Join Us for a Lockdown Dance Party in High Fidelity, Presented by XaosPrincess and Tivoli Cloud VR, and Help Fight COVID-19!

If you miss the sometimes-raucous dance parties High Fidelity used to hold before they folded, are you in luck! The irrepressible XaosPrincess is throwing the second of her Lockdown Dance Parties, presented by Tivoli Cloud VR! (The first party had over 70 avatars in attendance.)

The festivities run from 2:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. Pacific Time on Saturday, May 16th, 2020:

Now, I did inquire, and I can confirm that the Lockdown Dance Party will take place in High Fidelity, on a private server hosted by Tivoli Cloud VR. This is because Tivoli Cloud VR has not yet launched their platform. Here are the complete instructions for those of you who are interested in attending (courtesy of XaosPrincess):


Follow these steps to join the LOCKDOWN DANCE PARTY on May 16th:
– Download and install the client for your OS
Windows:
https://tivolicloud.com/highfidelity/HighFidelity-Beta-Interface-latest.exe
MacOS:
https://tivolicloud.com/highfidelity/HighFidelity-Beta-Interface-latest.dmg
– If you are familiar with High Fidelity, fire up the interface
    and type “xaos.tivolicloud.com” into the GOTO
– If not, activate this link in your browser window: hifi://xaos.tivolicloud.com
    which will start the interface
– On the login screen click on “take me inworld!” in the bottom right corner
    to arrive on location in our club’s cloakroom where you can choose your avatar
– Toggle between the modes by pressing Ctrl 1 for desktop and Ctrl 2 for VR
– Have fun and dance the cabin fever away 
    while channeling cloud computing power to Covid-19 research 

Minimum system requirements:
– OS: Windows 10, 64-bit / MacOS High Sierra (10.13)
– CPU: Intel i5 equivalent or greater
– RAM: 8GB+
– GPU: NVIDIA GTX 970 equivalent or greater
– Internet Connection:  20 Mbps download / 5 Mbps upload
– tethered HMD for VR


XaosPrincess tells me:

Saturday’s party will run on the HiFi client version 0.86 – to be safe it’d be good to check this in your installed software Windows window.

So, if you already have that version of the High Fidelity client software sitting on your computer, you don’t need to download and install the client from Tivoli Vloud VR’s servers. When I asked if users could still create new user accounts on HiFi, her response was:

Yes – that works by clicking on “take me inworld!” in the bottom right corner of the login screen…It’ll take users in as “anonymous” while they’ll still be able to create a screen name to their liking.

Apparently, the High Fidelity servers might actually still be up and working for creating new user accounts, but obviously, they could be taken down at any time now.

And the best part is, your presence will actually help in the fight against coronavirus! Here’s the info from XaosPrincess’ page promoting the Lockdown Dance Party:

Donating computing power to fight coronavirus

While the psychological intention of our party is to offer a relieving, virtual remedy for the emotional distress of social isolation, we also want to contribute to the recovery of our physical world. And once again TIVOLI CLOUD VR is here to help us with a very charitable offer: 

When the LOCKDOWN DANCE PARTY is over, their server will continue to run! 

For every person attending the party, we are  going to donate $10 in cloud computing power to fight coronavirus via the distributed computing project FOLDING@HOME which is researching Covid-19 in order to create a vaccine and drugs to restrain the pandemic.

With our last party we have been able to gather $750 in cloud computing power, and we hope that we can outshine this result with an even larger crowd on May 16th. 

So come on out, meet some old and new friends, and help donate computing power to fight COVID-19. Thanks to Tivoli Cloud VR for their generous donation, and thanks to XaosPrincess for hosting this event. (By the way, Xaos now works for Tivoli Cloud VR. Congratulations!)

I Will Be Giving a Presentation on Social VR at the Virtual Germany Meetup in ENGAGE on April 28th, 2020

Mark your calendars! I have been invited to give a presentation to a Germany-wide VR Meetup in ENGAGE on Tuesday, April 28th, 20:00 CET (11:00 a.m. PST). The event is called Virtual Germany, and it is described as:

In cooperation with the VR communities from Berlin, Bremen, Cologne, Erfurt, Frankfurt, Hamburg, Hannover, Leipzig and Munich, we are planning the first virtual VR and AR Meetup in Germany.

