25 votes

Making sense of VRChat, the metaverse people actually like

21 comments

  1. hungariantoast
    (edited )
    Link
    There are a lot of great lines in this video, but these two are my favorite: The wine bottle avatar and "creepy camera gnome" are also great. I have a friend who plays VRChat a lot, at least four...

    There are a lot of great lines in this video, but these two are my favorite:

    Then I thought to myself "oh you know what, talking to strangers might actually be more fun if I had a buzz on". I thought that might be my gonzo way into the story. Then I wondered what I'd really be achieving, adding intoxicants to this game that had already seen me watching a striptease with some preeteens and decided that this would just be me speedrunning getting cancelled.

    One head pat and I became a simp for this technology.

    The wine bottle avatar and "creepy camera gnome" are also great.

    I have a friend who plays VRChat a lot, at least four hours a day at minimum. This video not only helped me understand the appeal of the "game", if you can still call it that, but also to understand a lot about them and the way they act, and to put some things they've talked about in the past into a better, more understandable context.

    I still don't think it's my cup of tea, but I can absolutely understand the appeal of using VRChat to virtually sit around and chat with friends when you're stuck inside your respective homes for months because of a pandemic. I still think I'd rather "play an actual game" that involves more activity than just chilling, but that's probably because of the Call of Duty/Xbox dominated timeframe and environment I grew up in.

    12 votes
  2. Wes
    Link
    That was a great video, and offered a great "outsider looking in" perspective. I particularly liked the journalist doing the interviews. He comes off as intelligent and genuine. I've been a VR...

    That was a great video, and offered a great "outsider looking in" perspective. I particularly liked the journalist doing the interviews. He comes off as intelligent and genuine.

    I've been a VR user for a couple years, but steered clear of VR Chat mostly due to its reputation. To me it looks something like a 3D Habbo Hotel, though with more creative control. It's something that probably would have appealed to me when I was younger, but I don't think I'm intrigued enough to learn to navigate that world now. Still, it very interesting to get an idea of what the game is actually about, and better understand the communities that form within.

    5 votes
  3. [13]
    Protected
    Link
    I'm an experienced VRChat user and I will be happy to answer any questions anyone has, although keep in mind everyone experiences VRChat differently, and my answers will be colored by my own...

    I'm an experienced VRChat user and I will be happy to answer any questions anyone has, although keep in mind everyone experiences VRChat differently, and my answers will be colored by my own preferred ways of experiencing it.

    A word of warning about the platform's supposed inclusiveness and VRChat Inc.'s supposed lighthanded policing: All that means is that enforcement is incredibly uneven, unjust and clique-based. In the past, after more than 900 hours on the platform and many hours volunteering time to assist new content creators on the official discord, with no priors, no warnings, no conversation whatsoever in which I could defend myself, my account was permanently banned and the one appeal they purportedly give you rejected, with no real explanation. Not even Google has treated me so poorly, and believe that I know exactly how bad Google can be, too. Then I talked with a whole bunch of high profile users even more experienced than I am and realized no one outside a close circle of veteran users really has any respect for the company or trust in their ability to enforce any kind of fair regulation. VRChat Inc. are not good stewards for the community and it exists in spite of them, not thanks to them.

    It's very, very easy to run into bands of unsupervised children who are clearly too young to be on the platform and are there in violation of its terms of use. We treat them a bit like a natural catastrophe, quickly removing ourselves from the vicinity. It's kind of funny, really. It's true that they might be exposed to unsavory individuals, but ideally they shouldn't be there at all.

    You can find all sorts of ideologies on the platform. For example, the creator of the video has mentioned rampant copyright infringement, which is true; coexisting with it, and with no apparent cognitive dissonance, you have a cadre of content creators who are incredibly paranoid and defensive about their own copyright.

    That said, I'm probably making it sound worse than it is. It's also true that there are thousands of worlds to discover and doing so can be incredibly interesting. Discovery features are pretty bad, which can give exploration a kind of charm - it feels rewarding when you find a cool place that has been forgotten for years. You can have hours long conversation with kinds of people you didn't know even existed, from all around the world. There are communities of speakers of many languages. You can spend hours in companionable silence with a stranger, too. Events can be interesting and exciting. There are definitely lots of chill, kind people who want nothing more than to be helpful to strangers, and lots of creative people who are excited about leveraging the platform to make something. Almost anyone can create a game on the platform, and those that exist can feel a little jittery and rough around the edges, but the amount of features that support content creation does tend to (slooooowly) increase.

