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!

Ask Ryan: We Want to Leave Second Life—But Where Do We Go?

Do you have a question about the ever-evolving metaverse of social VR platforms and virtual worlds? Ask Ryan!


Maribeth asks:

Hi Ryan! My name is Maribeth. I am trying to use virtual worlds to help diabetes patients and others with chronic disease/chronic stress. My colleague and I are thinking about jumping ship from Second Life and it’s really confusing to know which way to turn. Your blog is so amazing! I’d love to pick your brain. I really respect your deep and vast knowledge on the topic. If you’re at all open to chatting, please let me know. Thanks!

—Maribeth.

Ooh boy, did you ever come to the right place to ask this great question! 😉

I’d love to schedule a time to chat, Maribeth. In fact, I even offer social VR/virtual world consulting services via my Patreon (at the Platinum patron level at US$25 per month, a price which I recently lowered).

My Patreon page

But, instead of charging you $25.00, Maribeth, I’ll let you pick my brains for free this time, provided we do it publicly on the RyanSchultz.com blog…after all, I am the Freebie Queen of Second Life, plus quite a few other platforms, to boot! 😉

And, in this case, I have an easy answer for you. If you are getting tired of Second Life and are looking for something similar to replace it with, but with all the latest bells and whistles (like a webcam-based avatar facial animator), may I recommend Sinespace?

The Sinespace homepage

Like Second Life, setting up an account on Sinespace is free. (Of course, also like Second Life, to get the richest experience, you will need to buy some Gold, the in-world currency, via your credit card, although Sinespace does have a second, promotional currency called Silver, of which you get a generous 30,000 to start yourself off on the right foot!)

Sinespace is based on Unity, which is a cross-platform game engine used to develop both three-dimensional and two-dimensional video games and simulations. This is a different approach from Linden Lab’s Second Life, which built and maintains its own engine from scratch (which means, at the ripe old age of 17, it is getting a bit long in the teeth). This also allows Sinespace to take advantage of the work that is done by countless other Unity developers on other Unity-based apps and games, such as the extremely cool Archimatix tool, which allows you to automagically resize highly complex mesh items in-world (which puts the rather simple move, rotate and stretch in-world building tools in Second Life to shame!).

Even better, male and female avatar fashions are designed to fit EVERY male and female avatar body, respectively. You don’t have to check to see if apparel or footwear are designed for a specific brand of mesh body, like you have to do in Second Life (e.g. Maitreya Lara, Belleza Freya, Slink Physique, Belleza Jake, Signature GIanni, etc.). Also, you don’t have to fuss with a HUD to make parts of your avatar body invisible under apparel; the clothing fits perfectly, and it adjusts if you make any changes to the body sliders! Another advantage of basing Sinespace on Unity.

Oh, and did I mention that Sinespace has working in-world cloth physics on skirts and dresses? Check out the videos to see it in action here and here! And Sinespace supports both desktop users, and users in virtual reality headsets! There’s also a web browser-based client. You can even run Sinespace on your mobile device!

Oh, and also, while Second Life struggles with lag when over 50 avatars are in a single sim, Sinespace has already demonstrated that its worlds can handle up to ten times as many avatars (the latest record achieved in testing, Adam tells me, is 499 avatars in a single region). And those regions can be mind-bogglingly large, too, not just restricted to 512 square metres. In fact, Adam tells me that the largest Sinespace region to date is a staggering 8 km by 8 km in size, with an 8 km vertical space! Think of what you could do with all that virtual real estate!

Simply put, Sinespace is Second Life on steroids.

Here are all the blogposts I have written about Sinespace. In fact, I am such a fan of what Adam Frisby and his team at Sine Wave Entertainment have created, that I even became an embedded reporter for the platform! But even if I weren’t getting paid to blog about Sinespace, I would still recommend that you check out Sinespace if you are looking for a new home to replace the venerable (and still popular) Second Life.

And you needn’t worry that Sinespace will go poof! if the company should suddenly fold; Sine Wave Entertainment is a healthy company with a stellar, well-connected board of directors. In fact, the company has been raking in the profits during the coronavirus pandemic, serving many new corporate, conference, and educational clients with Breakroom, a version of Sinespace developed for just such a market.

