Helios: A Brief Introduction

I just heard about a brand new social VR project, a small indie project called Helios, and since this is a blog about social VR, I thought I’d let you all know about it.

Actually, there’s not much to see yet over at the Helios social VR project. No website yet, basically just a Twitter feed and a brand-new Discord server (here’s the invite).

According to the FAQ on their Discord:

What is Helios?
Helios is a Social VR game made with Unreal Engine 4 by SubLight Games.

Why are you using Unreal Engine?
Unreal Engine will allow Helios to offer a more immersive, interactive, and creator friendly offering than anything currently on the market today.

Will I be able to make my own avatar and use it in game?
Yes! Helios is being designed from the ground up to be as creator friendly as possible. Functionality has already been added to allow you to do this.

What stage of development is the game currently in?
Helios is currently in a closed Alpha stage. The bare bones are there and new features are being added often.

If you are interested in joining the closed alpha of Helios, you can send a request for a Steam activation code to user Rareden (the lead developer) on their Discord server. Apparently, the developers hold organized community tests once a week on Fridays at 11:00 p.m. EST.

Helios is also unique in that almost all of the other social VR platforms on the market either have a custom game engine (e.g. Sansar) or use Unity (e.g. VRChat). Helios will be based on the Unreal game engine.

Here’s a 46-second video pulled from their Twitter feed, showing off one of the imported avatars. Here’s a still from that video:

It’s quite a complicated-looking avatar, with feathers and all, which is quite intriguing! And (of course) I have added Helios to my ever-growing list of social VR/virtual worlds.

Why Linden Lab Is Building Its Own Engine for Sansar, Instead of Using Unity or Unreal

Inara Pey has done her usual excellent job of expertly summarizing last week’s Sansar Product Meetup, where the topic of discussion was why Linden Lab decided to build their own game engine for Sansar, instead of using an off-the-shelf engine such as Unity or Unreal.

So, rather than reinvent the wheel, I am just going to point to her blogpost, and tell you to go over there and read it all. Among the Linden Lab staff present at the meeting were:

  • Richard Linden, Sansar’s Chief Architect
  • Jeff Petersen (aka Bagman Linden), Linden Lab’s Chief Technology Officer 
  • Landon McDowell, Linden Lab’s Chief Product Officer

So you can get the scoop straight from the people directly involved.

While I think the reasoning for this decision is very sound, the unfortunate fact remains that since Linden Lab is a smaller company with limited resources, feature development will tend to lag behind off-the-shelf engines like Unity and Unreal, which have bigger development teams and lots of users. However, as mentioned in Inara’s notes, backwards compatibility of user-generated content (UGC) is a key issue that needs to be addressed in any successful virtual world. I still think that Sansar is on the right track.