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|Ran from/to||January 16, 2014 - present|
VRChat is an online virtual world created with the Unity game engine, consisting of thousands of user-generated worlds of various genres and environments that are populated by player avatars which can be acquired through uploading them via the process of creation or purchase from another creator, or by interacting with an avatar pedestal, which will transform the user into the avatar displayed.
VRChat was created by Graham Gaylor while he was a student at Vanderbilt University, and was originally served as a forum for users to discuss virtual reality. It first launched on Microsoft Windows and Oculus Rift on January 16, 2014. It was later released on Steam in 2017, which gave non-Oculus VR users accessibility for the first time, and Oculus Quest in 2019. It currently supports all Oculus and Meta headsets, minus Oculus Go, via the Meta Store; all HTC headsets, Windows Mixed Reality headsets and the Valve Index through SteamVR, and desktop users via Steam.
Despite that the platform is called VRChat, it is not a requirement to own a VR headset or head-mounted display (HMD) to play. Unfortunately, users playing without a VR headset do not have the advantage of manually moving their appendages, and can only use one hand when interacting with an object by using the mouse. Few content in worlds are exclusively manageable by those who are playing in virtual reality which requires two hands, but this is a case-by-case basis and sometimes not intentional.
Notably, it also supports optional full-body humanoid avatar tracking via 'base station' sensors compatible with Vive Trackers and Tundra Trackers, Wi-Fi connected gyroscope trackers such as owoTrack and SlimeVR, or webcam modules such as Xbox Kinect. You can also utilize Open Sound Control (OSC) applications to apply external gadgets to your avatar, such as haptics, eye tracking, mouth tracking, or heart rate monitors.
When the player begins VRChat for the first time, they take the form of a VRChat-approved avatar, and are transported into a private tutorial world where they learn how to move, look, use the menu, and interact with objects. Upon completing the tutorial, the player has complete freedom on where to go next, what to do, and who to talk to. Naturally, users will want to find an avatar world, a user-created world with a collection of many free-to-use avatars to take the form of, including but not limited to anthropomorphic animals and kemonomimi avatars.
The types of worlds created by users range from fantasy, games, dance clubs, personal worlds and homes, and real-world recreations, although not officially categorized. In the World tab in the VRChat menu, players can favorite a world to have in a personal list to visit later, or they can set the world as their personal home which allows the user to load into the world by default any time they start up VRChat.
There are many public and private environments of all genres that the player can explore. Players can choose to join a public instance, or create a private instance to be alone or invite friends after adding them. The type of privacy of created instances is up to the player, and follows under the various tiers:
- Public - Anyone can join
- Friends+ - Your friends, and their friends, and so on can join
- Friends - Only your friends may join; friends of friends are excluded
- Invite+ - Players and friends of players must request to join your instance, unless you or an invited user's social status is set to "Join Me"
- Invite - Players must send a join request to join you, unless your social status is set to "Join Me"; friends of friends are excluded
VRChat users have the ability to open the Quick Menu and click on another player that brings open a separate Player Menu that can allow the player to friend, mute their microphone, hide their avatar, or block them completely. It also allows a button to show the stats of the avatar that they are using, and show the avatar's publisher. Players can also filter the optimization of player ranks through the Safety tab of the menu, which can automatically adjust VRChat's performance via toggling or limited user Trust ranks. It can allow a user to filter audio, avatars, particles, shaders, interactions, and sounds that an avatar emits.
Unlike platforms like SecondLife, VRChat does not have an official currency or any type of monetary system, but a 'Creator Economy' system is in the works. VRChat is funded by VRChat Plus subscribers, and sponsored events such as Furality Online Xperience. The developers of VRChat may change their motives for advertisement and currency in the future. VRChat users have the option to support the platform by subscribing to VRChat Plus for $10 USD per month, or $100 USD per year.
Many worlds include the use of mirrors, which the player can toggle on or off to look at a reflection of their avatar or other users standing nearby. Mirrors are popular within VRChat, as one who uses an avatar can become more psychologically attached to their virtual body by looking at a reflection of their avatar, sometimes with intentions of developing or improving "phantom sense", or taking time to further find ways to express their identity. Cliques of users commonly dubbed mirror-dwellers, are joked about within the VRChat community, as they may only stare in mirrors with their friends in isolated instances, and refuse to do anything productive. Mirrors are a default asset of the software development kit for VRChat, which is why it is abundant to find mirrors in many worlds.