Unfortunately, the pandemic has also delayed Sine Wave Entertainment’s plans for an splashy official launch of Sinespace, complete with a advertising blitz, until 2021. Trust me when I say this: Sinespace is going to attract a lot more attention from SL folks (and other quarters) next year. And if Second Life should ever stumble in future, Sinespace is perfectly positioned to welcome the refugees. In fact, many SL content creators have already set up shop in Sinespace, such as Abramelin Wolfe of Abranimations.

However, if you are loath to work your way up a new learning curve, may I suggest you investigate the incredible myriad of OpenSim-based virtual worlds? (Ironically, Adam Frisby of Sine Wave Entertainment was one of the founding developers for OpenSim, before he started his new company and focused on Sinespace and Breakroom.) Much of what you already know about Second Life can be directly transferable to OpenSim, and the prices for things such as land rentals are often significantly cheaper.

In fact, instead of renting sims from an established OpenSim grid, you might want to consider setting up and running your own grid! Everything you need to know is in the OpenSimulator wiki. And for the latest news and information about OpenSim, nobody can beat Maria Korolov’s Hypergrid Business blog, which maintains a list of active OpenSim grids.

Another advantage of Hypergrid-enabled OpenSim worlds is that you can even take your avatar from one grid to another! However, one disadvantage of OpenSim is that platforms tend to rise and fall with alarming regularity, so stability is an issue (witness the sad saga of InWorldz/Islandz for an example of what can happen). Also, the network effect means that no single OpenSim grid will ever rival Second Life for its sheer reach and (relatively) massive audience.

So, the executive summary of my answer is: if you don’t want to work your way up a new learning curve, go with OpenSim; otherwise, go with Sinespace.

UPDATED! Black Friday Sales in Second Life, Sinespace, and Cryptovoxels

Have you joined the RyanSchultz.com Discord yet? You’re invited to be a part of the first ever cross-worlds discussion group, with over 460 people participating from every single social VR platform and virtual world! More details here


Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash

Checking my WordPress statistics for this blog, I have seen a lot of traffic this week from people looking for Black Friday sales in Second Life and other virtual worlds, so I have decided to compile this blogpost.

PLEASE NOTE: If you have a virtual Black Friday sale you wish to promote, please just add a comment to this blogpost, thank you! I will NOT be constantly updating this blogpost with details on individual store sales, I don’t have time this week!


Second Life

UPDATE November 28th, 2020: If you are looking for the ultimate list of Second Life Black Friday sales, this Google Docs spreadsheet lists 366 stores in alphabetical order, giving SLURLs, sale start and end dates, and in a few cases, sale details.

UPDATE November 26th, 2020: The Fabulously Free in SL blog has just published their annual FabFree Black Friday Sale Listing, which is quite comprehensive!

UPDATE November 25th, 2020: Perhaps the most comprehensive sales listing has been published by the TeleportHub.com group, and is called the Black Friday Weekend Sale 2020. Over 130 Second Life stores are in this listing:


I want to profusely thank Holger Gilruth, who operates the Secondlife Discord server and the popular Secondlife group on Facebook (with nearly 15,000 members). As some of you already know, I have decided to personally boycott of Facebook and Oculus products and services, so I am no longer on the Facebook social network, and I am therefore no longer a member of any of the many Second Life groups there.

Holger was kind enough to share with me via Discord chat this morning, just a few of the Black Friday sales which were posted today in his Secondlife group on Facebook (and if you still have a Facebook account, you can use the link I posted above to visit and join his group):

TROPIX (SLURL):

YM SHOP (SLURL):

Pose Shoppe (SLURL):

Blackstone (SLURL):

PRETTY LIARS (SLURL):

Red’s Little Secrets (SLURL):

In other news, LeLutka is having a 50% Off Black Friday Sale on all their mesh heads from November 27th to 29th (SLURL). Thank you to Kira for the tip!

Daisy Haven shared with me that AVALE is having a 50% Off Sale, starting today and running until November 27th (SLURL):

Daisy also tells me that CHSkins (SLURL) is having a 50% refund sale (except gachas), on now until Nov. 30th. Thanks, Daisy!

