Fresh off HBO with a documentary, VRChat has been a killer app for VR users. It’s particularly popular with those who want a social experience akin to Ready Player One. For one of the biggest VR apps on Steam, and Quest, VRChat has been reported to have less than 50 people on its staff. In its five years of development, many community requested features have been put on the backburner in order for bug fixes to be shipped out regularly. Very few accessibility features like closed captions, or text to speech, for people who are mute or hard of hearing have been implemented.
Thankfully VRChat has (or had) a very thriving modding scene that adds a lot of these features. Including many quality of life features like portable mirrors for full body users, stability fixes, UI adjustments, and the ability to search for avatars with text filters. Now all of these mods that many rely on, will no longer be possible to use.
On the 25th of July, VRChat posted an update that turned its whole community upside down. Many in its discord server mentioned it would have been preferable to embrace the modding community and work with it. Rather than do so, VRChat has decided to release Easy Anti-Cheat in their app. An anti-cheat which in this case, disables all access to mods. Whether beneficial, or harmful it seems the VRC modding scene is in clear danger of becoming extinct. Some said VRChat should focus their work on security features on the server side. A user’s forum post on their official forums explains these complaints in further detail. Pictured below is the infamous post that put the VRChat community up in arms.
VRChat’s response to some of these complaints were already addressed in their initial blog post. But that was not enough to quell the extremely vocal user base.
…all modified clients – even ones that aren’t malicious – are a burden for creators. We regularly speak to many that have spent hours (or days) debugging user issues, only to realize that the culprit is a modified client. This frustration ultimately has a chilling effect on VRChat creators, hurting their enthusiasm and preventing them from building awesome things. This pain extends to VRChat support too – any time we update, we get a massive amount of bug reports that end up just being broken modifications. In addition to burning developer time, this support burden also frustrates less technically-inclined users who didn’t know what they were getting into by installing these modifications. Finally, we’re aware that many legitimate users install modifications to add features they wish VRChat had natively. We’re very aware of the popularity of these modifications, and we’re aware that EAC means those modifications are gone, too. As such, we’ve been working towards native implementations of features like a main menu that’s usable even when you’re lying down, a portable mirror that you can use to calibrate your full-body tracking (or provide a face-cam), and more – all planned for upcoming releases.-VRChat Inc. (via blog post)
Malicious users running scripts and exploits to actively harm users has been an issue. However, many in the VRChat community claim that adding an anti-cheat is moot when it does nothing to stop people who have ways of working around the software.
Alternatives to VRChat have been seeing a huge increase in traffic. Such as Alpha Blend Interactive’s “Chillout VR”. The traffic influx was so high, it temporarily shut down its servers. Google trends shows how big this event has been for Chillout VR. It’s user base has also increased by over 6,000%, a record made within days of VRChat’s announcement.
Virtual Desktop users report that EAC flags them, as well as users who use MSI Afterburner. These programs allow a wireless connection from a Quest 2 to PC, and the ability to overclock your GPU respectively. Whether users are getting banned for these is yet to be known for sure.
Within the day of this update being announced VRChat’s community manager, Tupper was doxxed and threatened by angry VRC users. This came alongside claims of a hacking spree that was greatly exaggerated. Both VRC and the community came to realize that these hacking threats were blown greatly out of proportion. People may be upset, but in all honesty doxxing and threats are not a way to make anything better.
Later on Tuesday evening, Tupper released another statement confirming that they were going ahead with launching the Easy Anti-Cheat update. It was mentioned within the same post that they were going to prioritize accessibility options first and foremost in order to make up for the mods that once did so for them.
As of the writing of this post, VRChat has lost more than a few thousand concurrent players within the 24 hours of this update. The short spike downward was due to its update launching.
Later on the 28th, VRChat posted a blog post fulfilling their promise to work toward more accessibility options. Replacing what mods had provided prior to the Easy Anti-Cheat update. These include text-to-speech/speech-to-text, as well as other audio and visual accessibility features.
Whether you’re in support of VRChat’s decision or not. There’s no denying that this update will change the way social apps in VR work in the future. It certainly has provided more growth and competition in the social VR space.
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