|Platform(s)||Microsoft Windows, Oculus Quest|
|Genre(s)||Massively multiplayer online|
VRChat is a free-to-play massively multiplayer online virtual reality social platform created by Graham Gaylor and Jesse Joudrey. It allows players to interact with others as 3D character models. The game was released for Microsoft Windows as a standalone application compatible with the Oculus DK1 development kit on January 16, 2014, and via Steam's early access program on February 1, 2017. It supports the Oculus Rift, Oculus Rift S, Oculus Quest, and the newly added Oculus Quest 2 via the Oculus Store, the HTC Vive series, Windows Mixed Reality headsets and the Valve Index through SteamVR. Notably, it also supports full-body humanoid avatar tracking via Vive Trackers, though none of these accessories are mandatory to play.
VRChat's gameplay is similar to that of games such as Second Life and Habbo Hotel. Players can create their own instanced worlds in which they can interact with each other through virtual avatars. A software development kit released alongside the game gives players the ability to create or import character models from various franchises and adopt them as their personas.
Player models are capable of supporting "audio lip sync, eye tracking and blinking, and complete range of motion. It also includes several minigames in which players can "Capture the Flag, rob a bank in Steel 'n' Gold, and lob digital discs at each other in a match of Battle Discs."
VRChat is also capable of running in desktop mode without a VR headset, which is controlled using either a mouse and keyboard, or a gamepad. Some content has limitations in desktop mode, such as the inability to freely move an avatar's limbs, or perform interactions that require more than one hand.
Trust and safety
Users of VRChat are classified into various "trust levels", based on factors such as their use of the platform. All users begin at "Visitor" rank (grey). When promoted to "New User" (blue) rank, they are given the ability to upload their own content using the VRChat SDK. This is followed by "User" (green), "Known User" (orange), "Trusted User" (purple), and friends (yellow). Users can choose to toggle communications, avatars, and avatar features based on their trust level.
In November 2020, the service announced a subscription tier known as "VRChat Plus". On launch, it allows users to display a custom image on their nameplates, increases the number of avatars they can save in their favorites from 25 to 100, grants them an "increased trust rating", and allows them to attach an in-game photo to an invite request. Other exclusive features for subscribers are also in development.
VRChat has extensive support for a large number of VR headsets and accessories, including Oculus, and SteamVR-compatible headsets such as the HTC Vive series and Valve Index. A port of VRChat is also available for Oculus Quest's Android-based operating system. Due to hardware limitations, only maps and avatars optimized within specific constraints can be accessed on the Oculus Quest version. Crossplay between Quest and PC is supported as well.
Finger tracking and gesture recognition is supported on controllers such as the Index Controller and Oculus Touch, allowing users' finger movements to be reflected by their avatar, and hand poses to trigger linked animations (such as a corresponding facial expression). VRChat also supports SteamVR full-body tracking for motion capture of waist and leg motions, typically by using HTC's Vive Tracker peripherals.
The game's popularity has been attributed to use by YouTubers and Twitch streamers. VRChat has spawned media such as a weekly newspaper in its forums, and talk shows and podcasts dedicated to a discussion of the game.
After an initial wave of viral popularity upon its release, the COVID-19 pandemic spurred a steady increase in concurrent users of VRChat throughout 2020. There were recorded spikes in viewership of VRChat related Twitch streams in mid-2020 and September 2020, while the service reported a record of over 24,000 concurrent users over the Halloween weekend (with over half using it on a VR platform), spurred by holiday events and the recent release of the Oculus Quest 2.
On December 31, 2020, the service recorded a new record of over 40,000 concurrent users for New Year's Eve, to the point that it experienced a major outage around midnight in the Eastern Time Zone due to a security provider having mistook the surge as a denial-of-service attack. At the same time, Jean-Michel Jarre organized a concert entitled "Welcome to the Other Side" in a virtual set of Notre-Dame for New Year's Eve (based at Paris time) at VRChat broadcast live for multiple platforms including social media and French and international television. The show featured songs from his album Electronica and reworked versions of Oxygène and Equinoxe.
In popular culture
VRChat gave rise to a meme known as "Ugandan Knuckles", in which players use crude in-game models of Knuckles the Echidna from the Sonic the Hedgehog series while repeating the catchphrase "Do you know the way?" in a mock African accent. The players' model and mannerisms originated in a review by YouTuber Gregzilla and Forsen's Twitch stream respectively, in addition to lines from the Ugandan movie Who Killed Captain Alex? This has generated controversy from many sources; Polygon's Julia Alexander labelled it "blatantly racist" and a "problematic meme", comparing it to Habbo Hotel raids, and Jay Hathaway of The Daily Dot called it a "racist caricature". The creator of the 3D model used in the meme expressed regret for having made it, and urged players that they "do not use this to bug the users of VRChat." In response, the developers of the game published an open letter on Medium, stating that they were developing "new systems to allow the community to better self moderate" and asking users to use the built-in muting features.