Ari-Pari is having a Black Friday sale running from November 27th through December 1st. Gift cards will be 50% off and new releases will be 25% off. This sale is only at the Ari-Pari main store (SLURL). Thanks to Wyld for the heads-up!

Asia Ristow has sent me a link to a Flickr gallery with images of Black Friday 2020 sales in Second Life, compiled by Galaxy Doll, which you might find useful…and Asia also provided the following short list of noteworthy sales:

7 Deadly sKins – http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/Shadow%20Crest/129/44/41
BLACK FRIDAY 10 LINDEN skin offer of the day https://gyazo.com/54b5dd3ee6b11fda80c5bdba311fa718
http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/Shadow%20Crest/129/44/41 

Cheeky Pea – http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/Cheeky%20Pea/27/133/21
Gift cards purchased from the special Black Friday Gift Card Stand are 50% off for everyone, and VIP members get an EXTRA 10% off! (Make sure you wear your tag!)

LOGO’s free heads are still available until the 26th.  http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/Eventide%20Far%20East/182/76/800

Magika – http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/Magika/
Get an instant refund of 30% on all mainstore purchases during Magika’s annual Black Friday sale. This applies to everything except group offers and gift cards.  20 – 30 November, 2020.

THIS IS WRONG – http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/Infinite%20Spirit/95/87/1101
This year we want to make something special for you! From Nov 26th to Nov 30th all shines @ the inworld store will be 40% OFF!!!

TOP1SALON & ROULY – http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/Ocean%20Drive/131/145/188Starting the 21st BIG BLACK FRIDAY SALE 60% off! Sales continue until November 30th. But also in each of the stores, one of the products will cost 25L$ these products will change each everyday of the sale from 21 to 30 November.

Thank you so much, Asia!

MoonBubble of the SL New Release Feed Discord server (here’s an invite link) tells me that she been adding quite a few Black Friday sales to her #store-sales channel, and she plans to add more this week. Thanks, Moon!

Bixyl (who is a member of the RyanSchultz.com Discord server) tells me that there is a Black Friday sale at Furry Fashion (SLURL). Thanks, Bixyl!

And Bleue reached out to me on Discord to tell me about Salem:

My name is Bleue. Blogger Manager at Salem. I am reaching out as I saw that you’re sharing Black Friday sales on your blog site. Salem is starting its sale soon, and I was wondering if I could share the ad with you once it’s released? From there, could you help me spread the word about Salem? If possible? Thank you for your attention to this matter!

Official Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/157510866@N08/ Official Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Salem.Secondlife

The sale will commence on the 26th of this month. It’ll be 35% off the whole store, excluding gachas and new releases.

Thanks, Bleue!

Morbid Emor also contacted me regarding MOEKO, MORBID, and Stargazer:

Hi. I saw your message about Black Friday on the Second Life Syndicate channel. I love your blog – this is such an awesome idea. I have two brands, MORBID & MOEKO, and am business partner with Aggie Mactavish with Stargazer. We have Black Friday sales and have also just moved to some awesome new stores as well. I’m giving you the details here.

MORBID: Black Friday – week long sale from 25 Nov – 2 Dec – 50% off everything including gachas to celebrate move to new awesome store. Brand new group gifts, weekly sales. SLURL: http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/Venus/147/215/1302

Stargazer: Black Friday sales to celebrate move to new store: 50L select items, 100L skins, 40L gachas – 27-29 Nov SLURL: http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/Venus/165/19/1354

MOEKO: Black Friday – week long sale from 25 Nov – 2 Dec – 50% off everything including gachas and gift cards to celebrate move to new store. Brand new group gifts, weekly sales. SLURL: http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/Venus/150/153/1302

Session – http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/kunst/177/185/23 Session will have 10 popular skins at Black Friday Sale from November 27th till 30th ♥ Get your discount with the Skin addiction tag!

Thank you, Morbid!

LALA sent me information about the Black Friday sales at LeiMotiv and Ariskea (both are links to Flickr images), and she added that there was a big sale at mesh head maker LAQ:

LAQ is also currently having a 75% off everything members only sale, they didn’t specify when it ends.

Thanks, LALA!

Kieran Stephens mentions that Booty’s Beauty is having a Black Friday sale from Nov. 25th to 27th. Here’s links to her in-world store and SL Marketplace store.