The Trust rank system is a system exclusive to VRChat. Trust is earned through spending time on the platform, adding friends, uploading content (avatars, worlds), and having users experience your uploaded content. It is possible to lose trust on your account, which can happen from getting blocked by users, being reported, and/or unfriending, or being unfriended by multiple users at once, as well as breaking articles within VRChat's Terms of Service and Community Guidelines. It's theorized that numerous social infractions within a short period of time can result in an automatic de-rank, but it's possible to rank up again over time. Players who are on a VRChat account (not Steam or Meta account), and are within the New User rank or greater will be granted the privilege to upload avatars and worlds to VRChat; this is done to prevent spam. Otherwise, Trust ranks do not affect anything that the player accesses on the platform. You can tell the Trust rank of a user by opening the Quick Menu and looking at the user's nameplate, with white being brand new to VRChat, and purple being a seasoned user. The various tiers of the Trust rank are as follows:
- Visitor (white) - The default rank of every user beginning VRChat for the first time. It is estimated a Visitor has approximately less than twelve hours of time spent on VRChat.
- New User (blue) - At this rank, players will have the ability to upload worlds and avatars as long as they have a compatible version of Unity and the VRChat SDK.
- User (green) - Known and Trusted users may be hiding as this rank.
- Known User (orange) - People who have this rank or higher can mask their rank to show as a User (green).
- Trusted User (purple) - This is the highest visible rank to achieve in VRChat at this time. It's estimated that this rank can be achieved by being logged on frequently for at least a year and uploading content.
- Nuisance (dark gray) - A negative rank lower than a Visitor. Users under this rank are automatically muted, and their avatar hidden by everyone. You may choose to manually unhide or unmute a Nuisance user at your own risk. This rank can be achieved by being muted, blocked, and/or reported multiple times in a short time span as a Visitor or New User, or violating major VRChat Terms of Service or Community Guidelines policies at any rank. It is possible to go back from Nuisance to Visitor, but your account will permanently have a 'troll' tag.
- VRChat Team (red) - This rank is for official executives, moderators, administrators, and developers of VRChat. However, the current VRChat UI only shows staff as Trusted users to everyone within the platform. You can check for a red tag via API tools, or the VRChat website. Some staff members frequent their alternate accounts, which do not have administrative privileges.
Multiple users have openly criticized the optimization of VRChat since its inception, citing that VRChat in the past, has relied on unstable and outdated versions of the Unity game engine with claims that only one core of a computer's CPU are being utilized. The developers of VRChat have countered this statement, noting that VRChat have been running on multiple cores since Unity 5.6. Users have the freedom to upload avatars with realistic capabilities not before seen in social platforms and games by adding assets to their avatars such as shaders, which are a light filter for various effects on avatars or objects; physics bones, often referred to as "jiggle physics" which allow an avatar's skeletal structure to move fluidly on parts such as hair, ears, tails, and breasts; particles, which can emit glowing lights scattered on either concentrated parts of the avatar or free-flowing. Adding many of these assets on a single avatar can possibly affect the VRChat's performance for users, especially if they have a lower-end computer or on a Meta Quest HMD.
Users have complained and worried about crasher avatars (less referred to as clappers), which is a loophole performed by malicious players which can allow an avatar to have an unpermitted amount of particles, meshes, and/or shaders, which can cause a serial or radius of users upon that user's will to crash or lag due to the engine's incapability to process that many effects at once. VRChat takes crashers seriously, and constantly punishes both uploaders and users of these avatars. Similarly, bot accounts can be manipulated to crash instances. To counter this, VRChat added a captcha system within the platform, and upon signup to reduce the amount of bot-related incidents.
Players using malicious modified clients, or cheats, can steal ("rip") a victim's private avatar(s) through acquisition of avatar IDs. Though this occurrence is extremely rare, and VRChat's official staff actively combats this from happening. More often, there have been cases of users re-distributing avatars ("base models") that are paid for through third-party websites such as BOOTH, Gumroad, or Patreon; this method is unfortunately more common, and are not easy to trace. VRChat does not currently have any methods implemented to verify the legitimate purchase of an avatar by a user.