    5 votes
    1. [12]
      xstresedg
      Link Parent
      My only barrier of entry is not wanting to use the desktop client and experience it as VR, but not being able to afford a non-Facebook headset.

      My only barrier of entry is not wanting to use the desktop client and experience it as VR, but not being able to afford a non-Facebook headset.

      3 votes
      1. [2]
        Protected
        Link Parent
        I can certainly understand that; I never use it in desktop mode. You can still look and chat, but you are limited in how you can interact with the world, and if you're used to doing it in VR...

        I can certainly understand that; I never use it in desktop mode. You can still look and chat, but you are limited in how you can interact with the world, and if you're used to doing it in VR there's a major loss of immersion. Recently I RMAed my controllers and just didn't log in while I waited for the new ones. That said, a lot of people (even those who own VR) are perfectly fine with desktop, so it's a matter of taste. Visually it's certainly easier to render the scene in high quality for the desktop and there is no pixelation or screen door effect as you might experience in a cheap or old headset.

        2 votes
        1. xstresedg
          Link Parent
          I don't have a gaming rig, just a crappy i7 laptop with a midrange mobile graphics chip. It's already like 6 years old, so it runs roughly. Using a cheap headset wouldn't kill me haha.

          I don't have a gaming rig, just a crappy i7 laptop with a midrange mobile graphics chip. It's already like 6 years old, so it runs roughly. Using a cheap headset wouldn't kill me haha.

          1 vote
      2. [7]
        spctrvl
        Link Parent
        Fwiw, you can get used windows mixed reality sets cheaper than the quest, and it is possible though hacky to run the quest without a Facebook account; I do.

        Fwiw, you can get used windows mixed reality sets cheaper than the quest, and it is possible though hacky to run the quest without a Facebook account; I do.

        2 votes
        1. [2]
          xstresedg
          Link Parent
          Good to know about the mixed reality sets. But yeah the only reason I don't want a Quest 2 is because I don't want to give Facebook money.

          Good to know about the mixed reality sets. But yeah the only reason I don't want a Quest 2 is because I don't want to give Facebook money.

          2 votes
          1. spctrvl
            Link Parent
            That's entirely fair, I'm pretty worried about them achieving a chrome-like hegemony in the VR space myself.

            That's entirely fair, I'm pretty worried about them achieving a chrome-like hegemony in the VR space myself.

            1 vote
        2. [4]
          Macil
          (edited )
          Link Parent

          As of last year you don't need a Facebook account to officially use the Quest.

          1. [3]
            Wes
            Link Parent
            Unless things have changed, you still need a FB account to sign up. You can then ask support to disassociate your account from FB. Understand too that you'll be losing various social features...

            Unless things have changed, you still need a FB account to sign up. You can then ask support to disassociate your account from FB.

            Understand too that you'll be losing various social features which may impact multiplayer.

            3 votes
            1. [2]
              Macil
              (edited )
              Link Parent
              Huh, seems they announced plans for the change last year but haven't actually implemented it yet.

              Huh, seems they announced plans for the change last year but haven't actually implemented it yet.

              1. spctrvl
                Link Parent
                Yeah I was super frustrated with that actually, I got a quest under the impression that it had already happened since the announcement was months prior, luckily there's a workaround with a...

                Yeah I was super frustrated with that actually, I got a quest under the impression that it had already happened since the announcement was months prior, luckily there's a workaround with a developer account but it limits you on some features. Fine with virtual desktop though.

                1 vote
      3. [2]
        Macil
        (edited )
        Link Parent
        Note that when the video talked about the Quest being limited in VRChat, that's specifically about the version of VRChat that you can run directly on the headset without being connected to a...

