My Projects for November

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I tried.

I mean, I really, really tried, people.

My vow today was to spend the entire day (a vacation day) cleaning up both my spectacularly messy apartment and Vanity Fair’s overstuffed inventory, and assiduously avoiding any social media and any news media for any snippet of U.S. election news, good or bad.

My resolve lasted an hour. First, I peeked at my Twitter, just to see what hashtags were trending. Then, I opened up Google News, just to check the coronavirus headlines. After that, the floodgates were wide open. It looks like I, like so many other people, are going to be glued to their news media today and tomorrow, just to find out what happens.

*sigh* Oh well.

Image by Lena Helfinger from Pixabay

You should know that I do have two projects to work on over my holidays.

First, it is time—far past time—for me to reorganize and categorize my popular Comprehensive List of Social VR Platforms and Virtual Worlds. It’s waaay overdue. (And I’m curious to see what projects and platforms have thrived or folded.)

It’s also time for my annual November update of my Comparison Chart of Popular Social VR Platforms (and yes, I know, “Popular” is subjective). I do plan to draw on the readers of my blog and the 460-plus members of the RyanSchultz.com Discord server to crowdsource a lot of the information contained in the updated comparison chart. (Expect a separate, more detailed blogpost on this topic later this week.)

I will also have to rely on others to help me fill in all the details in the updated comparison chart for Facebook Horizon, as I intend to continue my personal boycott of all Facebook/Oculus products and services (as protest against the company forcing Oculus VR device users to set up accounts on the Facebook social network).

I am not naïve; I full well realize that the Oculus Quest 2 is gonna sell like hotcakes anyway, and no doubt I will continue to feel pressure (both from myself and from my readers) to cave in and buy one, just so I can report directly on the social VR platforms that will inevitably find fertile ground on the headset. I have zero doubt that, much like vibrant communities like Bray’s Place which have sprung up in Second Life over the seventeen years of its existence, healthy communities will spring up within Facebook Horizon (in face, Facebook is counting on that fact).

Version 3.0 of the Kalhene Anya and Alexa Bodies: A Great Second Life Bakes-on-Mesh Bento Head and Body Package Gets Even Better!

I have been following the progress of the Kalhene Bento, Bakes on Mesh bodies (the Anya female body and the Alexa transgender body) for some time now, and I am mightily impressed with how often the creator issues updates. We are already at version 3.0 of the Anya body, which I have found to be 99% compatible with apparel and footwear designed for Maitreya Lara mesh bodies (the only area where I have sometimes encountered problems is the wrist area on certain long-sleeved tops).

For only L$1,695, you get not only a Maitreya-Lara-compatible Bento mesh body, with a top-notch HUD, you also get a Bento mesh head, plus pretty much everything else you need to get started—skins, eyes, hair, a starter wardrobe, even an AO to control the eyes, head, and hands! All you need to add is a body AO and you’re all set!

Let’s draw up a side-by-side comparison chart, showing you what you get for your money: column A is the Kalhene Anya version 3.0 head and body, and Column B is the Maitreya Lara version 5.3 mesh body with a Catwa brand of Bento mesh head (the most popular combination):

Kalhene Anya 3.0Maitreya Lara 5.3
Base Cost of Mesh BodyL$1,695L$2,750
Petite Breast OptionIncludedL$599 extra
Flat Chest OptionIncluded L$499 extra
Bento Hands and NailsIncluded; Fingernails come in 36 colours and patterns, and 3 stylesIncluded; Fingernails come in 19 colours and 5 styles
Mesh Feet3 feet heights controlled by HUD (flat, medium, and high)5 feet heights controlled by HUD (flat, kitten, medium, high, and point)
Bento Mesh HeadIncludedNot Included (Catwa heads cost L$5,000)
Starter HairstyleIncluded (2 styles)Not Included
Starter SkinIncluded (5 skin tones in regular and flat-chested versions)Included (22 skin tones)
Starter WardrobeBikini (12 colours), Dress (8 colours), Shirt (4 colours), Leggings (4 colours), Flat Shoes (5 colours, 2 styles), High Shoes (5 colours, 3 styles). Apparel comes in versions to fit both regular and flat-chested versions.Bra and Panties by Erratic (9 colours) and Zaara (black)
TOTAL COSTL$1,695L$8,848 (not including cost of hair and a starter wardrobe)
Comparison Chart: Kalhene Anya versus Maitreya Lara with a Catwa head

Also, because the included skin tones that come the Maitreya Lara body and your choice of Catwa head will not match, you will also have to shell out for skin appliers from your favourite skin store (or a Bakes on Mesh skin, since both Maitreya and Catwa now support BoM). You could easily spend well over L$10,000 before you’re done with the Maitreya/Catwa combination, whereas you could take that extra money and put it towards apparel, footwear, hairstyles, and Bakes on Mesh skins, cosmetics and tattoos if you opt for the Kalhene Anya mesh body.

Here’s a look at the HUD that comes with version 3.0 of the Anya body. Note that unlike earlier versions, there are now three feet heights, controllable by the HUD (instead of separate mesh bodies): flat feet, mid-height feet, and high heel feet.

There’s a pretty complete set of alpha selections on the HUD, which compares quite favourably with those of the major mesh body brands, and of course you can also use the alphas that come with the clothing you buy. If you do need a set of alphas to use with clothing that does not come with them, you can pick up a free set from Little Black Dress at this SLURL (just click on the bag on the floor).

