Nathaniel de Jong is a VR content creator on YouTube as “Nathie” who is focusing on Virtual Reality games. I had a chance to talk with him at the Oculus Connect about the VR content ecosystem for games, the curation policies of Oculus and the ticking time bomb dynamics of Side Quest to side load unofficial game onto the quest. We also talk about some of the VR influencer dynamics that he has to navigate as an independent content creator both from interacting with independent VR game developers, but also with trying to navigate the logistics and communication with huge companies like Facebook. I was definitely impressed with how much due diligence and behind-the-scenes communication that Nathie has with the indie developer community, and I was happy to finally get a chance to catch up with him at the end of Oculus Connect 6 to capture some of his highlights and frustrations from the event.
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[00:00:05.412] Kent Bye: The Voices of VR Podcast. Hello, my name is Kent Bye and welcome to the Voices of VR podcast. So continuing on my series of some of the highlights from Oculus Connect 6, today I talked to a virtual reality content creator on YouTube, Nathie, Nathaniel de Jong. And we talk about his process, all the things that he does in terms of reviewing different content, the multi-day process of checking out an experience, of being engaged with the developers, trying to get a sense of where they're at, where they're going. And yeah, just some of the challenges that he faces as a content creator on YouTube, how to show virtual reality content. We also talk a bit about his experiences at Oculus Connect and from his perspective as a gamer and a VR content creator on YouTube, some of the ecosystem issues in terms of the different content and game and curation, SideQuest and the different dynamics around that. And we also talk about some of his personal experiences at Oculus Connect, which was a little bit frustrating for him just because Facebook was involved in flying him over, but yet a lot of the games that were made available he had already played. And so there was just kind of like different communications and logistics breakdown for not only with him, but some of the other content creators as well. I think he was kind of just sharing some of his own frustrations and anger that he had from past experiences. And I guess just more of a frustration with not being in clear communication with Facebook. And I think in some ways, this conversation kind of reflects what I see in some ways other independent developers that have experienced a variety of different things to different degrees that are similar in the needing to find the right person to talk to. And if you don't know the right person, then it's kind of hard to get Direct feedback and kind of like these different frustrations that I hear from independent developers But yet they can't necessarily go on the record to talk about it And also they may be actually under NDA where they they actually legally can't talk about it even even if they wanted to Potentially put their career at risk then it's just something that has that level of frustration on the down low So that's the type of feedback I get a lot and I think for both Nathan and I he's an influencer and I'm more of an oral historian slash journalist We're just a little bit more open to talk about our own personal experiences and for me each and every year at Aukus Connect there's always something that kind of like gets me angry or upset and a lot of this anger that gets pent up and I think in some ways it was a bit of a cathartic release to talk to Nathie about some of these different things and just to kind of share some on my own. personal frustrations as well. But I think Nathie's just interesting just to see what's happening in terms of a YouTuber and influencer and his relationship and challenges for pioneering a lot of these different things within the VR industry. And since he does do it full-time and there's not a lot of other content creators that are doing it full-time like he is. So we're covering all that and more on today's episode of the Voices of AR podcast. So this interview with Nathie happened on Thursday, September 26th, 2019 at Oculus Connect 6 in San Jose, California. So with that, let's go ahead and dive right in.
[00:03:13.496] Nathaniel de Jong: So I'm Nathaniel, also known as Nathie in the virtual world. And I'm a VR content creator on YouTube who reviews VR games, experiences, apps, also hardware. And I travel around the world a lot to check out all kinds of cool futuristic stuff, like arcades that no one has ever seen before.
[00:03:31.272] Kent Bye: So maybe you could give me a bit more context as to your background and your journey into VR.
[00:03:37.793] Nathaniel de Jong: Yeah, so back when I was going to school, I was trying to become a filmmaker. So I've always been into video. I'm very interested in that. And I'm also a gamer. And back in school, one of my friends was actually introducing me to the DK1. So I backed it back then. I felt adventurous. And I decided to make some videos with the DK-1. And it was interesting because there was no format for how you show VR. So I was like, maybe I should just make some and see what the responses are. But back then VR was so niche, even more niche than you could ever imagine, that there wasn't that much interest. So I didn't get that much feedback until VR started to grow more and more with the DK-2. The first time I tried VR with the DK-1, I was like, this is cool, this is the future. So I tried to get more and more into it. I went deeper and deeper down the rabbit hole. And the more I got to explore all these headsets, the more capabilities there were to make videos about them. And after a while, I found a formula to show off VR in a way where people that never tried VR understand what's going on. What's that formula? it's basically I'm playing a VR game or I play an experience and then I show myself in the real world in a little corner of that video so people can see oh wait so he's in the real world and he's also in a virtual world so it's kind of like still breaking the immersion a little bit by showing like oh wait there is like a real thing going on and something that is completely virtual
[00:05:14.587] Kent Bye: And so you've been growing and growing your YouTube channel. I think you're probably the biggest YouTuber in terms of gaming content. I know Symore had a huge flux of just doing interviews, but you've been really churning out content for how long now? When did you start?
[00:05:31.431] Nathaniel de Jong: I think it's like five, six years now. And it's like nowadays, since like, I think 2016 was the moment where VR headsets finally had this consumer launch, right? So that's for me where I really started to grow on YouTube, where people started to notice me. Before that it was still, you know, more of a hobby. And nowadays it's a full-time job. It's like my work. And it's amazing because it's my passion, it's my hobby, it's everything together. So it's like a dream coming true, you know, being able to go to all these events, being appreciated by the community is great. Being able to help them out because giving a spotlight to developers as a VR content creator like me is such a gift because there are so many peeps out there that are making something artistic, but they just don't have a place to get the feedback. And I'm that portal into the next step. So I can make a video and explain it in a way that, as I said, people that never tried VR understand, but also people that are totally into VR.
