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. Via modification and external software, accessories such as facial tracking, haptics, and VR treadmills become compatible for use within VRChat.

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 yet have an official currency or any type of monetary system, but a 'Creator Economy' system is in the works. VRChat does not rely on advertisements from third-party businesses. VRChat has the ability for users to support the game by subscribing to VRChat Plus for $10 USD per month, or $100 USD per year. 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, or unfriended by multiple users at once, as well as breaking articles within VRChat's Terms of Service. 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 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:

Normal Ranks

  • 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.

Other Ranks

  • Nuisance (dark gray) - A negative rank lower than a Visitor. Users under this rank are automatically muted, and their avatar hidden by everyone unless unhidden or unmuted by another player's choice. This can be achieved by being muted, blocked, and/or reported multiple times in a short time span as a Visitor or New User.
  • Veteran (silver-blue) (hidden API rank) - Another rank above Trusted user with no advantages. Users who have this rank now show as a Trusted user, but this rank can still be seen using mods and hidden API tools.
  • Legendary (pink) (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 unless the staff member decides to show as staff.

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 that utilizes only one core of a computer's CPU. 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/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 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, 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.

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 have any methods implemented to verify the legitimate purchase of an avatar by a user.

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. 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.

One of VRChat's client engineers and official employees, Kiro Neem, is a furry who has created several UI features and custom avatars for the platform.

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.
  • 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.[2]

Conventions held in VRChat[edit]

Name Dates
Virtual Anthrocon July 3-5, 2020
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 May 22-24; November 6-8, 2020[3]
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[4] Oct 2019; January 2020, 2021
Megaplex Online[5] August 21-23, 2020
Texas Furry Fiesta March 26-28, 2021
Vancoufur - EvfurQuest Online March 6-8, 2021
VirtualFurence August 21-23, 2020[6]

References[edit]

See also[edit]