There’s a brand-new virtual world/social VR platform I want to tell you about! It’s called Resonite, and it is the product of a hard-working and super-talented team of software developers at Yellow Dog Man Studios.
Resonite runs in both standard and virtual reality modes. While it does not require a VR headset to enjoy, it certainly is a lot more fun if you have one! Any virtual reality headset supported by the Steam ecosystem will work (I use a Valve Index at home, and an HTC Vive Pro 2 at work).
Last weekend, I downloaded and installed the software at home to use with my Valve Index, and I was quite impressed with the new user orientation! It reminds me a lot of the former Sansar Social Hub with its airy, futuristic vibes.
Also, all new users receive a beautiful new cloud home, as their personal home base in Resonite, to decorate (or add on to!) as they wish. Oh, and I forgot to mention, you can also easily transfer over your avatar and any other personal files (and homes/worlds) from Neos, if you wish.
Here’s a recently-released mini-trailer to give you a small taste of this product:
And because I expect that I will be writing a lotabout Resonite from today forward, I have set up a new blogpost category called Resonite, which I will be attaching to this blog post, and to any future ones! Stay tuned for future news and events!
For many months, the Neos Development Team has been engaged in negotiations with Mr. Karel Hulec, attempting to resolve the conflict that has been at the center of the current development freeze. Unfortunately, today we are here to announce that the negotiations have failed to produce an agreement satisfactory to both parties.
Mr. Karel Hulec has recently listed on the Neos Wiki several members of the Development Team as contributors to a new project titled the “Neos Foundation”. None of the listed team members were contacted at any point concerning the listing of their names on the Neos Wikis, nor have any of them agreed to work with Mr. Karel Hulec in the Neos Foundation or any other project.
Following the negotiations, on April 24th, 2023, and due to increasing difficulties in establishing the trust necessary to continue his partnership with Mr. Karel Hulec, Frooxius resigned from his position at Solirax LTD. We no longer see a path to successful reconciliation, so the remaining Development Team, including the leads of the moderation and quality control teams, the content team, and the support team, are now officially resigning from our roles as part of this community.
We understand this has been a period of intense frustration for some members of the community, as the lack of updates and communication from the Development Team led to uncertainty about the future of your projects and Neos as a platform. We apologize for our silence, it was due to legal advice we had received, and our attempt to keep the ongoing conflict resolution as professional as possible. Unfortunately, an understanding could not be found that would allow us to continue to work with the Neos community. The disagreements we had with Mr. Karel Hulec were too far-reaching and too significant to allow for a compromise. His conduct and lack of professionalism soured opportunities to resolve our differences. We hope you will continue to make wonderful projects in the future, wherever those future efforts lie.
We understand you may have many questions for the Development Team, but as we are removing ourselves from our positions within the Neos community, we will be limiting our presence on this Discord server going forward. Any questions for individuals formerly on the team will need to be sent through direct messages or other personal channels.
On October 7th, 2023, Veer posted:
Hey everyone, as there is no longer moderation administration present in this unofficial discord, we’ll be locking down the channels from further communication. This is to prevent the server from becoming unsafe to users, any projects or brands, and other entities due to unmoderated discourse.
I take this to mean that the NeosVR Discord is now officially closed, and indeed, no more messages can be posted in any of the channels. (I hope that this Discord remains, if for no other reason than historical purposes.)
This marks the end of a decade-long era, and the conclusion of a long period of uncertainty as to the future of the project. Many people might not realize that the roots of NeosVR date as far back to 2014, with a project named World of Comenius (you can learn more here, in part one of what was originally intended to be a multi-part series of blogposts about the history of NeosVR, which unfortunately I never got around to completing due to my full-time paying job as an academic librarian).
I wish all involved with NeosVR success in their future endeavours!
I leave you with a 20-minute YouTube video by VR pundit ThrillSeeker, done last year, which goes into some of the details of what went wrong with NeosVR:
UPDATE Sept. 28th, 2023: If you’re looking for a good, concise summary of the Meta Connect 2023 event, TechCrunch has you covered.
