Interview: VRRP with Oblivious

Bucky

Bucky

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As promised in a previous post, our  lead developer, Bucky, had a chance to sit with Oblivious (BR-16 from Neon Divide), the head of the Aegis RP group, and long-time VRChat RP Community member.

Bucky: Did you Cosplay or LARP before starting VRRP

Oblivious: “I did not, but I definitely had a vested interest in cosplay and was friends with a lot of people who did cosplay. I didn’t do any role play before VRRP.”

Bucky: Did you Play TTRPG’s before starting VRRP?

Oblivious: “I played 2 sessions of D&D, but before that no not really”

Bucky: What is your definition of VRRP? 

Oblivious: “Well, it is very much just Virtual Larp. In the same way with larping, you get an outfit, you get some props and find a space to work with, then get some friends and tell a story with it. But in VR your character becomes your avatar, your props are what you attach to your avatar and the special effects and animations. And the space you play in is the world you’ve got, whether one you created or found.

The only thing that doesn’t change is your friends. 

Bucky: How did you get into VR and RP?

Oblivious: VR for me was originally not something I was expecting, I had messed around with game development and by trade, I am a technical artist, so I work a lot with technology, so the space has always interested me. When it came to VRChat I had a couple of friends at the height of people jumping into the platform in 2018, and the thing that struck me first was the ability to express. Your avatar especially is a representation of what you want to be perceived as, what you want to put yourself out there, that drew out my creative side and I got into avatar creation and then a Friend reached out to me and said “Hey I got into this really cool role play lobby with some really cool people and I think you might enjoy it! If you’re down one night, ill try to get you an invite.” I said yeah sure, I never really thought about role play much at that point, it was still kind of a vague concept to me, I hadn’t really partaken in any roleplay outside those 2 D&D sessions, but I got an invite one night out of nowhere, and I was like oh hey ill go check on them. I load in, and they’re all waiting there at the door and said hey this is one of those role play lobbies, pick out an avatar and just play a character!” 

This was back when Roflgator ran his early lobbies in The Great Pug, it was very much the wild west, you’d always get some crazy stuff going on, but it’s where I got my start and where my first OC was born. Hybris

After playing D&D, I had an interest in RP and character building, with a focus on creating believable characters and how those characters interact with the world around them. 

Bucky: What’s one thing that you know about VRRP now, that you wish you knew when you started?

Oblivious: Avatar and world creation as a commodity. Having people who are skilled enough to create characters for people is important, but it shouldn’t be a limiter, you shouldn’t try to stop someone from joining an RP because they don’t have a highly customized avatar. It was something we were trying to encourage, for sure, but I stressed myself out trying to create custom avatars for everyone. And over time I’ve had to learn, I don’t have to be the only one as well I can teach people to create their own avatars. The community is so built up with tools and assets that I wish were available to us back then.

Bucky: What keeps bringing you back to VRRP?

Oblivious: It’s the characters, I love the characters I play, the stories they tell, the emotions that they experience that I can kinda vicariously experience along with them, and the things it teaches me. I have learned a number of things about not just other people, but also myself, from these characters, and I think that’s really important. Plus, there is such a loving community surrounding some of these characters. These characters in some cases are like a television show for some people, I personally enjoy being a part of that, entertaining people and giving them a fun story to enjoy because so many of these characters have been around for a couple of years now, and people have become very invested in them and the trials and tribulations they go through.

Bucky: How do you think the VRRP community has grown over the past 2 years?

Oblivious: There has always been a community for it, The thing that Callus Row did is it brought in big names, big names that have never RP’d on a platform like VRChat before, and it gave those people a platform to entertain and be expressive with these characters just like we had done before but for a wider audience. The other thing that it did and this has been one of the biggest changes for the RP community in general, It showed that you can structure things heavily. You can create and curate worlds and game systems for an RP and do all of this stuff and have an amazing experience for both the player and the viewers, and it’s one of the reasons that it continues on today as Neon Divide because so much has been put into it and so many people are so passionate and involved in it that they’re not going to let it fade.

A lot of the future is going to depend on season 3 here, for obvious reasons it is under new management. That has brought a lot of changes, I myself have been involved in bringing some of those changes about, people are trying to document things better, trying to set up a process for different things. And making it easier for the players to just RP I think is an important part of it, and I’m hopeful that all the good work we’ve put in will be recognized by the RP community and thus more people will be interested in it and want to continue supporting it, watching it and helping us build Neon divide into something even better over the next couple of years. 

So many people, myself included, found themselves creating an online identity and brand for themselves for streaming around their characters and a ton of people that saw what was happening in VRChat and were creating these characters and effectively forming streaming careers around them and around telling their stories and playing these characters that people cared so much about. It helped influence the Vtuber community, the Vtubing community has proliferated a lot of technology for VR, down to more people taking an interest in 3d modelling for personalized characters and putting them together for people to use. 

Bucky: What concerns do you have about the VRRP community and its members?

Oblivious: I have seen the RP community rise and fall, and I remember in late 2018 early 2019 when some of us were coming together and saying hey let’s try to structure more of this and try to create processes for people to apply with their characters and create consistent lore for a world, we got a lot of pushbacks we had a lot of people telling us “no we don’t want that, you’re being restrictive and not letting people do what they want” and I understood at the time that there would be pushback, but I knew that it would lead to good things which it has. With aegis being one of the earliest structured RP groups on VRChat I feel it contributed to the creation of projects like Ascension academyFractured thrones, and Callus Row- now Neon Divide. It was our dedication to trying to build not just characters, but a world that made that happen. And while I feel there is still a lot of immaturity in the community because it is so new and people are still trying to figure things out, and to be honest most of the people involved are rather young, it’s mostly people 16 to mid-30s. There are a lot of those growing pains coming through, and while in early 2019 we started to see a recession in roleplay being available because there was so much drama going on and so many closed doors and people stepping away from the community because they didn’t want the drama or because they had gotten into it because of streaming, and it was no longer providing viable content for them. There were very few lobbies available there were not many opportunities for people to RP, and that’s where projects like Aegis and The Purple Lotus came in. We wanted a place for people to come roleplay publicly, and we want a place for people to tell more structured and guided stories with their roleplay. 

