To Teleport or Not to Teleport: Teleporting Versus Walking in the Metaverse

Ever wish you could teleport in real life?
(Photo by Chris Briggs on Unsplash)

Earlier this week, I had a guided tour of the blockchain-based social VR platform Somnium Space, where I was informed by my tour guide that the virtual world had just implemented teleporting. Scattered throughout the one large, contiguous virtual landscape which comprises Somnium Space were teleporter hubs, where you could pull up a map, click on the teleporter hub you wanted to travel to, press a button, et voilà! You were instantly transported to your destination.

A teleporter hub in the central city square of Somnium Space (at night)
The red arrows indicate the location of teleporter hubs on the map

What makes Somnium Space unusual among metaverse platforms is that you cannot simply teleport from one place to another distant location; you either must make use of the provided teleporters, or walk/run/fly/swim to your destination. (Of course, you can certainly “short hop” using a limited form of teleporting, but that is only for shorter distances, not for instantly getting from one end of a large, contiguous landmass to another.)

In other words, the teleporter hubs of the Somnium Transportation System are set up much like a modern urban subway system, where you can only travel to a particular, pre-built subway station that is situated the nearest to your intended destination, and then walk the rest of the way. Many people might remember that in the very earliest days of Second Life, there were also teleporter hubs in the days before avatars could instantly teleport themselves from one location to another!

Another thing that sets Somnium Space apart from other social VR platforms is that there are only going to be so many “public” teleporter hubs. In face, some of these hubs are going to be auctioned off as NFTs (Non-Fungible Tokens), and the successful bidders with such a teleporter hub on their properties will be able to charge a cryptocurrency fee in order to use their teleporters! (In other words, they would operate much the same as a real-life toll road or highway.)

Closely intertwined with the idea of teleporting vs. walking is the layout of a metaverse platform. Is it one large contiguous landmass, like Somnium Space, Decentraland, Cryptovoxels, and (to a certain extent) Second Life? Or is it a collection of smaller worlds, like VRChat, Rec Room, Sansar, and Sinespace? If it is the former, then means of transportation (and ease of access to transportation) becomes more important. If it is the latter, then another tool which many of the newer social VR platforms offer is the ability to create a portal—either temporary or permanent— between two worlds. (Of course, you could consider a teleporter hub a portal.)

So, keeping all this in mind (particularly the distinction between SHORT HOP teleporting and teleporting to a DISTANT location), we can create a chart outlining the transportation affordances of the various metaverse platforms:

Name of Platform (Layout)Walk/Run? *Distance
Teleport?
**
Create Portals?
Second Life (mostly one contiguous landmass, with private islands)YESYESYES
Sinespace (separate worlds)YESNOYES
Sansar (separate worlds)YESNO (but you can create teleport hubs)YES
VRChat (separate worlds)YESNOYES
Rec Room (separate worlds)YESNOYES
AltspaceVR (separate worlds)YESNOYES
NeosVR (separate worlds)YESNOYES
Cryptovoxels (one contiguous landmass with some islands) YESNO (you can add coordinates to a URL, though)YES
Decentraland (one contiguous landmass) YESYES (/goto X,Y)NO
Somnium Space (one contiguous landmass)YESNO (but there are teleport hubs)NO (unless you count teleport hubs)
* – Can a user walk/run/fly/swim from one location to another? This includes SHORT HOP teleporting.
** – Can a user personally choose to teleport from one location to a second, DISTANT location?
† – Can a user create a temporary or permanent portal from one location to another?

Obviously, all metaverse platforms offer some form of personal locomotion for your avatar (walk, run, fly, swim, short-hop teleporting, etc.). This is standard.

It is also clear from this table that the metaverse platforms which consist of many smaller worlds (Sinespace, Sansar, VRChat, Rec Room, AltspaceVR, and NeosVR) all prefer the creation of temporary and permanent portals to allowing users to teleport great distances on their own steam. On the other hand, all the social VR platforms and virtual worlds which consist of one contiguous landmass tend to allow some form of teleportation across great distances.

You will notice that Cryptovoxels uses a rather brute-force method of “teleporting”, which consists of appending the coordinates to the end of the URL you enter into your web browser client (which are much the same as the coordinates which form part of the SLURLs used in Second Life, but not nearly as convenient in my opinion).

Transportation affordances are yet another way to classify metaverse platforms in my continuing effort to create a taxonomy of social VR platforms and virtual worlds.

So, what do you think? Have I made an error in my table? Do you have an opinion about the benefits of teleporting and portals versus walking around and exploring the landscape? I’d love to hear your opinions, so please leave a comment, thank you!

Visiting the Wonderful Worlds of ケセドCHESED in VRChat

On Wednesday evening, I joined the XR Social Club in their weekly explorations of VRChat, and our hosts took us on a tour of three of the wonderful worlds created by a Japanese user known as ケセドCHESED. These are, without exception, beautifully crafted worlds, many featuring fireworks, shooting stars, or even aurora borealis!

The first, called simply CHESED’s Cave, is a cozy bar with a hot tub, and several outlooks over a landscape with fireworks! The particle effects are particularly well done, and everybody in our tour group marveled at the work on display. This is somebody who has some serious skills in world-building! It’s got all the hallmarks of a comfortable gathering spot, even though it is in a cave.

A look at the bar in CHESED’s Cave

The second world was the Sakura Ryokan, a wonderfully detailed Japanese inn with a communal bathing area, as well as a lovely spa carved into the rock behind it, where you can relax in the water, under a night sky filled with stunning fireworks.

The communal baths at CHESED’s Sakura Ryokan

We wrapped up our tour at CHESED’s Sea of Clouds, a cozy home built into the side of a cliff, where you can watch the fireworks amid the gently moving clouds:

Watching the fireworks at CHESED’s Sea of Clouds

Afterwards, entranced by the detail and beauty of these worlds, I went on a solo exploration of several other of ケセドCHESED’s worlds, including CHESED’s Tea Party, where you traverse a long pathway of vines, in order to reach an oversize, food-laden table! Flocks of seagulls fly under a rainbow to complete the serene scene.

CHESED’s Tea Party

Carlos Austin, our videographer, shot the following livestream of our adventures yesterday, which you might be interested in:

To see a list of all ケセドCHESED’s worlds, just visit his/her profile, and click on the plus sign next to Worlds to see all the worlds he/she has created. Also, almost all of these worlds are tagged “chesed”, to make them easier to find.

Enjoy! Many thanks to VR_Christine of the XR Social Club in VRChat for introducing me to these fantastic worlds!

UPDATE 12:36 p.m.: Carlos was kind enough to share a group photo he took at Sakura Ryokan (VR_Christine, who discovered all these worlds, is the big hot dog at the centre).

The XR Social Club meets Wednesday evenings at 6:00 p.m. PST/8:00 p.m. CST/9:00 p.m. EST in a private instance of their club. New members are always welcome! The best way to join is to friend a current member of the club (such as me, my username is ryanschultz) and request an invitation near the start time. See you there!

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!

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!