Editorial: My Social VR/Virtual World Predictions for 2019

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Time to peer into that crystal ball and make some predictions!

First: Second Life is going to continue to coast along, baffling the mainstream news media and the general public with its vitality and longevity. It will continue to be a reliable cash cow for Linden Lab as they put a portion of that profit into building Sansar. And I also predict that the ability to change your first and last names in SL will prove very popular—and also very lucrative for Linden Lab! Remember, they’ve got seven years of pent-up demand for this feature. (I have a couple of avatars myself that I’d like to rename.)

Second: An unexpected but potentially ground-breaking development in OpenSim was the announcement of the release of a virtual reality OpenSim viewer to the open source community at the 2018 OpenSim Community Conference. There’s still lots of technical work left to do, but if they can successfully pull this off, it could mean a new era for OpenSim.

Third: I confidently predict that one or more blockchain-based virtual worlds are going to fold. Not Decentraland; there’s too much money tied up in that one to fail. But several cryptocurrency-based virtual worlds are starting to look like trainwrecks of epic proportions (and I’m looking at you, Staramaba Spaces/Materia.One). Somebody still needs to explain to me why people will want to pay to hang out with 3D-scanned replicas of Paris Hilton and Hulk Hogan. The business model makes absolutely no sense to me. Another one that I think is going to struggle in 2019 is Mark Space.

Fourth: I also predict that one or more adult/sex-oriented virtual worlds are going to fail (yes, I’m looking at you, Oasis). I’ve already gone into the reasons why even the best of them are going to find it hard to compete against the entrenched front-runner, Second Life.

Fifth: High Fidelity and Sansar will continue their friendly rivalry as both social VR platforms hold splashy events in the new year. (I’m really sorry I missed the recent preview of Queen Nefertari’s tomb in HiFi, but it looks as though there will be many other such opportunities in 2019.) And High Fidelity will continue to boast of new records in avatar capacity at well-attended events (it certainly helps that they’ve got those venture-capital dollars to spend, to offer monetary enticements for users to pile on for stress testing).

Sixth: the Oculus Quest VR headset will ignite the long-awaited boom in virtual reality that the analysts have been predicting for years. There; I’ve said it! And those social VR platforms which support Oculus Quest users will benefit.

Seventh: Linden Lab’s launch of Sansar on Steam will likely have only a modest impact on overall usage of the platform. I’m truly sorry to have to write this prediction, because I love Sansar, but we’ve got statistics we can check, and they are not looking terribly encouraging at the moment. And where is the “significant ad spend” that was promised at one of the in-world product meetups back in November? Now that they’ve pulled the trigger and launched on Steam, it’s time to promote the hell out of Sansar, using every means at Linden Lab’s disposal. Paying bounties to Twitch livestreamers is not enough.

And Facebook? If they thought 2018 was a bad year, I predict that we’re going to see even more scandals uncovered in 2019 by news organizations such as the New York Times. And more people (like me) will decide that they’ve had enough of being sold to other corporations and data-mined to within an inch of their lives, and jump ship. The public relations people at Facebook are going to face a lot of sleepless nights…

And, still on the same topic, we might yet see the launch of a new social VR platform backed by Facebook, after they decide to ditch the lamentable Facebook Spaces once and for all. Maybe it will be based on Oculus Rooms; maybe it will be something completely different. But despite my negative feelings about the social networking side of Facebook, they still have the hardware (Oculus), the money, and the reach to be a game-changer in social VR. (Just not with Facebook Spaces. At this point, they should just kill the project and start over. Any improvements will be like putting lipstick on a pig.)

Finally, I predict that the RyanSchultz.com blog will head off into new and rather unexpected directions (that is, if the past 12 months’ activity is any indication!). I never expected to cover blockchain-based virtual worlds, or Second Life freebies; they just kind of happened.  Expect more of the same in 2019, as various new topics catch my interest.

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UPDATED! Oasis: A Brief Introduction to a New, Adults-Only Social VR Platform

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The Red Light District in Oasis

I came across a news item from the New York Post while browsing through the Virtual Reality newsfeed on Flipboard:

Pornhub and HoloFilm Productions will tonight present the first episode of the inaugural Pornhub Games, hosted by Asa Akira and sponsored by Chaturbate.

