VRChat Prepares for the Oculus Quest by Redesigning Its Homes and Social Hub

In a recent blogpost, VRChat announced some changes to its platform to accommodate the expected influx of new users when the Oculus Quest begins shipping next week:

In preparation for our launch on the Oculus Quest next week, we’ve created a new VRChat Home and VRChat Hub for both our PC and Quest users! Both of the worlds are cross-platform, and will allow Quest and PC users to interact and chat with each other.

The new VRChat Home includes portals to popular destinations, as well as a new avatar selector next to a mirror. The redesigned social hub brings back the familiar campfire, which many people remember from the early days of VRChat:

The Hub has received quite a makeover. We’ve found that users tend to prefer smaller (but not too small) instances to chat with their friends, with areas that naturally lean into permitting groups to separate out and have conversations. A darker evening lighting scheme tends to be more favorable and provides an “after-hours” feel…The campfire provides a comfortable, natural area to gather up.

The New VRChat Hub

You should see these changes the next time you log in to VRChat.

I predict that VRChat will experience a second boom in use after the Oculus Quest begins to ship to consumers on May 21st. VRChat is one of only three social VR apps to be available for the Quest at launch date, along with Bigscreen and Rec Room.

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Oculus Rift S and Oculus Quest VR Headsets to Ship May 21st

Well, the waiting is finally over. Pre-orders start today for both the Oculus Rift S headset (the replacement for the original Oculus Rift VR headset) and the standalone Oculus Quest, and they will begin shipping on May 21st, 2019. A lot of eager fanboys on the Oculus and Oculus Quest subReddits are no doubt bitterly disappointed that the Quest did not start shipping today, but three weeks is not too long to wait.

Of course, I placed my pre-order on the Oculus website for the Oculus Quest with 128GB of memory for CDN$699 this afternoon. Gotta have the latest gadget!

My Oculus Rift headset, which I originally bought in December 2016 and had replaced in January 2017 due to a defect in one of the lenses, is still serving me quite well and I see no need to upgrade to the Rift S at this time. After all, it’s not what I would consider a next-generation update, it’s more like a half-step upgrade. I can wait.

But Facebook’s announcements at their F8 developers conference were not the only news today! Valve officially announced the details of its upcoming high-end Index VR headset and hand controllers. At US$999 it’s certainly not cheap, but it does look like it would be a significant upgrade to the current crop of VR headsets. Pre-orders for the Valve Index start tomorrow, May 1st, 2019.

It looks like the battle for the high-end PC-based virtual reality headsets is just beginning! If I were Facebook/Oculus or HTC, I would be a little concerned about Valve’s entry into the marketplace.

Interesting times ahead!

VRChat Announces the Quest Creator Program

I admit it: I’m a gadget freak. When the first Amazon Kindle was announced in Canada, I bought one. When the first Apple iPad was launched, I bought one. And when the Oculus Quest is finally officially released, I will be buying one.

I predict that the Oculus Quest will be phenomenally popular, and help to finally usher in the long-awaited consumer VR market everyone has been forecasting for years (and getting wrong). I also predict that any social VR platform that supports the Oculus Quest will get a boost as well. So far, for the top 12 most popular social VR platforms, it looks like this:

Will There Be a Version for the Oculus Quest?

YesNo? (Status Uncertain or Rumoured)
– Bigscreen
– Rec Room
– Somnium Space
– VRChat
– vTime XR
– Sansar
– TheWaveVR
– AltspaceVR
– Facebook Spaces*
– High Fidelity
– Oculus Home*
– Oculus Rooms*
– Sinespace

*Obviously, there’s going to be something from Facebook/Oculus, but whether it will be a rebranding or extension of Facebook Spaces, Oculus Home, or Oculus Rooms, or something completely different, no one knows. And Facebook is keeping that a closely guarded secret for now.

While both High Fidelity and Sinespace have said that they will be supporting the Oculus Quest, I have as yet heard no official announcement from either of them. The same goes for AltspaceVR.

