May 11 and 12 2020, a virtual event organized by XSolla and MeetToMatch in the aftermath of GDC 2020’s cancellation due to covid19, using “YourWorld“, a multi-user environment powered by Unreal Engine, as the main platform. I uploaded my experience in a couple of videos here and here if you are curious about it.
Participating in the event was free (with an optional donation). Visitors downloaded the event client (Windows only, around 7GB) and used it to log into the world. A pretty good machine was needed for the client to perform well (even my GeForce RTX 2080 didn’t have it easy!).
MeetToMatch provided matchmaking using their regular platform but providing meeting points inside the virtual worlds. Of all my meetings, around 50% of them were rescheduled to more traditional video conferencing tools such as Google Meet and Skype, due to the participants being unable to log into the client (because they were on MacOS, or didn’t have a powerful computer or internet connection).
Besides meeting with people in the virtual world, you could visit booths, where you could see a video and imagery provided by each exhibitor, as well as chat with them if they were present. Conversations happened instantly, with you just getting close to whoever you wanted to speak to (it seems a headset was required). Your avatar (which was picked randomly based on your provided gender) would start talking, doing some conversational gestures, and lip-syncing with your voice.
There were 6 worlds labeled A to F, all of them had an identical layout and activities, but different booths. They also had a big central circus arena where it seemed some talks or special content would be shared, but as far as I could see, they were just sharing the video from an exhibitor.
Recreational activities included hang-gliding, kart racing, and the “Scream Tower”, with the first two keeping track of the high scores on a per-world basis. The games were simple but fun and challenging.
In general, the game world worked well although there were some evident rough edges and buggy behavior. The platform is still under development and I believe it is promising; still, I think future events should also consider more accessible technologies like lightweight multiplatform environments that can be loaded from the browser even if they provide a less immersive experience (maybe in parallel with a full environment like this one). Making the event easy for people to access should be a top priority (I think most business people don’t have a gaming level windows PC with them, and some indie devs don’t need that either).
Some ideas for improvement:
- Avatar customization (and persistence to your profile) including uploading a picture of you.
- More control over conversations including clicking on a person to start a conversation with them, setting yourself as available for conversation, being able to mute your mic.
- Show more info in the booths beside the video and the pictures there. Maybe being able to download a flier and keep it in a virtual bag.
- Being able to share documents with the person you are talking to (so you can show your company’s catalog or your project’s deck).
- Coop games or activities you can do with someone while talking (instead of competitive single-player activities).
- Improving environmental sound detection, which seems to use the camera instead of the character’s position.