Also, the Second Life vlogger mzjazzy maii (a.k.a BunnyBoo) has compiled a very helpful list of stores which are having Black Friday sales in the following 12-minute YouTube video (there’s a list of the stores and SLURLs in the full video description):

And finally, although it is not technically a Good Friday sale, I have been informed that Ellnique Designs is closing. The owner tells me:

CLOSING DOWN SALE: everything L$25! With a heavy heart I am closing down Ellnique Designs (was Shoenique Designs) [after] 11 years of hard work. Now I am moving to Sansar and taking my designs there. More than welcome to join me. Thanks to all Members that have supported me for 9 years in Second Life. Everything L$25! Official closing day 31st December. http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/Mimosa%20Island/231/219/350


Sinespace

Gaby, the owner of Anatomy mesh heads and bodies, and PrettyDeceased apparel, tells me:

Pretty Deceased & Anatomy are still 50% off, decided to leave it also for Black Friday.

Thanks, Gaby! I have written about the Anatomy line of female heads and bodies before, here on my blog.


Cryptovoxels

If you are in the blockchain-based virtual world of Cryptovoxels, you might be interested in the following: JuRo Noble Arts is having a 50% Off Sale: Noyb, the proprietor, tells me:

Hey, about [those] Black Friday deals in the metaverse…We will have half price on our NFT purchases through Cryptovoxels from Friday to Monday.

Here’s your taxi to JuRo Nobel Arts!


Photo by Ashkan Forouzani on Unsplash

Vanity Fair Models the Latest Fashions from the Sinespace Shop

Did You Know? Sinespace female avatar fashions are designed to fit EVERY female avatar body. You don’t have to check to see if apparel or footwear are designed for a specific brand of female body, like you have to do in Second Life (e.g. Maitreya Lara, Belleza Freya, Slink Physique, etc.). Also, you don’t have to fuss with a HUD to make parts of your body invisible under apparel; the clothing fits perfectly, and it adjusts if you make any changes to the body sliders!

Oh, and did I mention that Sinespace has working in-world cloth physics on skirts and dresses? Check out the videos to see it in action here and here!


As you might already know, I have brought former Second Life supermodel, Vanity Fair, over to Sinespace, where she models clothing for this blog! Here, Vanity Fair is wearing her standard, go-to casual outfit at the Sinespace Welcome Centre, which consists of:

I decided to check out the new line of female T-shirts by Z-Art, and I picked out this Music Notes tee (only 40 Gold). There are many designs available!

Next we have a real bargain! This Moon top by ELL costs only 1 Gold (or 1 Silver, Sinespace’s promotional currrency) per colour. It comes in six different shades:

To go with the Moon top in blue, I added the frilly denim Jay skirt, also by ELL (99 Gold), which also comes in a variety of colours:

Looking good!

Our next outfit is the sexy, short, bodycon Eris dress (99 Gold) by PrettyDeceased, which comes in six different patterns (here, I chose the flamingo design). You might also want to spring for the matching Eris thigh-high boots (also 99 Gold per pattern), not shown here.

The sandals I used on that outfit form part of a bundle, the Boho Evensong outfit from Daz Originals (1,105 Gold). You get everything you see below: the sandals, faded jean shorts, a tank top, a lovely see-through lace top you can wear over the tank top, and even a set of bangles for your wrist!

Remember that when you purchase a bundled item like the Boho Evensong outfit, you first have to go into your Sinespace inventory, click on the icon, and select Use (see the green arrow in the image below):

Once you have clicked on the Use button, you will be presented with a list of all the items in that bundle. Simply click on the Get button below the list (see green arrow below):

…And it’s all unpacked, and each separate item is automatically added to the appropriate section under the Outfit tab: Top, Bottom, Accessory, etc.:

Here’s a look at the entire Boho outfit. You’re all set for the next virtual folk festival!

This Boho outfit also comes in four other colour combination bundles, and if you prefer, you can purchase each item separately in the Sinespace Shop.

Happy shopping!


In all these pictures, Vanity Fair is also wearing:

For more information about the Anatomy body system, please see this blogpost.


This blogpost is sponsored by Sinespace, and was written in my role as an embedded reporter for this virtual world (more details here).