The Meta Connect 2023 virtual event will start on September 27th, 2023 (today) at 10:00 a.m. PST / noon CST / 1:00 p.m. EST / 5:00 p.m. BST. Meta (the company formerly known as Facebook) will stream the event live on its website. You can also watch the stream on YouTube, Twitch, and via the official Meta page on Facebook. The event will start with a keynote by Meta’s CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, who is expected to officially launch the Meta Quest 3 headset, talk about its features, and give an update on where the company is planning to go with its virtual reality, augmented reality, mixed reality, and extended reality (VR/AR/MR/XR) initiatives over the next few years.
For a while it dominated tech news. A virtual reality world that would be so immersive, so engaging, that we would want to spend part of our lives in it.
Driving the metaverse narrative was Mark Zuckerberg.
The tech billionaire was so committed that in October 2021 he changed Facebook’s name to Meta…
No one could accuse him of a lack of ambition.
But almost two years on, Zuckerberg’s vision of the metaverse is in trouble.
In April, he was forced to deny that he is now jettisoning the idea.
“A narrative has developed that we’re somehow moving away from focusing on the metaverse,” he told investors in April. “So I just want to say upfront that that’s not accurate.”
On Wednesday, the company holds its annual VR event called Meta Connect.
It’s a chance, perhaps, for Zuckerberg to again explain his reasoning for taking an extremely profitable social media company and diverting its focus to an extremely unprofitable VR venture.
How unprofitable? Well, the most recent figures from Meta are eye-watering.
Reality Labs – which as the name suggests is Meta’s virtual and augmented reality branch – has lost a staggering $21 billion since last year.
Part of the losses reflect long-term investment. Meta wasn’t expecting short-term returns. But the worrying fact for the company is that, so far, there is very little evidence that this enormous punt will work.
I fully expect an announcement that Horizon Worlds, Meta’s social VR platform, will be rolling out to non-VR/flatscreen web and mobile users. Using a Meta Quest 2 test unit purchased for the virtual reality lab project I am involved with at the University of Manitoba, I have paid several short visits to Horizon Worlds, and I am, to put it politely, not a fan. Horizon Worlds is something even worse than boring—it’s soulless. It looks and feels like it was put together by a bureaucratic committee of engineers that was given a task to do, in order to report back to the executives that they did something, but the builders had no real understanding, appreciation, or love of what social VR is and can be. To be frank, I don’t believe that expanding Horizon Worlds access to web and mobile users is gonna bring a hell of a lot more users to the platform. In my opinion, it’s a dog that needs to be taken out back and shot, to be put out of its misery. 🐕
Mark Zuckerberg: Hey, look! Our avatars have legs!
Second Life: Isn’t that just adorable. Meanwhile, our avatars can look like this…:
Second Life: …and your avatars look like this:
(And yes, I know, comparing a social VR platform like Horizon Worlds to a flatscreen virtual world like Second Life, which also has a 20-year head start, is not fair. But honestly, Meta’s avatars have a long, long way to go, in my opinion. Obligatory editorial.)
UPDATE 11:28 a.m.: I’m signed in to a livestream from one of the virtual reality YouTubers I follow, Virtual Reality Oasis, which apparently is starting half an hour before the actual Meta Connect event with a bit of a pre-show, perhaps. I will probably stay on this channel, for the additional commentary by this YouTuber (there’s also a very active comment stream to follow), but I might switch to another source later on. I will be making full use of two monitors here at work on my desktop PC—one for watching the livestream, and the second for blogging on the fly!
UPDATE 11:40 a.m.: Mike’s Virtual Reality Oasis livestream has started; apparently, he is located in a “side office” near backstage or behind the scenes at the Menlo Park auditorium, where the Meta Connect event is taking place (I think I got that part right!). He and another VR expert (whose name I unfortunately didn’t catch) will be providing some colour commentary and even taking questions from the over 3,700 livestream viewers. (Unfortunately, this livestream video was marked private after the event, so I cannot link to it.)
UPDATE noon: Meta has just announced a 30-minute delay to the start of the event, which is rather disappointing. Apparently, instead of an indoor stage, this event will be taking place on an outdoor stage in Menlo Park. I will be able to view and post blog updates until around 2:00 p.m. my time (Central Standard Time), so I am only going to be able to comment on the first hour-and-a-half of Meta Connect.