        Note that when the video talked about the Quest being limited in VRChat, that's specifically about the version of VRChat that you can run directly on the headset without being connected to a computer. If you connect a Quest to a computer, then it works just like any other PC VR headset and can play the regular full PC version of VRChat. You can even use the headset wirelessly connected to a computer with the built-in software if you have good wifi and your computer has a wired connection to the router. There are some games that you can run directly on the headset that work very well. The Quest is my recommendation to anyone who doesn't want to shell out for an Index.

        Ignoring cost, the Valve Index is the best headset in my opinion, but it's more expensive while being only a bit better: its controllers are slightly better and it's compatible with full-body trackers (which aren't at all necessary for VRChat but are a common accessory for dedicated players). The Index's screen and room setup process are slightly worse than the Quest's. There are no games you can play with the Index that you can't play with a Quest.

        2 votes
        1. xstresedg
          Link Parent
          I just don't want to give Facebook money. Otherwise the Quest 2 would be a great buy.

          I just don't want to give Facebook money. Otherwise the Quest 2 would be a great buy.

          1 vote
  4. ThatFanficGuy
    Link
    Public VRChat looks like if you were trying to open a physical cozy, no-judgement club. Private worlds in VRChat look like small closed communities where people only who know can enter. More like...

    Public VRChat looks like if you were trying to open a physical cozy, no-judgement club.

    Private worlds in VRChat look like small closed communities where people only who know can enter. More like groups of friends gathering in someone's apartment than a public place.

    4 votes
  5. Macil
    (edited )
    Link
    I love this video for emphasizing that VR culture is already here. There are so many tech news sites that still talk about VR in the future tense, as if we're all waiting on Facebook to invent...

    And this, I think, has been totally absent from all of our conversations about the metaverse, which tend to discuss it as if it's a hypothetical construct, when really there are countless people for whom the metaverse is already, not just a home, but a refuge.

    I love this video for emphasizing that VR culture is already here. There are so many tech news sites that still talk about VR in the future tense, as if we're all waiting on Facebook to invent social VR for us. Even articles deeply critical of Facebook often don't let themselves imagine there's any route into social VR besides whatever Facebook gives us.

    I've been into VRChat for almost two years now and I found this video a fun intro and look into it. I like that it digs into strange-looking parts like the gender expression in it, and shows the tension of the pros and cons of its current low oversight.

    I think it's overly reductionist to call VRChat anti-capitalist as the video does a bit near the end. Sure, advertising isn't built into it as a platform and I hope that part stays that way, but money is involved in lots of places: people who can't make their own avatars commission others to make avatars for them. Most avatar makers work with assets they've purchased from others. Many worlds are made with many purchased assets. Many world creators have Patreon accounts and have their worlds coded to give extra features specifically to users who are funding the creator. Making VR content takes a lot of work, and without this money flowing around, there would be much less content, only created by well-off and fleeting enthusiasts. Without users being willing to participate in this money flowing around, VRChat would be eventually out-competed by ad-supported systems with more content where the users get things for free but only from the companies making money from the ads. I think it's very important for people to think about how they want monetization to be done to responsibly support the system they want instead of trying to avoid it entirely, because that's how we got into the present situation with social media where everything is centralized into a few big ad-supported companies. We won't get away from the ad-based revenue model of the present internet by wishing it away but by finding something more sustainable.


    To anyone who wants to check out VRChat, I recommend checking out interesting worlds and maybe bringing a friend along. Desktop mode is perfectly fine for this! I'd actually recommend to pick public instances, but don't pick the first few public instances in the "Hot" section of the world list, because that's where the most people go and that's where the most toxic people go. Pick the more niche worlds. Scroll the "Hot" section to the right a bit past the most popular ones and pick a world that sounds interesting. Or go to the "New" and "Random" sections. Or type the name of your favorite videogame in the search field and see if you can find some worlds themed off of it (they might be remastered level rips if you're lucky!). Maybe you just explore what's in the worlds, maybe you hang out for a while and talk with a friend, or maybe you bump into a talkative stranger and get some world recommendations from them.

