UPDATED! A Dispute Over Cryptocurrency Leads to Social VR Platform NeosVR Being (Temporarily) Removed from Steam

UPDATE Nov. 5th, 2021: NeosVR is now back up on Steam.

As much as it pains me to write about this story, the tagline of the RyanSchultz.com blog is “News and Views on Social VR, Virtual Worlds, and the Metaverse”, and this definitely is news.

It turns out that, due to a dispute between Valve/Steam and NeosVR over the latter’s cryptocurrencies (Neos Credits or NCR, plus other tokens called KFC and CDFT), the social VR platform has been removed from Steam. The team at NeosVR is currently hard at work to fix the problem, but I have been told that it could take as long as one to two weeks to resolve the situation. In the meantime, Neos is off Steam.

Notice: At the request of the publisher, Neos VR is no longer available for sale on Steam.

You might be forgiven if you were not even aware that NeosVR has an Ethereum-based cryptocurrency called Neos Credits (NCR), for which they have an ongoing Initial Coin Offering (ICO). More details are in their white paper.

Karel Hulec (the co-founder and CEO of Solirax, the Czech company building NeosVR), pinned the following messages to the #neos-credits-ncr channel on the official NeosVR Discord:

We’ll be shortly removing NCR functionality from main Steam Store branch upon request by Valve to make it available again for new downloads on their platform and of course prioritizing our own launcher/updater with builds that support Credits.

We knew from the start NCR is not going to be available on all platforms Neos will be. I hope it will return to Steam builds sometimes down the line when they change the rules again. The ICO has provided a lot of funding for Neos and made it long term sustainable, opened a path for Neos to become a great open source metaverse rivaling some of the most popular ones – it is certainly worth having it in independent builds and on platforms that allow for it.

According to the FAQ list posted to their wiki:

What’s Happening?

We’re disabling NCR/KFC/CDFT functionality on the main Steam build of Neos. This will allow us to continue updating Neos via Steam. You can find the Steam build notes that made this change here.

Does this mean Neos is gone from Steam forever?

No, We’re working with Steam to get Neos re-instated with a build that does not contain NCR/KFC/CDFT. We’ll keep you up to date.

I can’t download Neos from Steam; what can I do?

Download the standalone build.

Can I still use NCR/KFC/CDFT?

Yes, for now we have a standalone build which has NCR/KFC/CDFT enabled (see video below)

In the future, we’ll be looking at other solutions such as our custom launcher, called Neosine.


What this means is: if you are a Patreon supporter of NeosVR (which includes a monthly reward of NCR), and if you use the upcoming Steam version of the NeosVR client, you would still be able to receive your NCR each month, but you won’t be able to access it unless you use the special launcher/client that’s not on Steam. In other words, you will still be getting your NCR, but you won’t be able to send it to users, cash out, or put it into Neos from an outside wallet on Steam builds of the Neos client.

Under this proposed system, NeosVR can stay on Steam (which is good for publicity of the platform, plus many people see being on Steam as a stamp of approval), but a stand-alone version of the NeosVR client with NCR enabled can co-exist.

However, this dispute between Steam and Neos is coming at the WORST possible time for Jason Moore’s MetaMovie production, Alien Rescue, which is on now. Jason basically has to tear up the instructions he sent out to the people who bought tickets. I wrote on the NeosVR Discord:

It’s just really unfortunate timing, as a whole bunch of Neos newbies will be visiting the platform over the next month for Alien Rescue, and Jason Moore is going to have to rewrite his instructions for new users. While the Discord download link is useful some people may not be comfortable navigating a) Discord and b) unzipping the client (it uses, 7zip, right? So they have to find and install an unzipper program, too).

Essentially, it means an extra couple of steps for people to download and install the client software, but it’s a pain in the ass nevertheless! As a rule of thumb, any extra step that inexperienced users have to go through to get onto your platform is a bad thing. NeosVR is going to have to work extra hard after this incident to make it easier for non-computer-geeks to use! (This is admittedly a problem for all social VR platforms, but NeosVR in particular has a rather steep learning curve for its powerful toolset.)

One bright spot amidst the gloom is that cryptocurrency speculators (who perhaps had been previously unaware that NeosVR has crypto) have been busily minting new NCR using Ethereum, since the news broke yesterday! (Please don’t ask me to explain that last sentence; I am still a relative cryptonewbie! All I know is that some people are terribly, terribly excited about this.)


For further information on this issue, I am going to refer you to the wiki page NeosVR set up here with a list of frequently-asked questions (FAQ) about the status of NeosVR on Steam, questions concerning the new launcher, and general information on how this will impact Neos Credits (NCR): Steam Changes.

As well, you can read through the past couple of days of discussion on:

Here’s a quick video of how to download and run the new non-Steam (token-enabled) build:

If you want to learn more about NeosVR, you can visit their website or their wiki, check out their Steam page, join their Discord server, or follow them on social media: FacebookTwitter, and YouTube. And, of course, you can always choose to support the project through their Patreon page (as I do).