Bucky: Jumping into an established community can be daunting at times. What advice do you have for people who want to get into it for the first time, but maybe shy?

Oblivious: I get this question a lot, actually, I think there are a couple of things to keep in mind firstly, have fun, RP is about enjoying yourself and telling a story with other people, be open to listening to people. And secondly, remember that behind every character is a person, just a normal person. I get this a lot because I stream, and I am well known in the community, I get people “oh you’re oblivious, you’re this big RP person in the community” and I tell them I’m really not, I’m just a normal person who enjoys telling stories and if I can do that with other people then I am happy. I try not to treat anyone differently or put anyone on a pedestal because I think they are important in the community, everyone has an equal place in the community just be friendly be kind and be open to others.

Bucky: What does the metaverse mean to you?

Oblivious: This is going to be a rough one for me to answer simply, metaverse was originally a term that a couple of groups were using I’d say people from Aegis, Purple Lotus, Ascension Academy, and Fangs that had tried to come together to create a consistent set of lore and worlds that would try to become an early version of what groups like Fractured Thrones and Neon Divide are now. Where you have documented and established history and lore for your worlds, the only difference is that we were five groups trying to come together to try and create this. Part of this is that the metaverse was such an old name, A lot of other people started picking up and using this name even though we’re tried to already lay claim to it and say hey we are the metaverse if you are coming into any of these groups this is how our world works. It has all sort of fallen apart especially with Facebook taking the name, it has brought into question are we going to continue using that name, are we going to find something new. Many of the groups have become more disjointed because there are so many people in the community now that it’s difficult for the people managing these communities to keep track of everyone and have the time to dedicate to creating and curating this consistent world. I know, at the very least, Aegis is committed to the world we have built and all the history and lore we have built up. 

In all honesty, I don’t know how I feel about Facebook and the role they are trying to take in all of this, and the way they have handled themselves as a company I don’t feel like I trust them. And especially in terms of how they are presenting this initiative to create this virtual world, they have completely ignored and invalidated the community that has already built up this virtual space. VRChat, Neos, Chillout VR, All of these vibrant communities that already exist have been overlooked as if they weren’t even existing by Facebook and that says to me so much about how they intend to handle themselves. They are dedicated to being a corporation, VRChat- while it is a company, the game devs have made themselves a part of the community, I talk to some VRChat devs, and they frequently take part in things within the community. They are listening and very involved. 

I don’t think Facebook is going to listen, Facebook isn’t in the business of curating a community, they are in the business of advertisement and creating a platform. While that isn’t an invalid thing, I worry about how it will affect the perception of communities like VRChat and communities that have existed long before Facebook came in and decided to call themselves Meta. There have been people in VRChat who have been there since 2015 building this community. I feel like one of the big things that are going to happen is that because of Facebook, VR will continue to be seen as a novelty for longer than it already has. Even now, there are a lot of people who look at the VR community as being nothing more than a novelty that will fade away in a couple of years. There is a wonderful set of applications for VR whether interacting socially during the pandemic, being connected and feeling close to loved ones is incredibly important. We are living in a time when a new platform is being born, but I’m worried that Facebook is going to get invested in this, and people are going to join the platform and not enjoy it because they aren’t curating a community they are trying to create an advertisement platform and then leave because there won’t be spaces for them. The community is going to be what keeps the metaverse alive, businesses and advertisers and corporations are important for pumping money into things, but without the people, those companies won’t invest, so the community has to come first. 

 

Bucky: What is your most memorable experience in VR RP?

Oblivious: I’ll go with something recent, that really hit home, a lot of the most memorable moments for me are the emotional ones. When Duncyn Died during Calous Row season 2 at the very end when that bomb went off it that bar, and suddenly they were doing death rolls for myself and 4 or 5 other people. It put me in shock! And it puts a lot of things into perspective, in RP’s like that your character can die and there is a finality to a lot of it that I think a  lot of people take for granted. I remember that night during the RP and afterwards crying and feeling genuine emotion because of not only how my character felt but how I felt about what happened. I had escaped with my life, but two of my closest friends were heavily injured,  two of my friends in character and two people I am close to out of character died… in an instant, It was a good lesson to really value those people and that time and that connection and really care about it because it’s an experience that most of us don’t encounter during our real lives, to be put into a situation where we are risking death and to see the way it affects our friends and families. It’s a really good experience to learn from. It has definitely set me up for some really tragic storytelling for season 3.

Bucky: Where do you see the future of VRRP and RPG’s going? 

Oblivious: There have been so many times that the RP community pushes the platform to its limits with the scale and size of its events. We are often able to help improve the platform. The Devs know of the VR RP community because we so frequently find bugs and suggest features. Even down to some people like Phasedragon, He worked on so many of the Udon systems for Callus Row and pushed Udon so far to its limits that VRChat hired him to work on Udon and continue to improve the platform. VRChat devs have done so much with the community. Even down to hiring people who have done amazing things with it. 

VR roleplay is already such a new thing that it’s hard to predict where it will go, when it happened, it seemed natural, and it works. Looking into the future will be quite difficult, but we will see the proliferation of more community tools for the RP community to create their own systems and games. We will continue to see the community grow and improve alongside those tools and systems.

Where can people contact you? 

Oblivious#0182 on Discord, my Twitter, and watch on twitch.