UPDATE 12:18 p.m.: I’ve switched to a different livestream, this one by IGN, with almost 7,000 people watching. Virtual Reality Oasis was reporting problems with both video and audio from the Meta Connect livestream, so I’ll be switching back and forth. (I could also watch it via Facebook, but I’ll be damned if I have to set up a Facebook account just to do that! Back in 2018, I kicked Facebook to the curb, and I have zero intention of returning to its surveillance-capitalism embrace, with the sole exception of a Meta account I set up for the test unit Meta Quest 2 headset I got.)
UPDATE 12:31 p.m.: The show has finally started!
Mark starts off with the usual piffle about “the power of human connection”. 🙄 He’s talking about being in a room with a mixture of real-life humans and holographic humans and embodied AI tools. Mixed reality, smart glasses, and AI are key to what Mark calls the metaverse.
Mark introduces the Quest 3, which he calls “the first mainstream mixed-reality headset” to applause from the crowd, followed by a brief presentation of various examples of this mixed reality in a number of games and apps. Xbox cloud gaming is coming to the Quest later this year.
Augments are persistent, spatially-anchored digital objects (like digital portals and photo albums you can hang on your walls). You can double-tap on your headset to return instantly to the real world.
Now he’s talking about content, including new titles. Meta Quest 3 has twice the graphics performance of any previous headset and is 40% thinner than the Quest 2. Roblox is launching for the Quest, which is going to bring a lot of younger users to the headset!
Mark teased new Horizon content, saying that the visuals are improving. He also talked about tools for business, citing productivity and work apps. Coming soon is something called Meta Quest for Business, with integrations with apps like Office 365 (something that was previously promised). Lack of details is very frustrating!
Meta Quest 3 is shipping October 10th for US$499 (Mark slipped up and said “August 10th” LOL!).
UPDATE 12:47 p.m.: Now the talk switches to artificial intelligence, which is hardly surprising since that is where all the hype went after the previous metaverse hype cycle (which included Mark renaming his company from Facebook to Meta!). A new tool, called Emu (Expressive Media Universe) is an image-generation tool similar to DALL-E 2. You will be able to use AI chat to create stickers (wow, groundbreaking!🙄). AI editing tools will be added to Instagram next month, with a cute demo of Mark applying various textures to his dog, Beast.
(Right now Mark is just spouting AI word salad, and my eyes are rolling so hard they disappeared into my skull.)
Meta AI: your basic assistant you can talk to like a person, help you answer basic questions and requests. Based on Llama 2 large language model, through a partnership with Microsoft and Bing search. Emu: is built into Meta AI with the “/imagine” prompt built into various apps.
Max the sous-chef AI who will help you come up with a recipe, etc. Lily, the personal editor AI that can help you brainstorm and improve your writing. Lorena the travel expert AI to recommend a good national park to take the kids to. These are three of the many different types of AI chatbots Meta is dreaming up to answer queries and entertain you. Meta actually appears to have hired actors and celebrities to play these roles! (Honestly, this is kinda creeping me out.)
Oh, sweet minty Jesus, Snoop Dogg has been cast as your Dungeons & Dragons dungeonmaster. Nope, I’m out…NOBODY WANTS THIS, MARK. I never want to see that cursed image again!!! Who the fuck thought this was a great idea? Mark brought his keynote to a screeching halt as he fumbled with his cellphone to “chat” with Snoop Dogg (who I’m sure is being paid a pretty penny to give up his likeness for this ridiculous idea).
Among the many other “experts” who signed on to be the face of a Meta AI chatbot is Paris Hilton, who role-plays your “detective” (I kid you not):
Here comes the part where Mark pays lip service to safety and security, since there are some serious user privacy concerns associated with all this new, AI-powered tech (something which Meta has notably been egregious about in the past). “I’m really optimistic about this,” says Mark, and once again, my eyes rolled so far back I was staring at my brain. Yeah, sure, Mark, I really want to have my every conversation with Detective Paris Hilton strip-mined as yet another opportunity to provide data to sell to advertisers for the next Cambridge Analytica scandal. 🙄🙄🙄🙄🙄 As a commenter stated on the r/technews subreddit (source):
Does anyone else think AI chatbots are just another way to harvest data about people by engaging them in conversation?
Now Mark turns to the next generation of Ray-Ban smart glasses, which I must confess look a lot like regular glasses with slightly thicker arms. These new glasses will include Meta AI, so you can bring Snoop Dogg or Paris Hilton wherever you go (shudder). Next year, a software update will make these glasses multi-modal, so you can read signs in foreign languages, for example, which sounds kinda cool.
