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!

Does Facebook/Oculus Need to Get Its Act Together On Social VR? A Thread on Reddit

As most of you already know, I quit Facebook as my New Year’s resolution, and I am still quite happy with my decision.

One of the places where I have spent more time since leaving Facebook has been Reddit, which is home to many thriving communities such as the Oculus subReddit, with over 140,000 subscribers who discuss and debate various issues related to Oculus VR hardware and software. (Sometimes I cross-post one of my blogposts there.)

Mark Zuckerberg presents the Oculus lineup (image taken from The Ghost Howls blog)

Yesterday, someone posted a lengthy item titled Opinion: Oculus needs to get its sh*t together in social, which I have only quoted in part (so please go over there and read the whole thing):

First, it’s ridiculous that cross-communication between the Go and Rift communities is so difficult, especially with Quest coming. VR social presence should be an underlying infrastructure that the whole Oculus ecosystem can plug into… Oculus: don’t split the VR community simply because of which of your own platforms they buy. Make communication easy, automatic, and built in.

Second, where the hell is the metaverse/Oasis/shared world? I know, VR Chat, AltspaceVR, Rec Room, High Fidelity, etc. …but why has Oculus–let alone Facebook!–abdicated this whole sector to third parties?

Now, this poster has raised a valid point. Why is social VR across all the Oculus hardware such a disorganized mess? Currently, Facebook offers Oculus Rooms for the Oculus Go users and Facebook Spaces for Oculus Rift users. Is Facebook going to use the release of the Oculus Quest (which I predict will be popular) to try and clean up this situation?

Some of the comments to this poster are worth quoting (again, I am going to take it easy with the quoting, taking into account the feedback I have recently received). I did go in and write a lengthy response, outlining the situation as I see it, and pointing out that there were already many social VR platforms which have been in development for several years (Sansar, High Fidelity, Sinespace, etc.).

When I said that High Fidelity and VRChat were planning to support the upcoming standalone Oculus Quest VR headset, one person responded:

Sadly, I don’t think VRChat’s gonna support Quest. It’s just not compatible with mobile CPUs. Hell, it brings modern up-to-date PC’s to a standstill with too many people. I very much doubt the Snapdragon 835 can handle all the custom shaders, avatars, IK, etc. The team would basically need to do a full rewrite. And that’s unlikely unless the team was way bigger.

Someone else said:

Do you really WANT Facebook also own the social VR “metaverse”? That seems like a really terrible idea in general to have a monopoly control so many things. Especially one that has proven dozens of times that they could care less about our privacy in respect to their profits…

I for one HOPE Oculus fails WILDLY on social VR. The alternative would be the worst-case dystopian future for VR and likely disasterous for humanity as a whole in the long-term.

To which I say, Amen and Hallelujah. However, Facebook has the deep pockets (lots of money) and the hardware (Oculus) to totally up-end the current, nascent social VR market, if they finally get their act together and choose to do so.

And finally, one person said:

To me it comes down to this—people want Second Life in VR format. It’s true. A metaverse where you can build or be anything you want…but in VR. We know that SL’s infrastructure cannot be upgraded to do that. High Fidelity, even with the founder of SL, isn’t cutting it. And neither is Sansar, Linden Lab’s actual VR offering.

I believe there are two main issues impeding them. 1. Instances – every platform nowadays does instance based “world” creation. Worlds are not permanent, player join numbers are limited, and the worlds are not visually connected to each other. People want permanence! To be able to wander from one place to the next aimlessly. This isn’t just an issue limited to VR of course (hello WoW). The reasoning behind this is that it’s much easier on the server hardware. Personally, I’d deal with some lag to be able to participate in a true open world environment. And

2. Adult content – All of the platforms are scared as f*** here. They don’t want their brand to be ‘marked’ by that, they don’t want to have to figure out how to police it, etc etc. That stuff is not going away. Whether they admit it or not, adult content has kept Second Life alive and thriving for 15 years (they still have ~50k concurrent users). Bottom line—deal with it. Embrace it. It’s going to happen with or without you.

This wide-ranging and fascinating discussion is the kind of thing that Reddit has become well-known for, and I would encourage you to go over there and read all or most of it for yourself, and perhaps add your own comments.

Editorial: My Social VR/Virtual World Predictions for 2019

Have you joined the RyanSchultz.com Discord yet? Come join 170 avid users of various metaverse platforms, and discuss social VR and virtual world predictions for 2019! More details here


wyron-a-561710-unsplash

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.