The Pornhub Games consist of six episodes leading up to the Pornhub Awards on Thursday, Sept. 6, and are viewable on a new virtual platform called Oasis.

My ears perked up at the words “new virtual platform called Oasis”, so I put on my reporter’s hat, got out my notebook, and went exploring. (Oh, the things I do for you people!)

First, there appears to be some sort of relationship between Oasis and another adults-only virtual world I had profiled earlier, called Red Light Center (that link is safe for work). When I tried to set up an account on the Oasis website, it referred me to the test account I had set up in RLC:

Please note that while you will be able to log in using the same credentials as RLC2, your RLC2 account is not linked to Oasis. RLC2 and Oasis are two different ‘service providers’ on the same network. Your login information is the same throughout the network, but your inventory, virtual currency balances*, settings and personalization are unique to each service provider and cannot be transferred between them.

RLC2 refers to the second version of Red Light Center, I guess? I really have no idea what’s going on. I never expected to ever have to use my RLC credentials again, I swear! I only created them for research! Research, I tell you!

Anyways, back to Oasis, and, by the way, whose bright idea was that particular name, I wonder? I wonder what the folks over at VIVEPORT think about that one, since they also have a VR experience called the Oasis…which makes it very difficult to actually find this newer Oasis platform using search engines like Google.

Here’s a one-minute promotional video from Vimeo:

So, “a better virtual reality is waiting for you”, eh? I decided to take them up on the offer.

Your avatar setup is pretty straightforward (but just what is the difference between “heavy” and “portly”, and “slim” and “skinny”, anyway?):

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Once you have made some rough avatar adjustments, you arrive at the Welcome Tower, a dark urban rooftop with a large pool:

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Your (cringe-inducing) orientation consists of finding and talking to Angela, who dispatches you to visit other bots in order to learn how to adjust and clothe your avatar:

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Angela refers you to the “stylist”, Charlotte, a woman with a faux French accent whose own personal style could best be described as “Cheap French HOO-Kair” 😉

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After fixing up my avatar and fetching myself a drink from Logan the bartender, here is what I looked like:

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“Everlust”, indeed! (No, my avatar doesn’t look any better in good lighting. I checked.)

You can switch from desktop mode to VR mode by hitting the F12 function key on your keyboard. (You’re also supposed to be able to switch back by hitting F11, which never worked for me.)

In VR mode, I found I could teleport around, but not turn. And no matter what I did in VR mode, I could not get doors to open for me (i.e. teleport me to another experience). Let’s just say that VR support is super buggy and leave it at that.

Back to the whole Pornhub thing, where we started off in the first place with that NY Post article. Apparently, Oasis has decided that a partnership with the porn website Pornhub is just what is needed to promote the platform, according to this article from the website VR Room:

The Pornhub Games consist of six episodes leading up to the Pornhub Awards on Thursday, Sept. 6, and are viewable on a new virtual platform called Oasis.

“Tonight, is a special sneak preview of a project that I produced and directed called the Pornhub Games,” HoloFilm President Anna Lee told XBIZ. “The Games are a six-week, reality style competition where six contestants compete for the chance to be crowned the Pornhub Games Champion.”

According to Lee, each Thursday from now until Sept. 6, it will air a different episode and host a viewing party featuring a live Q&A session engaging fans and contestants.

The soft launch is intended to stress-test the platform prior to its official launch on Aug. 2, alongside an affiliate program for promoting the new platform.

“[We] would love to have some of you VR enthusiasts come check it out, help us load test and give us feedback on the platform,” Lee explains. “So, while the Games are some fun eye candy, the real purpose of tonight is to help us get Oasis totally on its feet.”

The doors open at 5 p.m. (PDT), with the event beginning at 5:30 p.m.

Oasis is available for any desktop computer, as well as Vive and Rift headsets, with mobile compatibility planned for a future release.