A brief video was shown where you will be able to livestream what you see from your own glasses to others, using as an example a racecar driver who is presenting what he sees to other viewers watching on their cellphones. These new glasses are available starting Oct. 17th for US$299.
UPDATE 1:16 p.m.: Mark has wrapped up his keynote, and is passing the torch to Meta’s Chief Technology Officer, Andrew “Boz” Bosworth, who in previous years has not shied away from speaking his mind and even criticizing what he sees as some missteps the company has made. He’s talking about the ability to double-tap on the side of your Meta Quest 3 to switch seamlessly between mixed-reality and pass-through of the real world.
You will no longer have to manually set up your play boundary in the Meta Quest 3, which will automatically map the room you are in, and the objects that are in that room, when you put the headset on:
(There are some livestream skips happening now, so I might miss something.)
Okay, I am taking a break, but if I have time later on today, I will add more.
Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg, in unveiling the new AI chatbots, said the company wanted to create AIs that have distinct personalities, opinions and interests. “This isn’t just gonna be about answering queries,” he said. “This is about entertainment and about helping you do things to connect with the people around you.”
For now, the celebrity chatbots respond in text — their avatars don’t actually speak their responses. Zuckerberg said voice for the AIs will come probably early next year.
UPDATE 5:44 p.m.: Wow, I thought I had been sarcastic in my remarks about these AI chatbots, but the people over at the celebrity subreddit r/Fauxmoi, are savage! Here’s just a sample of their comments (source):
Ah yes, all the people you’d regret starting a conversation with.
Lmao I hate this.
Also: “Kendall Jenner as Billie, no-BS, ride-or-die companion” 😂 So funny, coming from someone with even less personality than a robot.
It’s giving Black Mirror.
Sounds horrifying. Hopefully it flops hard enough to discourage more companies from doing shit like this.
What the hell is this? Like what is it supposed to be/do? Paris Hilton is ‘Amber’ who is your detective friend to help you solve whodunnits. So they’ve taken real people and turned them into avatars but then also they aren’t really THAT person, they’re someone else brand new who has a completely different personality? What’s even the point? Please can someone explain??
Meta is embarrassingly out of touch with the world, in a very “hello, fellow teenagers!” kind of way…
So, as you can clearly see, I’m not the only one who thinks this is just weird. I’m left wondering how much of that $21 billion Meta Reality Labs spent this past year went to pay for all these celebrities to agree to be the faces of their chatbots. And I wonder how they’re going to feel when (as is almost inevitable) their chatbot starts to act up and spit out unacceptable or incorrect responses to user questions? What will Paris Hilton do when the chatbot who wears her face goes rogue? I’m quite sure she did not think through all the potential implications of signing away her likeness on the contract Meta dangled in front of her! It really is very Black Mirror.
UPDATE Sept. 28th, 2023 2:54 p.m.: I have gotten busy with my full-time paying job as a university librarian, so I haven’t had much of a chance to watch the rest of yesterday’s virtual event. Once I do, I expect that I will have more to comment on!
For years, the Unity Engine has earned goodwill from developers large and small for its royalty-free licensing structure, which meant developers incurred no extra costs based on how well a game sold. That goodwill has now been largely thrown out the window due to Unity’s Tuesday announcement of a new fee structure that will start charging developers on a “per-install” basis after certain minimum thresholds are met…
This is a major change from Unity’s previous structure, which allowed developers making less than $100,000 per month to avoid fees altogether on the Personal tier. Larger developers making $200,000 or more per month, meanwhile, paid only per-seat subscription fees for access to the latest, full-featured version of the Unity Editor under the Pro or Enterprise tiers.
“There’s no royalties, no fucking around,” Unity CEO John Riccitiello memorably told GamesIndustry.biz when rolling out the free Personal tier in 2015. “We’re not nickel-and-diming people, and we’re not charging them a royalty. When we say it’s free, it’s free.”
Now that Unity has announced plans to nickel-and-dime successful Unity developers (with a fee that is not technically a royalty), the reaction from those developers has been swift and universally angry, to put it mildly. “I can say, unequivocally, if you’re starting a new game project, do not use Unity,” Necrosoft Games’ Brandon Sheffield—a longtime Unity Engine supporter—said in a post entitled “The Death of Unity.” “Unity is quite simply not a company to be trusted.”
