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.

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VRChat Pick of the Day: Treehouse in the Shade

I wanted to share with you a wonderful world I have visited a couple of times on my recent forays into VRChat with people from the RyanSchultz.com Discord server.

Treehouse in the Shade is a world created by 1001 and SCRN, which demonstrates the power of shaders in Unity (which is the game engine on which VRChat is built). Shaders are scripts containing mathematical calculations and algorithms, which are specifically made to run on the GPU (graphics processing unit) of your computer. These programs draw the triangles of your three-dimensional models in-world.

The world is very simple. It consists of a treehouse in the middle of what appears to be a waving sea of grass. Climb the stairs and you will find a roaring fireplace (?!) and a large control panel, which allows you to select from dozens of shaders, which are then displayed all around the treehouse. Here are just five examples:

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Still photographs do not do this world justice; you really do need to visit this place and browse through all the shaders! There’s something to please and awe just about everyone. It works best if you come with friends, and have one friend control the shaders from the treehouse, while the others wander around on the ground level outside to get the most immersive view.

A fan has posted a 13-minute YouTube video of an earlier iteration of Treehouse in the Shade, which gives you a much better look at the project and how it works. There’s also a jetpack you can rez and sit on to zoom around this world, which can be great fun!

Here’s a link to Treehouse in the Shade (this jump page will only work if VRChat has been run at least once on your computer). You can also search for “Treehouse” by clicking on the Search button on the VRChat user interface.

Note: This blogpost has been cross-posted to the VRChat Events Discord server, which is the best place to find out what’s going on in VRChat. (You can join using the link posted above.)

Happy New Year! Where to Celebrate New Year’s Eve in Social VR

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Designed by Kjpargeter from Freepik.com

I will be celebrating New Year’s Eve offline, with real-life friends here in Winnipeg. It looks like we’re going to have a cold night! 😉

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Meanwhile, in Winnipeg…

If you are looking to spend New Year’s Eve online, here are a few options on the various social VR platforms:

Sansar

Eliot (Linden Lab’s Community Manager for Sansar) will be hosting three New Year’s Eve events in Sansar in different timezones:

High Fidelity

High Fidelity will be hosting a round-the-clock event at The Spot from Monday, Dec. 31st 2:00 a.m. to Tuesday, Jan. 1st 4:00 a.m. (Pacific Time).

Sinespace

As part of its Winter Festival, Sinespace is hosting a New Year’s Eve party. Check the login page of your Sinespace client for more details.

VRChat

The best place to find out what New Year’s Eve parties are happening where in VRChat is, as always, the VRChat Events Discord server. Apparently, there’s a round-the-clock party happening at Void, according to AgentM83:

They’re partying in every time zone all day long (started this morning).


However you choose to ring in the new year—online or offline, alone or with friends, awake or asleep!—may 2019 bring you happiness, peace, and prosperity.

 

Exploring VRChat with Friends

This afternoon, Jin on the RyanSchultz.com Discord server suggested we meet up in VRChat and do a group tour of several worlds. We started off in the Winter Ball, a ghostly grand ballroom with a roaring fireplace, Christmas music, and a huge frosty tree:

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Winter Ball

From there, we visited the following worlds, which were recommended as cool places to visit by various people present:

  • Virtual Market 2018 Summer
  • Sakura Hiroba (a charming Japanese courtyard with cherry blossom trees)
  • Twin Spire Village
  • Hikori: Christmas LightUp
  • Treehouse in the Shade: Xmas Update
  • Fractal Explorer by 1001
  • A Trip (where you walk right through the wall of an ordinary room into a trip!)
  • Club VGL

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Twin Spire Village

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Hikori: Christmas LightUp

It was great fun! I reminded me a bit of our Atlas Hopping adventures in Sansar, but this was all taking place in VRChat. The great thing about the RyanSchultz.com Discord is that it is now very easy to organize a group of people to go out and do things like this with fellow social VR enthusiasts. Here’s a picture of us at our final stop, Club VGL:

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(It’s a little hard to see us all because the club is dimly lit; I’m the blue robot on the left.)

Thanks to Jin for organizIng, and to all the other people who were there (Carl Fravel, etc.) who recommended places to visit!