Okay, I really didn’t want to jump in, but this has been on my mind for quite awhile… so… here are my own observations (and proposed solutions):
The Marketplace really needs a redesign
Okay, let’s start this off with saying I’m not against the marketplace itself, but rather the design of it. I’m no Leonardo Da Vinci of CSS and HTML, but why are we viewing items one at a time? If I go onto Amazon, even on my phone in a listing style, I see at least 2 to almost an entire third item. Meanwhile, I can, at best, only see one item and maybe part of a second one if I’m actually looking. Somehow Clara,io is a thing so important that the banner will never go away and will forever use up screen real-estate as to cover the Notepad app below it.
Why can’t we just hide the banner?
Seriously, why can’t we just have an option to not show the banner? I don’t care about Clara.io except for one time when it was funny to put a muscle man on top of a dog to ride into battle.
Show more than just one item
So this one I’ve heard as a rumor that it had to do with allowing the thumbnails to be big so people who make items have their work shown at its highest quality. As much merit as it has, it also has a massive downside: No one can see anything else including the stuff other creators made!
Not to mention, when I click on the item to view more details, the image size is STILL the same! Look, explore how every other marketplace works. Small thumbnails to give users a general idea on the item, and bigger ones for when the user is viewing the details of it. Second Life does it. Amazon does it. Walmart does it. This isn’t exactly a new concept, so I’m confused as to why this is such a problem. It’s doing a disservice to creators when they make something new only to be dethroned because they aren’t the latest item anymore.
It isn’t like you can’t already do this. Check this out!
This is the marketplace as viewed on my Amazon Kindle Fire HD10 (2017 edition). I can see SO many items, the Clara.io banner is gone, and it looks like… a marketplace! So why is it I have to view the marketplace outside of Interface to make it look like what it’s supposed to be?
Let free items be free
Alright, let’s kick this debate again: if an item is on the marketplace place and is listed to be free, give the user the OPTION to not use their wallet. I really don’t understand why this is such a hard concept to grasp, but it has been one that has lingered honestly for too long. High Fidelity is already suffering from the walled garden that is the system requirements (VR or otherwise) and having a large learning curve, the moment the wallet comes into play, it’s typically the last straw for some people. This was never a problem in the past, so why is it still a thing?
Okay, so lets say by some miracle that the wallet is made optional for items. The other side of the argument is then how do we encourage users to use a wallet, be it for free or paid items? Well, just tell the users the benefits of using it! If a user clicks No, just give me the item, show them a nag screen listing the benefits of using the wallet. I know some people will moan about it, but I feel that’s a good happy medium between what users want and the developers want. Eventually, if people feel they can trust the platform enough, they’ll set up the wallet and be more active on the marketplace itself, which I feel is better than simply forcing down people’s throats.
Return the help button
Okay, this one will turn some heads, but hear me out: a big problem I can see already is that even if a user goes through the tutorial, if they have additional questions or need a refresher, they need to overcome the midboss called the menu system. Assuming the user is in VR, the menu isn’t exactly the first place one person would go for help. Even then, I do like the idea of the help button being gone.
Happy medium powers, activate!
Keep the help button as the first listed item on the tablet or hotbar, but in the Help menu, add the option to hide the help button. Experienced users can hide a button they’ll most likely never use and new users who feel they can take off the training wheels can have the option to do so. Until that point, the button is easily accessible and easy to find.
While on the topic of help, there is the Help domain. One thing I find absolutely mind boggling is why doesn’t the help button have a button to go to Help? Instead, we have two contact me buttons that bring up Outlook, which I never have set up and is even more useless while in VR. I’m not saying to remove the contact me button, but keep one and make the other just a shortcut that takes the user to Help. You have greeters who can help new people out, so use them!
Ease of use, this ain’t (aka, information overload)
How many people have tried Eve Online? Elite Dangerous? Kerbal Space Program? Other than all being space games, they also have a lot of depth (though the first two more so than the last). They also have a lot of options, buttons, shortcuts, do-dads, buttons, things to do, buttons, and buttons. Did I mention buttons?
The UI on each of them is pretty overwhelming at first and can scare off a good chunk of new people, Elite Dangerous especially. However, none of them are bad games: they’re just hard and complicated, with a great deal of depth that rewards you for learning the system. Being a space pioneer? Pretty hard. Piloting a space ship? Pretty hard. Building one in KSP? Fun… but also can be pretty hard.
What I’m getting at is that when it comes to High Fidelity, it wants to be the place where everyone goes yet has the same complexity as the three examples in the UI department. A user opens up their menu (or looks at their tablet) and immediately have a million questions before they even find out what button to press to move forward. In fact, the concept of the bubble can be a bit like first timers in Elite Dangerous when looking for the landing gears.