- AltspaceVR – provided meeting spaces in virtual reality using Microsoft's Kinect
- Sansar (video game) – social virtual reality platform with a near-identical premise
- NeosVR - a free-to-play massively multiplayer online virtual reality metaverse
- High_Fidelity_ - virtual reality platform featuring low latency, spatialized 3D audio, high-detail environments, realistic avatars, and a working economy built on blockchain.
- Moss, Gabriel (2018-11-30). "VRChat's Full-Body Tracking Attracts Pole Dancers, Breakdancers and More". VR Fitness Insider. Retrieved 2021-08-19.
- Alexander, Julia (December 22, 2017). "VRChat is a bizarre phenomenon that has Twitch, YouTube obsessed". Polygon. Vox Media, Inc. Archived from the original on January 9, 2018. Retrieved January 9, 2018.
- Forrest, Derek (February 1, 2017). "'VRChat' Is A Social Platform, A Dev Sandbox, And A Step In The Right Direction". Tom's Hardware. Retrieved January 14, 2018.
- Jecks, Chris (January 8, 2018). "VRChat: Do You Need a VR Headset to Play?". Twinfinite. Archived from the original on February 24, 2018. Retrieved February 23, 2018.
- "VRChat Safety and Trust System". VRChat. Retrieved 2021-01-03.
- Hayden, Scott (2020-12-07). "'VRChat' Launches Premium Membership, Now in 'Early Supporter' Phase on Steam". Road to VR. Retrieved 2021-01-03.
- Baker, Harry. "VRChat Plus, Paid Subscription Option, Now Available On Steam". UploadVR. Retrieved 2021-01-03.
- "VRChat 2021.1.2". VRChat. 2 Feb 2021. Archived from the original on 5 May 2021. Retrieved 8 May 2021.
- "Here's How VRChat Will Work On Oculus Quest". UploadVR. Retrieved 2021-01-03.
- "Oculus Touch". VRChat. Retrieved 2021-01-03.
- "Valve Index Controllers". VRChat. Retrieved 2021-01-03.
- Moss, Gabriel (2018-11-30). "VRChat's Full-Body Tracking Attracts Pole Dancers, Breakdancers and More". VR Fitness Insider. Retrieved 2021-01-03.
- Carbotte, Kevin (16 September 2017). "You Can Use A Kinect For Full Body Tracking In SteamVR; Here's How". Tom's Hardware. Retrieved 2021-01-03.
- Lang, Ben (2020-11-04). "Spurred by Quest 2 Launch, 'VRChat' Hits Record 24,000 Concurrent Users, More Than Half in VR". Road to VR. Retrieved 2021-01-03.
- Tupper (2021-01-05). "VRChat's New Years 2021 — or, what the $%@& was that?". VRChat. Retrieved 2021-01-09.
- Ewing, Jerry (January 5, 2021). "Jean-Michel Jarre celebrates 75million viewers for NYE show". Louder Sound. Retrieved February 10, 2021.
- Rapaport, Brian (December 9, 2020). "Jean-Michel Jarre Announces New Year's Eye VR Performance at Virtualized Notre-Dame de Paris". EDM.com. Retrieved February 10, 2021.
- MacGregor, Collin (January 9, 2018). "Controversial 'Ugandan Knuckles' Meme Has Infested VRChat". Heavy.com. Archived from the original on January 9, 2018. Retrieved January 10, 2018.
- Hathaway, Jay (January 10, 2018). "How Ugandan Knuckles turned VRChat into a total trollfest". The Daily Dot. Archived from the original on January 14, 2018. Retrieved January 14, 2018.
- Alexander, Julia (January 8, 2018). "'Ugandan Knuckles' is overtaking VRChat". Polygon. Vox Media, Inc. Archived from the original on January 8, 2018. Retrieved January 9, 2018.
- Tamburro, Paul (January 8, 2018). "Creator of VRChat's 'Ugandan Knuckles' Meme Regrets His Decision". GameRevolution. Archived from the original on January 10, 2018. Retrieved January 10, 2018.
- Alexander, Julia (January 10, 2018). "VRChat team speaks up on player harassment in open letter". Polygon. Archived from the original on January 11, 2018. Retrieved January 11, 2018.
- Wilde, Tyler (January 10, 2018). "VRChat's surge in popularity has created a bizarre scene". PC Gamer. Archived from the original on January 12, 2018. Retrieved January 13, 2018.
Second Life developer Linden Lab has been working on a similar concept, called Sansar, Microsoft now has the reins of Altspace, and there are surely many other sandbox-y VR social experiences in the works.
- Kushner, David. "Beyond Second Life: Philip Rosedale's Gutsy Plan for a New Virtual-Reality Empire". IEEE Spectrum: Technology, Engineering, and Science News. Retrieved 2019-08-22.
- Ha, Anthony (2013-04-19). "True Ventures Confirms Investment In Second Life Founder Philip Rosedale's New Startup High Fidelity". TechCrunch. Retrieved 2013-04-19.