VRChat

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VRChat
VRChat logo.png
Subject VR, general/multi-genre
Website
Operator(s) VRChat, Inc.
Status Ongoing
Ran from/to January 16, 2014 - present

VRChat is an online virtual world consisting of thousands of user-created 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.

History[edit]

VRChat was 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 headsets, minus Oculus Go, via the Oculus Store; all HTC headsets, Windows Mixed Reality headsets and the Valve Index through SteamVR. Notably, it also supports full-body humanoid avatar tracking via Vive Trackers or the Xbox Kinect module, though none of these accessories are mandatory to play.

Despite that the game 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 the game in virtual reality which requires two hands, but this is a case-by-case basis and sometimes not intentional.

Gameplay[edit]

When the player begins VRChat for the first time, they take the avatar of a generic gray robot, 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.

Unlike games like SecondLife, VRChat does not have an official currency or any type of monetary system, and do not rely on advertisements from third-party businesses, operating entirely as a free-to-play game. Despite that the game was released in 2014, developers still consider the game being in Early Access, and may change their motives for advertisement and currency in the future.

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

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 the game.

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 normally joked about within the VRChat community, because cliques of users commonly dubbed mirror-dwellers, may only stare in mirrors with their friends, and not move away or do anything else. Mirrors are a default asset of the software development kit for VRChat, which is why it is abundant to find mirrors in many worlds.

VRChat has the ability for users to open the menu and click on the other player that brings open another menu that can allow the player to friend, mute, 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 the game's performance via toggling or limited user Trust ranks. It can allow a user to filter audio, avatars, particles, shaders, and sounds that an avatar emits.

Trust ranks[edit]

The Trust rank system is a system exclusive to VRChat. Trust is earned through playing the game, adding friends, and uploading content. It is possible to lose trust in-game, and it is theorized that this can happen from getting blocked by users, being reported, losing many friends at once, and breaking VRChat's Code of Conduct. Players who 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 does in the game. You can tell the Trust rank of a user by looking at the color of their nameplate, with white being brand new to VRChat, and purple being a seasoned user. The various tiers of the Trust rank are as follows:

  • Nuisance (dark gray) - A negative rank lower than a Visitor. Under this rank, users under this rank are muted, and their avatar hidden by everyone unless unhidden or unmuted by another player's choice. This can be achieved by being muted and blocked multiple times in a short time span as a Visitor or New User.
  • Visitor (gray) - The default rank of every user beginning VRChat for the first time. It is estimated a Visitor has approximately less than twelve hours of in-game time.
  • 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 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 theorized that this rank can be achieved by playing the game frequently for at least a year and uploading content.

Hidden Ranks

  • Veteran (yellow) (hidden API rank) - Another rank above Trusted user with no advantages. This rank was available in older versions of VRChat but was removed from the current vanilla game. Users who had this rank now show as a Trusted user, but this rank can still be seen using mods and hidden API tools.
  • Legendary (white, black, pink)[citation needed] (hidden API rank) - A rank above Veteran user with no advantages. The rank was given to those who made a significant change or contributed to VRChat more than others, mostly through content creation. This rank was removed from the game UI, but is not achievable in the API anymore, this rank is immune to de-ranking via blocks, mutes, hides, etc.
  • VRChat Team (red) - This rank is for the admins and developers of VRChat. However, the current VRChat UI only shows staff as Trusted users to everyone.

Criticism[edit]

Multiple users have openly criticized the "optimization" of VRChat since its inception, given that VRChat relies on outdated versions of the Unity game engine. Worlds with dynamic objects sometimes glitch and move very fast, due to the engine's instability which causes all users to lag. Users have the freedom to upload avatars with unrealistic capabilities not seen in social games before by adding assets to their avatars such as shaders, which are a light filter for various effects on avatars or objects; dynamic 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 game's performance for users, especially if they have a lower-end computer.

The community also has 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 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 and furry[edit]

Anyone with a computer and internet connection able to meet the game's minimum performance standards can access VRChat. Furries have slowly flourished within the social platform, and created several communities within each other, evolving to the point where online furry conventions have been held within VRChat with its various pros and cons. Popularity in VRChat, and virtual reality, 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. Props that are generally not allowed at a furry convention, such as swords, can be brought to the virtual convention since it won't do any real harm to users.

It is said that Japan Meeting of Furries was the first to ever implement a furry convention in virtual reality.[1]The JMOF team re-created a virtual rendition of the Loisir Hotel in Toyohashi, Aichi, Japan, and dubbed the event JMOF VR Lounge. While the event was mostly attended by Japanese users, people who spoke other languages were free to attend. It was free to access the world and it was hosted in an Invite-only instance. 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 (hybrid convention?). They also had an avatar room in a back of the convention space which had avatar pedestals of various free-to-use kemono characters.

Notable furry communities[edit]

  • ClubFur (Not to be confused with Club Fur on SecondLife, or Cicada's Club Fur) - A now-defunct VRChat community that strived to create base models for popular species for the VRChat public, and the creation of various fantasy worlds for furries to conglomerate in.
  • 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.
  • Shiba Squad - A group centered around VRChat content creator Pikapetey's shiba inu base model.
  • Virtual Pool Party - A group with the interest of, and creating various pool toy versions of avatar species.
  • TailBass - A dance coordination group that tries to have live furry DJs play in VRChat. They are the masterminds behind Hex Furryfest, and the raves for Megaplex Online.
  • 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
  • Rubber Dragon Labs - An adult community focused on the interest of using Rubber Dragon avatars, and various species wearing living rubber, latex, and other bondage gear.
  • KEMO CLUB - A kemono dance community based out of Japan, hosted by Sorami. They focus on event-organizing and hosting dance parties for holidays and special occasions.

Conventions held on VRChat[edit]

  • Japan Meeting of Furries VR Lounge - A virtual alternative to visiting the annual Japan Meeting of Furries convention. Hosted between January 10-12, 2020. Considered to be the very first virtual reality furry convention.
  • Furality Online Xperience (FOX) - A virtual reality convention hosted on the VRChat platform. Its first iteration was on May 22-24, 2020.[2] The first VR only furry convention not based off of a pre-existing convention.
  • Virtual AnthroCon - With the cancellation of Anthrocon 2020 in Pittsburgh, the Anthrocon AV team hosted a last-minute virtual livestream via their personal streaming platform at https://anthrocon.tv, and allowed the Virtual Anthrocon VRChat world created by Firr to become the makeshift virtual convention space.
  • Hex Furryfest - An online EDM festival ran through Twitch and Discord; first hosted on July 17-19, 2020. They formed a partnership with the TailBass VRChat community to allow VR users to enjoy the convention with more immersion.
  • Furrydelphia Virtualcon: Stay-At-Home - First hosted on August 14-16, 2020; the event was hosted on Discord and Telegram, and a VRChat re-creation of the Valley Forge Casino Resort Radisson Hotel lobby.
  • EuroFurence Online - A VR convention and dance competition hosted from 21-23rd August by Eurofurence in VRChat.[3]
  • Megaplex Online - An online alternative to the canceled Megaplex 2020: All Aboard! convention. It was hosted from August 21-23, 2020 with The C.A.R.E. Foundation as the selected charity. Although the entire convention wasn't hosted in VRChat, the dances and raves were officially held in VRChat by TailBass, and unofficially in Second Life.[4]

References[edit]

  1. JMoF VR Announcement
  2. Furality.org official convention website. Retrieved April 2, 2020.
  3. Twitter announcement
  4. Megaplex Online's website

See also[edit]