesh cihuahua), while Basic members can only attach one.

Basically, I have three Premium accounts, with two lovely Linden Homes between them (which I think is the major benefit of a Premium membership). More group space and priority access to overcrowded sims are also perks I tend to use a lot.

Sansar

Sansar offers three levels of premium subscriptions (unchanged from when Linden lab owned the platform), which give you:

  • A 45-day free trial of the Marvelous Designer software (used to create avatar clothing in Sansar)
  • Purchase discounts on Marvelous Designer for when you do decide to buy it
  • An increase in the number of Sansar worlds you can create (frankly, I’m not sure most people bother beyond the free Basic account, which lets you create up to 25 worlds)
  • Expedited user support options

Sinespace

The Unity-based Sinespace virtual world/social VR platform, created by Sine Wave Entertainment, offers a truly overwhelming number of Premium levels to choose from:

Premium users can create larger regions/worlds, have a larger number of regions active at one time, and get priority support and user-created content processing and approval, among other benefits.

AltspaceVR

Surprisingly, Microsoft-owned AltspaceVR doesn’t seem to offer any premium accounts (that may change in the future, though).

VRChat

VRChat Plus offers you the following perks (with more promised soon):

  • A nameplate icon: With VRChat+, you can personalize your nameplate with an icon you create! Snap a pic in VRChat or upload your own image on our website.
  • You can send a picture with an invitation to a friend to join you at your location
  • Free slots for up to 100 favourite avatars (as opposed to 25 for basic users)
  • “A limited edition VRCat Badge to display on your profile” (Really? Really?!??)
  • A higher trust ranking in VRChat’s Safety and Trust System

As I said up top, this list is a bit sparse, especially compared to what Second Life offers (and yes, you can be an anime girl in SL, just as easily as you can in VRChat!), but of course, there’s zero VR support in Second Life.

Rec Room

Rec Room offers something called Rec Room Plus at US$7.99 a month, which includes the following benefits:

  • You get 6000 tokens (r6000) monthly, delivered in installments of r1500 per week
  • One four-star gift box per week
  • A 10% discount in Rec Room stores that accept tokens
  • Exclusive access to the RR+ section of the item store
  • 100 saved outfit slots
  • The ability to sell premium inventions/keys for tokens

NeosVR

NeosVR uses Patreon levels to hand out perks to various levels of paying users (more info). For example, at my current “Blade Runner” level ($6 per month), I get:

  • Access to private channels on the official Discord Server
  • Patreon supporter badge in Neos
  • Early access to Linux builds
  • Early Access to Patreon only content (exclusive experiences, work in progress experiences before they’re public)
  • A Neos Mini account with 25 GB of storage
  • Your name in the stars! (your name will appear in the sky in the Neos hub)
  • 30 Neos Credits (NCR) monthly, accumulates

(Note that there is an even less expensive level, the “Agent Smith” level, at just $1 a month. Please check out the NeosVR Patreon page for more details.)

ENGAGE

The ENGAGE educational/corporate/conference social VR platform offers a free, “lite” version, and a premium, “plus” version for €4.99 a month, which gives you space to save your presentations, among other benefits. (They also offer enterprise and educational rates on request.)

Blockchain-Based Virtual Worlds (Cryptovoxels, Decentraland, and Somnium Space)

Of course, the various blockchain-based virtual worlds sell everything using whatever cryptocurrencies they support (for example, a custom, non-randomly-generated avatar username in Decentraland will set you back 100 MANA, Decentraland’s in-world cryptocurrency (which is about US$36 at current exchange rates). It’s just a completely different model than the “freemium” ones offered above.


Thanks to Kent Bye for giving me the idea for this blogpost!