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!
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!
The app formerly known as vTime is now called vTime XR, and (in a bit of surprising news) it now offers a so-called “augmented reality” mode. I don’t really consider it true augmented reality, since it doesn’t work with an AR headset like the Magic Leap One or the Microsoft Hololens. (It’s more like Pokémon Go, where you’re looking through your cellphone.)
vTime XR also supports a variety of VR headsets and 2D/flatscreen viewing, which the company whimsically calls “Magic Window mode”.
Here’s the new promo video:
I notice they’ve also added a lot of new hand gestures that weren’t there before. The slickly-produced video almost obscures the fact that your avatar is still locked in place in one of four seats in all of the vTime environments (in this it is similar to Facebook Spaces, in that you are limited to a maximum of four avatars in one experience).
However, as the video demonstrates, vTime XR offers you a lot of different, beautiful scenes for you to meet up with your friends (or, far more likely, other people you don’t know who happen to be using vTime XR at the same time you are).
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.)
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.
Someone posted the following YouTube video to the official Sansar Discord channel today. It’s a mixed-reality video recorded on a green-screen set constructed by Drift0r, a VR enthusiast and avid gamer, within his own home (which should tell you quite a bit about what level a fan he is of virtual reality).
But he certainly does not pull any punches when it comes down to dissecting exactly what’s wrong with the current state of virtual reality in general, and VR gaming in particular:
Now, this is not some VR dilettante; this is what I would consider a hardcore VR gamer who has made a sizeable investment in both the computer hardware and software, not only to play VR games but to record videos of himself doing so. He’s also a popular YouTube personality with over 1.3 million subscribers. And he says in the description of this particular video:
Virtual Reality has been struggling to catch on and go mainstream for almost four years now. I personally am a huge fan of VR and own the Rift, Vive, & PSVR; but I have to face the fact that VR gaming is dying. This video goes over the current major issues with VR gaming and offers some suggestions on how to fix them. I show off Beat Saber, Sprint Vector, Doom VFR, Sairento, Gorn, Creed, Raw Data, and several other games in mixed reality too.
For someone like this to be saying that VR is dying, and to suggest that full mainstream acceptance of VR may lie 20 to 30 years in the future, instead of the 5 to 10 years most VR market forecasters are predicting, should give a lot of companies working in VR serious pause (including those firms building social VR platforms). This guy is the consummate insider, somebody who should be leading the cheering section, telling us that things are notokay with the current state of VR gaming, at least.
The dirty secret of VR gaming overall, let alone social VR, is that very few people still own a VR headset. The vast majority of people playing VR-capable games and visiting VR-capable virtual worlds are not using a VR headset; they are in desktop mode. And it’s not just social VR that is struggling to attract paying customers, it’s the entire VR industry that is facing the reality that most people aren’t adopting the technology. As Drift0r explains, the hard, cold truth of VR gaming is that the games are selling in numbers that are pitiful by desktop game standards.
So, what does this mean for Sansar, High Fidelity, and the other social VR companies? It means that they should be wary of over-focusing on virtual reality to the exclusion of desktop users. Linden Lab smartly made the move to integrate text chat in Sansar for both desktop and VR users, something that Philip Rosedale has been notably loathe to do in High Fidelity (although I understand that text chat is included in the HiFi client, but disabled by default).
Virtual reality may not be dying, as this YouTuber asserts, but it isn’t looking overly healthy, either. I’ve already blogged about a couple of social VR projects that have fallen on hard times waiting for virtual reality to become more popular (Anyland and, more recently, Virtual Universe). The advent of the attractively-priced, standalone Oculus Quest headset might ignite the VR marketplace, but the forecasters have been wrong before.
So, what do you think? Feel free to leave a comment here with your thoughts and opinions. Or, even better, join us on the RyanSchultz.com Discord server! Over 150 people who are passionate about social VR and virtual worlds are talking about this and other topics every day. And you’re invited to join our discussions!