On Saturday afternoon I was fortunate enough to be given a half-hour guided tour of Virtual Universe (VU), conducted by Jeroen Van den Bosch, VU’s Chief Creative Officer and co-founder. Darin the cameraman accompanied us and videotaped our tour so I can share it with you exclusively! (Yes, I have explicit permission to share this video.)
I was amazed by what I saw and experienced in VU, even in its alpha state, and I think you will be too, when you watch this video! I definitely want to be among the first people to try this new platform out when they launch the beta sometime this summer.
The people building VU are the same ones who created the popular Grand Canyon VR Experience. The overall graphics quality of VU is, in my opinion, second only to Sansar (and that’s still high praise). The virtual water is among the best and most realistic I have ever seen in any virtual world. The AI-controlled animals—rabbits, birds, lizards, even individual INSECTS!—is astoundingly lifelike. You can use tools similar to those in the VR experience Nature Treks VR to arrange rocks and plant trees. The transitions when you teleport from one experience to another reminded me of the sci-fi movie The Matrix. I could go on and on, but I think I will just post the 30-minute video and let you judge for yourself (you can click on the icon in the bottom right-hand corner to make the video larger):
You’ll notice that the current iteration of VU is intended for room-scale VR. There is currently no way to play this game by sitting in a chair—you need to be able to physically turn your body in the direction where you want to go! As someone who habitually uses VR in a seated position in a rather cramped space, this took some getting used to, but you quickly become accustomed to it. You can walk (at a slow pace), or you can pull up a personal hovercraft that takes you places faster.
In their whitepaper, VU is described as “part game, part social network, and part social creation platform, blending elements of Minecraft, Second Life and Simcity with innovative artificial-intelligence technologies that drive engagement”, and that is an excellent description of what it tries to be. It’s an intriguing mix of virtual world and MMO/MMORPG where you can collect wood, chop it up, and start a fire, feed worms to the bluebirds, or just explore your surroundings and interact with other users.
It still has lots of rough spots, which is normal for alpha software, but Virtual Universe is a social VR platform/MMO well worth keeping an eye on. I came away feeling excited about the possibilities and looking forward to taking part in their future beta release.
Indeed, the future is going to be very interesting!