Look forward to exciting lectures on the topic of social VR and various guests from all over Germany and around the world.

One of the many people involved with Virtual Germany is the illustrious XaosPrincess, who is well-known for her work in High Fidelity, and whom I have written about before here, here, and here. She tells me:

“Virtual Germany” is organized as democratic collaboration of many German real-life Meetup groups (most of Germany’s states are represented). Our host in ENGAGE is Rolf Kruse, while the whole organization is a combined effort.

The topic of my 20-minute presentation is “Overview of the Most Important Social VR Platforms”. The talk will be in English. (I do speak German, but I do not consider myself fluent in the language.)

This will be a semi-public, RSVP event in ENGAGE, which will be advertised in each separate German VR Meetup group. Xaos tells me:

The attendees will be asked to register with the ENGAGE event to be admitted (and to give us an overview on the numbers we can expect – probably/hopefully 100+ visitors minimum). We’re still preparing the final ENGAGE event link and will post it as soon as possible 🙂

We’re going to have four rooms:
– One main room with live talks and presentations (Moon)
– Two backup rooms for additional visitors with live YouTube-Streams of the talks in the main room (Mars & Earth)
– One chill and networking room without any streams (a high rise apartment)

The talks will also be streamed live on YouTube.

If you do not have the ENGAGE software yet, you can download and install it for free here. ENGAGE works on desktop or laptop computers running Windows 10 and a wide variety of VR headsets (here’s a list of supported devices). When there is an event listing on the ENGAGE events calendar, I will update this blogpost with a link to that.

See you on April 28th! I am quite looking forward to this.

XaosPrincess Reflects on High Fidelity: What Went Wrong?

(“We now return you to our regularly scheduled programming…”  If you are looking for my blogposts about the Wuhan coronavirus/2019-nCoV/SARS-CoV-2/COVID-19, please click here. Thanks!)


XaosPrincess at the virtual Burning Man festival in High Fidelity

XaosPrincess (about whom I have written before here and here) has just written an extensive, insightful piece on Medium, titled How to propagate a Virtual World: Conclusions from a dweller’s POV, in which she discusses various problems that she feels led to the downfall of the High Fidelity social VR platform.

As most of you already know, HiFi essentially shut down its operations on January 15th, 2020. While existing users can still sign in, all High Fidelity-hosted domains have closed, and no new user accounts can be created. However, there are at least three forks of HiFi’s distributed, open-source software code currently being worked on by various groups.

Xaos writes:

Having completed my five stages of grief about High Fidelity’s change of direction, I’m now able to view last year’s events through an analytical eye, drawing my conclusions on what can be improved in getting a virtual world to thrive.

Using Mark Zuckerberg’s breakdown of virtual reality (hardware and systems; apps and experiences; and platform services), she lays out several well-reasoned criticisms of HiFi:

In the part most important to Mark Zuckerberg – apps and experiences – High Fidelity both excelled and fell short: While all of the experiences produced by the company…were stellar, apps that facilitate social communication or media consumption – like e.g. text chat or synced video – showed great need of improvement and were often only made possible by efforts of the open source community.

However, she gives high marks to High Fidelity’s platform services:

What always had been High Fidelity’s main enterprise is the second most important area on Mark Zuckerberg’s list: platform services. While quite some users had their doubts about Philip Rosedale’s approach of favoring bleeding edge technology when it came to new implementations, to me personally there couldn’t be any better social VR package than the one High Fidelity was offering:

The open source code enabled community members to implement desired features themselves and is now – that the company has gone offline – keeping its promise of an eternally functioning virtual world.

The peer-to-peer architecture enabled content creators to be the masters of their own domains – without having to follow any TOS, everybody was responsible for their own content – free to install whatever they imagined, ranging from super safe G-rated worlds to X-rated dungeons.

By splitting up the server load into different assignment clients, High Fidelity also managed to gather 500+ avatars in one non-instanced space. Whoever has gone through the hassle of trying to join their friends in an instanced experience or game just has to love this option. And who – like me – also loves the stirring feeling of being part of a large crowd will find nothing comparable in today’s VR environment.