So, if you’re really interested in Oasis, here’s their website, have at it! Oh, and did I mention that one of their two in-game currencies is called “Booty”? (The other one is called “Rays”. The jokes just write themselves, people.)

And, if you want to unlock, ahem, special features (like the ability to get naked), why, you can upgrade to a VIP membership:

Savings & Currency

  • We’ll give you a virtual currency (Rays) bonus
  • You’ll be able to transfer (send and receive) virtual currency
  • Get discounts on experiences paid in Booty (like tattoos, change rooms, lap dances, etc.)

Sexy

  • See nudity
  • Get naked
  • Unlock intimate activities

Bling

  • Display a badge above your name indicating your VIP status
  • Your name colour will change to indicate your VIP status
  • Your chat text will also update to a new colour to indicate your VIP status

But, lemme tell ya, VIP membership ain’t cheap:

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So, what do I think of all this? I think that any virtual world that wants to get into the sex market needs to have really good-looking, realistic avatars, and these… aren’t. The clothing I tried on, in particular, was very poorly made (I guess the point is, you’re not supposed to be wearing any?). And the addition of somewhat juvenile hunt games (e.g. help the madam find her champagne receipt she left at the café) seems completely out of place in a virtual world designed and intended for adults.

Oh, and the Pornhub tie-in? Basically, you’re sitting in a movie theatre, watching the individual weekly episodes of the “Pornhub Games” on a screen. It’s boring as hell, and why you would need or want to be in Oasis just to watch a video is beyond me. Why impose an extra layer of unnecessary technology to do something that can easily be done on the desktop?

The bottom line is, there’s really nothing that interesting in Oasis, even if you are a porn fan. Pass.

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UPDATE Dec. 28th: Well, it would appear that Oasis is having a little trouble attracting users. I noticed this recent addition to their website:

You can try Oasis for free to get a taste and if you decide you want more, a single payment of $20 will unlock all game features – forever! This offer won’t be around forever, though, so why don’t you give it a try now?

Oasis must really be hurting to switch from $20 per month to $20 for a lifetime membership. It’s a limited time offer, of course! There’s just a hint of desperation here.

Frankly, if you’re actually looking for a virtual world to fulfill your sexual fantasies, you’d be better off sticking with Second Life, the established front-runner with over 15 years experience. As I have said before, when writing about yet another adult virtual world, 3DX Chat (which frankly has much better-looking avatars than Oasis):

The biggest problem is that many of these newer adult/sex-based virtual worlds simply cannot compete with everything that the entrenched frontrunner Second Life, with a 15-year head start, has to offer:

  • SL now has extremely attractive, realistic-looking mesh avatars (male, female, and any mythical creature you could ever dream up), with a near-endless array of avatar customization options (hair, clothing, shoes, accessories, etc.). You can outfit your avatar to fit into any style or scene! No other virtual world can compete.
  • In-world stores and the SL Marketplace sell tens of thousands of different animations (dance, cuddle, sex, etc.); again, there’s something to suit every taste. Again, no other virtual world can compete with the endless selection.
  • Finally, Second Life offers hundreds of adult locations, many staffed with dozens of avatars who are ready, willing, and able to roleplay sexual scenes (via chat, voice, even webcam!). Again, no other sex-based virtual world comes even close.

Another big problem with Oasis? As I mentioned earlier, it’s almost impossible to find this game on Google, due to so many other unrelated hits you get from searching on “Oasis”. Search on “Oasis VR” or “Oasis game” and you get the Ready Player One-branded experience by VIVEPORT, or the Chinese game company. Search on “Oasis adult” or “Oasis sex” and you get the Oasis Aqualounge, a “sexual adventure playground for adults”, which appears to be a swingers resort in downtown Toronto. Search on “Oasis adult game” and you finally get the right hits—as well as this blogpost as the third highest-ranking hit on Google. That’s not a good sign.

Frankly, Oasis is a TERRIBLE name for a virtual world. It’s just too common a name for too many other things on the Internet. The company should strongly consider renaming it to make it easier for people to find. Then again, they’re not the first virtual world with a poorly-chosen name (remember There.com?).