Today, VRChat launched their Quest Creator Program. And for the first time, we get some clear indications of what features will and won’t be allowed for VRChat worlds and avatars intended for Quest users.

It will be a dual-publishing model: publish once for PC users (i.e. Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, Windows Mixed Reality headsets), and publish a second time for Quest standalone headset users. If a creator publishes only for the Quest, their world(s) will only be visitable by users in the Quest. If the creator publishes only for the PC, Quest users will be unable to visit. Here’s a Venn diagram for those of you who like Venn diagrams:

Worlds published for both PC and Quest will have a cross-platform icon (the central symbol in the image above) in the VRChat Worlds Atlas. Users from both platforms can meet in cross-platform worlds. Quest-only worlds won’t show up for PC users, and vice versa. PC-only avatars will not display to Quest users (a default avatar will display instead).

Here’s some information from a newly-published guide to VRChat Quest Content Optimization:

While building worlds, you should try to keep polygon count low. You want to leave room for the user’s avatars as well. We recommend that you budget approximately 50,000 triangles for your world in total.

The same general rules apply for avatars that apply for worlds. Keep in mind that you may have 10 or more users in the same room, so you’ll want to budget your triangle usage pretty heavily. We recommend that you aim for 5,000 triangles for your avatar.

This will be a challenge for avatar authors that prefer to import characters from various platforms rather than create an avatar themselves. Decimation down to this level can be destructive, and you may need to look into techniques like retopologizing geometry to keep your polygon count low.

Quest worlds cannot use custom shaders or post-processing, and regular shaders and audio sources will be limited. Quest avatars also cannot make use of features such as dynamic bones, cloth, cameras, lights, and audio sources. Particles and shaders will be limited.

We can expect that similar restrictions will be in place for other social VR platforms for them to work on the reduced processing power and memory of the standalone Oculus Quest headset.

Oh, and in an interesting twist, Quest developers will soon be able to use the Oculus Go as a sort of testbed for their work. However, this is only an interim measure to allow for testing, and VRChat has no plans to actually release a version of VRChat for the Oculus Go:

Exciting times ahead!!

VRChat and Rec Room Will Be Coming to the Oculus Quest This Spring

VRChat has just announced via Twitter that they will be one of the social VR platforms that the upcoming Oculus Quest standalone VR headset will support:

Image Sent Out in Today’s Tweet

In my earlier blogpost discussing which social VR platforms the Quest would support, there was a bit of debate as to whether or not it would be even possible to pare down the VRChat experience so that it would run acceptably on the Oculus Quest. It would appear that the company has successfully been able to accomplish this difficult feat.

It’s not clear whether VRChat will be one of the applications available at the official launch of the Quest, or sometime later. (We still don’t know when the Quest will be launched, other than “Spring 2019”.) It’s also not exactly clear what technical compromises will have to be made to the full-blown VRChat experience currently available to people using the Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, and Windows Mixed Reality headsets.

But wait, there’s more news! VRChat is not the only social VR platform to make an Oculus Quest-related announcement today!

UploadVR reports today that Against Gravity’s Rec Room social VR app will also be available for the Quest. Again, it’s not clear whether the platform will be available on the official launch date of the Oculus Quest, or sometime later. They add:

We’ve long thought of Rec Room as one of VR’s most important apps. On top of playing together, players can also customize rooms to their own look and then share them with others to provide new types of experiences. In January, we reported that the game had reached over one million players.

Against Gravity also confirmed to UploadVR that the Quest version of the game will support cross-play. this is a key feature for Rec Room, allowing those with an Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, Windows VR headset and even a PSVR to meet up online. Adding Quest to that mix should help expand the player base.

So, both the number one (VRChat) and number two (Rec Room) most popular social VR platforms will be available for the Oculus Quest. This will open up a large new potential audience for both platforms. The question remains, though: how well will both virtual worlds stand up to the flood of new users? Interesting times ahead!