Bi-weekly update with the latest insights from the Metaverse: news, posts, creations, and communities.
Howdy! One more day before the election and many of us have our attention there. But if you want a distraction for a few minutes, here’s another Simbol newsletter for you.
This issue comes with several other tools to create multiuser virtual worlds. They keep on appearing and it’s great to see. The tooling is still far from ready to make creating virtual worlds accessible.
The most interesting part though is taking a look at different events happening in all sorts of virtual worlds. We have one happening in a mirror world, one in an old-style MUD, and another in a WebXR world. Each example pushes the frontier of just doing Zoom calls for conferences. The technology is here, it’s just hard to use and requires a dose of imagination. Luckily, many creators take up the challenge.
On the news
Pokemon Go wants you to create the Mirror World: A new update to Pokemon Go adds a new mapping feature. This allows certain players to do certain tasks around mapping the real world to create a virtual representation of it. If you recall, Niantic bought 6D.ai, an AR Cloud company. Now they’re starting to create this age-old concept called the Mirror World: a virtual replica of our planet. These things come with huge privacy risks, but 6D.ai seemed very on top of them. I far prefer Niantic to map the world than Facebook with their new AR glasses. [Link]
Normcore 2 is out: The creators of the social game Half & Half have been working on their Unity multiuser plugin called Normcore. It has become more and more popular, and now they just released a v2. A user says it improves latency, cleaner API, clear VOIP, quicker load times, and it’s cheaper. Sounds like a great update. I wish we had Normcore for WebXR. [Link]
Colyseus is a multiplayer Node.JS framework: Endel on Patreon is making Colyseus. It’s a framework for a multiplayer synchronization server. There are clients available for multiple platforms like the Web and Unity. It’s made with games in mind. Sounds like a simple way to get started with multiuser games on the Web. [Link]
Facebook game streaming service is coming: Jason Rubin has recently announced on Twitter that they are started to roll out their own game streaming service. And of course, it’s “free”. They also criticized Apple for their closed system as they can’t launch the service on iOS which is very ironic. I used the opportunity to take a jab at them. Making the service fake-free just makes it more worrisome. [Link]
Immersed adds physical keyboard tracking: Immersed is a collaborative working environment. You can be there with teammates with multiple virtual screens. They supported hand tracking on Quest and they’ve now added a manual calibration to tell the application where your physical keyboard is. That way, they can show a virtual representation in VR. I think all text input in VR is going to be like this until we get some kind of BCI. [Link]
Food for thought
Online public parks: Blair Macintyre, well known in the WebXR space, discusses the Wired article about online public parks. The original article tells the story of public parks in New York and their importance for community building. It’s a structure that needs to consider and adapt to all kinds of people. Blair tries to bring these ideas to VR. How can we make serendipitous encounters happen in digital spaces? The spatial nature is the critical part to produce these encounters. [Link]
The history of MUDs: A worthwhile read (though quite long). It goes over the history of multiuser virtual worlds. They started in the early 70s, and though lacked graphics, they already showed the traits in current MMOs. In the end, these types of games bring in ideas that come from Dungeons & Dragons. I particularly liked hearing the story of games that didn’t prioritize fighting. It was more about socializing and living whatever life you wanted. Games started to deprioritize these features for the sake of simplicity. World of Warcraft was the first to prove that clear gameplay and fast action bring our basic instincts out, which produces more sales. I sure would like more Star Wars Galaxies-like games to be popular again. [Link]
LÖVR is another 3D framework: A framework designed for VR in Lua. It takes care of all the basics to get started with a VR application. The good thing is that it exports to all platforms, including WebXR using WebAssembly. [Link]
Immers Space merges Hubs and ActivityPub: An attempt to build a more decentralized metaverse. It’s an open-source project, with its code on Github. They have an ActivityPub server that works with their Hubs implementation. For those who haven’t heard about ActivityPub, it’s a W3C spec for federated social networks used mainly by Mastodon. I love to see experimentation in these areas and I look forward to trying it. [Link]
Playing Go in Hubs: Fabien, probably the most creative person with Mozilla Hubs, jumped quickly into the challenge to play Go in Hubs. Hubs wasn’t built for games, but that didn’t stop Dean Masley from proposing the challenge and Fabien from solving it in just a few hours. Fabien is also doing very interesting things with Hubs as a mind palace, trying to move his years-long wiki into it. [Link]
Virtual events in MUDs: Em Lazer-Walker, organizer of Roguelike Celebration, decided to innovate to take their event virtual. Instead of just a bunch of Zoom calls, she tried to create a space where people could feel present and bump into others. She went with a MUD environment with different rooms. Each room had its own chat and one room was where the talks happen. There was even a bar with a made-up drink that would add a random emoji to your name. I think this might be my favourite virtual event experiment so far, and it’s not even VR! I’m actually not sure if we could bring some of the fun and presence features into VR, as making them 3D would bring a lot of complexity. It’s also uncomfortable to wear a headset for the 6-8h an event might last. [Link]
WebXR layers for crisper images and text: Diego Marcos, A-Frame maintainer, has published an example WebXR comic reader. He uses a new WebXR spec for composition layers. This improves visual fidelity and reduces power consumption. Diego mentions that it’s more expensive to change the layer, so it’s better for static content like images and text. [Link]
Interesting Meetups & Communities
FIVARS Immersive Stories Festival: This is a VR and AR story festival. It can be viewed on any device including from a headset via WebXR. The 3D experience has been made by James Baicoianu using his JanuxXR technology. You can listen to the Voices of VR podcast for more information. [Link]
Halloween in Shibuya goes virtual: Similar to the live concerts in a virtual Helsinki a few months ago, now a virtual Shibuya is hosting different Halloween events. Anyone can join from a PC or a VR headset. These Mirror World events will probably become more and more popular. Even if we also host events in novel places that don’t exist in the real world, there’s still something there to mirroring familiar places. [Link]
See you in 2 weeks!