Noting that others such as Theanine had already written at length about the technical problems with High Fidelity, XaosPrincess saved her critique for the social side of HiFi. She raises several good points:

  • that the term metaverse needs to be redefined;
  • the importance of social VR companies in defining, knowing and catering to their target audience (using ENGAGE as an example);
  • HiFi needed to focus on creating a satisfying, bug-free user experience (“Instead of investing into flashy one-time events it might have been advantageous to focus on creating a permanent and entertaining starter experience with a bullet proof tutorial and enticing things to do in order to motivate visitors to come back.”);
  • HiFi didn’t pay attention to competitors and was overly confident that it could replicate the success of Second Life in a different era from 2003 (as I have also written about);
  • High Fidelity’s long history of communication problems with its userbase, which led to a sense of alienation;
  • HiFi’s lack of a clear code of conduct, which left many users feeling insecure: “High Fidelity never stated what kind of offenses would be met with which kind of punishment… nobody could ever be sure how bad behavior would be met.”

But Xaos saved her strongest critiques to one area where she feels High Fidelity made some grievous tactical errors: the company’s impatience to grow. She writes:

Unfortunately High Fidelity applied its mantra “Build it and they will to come,” not only to content creation in VR but also to its real life assets. When there were still no more than 30 concurrent users around in 2018, High Fidelity went on a hiring spree, quadrupling its original headcount to a workforce of 80 while tripling its original office space to two subsidiaries in San Francisco and one in Seattle. I never managed to calculate the exact burn rate, but I believed Philip Rosedale when he argued last April’s pivoting with US$10,000 monthly expenses per user.

To this day this unrealistic growing attempt is inexplicable to me. If I had been an investor I surely would have put a full stop to this amount of spending too, but as one of its highly engaged high-cost users I just wish High Fidelity would have balanced its expenses in line with its slow but steady population growth.

The snowball effect of visitors becoming content creators and enticing new users themselves could have led to an avalanche of attractions for even more new users, if High Fidelity wouldn’t have been impatient.

Instead of giving its community members time to grow into their roles as content creators or event organizers, High Fidelity turned to setting up unsurpassable events by itself, and even paid users for attendance by handing out prizes or Amazon gift cards. This irritated the natural growing process, as these well-meant contests kept the content creators busy, while also being a big competition to individually organized community events.

And when High Fidelity then pulled the plug on all its company operated domains in April 2019, there weren’t enough skilled and motivated community event organizers around to attract new users, and without events there was no more appeal for new users to pay a visit.

As I see it, a more natural growing attempt, incentivizing community members to attract new visitors, could have been beneficial to the overall user numbers.

These are just a few choice quotes from XaosPrincess’ blogpost, which I strongly encourage you to go over to Medium and read in full. Thanks, Xaos!

UPDATED! Come Say Farewell to High Fidelity with a Final Dance at The Palace

Today marks the end of an era. High Fidelity is essentially shutting down its platform today (more details here). Longtime user Dr. Fran noted that the HiFi user forums have already been taken down:

But we are not leaving without one last epic dance party!

Xaos Princess posted the following message on Twitter:

Today we’re gonna party like it’s 1999 in VR! Fire up your Steam or Oculus client one last time or download it at https://highfidelity.com/download and join us at 3:00 p.m. PST in https://metaverse.highfidelity.com/places/ThePalace to say farewell to the best virtual world ever!

All are welcome to join us, but if you have never set up a High Fidelity avatar before today, you are simply out of luck, as High Fidelity has also shut down their official website, so you can no longer create accounts:

While privately-hosted domains such as ThePalace will continue to run for a while, eventually usage will dwindle down to nothing, as older users move on, and no new users can create accounts to take part in any events. Eventually, even the domain names will disappear as they expire, and you will no longer be able to visit them, even if you still have a working account.

UPDATE 5:48 p.m.: Well, after a few technical difficulties (including having to replace a hand controller battery and rebooting my computer twice), I made it into The Palace! The party is still going on, and there are about 25 avatars in attendance—the largest crowd I have seen in HiFi in quite some time.

Chaka dancing on stage

It was wonderful to see and talk with old friends like Thoys, Piper Peppercorn, Xaos Princess, and Flame Soulis.

Like I said, the end of an era. High Fidelity is the first victim of the social VR wars, but I suspect it will not be the last platform to fold in this rapidly-evolving and ever-changing market.

UPDATE Jan. 18th, 2020: After I left the party, High Fidelity CEO Philip Rosedale himself showed up (see red arrow)!

Thanks for the picture, Carlos!