    Finding interesting people in popular public worlds can be done, but it takes some skill to find busy worlds full of interesting people instead of loud kids. I've made a good number of friends this way and even helped a now-couple meet. Furry worlds are actually pretty good; they're usually more made up of adults compared to other worlds, and lots of non-furries come through them too. Just think of "furry" as a specific avatar fashion scene if you don't understand it; it's one of the main avatar kinds besides anime-like e-girls, e-boys, videogame characters, and meme characters. Game worlds like "Prison Escape" and "Murder 4" are decent for meeting people because you can focus on the game while feeling out the crowd and figuring out if you want to socialize with them further, though they might be hard to play for long without getting motion sick if you're in VR and new to it.

    4 votes
  6. Tygrak
    Link
    Super cool video! I kind of want to check out VR chat now, but I feel like it wouldn't be right to try it without VR and I don't really want to buy a headset just because of it. I feel like I...

    Super cool video! I kind of want to check out VR chat now, but I feel like it wouldn't be right to try it without VR and I don't really want to buy a headset just because of it. I feel like I would have a lot of fun creating my avatar and making "worlds" for it if I was younger, it reminds me of warcraft 3 mapmaker and gamemaker and similar things and could inspire a ton of people to start being creative which is amazing!

    2 votes
  7. [2]
    JRandomHacker
    Link
    PMG continues to do some absolutely top-notch journalism. I'm not really interested in actually engaging in the community aspects of it, but I'm absolutely fascinated by the technology behind...

    PMG continues to do some absolutely top-notch journalism.

    I'm not really interested in actually engaging in the community aspects of it, but I'm absolutely fascinated by the technology behind VRChat and/or VTubing - I'd love to spend a bunch of time researching and spec'ing out the highest-quality tracking possible from a consumer perspective.

    2 votes
    1. Macil
      (edited )
      Link Parent
      The usual high-end VRChat full body tracking setup is a Valve Index (or another base-station-compatible headset like the Vive Pro) with standard tracked controllers held in the hands plus 3 to 7...

      The usual high-end VRChat full body tracking setup is a Valve Index (or another base-station-compatible headset like the Vive Pro) with standard tracked controllers held in the hands plus 3 to 7 Vive (or Tundra) trackers strapped on to your body. One tracker on the waist and two for feet is the classic setup that most full body users are doing. (Usually straps like the trackstraps or tundra straps are used, but some people attach their foot trackers to a pair of shoes or crocs.) Recently VRChat added support for having trackers on your elbows and knees too, but the knees especially are pretty overkill for most use-cases. Might be neat if you're good at dancing I guess.

      It is possible to use non-base-station trackers, but then those trackers would be tracked in a separate space from the headset and controllers and that requires extra calibration to get it to match up. Some people use an Xbox Kinect camera or inertial trackers to get tracking for cheaper, but they don't work nearly as accurately as Vive trackers. Presumably there are higher quality professional motion capture systems that could be jerry-rigged into working with VRChat but I'm not aware of it having been done, probably because of the inconvenience and the Vive trackers being mostly good enough. The Vive trackers are pretty great and accurate except that they have a tendency to lose tracking for a moment if you occlude their view of the base stations or they catch a reflection of a base station signal. The system extrapolates its last known momentum while it's lost tracking, which can easily cause a tracker to fly off away from you for a second and make your avatar move ridiculously. (I wonder how easy it would be to make some software that detected when a Vive tracker likely lost tracking and then replace its position with an estimated location based on where it was last seen, its known spot on the players' body, and on the body's estimated pose based on the remaining trackers+headset+controllers. Ideally SteamVR would do this automatically but it does not.)

      Something else that's sometimes seen in VRChat are headsets with eye or face tracking like the Vive Pro, but most avatars need a lot of fine-tuning to work with it and the benefits are minor in regular VRChat use. (It also doesn't help that the Vive Pro is noticeably worse in some ways than the Index including its microphone.)

      For vtubing, it seems like there's a lot of variety at the high end instead of ready-made solutions being used. I've got no idea what any of this is. For vtubing with 3d models, some popular setups people do are to use VSeeFace either through a webcam or a connected iPhone running Apple ARKit, and then possibly a Leap Motion Controller for hand-tracking. Some people use Vive trackers placed on their body with SUVA instead of VSeeFace.

      4 votes