The separate clothing HUD allows you to change the colour and style of the included hairstyle (bangs/no bangs), as well as all of the included starter wardrobe items, including the metals and gemstones on the included set of rings, the ability to show or hide the rings on each finger, and the colour and style of two kinds of shoes, flat and high (including the flats shown here; other options include sandals and pumps). Black and white pantyhose and tights (in all three feet heights and four different transparency levels) are included in the package, too.

Here’s a look at a completely styled version of the Anya mesh avatar, showing you where on the body and clothing HUDs I made selections:

As you can see, you can create and style a complete avatar look using only the elements in the Anya package! However, I also wanted to show you how this body would look with a different head and skin (the Anya head and body are separate attachments, and of course you can mix and match them with other BoM-compatible heads and bodies as you wish).

This avatar is wearing:

  • Mesh Head: Strong Face gift Bento mesh head from The Genus Project (free group gift)
  • Mesh Body: Anya version 3.0 from Kalhene (L$1,695; Kalhene has a a small store located opposite the N-Core Design footwear store (here’s the SLURL)
  • Skin: Brielle by Amara Beauty (a former free group gift; group is free to join)
  • Hair: Beyoncé hair by enVOGUE (a L$1 gift from a previous year’s Hair Fair)
  • Gown: Azahara ballgown in red by Scandalize (which I picked up using the recent group gift of L$400 store credit; the Scandalize group costs L$100 to join, but if you hurry, you can join for free and pick up a second L$400 store credit offer! I believe today is the final day you can join the Scandalize group for free.)
  • Jewelry: I pulled this old set from my inventory; they came from a store that has long since left the grid!

TOTAL COST OF THIS AVATAR LOOK: L$1,696 (L$1,695 for the Kalhene Anya mesh body, and L$1 for the hair)

An Updated Comparison Chart of Sixteen Social VR Platforms (Updated and Expanded Draft, November 2019)

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I haven’t published an update to my popular November 2018 comparison chart of twelve social VR platforms for quite some time. There never seems to be a perfect time to update. At first, I wanted to wait until the Oculus Quest was released. And then, I was wondering whether or not I should wait until Facebook releases the Oculus Link update to the Oculus Quest (which means, theoretically, that Oculus Quest users can use a custom cable connected to their VR-ready Windows computer to view content originally intended for the Oculus Rift).

In the end, I decided to go ahead and publish a first draft of the updated comparison chart now, get feedback from my readers, and update the chart as necessary. So here is that first draft.

I removed two of the 12 platforms in last year’s comparison chart: both Facebook Spaces and Oculus Rooms were shut down by Facebook on October 25th, 2019, in preparation for the launch of Facebook Horizon sometime in 2020. I have not added Facebook Horizon to this chart (yet) because we still know so little about this new social VR platform. And I decided to add six more social VR platforms to the chart: Anyland, Cryptovoxels, Engage, JanusVR, Mozilla Hubs, and NeosVR.

Rather than publish the chart as an image to Flickr, as I did last year, I decided to create a spreadsheet using Google Drive, and publish it to the web here:

Comparison Chart of 16 Social VR Platforms (Updated and Expanded Draft © Ryan Schultz, November 13th, 2019).

Please leave me a comment with any suggestions, corrections or edits, and I will update this new comparison chart accordingly. You can also reach me on the RyanSchultz.com Discord server, or any other virtual world Discord that I might belong to (my handle is always the same, RyanSchultz). You can also use the contact form on my blog.

UPDATE 3:48 p.m.: I’ve had a request to add userbase figures to this chart, but I am not going to do that for a very good reason: there’s absolutely no way I can get accurate figures from the various companies, many of whom want to keep that information private. And even ranking them using a scale like low, medium, and high would just be guesses on my part, misleading to a lot of people, and liable to lead to a lot of arguments. Sorry! I will leave it up to you to check Steam statistics for those platforms which are on Steam (which, again, may or may not be an accurate measure of the actual level of usage of any platform).

UPDATE Nov. 13th: I’d like to thank Frooxius (of NeosVR), Artur Sychov (of Somnium Space) and Jin for their corrections and suggestions. Any updates to this table are shown in real-time, which is a unexpected bonus to publishing a spreadsheet directly to the web from Google Drive! I should have thought of doing it this way last year.

And it would appear that there is a great deal of disagreement of what constitutes “in-world building tools”. I am referring to the ability to create complex objects entirely within the platform itself, and not using external tools such as Blender or Unity and then importing the externally-created objects into the platform. For example, High Fidelity has very rudimentary “prim-building” tools in-world, which are not often used by creators, who prefer to import mesh objects created in tools like Blender, Maya, or 3ds Max instead. To give another example, Somnium Space now offers a completely in-world tool for constructing buildings on your purchased virtual land. Sansar has no such tools for in-world building, although you can assemble premade, externally-created objects into a world by using their Scene Editor (which is something completely different from what I am talking about here).

One reader had suggested adding in a few more columns to this chart to include various technical aspects of these social VR platforms: game engine used, open/closed source, support for scripting, etc. Using the table provided to me by Enrico Speranza (a.k.a. Vytek), I have now added three more columns to the original comparison table: architecture/game engine, open/closed source, and scripting. Thank you for the suggestion, Vytek!

Please keep your suggestions, corrections and edits coming, thanks!