The Unreal-Based Social VR Platform Helios Launches in Early Access on Steam

I decided it was time to pay a return visit to the social VR platform called Helios, created by SubLight Games. The game is now available via Steam for US$9.99 under their Early Access program, for tethered PCVR headesets such as the Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, and Valve Index, and the company recently announced via Twitter:

Helios is now available for Early Access purchase for all who wish to join our little Social VR revolution! Everything made through Early Access purchases will go towards making Helios a viable and robust alternative to what is currently on the market!

Helios is unlike most other social VR platforms on the marketplace, in that it is based on the Unreal game engine (most other social VR platforms use Unity). It is also interesting in that it has attracted a significant number of former Sansar users—in some cases, even porting entire worlds from Sansar over to Helios! I think the attraction for former Sansar users is the way that Helios is catering to world builders, in a way that is similar to the early days of Sansar.

I immediately recognized C3rb3rus’ 2077 sci-fi world, which was ported over from Sansar to Helios!

The platform definitely is a creator-centered space, with a small but passionate community of geeks who want to see what they can do, even perhaps push a few boundaries! Here, a group decided to stress-test a free world downloaded from the Unreal Store by dropping hundreds of cheese wheels!

Cheese wheels!
An aerial view of the cheese wheel testing

The Community section on the Helios Steam page offers up some examples of worlds that have been created:

Here’s an early access trailer, showing you some of the features of the platform. I was particularly surprised at the modular avatar support (i.e. dressable avatars)!

For further information about Helios, you can visit their website, join their Discord, or follow them on social media: Twitter and YouTube. SubLight Games also has a Patreon; if you feel like throwing some coin their way, I’m sure they’d appreciate it!

My Journey from Oculus Rift to Valve Index: Buh-Bye, Facebook!

My journey from Oculus Rift to Valve Index started on August 18th, 2020 when I first placed my order for a complete Valve Index VR kit:

Today, I put my money where my mouth is. I went and placed an online order for the complete Valve Index VR Kit. I am told that it will take eight or more weeks to get to me, because of coronavirus-related delays in production. That’s fine. I can wait. And I’m not going anywhere.

I will be boycotting Facebook hardware and software from this point forward. It’s time for me to kick the Facebook habit, once and for all.

Well, after waiting almost three months (due to manufacturing and shipping delays caused by the pandemic), I was able to confirm the purchase of the Valve Index Kit on my credit card today, and now the shipping process begins! I am so excited!

This is not going to be cheap. The total cost, including import fees, comes to CDN$1,477 (which, according to today’s exchange rates, works out to about US$1,131).

It’s expensive, but I can afford it, and I am leaving Facebook (and Oculus) behind for good. My trusty Oculus Rift has served me well for almost four years now, through many memorable adventures and experiences, and I have certainly gotten my money’s worth from it, but I absolutely refuse to set up a new Facebook account in order to use it. (I won’t sell it, because the headset is so worn; I’ll just box it up and keep it in case anything goes wrong with the Valve Index.)

As for my original version Oculus Quest, I must confess that I haven’t touched it in at least eight months. The empty space I had cleared in my bedroom in order to use it is currently piled high with rice, canned soup and beans, Clorox wipes, toilet paper, face masks, surgical gloves, and various other pandemic preparations. (I have already decided to donate my Quest to my sister-in-law’s workplace, where she is part of a team of people who work with developmentally challenged adults. They can put it to good use. I still need to Google to find out exactly how best to wipe all my personal account information and purchased apps off my Quest before I mail it to her.)

The good news is that I haven’t spent a lot of money on games on the Oculus Store, for either my Rift or my Quest (most of what I do in VR is social VR, almost all of which is free to download), so I won’t lose much money there. And, of course, any purchases I made on social VR platforms like Sansar is tied to my Sansar account, and not to Facebook/Oculus. From now on, I will be dealing either with Steam, or downloading software directly from the company’s website.

Buh-bye, Facebook/Oculus! Don’t let the door hit you on the ass on your way out. I am going to enjoy uninstalling the Oculus software from my personal computer.

I just paid almost $1,500 just to be able to say this: fuck you, Mark Zuckerberg.

And, once my new Valve Index arrives, I have decided to completely redecorate my living room to convert it into a room-scale VR space. This means I have to throw out some furniture, including my ancient, ratty old sofa and busted, cathode-ray-tube TV set (which died on me at the start of the pandemic). I have zero plans to purchase a new television set; I never watch broadcast TV anymore, and I do not miss it. I can get all the video content I need from streaming services like Netflix.