VRChat and furry
Furries have slowly flourished within the social platform since the beginning, and created several communities within the platform since, evolving to the point where sponsored and unofficial online furry conventions have been held within VRChat with its various pros and cons. Popularity with users who are furries in VRChat, and virtual reality technology in general, has spiked among the furry fandom exponentially during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.
A market for 3D avatars and fursona models have grown with the popularity of users interacting with VRChat. There is a debate that avatars are a great alternative for fursuiting. Pros being that they are cheaper, more dexterous, and will not break and wear out over time. It is also a great way for a furry to become psychologically more attached to expressing their identity or fursona. Props that are generally not permitted at a furry convention, such as swords, can be brought to a virtual convention or furmeet since it won't do any bodily harm.
Japan Meeting of Furries was the first to ever implement a furry convention in virtual reality.The JMOF team re-created a virtual rendition of the Loisir Hotel in Toyohashi, Aichi, Japan. While the first event was mostly attended by Japanese users, people who spoke other languages were free to attend. Gimmicks of the event included a two-way livestream of attendees at the physical convention while streaming the VR Lounge at the convention in person, demonstrating one of the first examples of a hybrid convention.
Furality Online Xperience is the first furry convention to officially partner with VRChat, and is the first virtual reality furry convention to operate without a pre-existing venue. It is also the longest running VR furry convention with the most venues, being one of the only active furry conventions in the history of the fandom to operate bi-annually. They have since achieved status of being the most attended online furry event in 2022.
Two of VRChat's client engineers and official employees, Kiro Neem, and Markcreator are furries who have implemented several features into the platform, such as UI development, avatar dynamic systems, and independent custom avatars, and worlds. Afromana uses an anthropomorphic avatar, and is sometimes seen with furry crowds.
Notable furry worlds and communities
- FurHub - An ongoing project to update a lobby that is a hub containing relevant art and avatars, and portals to worlds all created by people within the fandom.
- Furry Talk and Chill - A popular, low-poly hangout for furries optimized for Meta Quest systems. Notably, a world with frequent world moderators that keep out trolls.
- TailBass - A dance coordination group that tries to have live furry DJs play in VRChat. They are the masterminds behind Hex Furryfest, also formerly working with Megaplex Online.
- KEMO CLUB - A kemono dance community based out of Japan, hosted by popular v-tuber, Sorami. They focus on event-organizing and hosting dance parties for holidays and special occasions.
- Shiba Squad - A group centered around VRChat content creator Pikapetey's shiba inu base model.
- Best Boi - A group with interest on a free base model and a species called Foxdragons, with a community based usually around group meetups and friendship. The community has had several iterations, with the current community being lead by Rustydustyfox
- Furgatory/Club Nargacrewga - A newly created, rapidly growing and expanding community and hub created by Nyinxie. Developed by multiple communities ranging from fans of Nargacuga, Wickerbeast, and Avali avatars and communities.
Conventions held in VRChat (A-Z)
|AnthrocOnline||July 3-5, 2020; July 2-4, 2021|
|AnthroExpo||April 10-11, 2021|
|Blue Ridge Furfare||March 12-14, 2021|
|Further Confusion||January 15-18, 2021|
|Fur Squared||February 26-28, 2021|
|Furnal Equinox||March 19-21, 2021|
|Furality Online Xperience||Multiple; May 22-24, 2020, through June 17-19, 2022|
|Furrydelphia Virtualcon||August 14-16, 2020|
|Hex Furryfest||July 17-19; December 11-14, 2020|
|IndyFurCon Live!||August 28-30, 2020|
|Infurnity Online||October 29-31, 2020|
|Japan Meeting of Furries||Oct 2019; January 2020, 2021|
|Megaplex Online||August 21-23, 2020|
|Texas Furry Fiesta||March 26-28, 2021|
|Vancoufur - EvfurQuest Online||March 6-8, 2021|
|VirtualFurence||August 21-23, 2020|
- How furries are making virtual reality actually worth visiting article on INPUT magazine