VRChat Inc. announced a new virtual reality (VR) game that is both a social platform and a developer sandbox, bringing community and creation together in an impressive and immersive application called VRChat.
VRChat is a new VR social platform designed for the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift that features full-body avatars with audio lip sync, eye tracking and blinking, and complete range of motion. The character models approximate where your arms and joints would be, based on the position of your tracked hand controllers, and your point of view is adjusted to the appropriate height and perspective of your avatar (short skins will make other players appear enormous, larger character models will make others look tiny).
A main area simply known as “The Hub” features several portals throughout the room that lead to player and developer-created Worlds. You can also navigate to different Worlds, change your avatar, adjust graphics and locomotion settings, and more using the main menu, which will appear in your hands when you open it. (This is achieved in different ways, depending on your HMD and controllers.) You can watch a YouTube video with your friends on the moon, walk on the surface of Mars, go to a virtual bar, enjoy a campfire in the woods, or play several games, including Bowling, Capture the Flag, Battle Discs (which resembles a fight scene from Tron), and a “cops and robbers” team-based multiplayer shooter called Steel n’ Gold.
VRChat is also a developer sandbox, and you don’t have to be a partner with the company--as is usually the case with similar platforms--to dabble with developer tools in the Unity engine using the company’s SDK. VRChat even made several YouTube tutorials on how to create and upload your own avatars, and there are many more community-created tutorials that show you how to build your own worlds and create interactive environments. Although the company said it was moving towards an easier way to create your own avatar within the VRChat environment (think in-game create-a-character feature), anyone can pick up a free edition of Unity, download the SDK, open an online video tutorial, and try their hand at making their own character skins, worlds, and features.
We like the concept of a VR social platform, like what we’ve seen from AltspaceVR, but incorporating an open developer community sets VRChat apart from similar communication applications by giving developers of any level (even complete noobs) an outlet to create their own virtual space, avatars, and experiences. Creating more content is essential to the growth of the VR marketplace, and VRChat is an ideal way for anyone thinking of getting into Unity development to try to learn the ropes from a supportive community of VR enthusiasts and developers.
VRChat is available now on the Steam store, and it’s free to play.