I currently have four large bookshelves in my living room loaded with books I no longer read or want, so I will be taking them to the nearest dumpster (I would have donated them to the Children’s Hospital Book Market, but that event has been cancelled and they are asking people not to drop off books at local fire halls.) As a librarian, I am really rather surprised at just how easily I can part with paper books these days; I used to be a book packrat who scoured used book sales like the Children’s Hospital Book Market. I also practiced a lot of what the Japanese call tsundoku: buying books but never getting around to reading them!

I will be creating a new category on my blog, called Valve Index (this blogpost will be the first one put into that category). Wish me luck as I embark on a new adventure!

The Valve Index kit I ordered

Editorial: Facebook and Oculus Have Too Much Power Over Virtual Reality and the Metaverse

Facebook already has amply demonstrated how little they value the privacy and data rights of its users, in a succession of scandals uncovered by the New York Times and many other news media over the past couple of years (image from Forbes).

Facebook has the resources to capably crush competitors. Strip-mining the data of the estimated 2.7 billion people worldwide who use Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram, or Messenger each month has been extremely lucrative for the company. (The five billion dollar fine the U.S. FTC recently levied against Facebook for their privacy lapses was a mere slap on the wrist, given the income the company generates each year from advertising. Mark Zuckerberg probably found the money from his couch cushions.)

I have already written about industry gossip that Facebook is plowing resources into creating a metaverse platform for all its Oculus VR hardware users. I willing to bet, dollars to doughnuts, that the Facebook metaverse is going to look a lot like Oculus Home, which is the where you are deposited when you first put on your headset. You can now visit other people’s homes, and recent updates include the ability for users to create their own spaces by uploading their own 3D models.

Some Examples of Oculus Home Interiors

Even better, Facebook gives you free furniture every week you sign into Oculus Home at least once, which you can use to decorate your space. It’s not hard to see how this can compete with social VR platforms like Sansar and virtual worlds like Second Life. And Facebook has deep pockets to fund advertising campaigns that companies like Linden Lab cannot ever hope to match.

And, of course, there is the complete line of Oculus VR hardware, including the popular new wireless Oculus Quest headset, which Mark Zuckerberg recently reported is selling as fast as Facebook can make them.

Which leads to the point of this editorial: in this evolving metaverse of social VR and virtual worlds, is too much power concentrated in the hands of a single, monolithic, profit-obsessed company? I would argue that Facebook is aiming for complete and utter domination of the VR universe, just as they already have in the social networking space, by creating a walled ecosystem with the Oculus Home and the Oculus Store that will have a negative impact on other companies trying to create and market VR apps and experiences. The field is already tilted too much in Facebook’s favour, and the situation could get worse.

Now, you can argue that Facebook has competition from other VR headsets such as the HTC Vive line of products and the Valve Index. And the Steam software distribution platform is an alternative to the Oculus Store. I understand that my purchased programs from the Oculus Store can still be played on an HTC Vive or Valve Index with the Revive software, which is somewhat reassuring to me (although I suppose there is nothing really stopping Facebook if they choose to block that avenue at some point in the future).

More concerning to me is that, at some point, I may be forced to get an account on the Facebook social network to use apps on my Oculus VR hardware. In fact, this has already happened with the events app Oculus Venues, which I recently discovered requires you to have an account on the Facebook social network to access.

Sorry, but after all the Facebook privacy scandals of the past couple of years, that’s a big, fat “Nope!” from me. I asked Facebook to delete its 13 years of user data on me, and I quit the social network in protest as my New Year’s resolution last December, and I am never coming back. And I am quite sure that many of Facebook’s original users feel exactly the same way, scaling back on their use of the platform or, like me, opting out completely. I regret I ever started using Facebook thirteen years ago, and that experience will inform my use (and avoidance) of other social networks in the future.

Yes, I do know that I have to have an Oculus account to be able to use my Oculus Rift and Oculus Quest VR headsets, and that Facebook is collecting data on that. I also know that the Facebook social network probably has a “shadow account” on me based on things such as images uploaded to the social network and tagged with my name by friends and family, etc., but I am going to assume that Facebook has indeed done what I have asked and removed my data from their social network. Frankly, there is no way for me to actually verify this, as consumers in Canada and the U.S. have zero rights over the data companies like Facebook collects about them, as was vividly brought to life by Dr. David Carroll, whose dogged search for answers to how his personal data was misused in the Cambridge Analytica scandal played a focal role in the Netflix documentary The Great Hack (which I highly recommend you watch).

We’ve already seen how social networks such as Facebook have contributed negatively to society by contributing to the polarization and radicalization of people’s political opinions, and giving a platform to groups such as white supremacists and anti-vaxers. The Great Hack details how Cambridge Analytica used Facebook data without user knowledge or consent to swing the most recent U.S. election in Donald Trump’s favour, and look at the f***ing mess the world is in now just because of that one single, pivotal event.

We can’t trust that Facebook is going to act in any interests other than its own profit. Facebook has way too much power, and governments around the world need to act in the best interests of their citizens in demanding that the company be regulated, even broken up if necessary.