Now I know this is also a tough thing to work out with, since Second Life did try this in the past with the ‘Simple UI’ which failed badly because it oversimplified things and left out access to important things (cough cough voice wheeze). High Fidelity, however, could benefit from a ‘Simple UI’ concept, but how that would be done is sadly beyond me. I thought about maybe restricting it to 6 or 8 buttons that floated in front of the user like Mute Audio, Safety Bubble (Bubble), Go To Location (GoTo), People Near Me (People), Snapshots (Snap), My Avatar (Avatar), and MAYBE the Marketplace/Wallet. You could even have a side button just to bring up the tablet so a user could disable Simple Mode once they are fine with everything. Things like Create are interesting, but a new user coming in would only be able to make things in Maker and that’s honestly it, so having it not initially visible would be okay in this simple mode. Of course, in normal mode, it’s the old UI as always, so Create would always be around.
The ability to transition from ‘Simple Mode’ to ‘Normal Mode’ should be simple as well as to not annoy regular users. I’m not going to touch controls since that’s a whole other argument in itself, but the same could apply there as well.
Hosting Content is still a Nightmare
Thankfully, I’ve gotten around this with SSH and shell script wizardry, but that’s because I have my own server already set up and running smoother than butter. When people come in who are creators, or even are from VRC, getting their content in world is just a migraine waiting for both the person explaining and the person following the instructions. I can remember past discussions about allowing the ability to have a public ATP system (aka, an ATP server that can be accessed by other domains), which I would agree could help out a lot, but unless a user already has a server up, it won’t work.
Making a 3D model appear in High Fidelity is like compiling a program at this point, in that you make the model, wait for it to upload to your favorite web service, bring it in world, cry because you forgot to include the textures in the FBX, re-export, wait for another upload (now even longer), bring it in world, then cry because you didn’t get the material settings right again. It doesn’t make sense why I have to have a separate program and service just to upload content into High Fidelity for use in High Fidelity that isn’t a world component. Again, I’m lucky I got my setup as simple as possible so that uploading my avatar’s new pair of pants is as easy as drag and drop in Explorer, but this should be looked into somehow.
While not the most graceful solution, I did look into using the Digital Ocean servers for file hosting and… well, shocker: it’s easy. I could totally see just including on future Digital Ocean cloud servers a simple file server to host their own public content, which would mean a person would still need a server, but at this point, that’s the best I can think of for now. I know there was an offer to use the marketplace in draft mode as another means until otherwise stated, but not everyone will know that and it still has the same issues as previously mentioned.
Another solution could be to have a temporary hosting system local to the system itself and have it be client side only. If the asset is an avatar, have everyone else see something else. This way, a user could test an item without even needing to own a server, and focus on only uploading content when they are ready to do so.
A major reason I’m not touching graphics is mostly because that is mostly up to the artist’s capabilities and style. When I make props, they aren’t the most elaborate and fancy item in the world, because I am not a 3D artist. When I had my avatar created, it was created to the capacity and the style of the artist I hired. Things like AA, glow, HDR, bloom, and other post processing things can only polish things so much, but if what to polish is already in a style that isn’t desirable, then it can’t make it look any more desirable. Having a strong foundation where users can actually move around and do things I feel is a bit more important, which some improvements to graphics being done on the side to compliment the improvements of the user experience.
If I had to pick from the common list of graphical improvements, I’d pick LOD control and Occlusion over bloom/HDR any day of the week, especially with the push for an Android build and because some avatars, namely the 3D scanned ones, are over 200k poly and a large majority of it isn’t even needed. I’m not here to brag (after all, I didn’t make the avatar), but I’m resting at 30k and looking just as well, and even then, I’d love to be able to properly decimate certain aspects and features so that users who are either experiencing slow down or because I’m 1km away don’t render unneeded stuff. At this time, High Fidelity feels I should lose my eyes first rather than the dew claws on the back of my legs or the claws even on my hands. Some say the eyes are the window to the soul, and it does suck that the system thinks the window should be obliterated first.
As for Occlusion… well that’s because I could see that being a way to massively improve rendering for some users in certain developed domains.
- KTX/Draco support (and introduction of the easy bake oven)
- Multi threaded downloading (this one was a major improvement)
- Body Tracking via HTC’s pucks
- Improvements to the 3D audio
- Ambisonic introduction (though I wish some better explanations were given on how we can really use this)
- Shader introduction
- Worklist introuction
- Voice recognition (short lived via Limitless, but was still an interesting thing)
Clara.io integration (though as mentioned, I don’t really care much for it. Despite that, I will still give it credit)
- Improvements to the audio server handling (I think this was just after the 100 user test if I remember)
- Introduction of the secondary camera system
- Blockchain integration
- Near-field audio support
- Actual metallic PBR support
To say nothing hasn’t happened over the course of High Fidelity’s operation would be ignore some of the listed above achievements. Granted, we also have to acknowledge the elephant in the room: High Fidelity isn’t the only one running the VR world marathon. VR Chat, Sansar, and others are equally in the same area and that does make it easy to notice the differences.