…I can say, unequivocally, if you’re starting a new game project, do not use Unity. If you started a project 4 months ago, it’s worth switching to something else. Unity is quite simply not a company to be trusted.
What has happened? Across the last few years, as John Riccitiello has taken over the company, the engine has made a steady decline into bizarre business models surrounding an engine with unmaintained features and erratic stability.
Ultimately, it screws over indies and smaller devs the most. If you can afford to pay for higher tiers, you don’t pay as much of this nickle and dime fee, but indies can’t afford to on the front end, or often it doesn’t make sense in terms of the volume of games you’ll sell, but then you wind up paying more in the long term. It’ll squash innovation and art-oriented games that aren’t designed around profit, especially. It’s a rotten deal that only makes sense if you’re looking at numbers, and assume everyone will keep using your product. Well, I don’t think people will keep using their product unless they’re stuck. I know one such developer who is stuck, who’s estimating this new scheme will cost them $100,000/month on a free to play game, where their revenue isn’t guaranteed.
Unity is desperately digging its own grave in a search for gold. This is all incredibly short-sighted and adds onto a string of rash decisions and poorly thought through schemes from Unity across the last few years.
(Ironically, the social VR platform Sansar deliberately made the decision not to use a third-party game engine, to avoid being blindsided by exactly what happened to Unity developers this week. Not that it helped with uptake of the platform.)
The devs at VRChat say, on Reddit, that nothing will change. We shall see…this guy is staff:
Other comments and responses to the news, from my Discord, are:
Lots of big-name devs are swearing off of Unity, dropping it even for projects already in progress.
For Neos itself I’m actually worried the least. For years they have planned to eventually move away from Unity, so the way the FrooxEngine actually interfaces with Unity is quite minimal. But like, most other VR Social games don’t have the “luxury” of running on two Engines frankensteined together. VRC will probably have to pay for it, the likes of Chillout are likely still far too small for that… But it still sucks that they have that lingering over their head now as the platform continues to grow.
Yeah, I mean, this is exactly why you shouldn’t rely too heavily on a third-party like this, because they can pull the rug out from underneath you…I am quite sure that VRChat is going to be okay. It’s the smaller, more niche metaverse platforms I’m a little worried about.
Sansar’s in-house engine looks pretty good right now, eh?
Okay, so it’s clear to me that this IS gonna have a large impact on any company that uses Unity. Question: how hard is it to move from Unity to, say, Unreal, or Godot? Is it an impossible task?
For an existing game? You’re usually basically re-writing it from scratch at that point.
For an existing project, it’s like remaking it from the ground up. An open engine similar to Unity would be a much better choice probably, for example Stride 3D.
The skinny seems to be that Unity will undo this, but trust will have been broken.
The last commenter makes an excellent point: even if Unity responds to the backlash by retreating from this decision, the damage has already been done, and the trust between Unity and developers has been broken.
Whatever Unity does, they already lost the trust of devs. Even if they retract, it will be “for now”. Fuck them.
Cost per license sold? Sure. That’s fine, you can just bake it into the cost of the game.
Cost per install? Charged to the developer/distributor???? Fuck no. You have no idea how much money each customer will cost you.
Initially, Unity stated the fee would apply every time the game was installed, or reinstalled. Then they backtracked that, but installs on multiple devices will have the fee charged multiple times. Install it on your PC? That’s a fee. Now also on your Steam Deck? That’s another fee. Your laptop? Fee again. Replaced your PC? Have another fee! And god forbid someone remembers that PC cafes are a thing. There’s zero information about how a “device” will be kept track of, so potentially just changing the hardware in a device will cause the fee to reset.
Piracy is a huge unknown. Unity says developers will simply have to trust that Unity’s anti-piracy solution works.
You just don’t do business like that, ESPECIALLY when you make this change retroactively. Companies are going to have to retool their entire profit estimation for something they cannot even account for.
Anyway, it will be interesting to watch as developments unfold over the next few weeks. Unity is a part of so much software development work (it’s even said to be a part of the upcoming Apple Vision Pro VR/AR headset!), so there will definitely be ripple effects. And, of course, the only people guaranteed to make money off this are the lawyers, so expect to see the lawsuits fly! Stock up on popcorn…