[00:06:33.232] Kent Bye: And they're quite involved in the sense where you try to play through as much of the experience as you can, sometimes the entirety of the experience, and then edit it down to, you know, maybe a half hour or an hour, and then kind of do an intro, an outro, kind of with your takeaways. So you're really doing a whole post-production process. And so, like, for you to go from beginning to end, if you play a game that maybe is an hour or two hours, how long does it take you to do that whole process?
[00:07:01.128] Nathaniel de Jong: I think a video takes me about two days to make. There's a lot of research that goes into it. I start off with, first of all, checking out a game that has potential to be played on my channel. So I just go through the game, I just look at the gameplay mechanics, I look up the studio, what their past is, what their future plans are, and I start just by looking into what they are. planning to do, and I start to really talk to them like, hey, so what is your long-term vision? So you actually reach out and talk to them before you play it? Oh, yeah. So I'm really interested in their long-term vision. Because some devs, they make a game, but they have no idea where they want to go in the VR space. I'm like, well, go work on your stuff first, and then come back. Because sometimes they don't know when to reach out. Like a lot of VR teams, they don't have a marketing team. They don't know how to start promoting their game. Sometimes it's too early. Sometimes it's too late. So when I finally believe in that game, and I'm like, wow, this is good, or an app, or an experience, it doesn't even need to be a game. Then I'm like, OK, let's check it out again. I play the whole thing through.
[00:08:07.177] Kent Bye: Are you recording it while you're playing? Oh, no. So this is before you play it.
[00:08:12.241] Nathaniel de Jong: So I play the whole thing to see what's going on, if there are any bugs in there, so I can first let them fix it before I record it. Because I don't want to have major bugs in my videos that would kind of destroy the reputation of a developer, especially if they're new in the scene, you know? So I give them some feedback, I'm like, okay, you should fix this or you should do that, and I also look into, like, okay, what are the cool things I could show off? What is really making this game unique? So I check out every part of this game, like, let's say it's, for example, it's an adventure game or a puzzle game, it's like, okay, so... What if I solve the puzzle this way? This could be way more epic on video. This is gonna make the game shine even more. And then I play it again, but then I play it for real. Then I really make a video. So I basically fake that I never played it before, but that way I can show what's going on. Because some games are so action-packed that there are certain scenes that you have to look at at a certain point, otherwise you miss them out. So in a cinematic way I play the game, so I move my hands very slowly, I move my head really slowly, because I don't want people to get motion sick when they watch the video, so it needs to be super smooth in a way. So that's how I kind of play the game, but it takes like so much time, and then I even need to post-product it, so it's like, you know, you need to... edit it, you need to put all the files together, and then of course you're uploading it to YouTube, so you need to look into the algorithm, what are the right tags, what's the right title, things like that. Because in the end, I compete with the big guys on YouTube. It's not the big guys in VR, but like the pancake scene is so big in the gaming, What's that, the pancake scene? The pancake scene. It's like the people that play games on a monitor. So it's like Fortnite and those kind of games that are not in VR. We call it pancake in the gaming scene. It's like a little middle finger to, you know.
[00:09:58.578] Kent Bye: It's like calling a traditional film flatties. So, but you also all record like a bit of takeaways or like your final thoughts of something as well, right?
[00:10:07.386] Nathaniel de Jong: Yeah, so most videos I make are first looks. Some of them are reviews, and I also do stuff that is more like just to show it off. Like, I have so many people reach out, like students who made their first project, and it's kind of like, hey, you want to try it out? You want to give some feedback? So sometimes I don't show it off on the channel, but I still give them feedback on email. It's like, hey, maybe you should try this, or I have a certain idea. I really want to try to serve everyone. If you're a AAA developer or someone who's just starting off, I don't care. If you have something unique, I'm willing to look into it.
[00:10:39.554] Kent Bye: Have you thought about doing any Twitch streaming where you just do live like your first reaction? Because for me, it would be very, very difficult for me to go through an experience again and to give an authentic reaction. To feel like there's things that once you have something and you can't fake being surprised. I mean, it's certain emotions that only happen once the first time you play through it so I feel like there's a certain quality there that you know maybe just wondering how you navigate that or thought about like doing live streaming on Twitch.
[00:11:08.898] Nathaniel de Jong: So, I can tell you that live streaming in the VR scene is a no-go, because for me, it's my full-time job, so for me, live streaming would be a risk. Uploading videos is the most solid thing you can do in the VR community right now, because most people just watch and they don't really stream. Of course you see people play Beat Saber live and some multiplayers like VRChat and RecRoom, but... The regular games, it doesn't work, like no one is really watching it. There's actually like the biggest Twitch streamer who did VR, Zymtok5, he actually left Twitch, because Twitch is not even paying attention anymore. They kind of deleted the whole virtual reality tag in their platform, so you can't even tag yourself as a VR creator anymore, so there is nothing there. Well, Google is investing into VR. They invested into our YouTube channel as well. They gave me a nice amount of money to create VR180 content. They said like, just innovate, do whatever you want to do. So over there, that's where the magic happens. But Twitch is like, yeah, they abandoned VR. Well, what was the new platform like mix TV or that ninja went over to what did he go to I think it was mixer But like it's the same deal like there is almost no one doing VR there. It's like most creators right now That are starting off at this moment. They see people like me doing it full-time and they want to kind of live the same dream and So they're trying the same you do. Sometimes they copy it, sometimes they give their own spin to it. But most of them see that streaming is not really going anywhere right now. Although, virtual YouTubers, VTubers, as they call them in Asia, That's like big, but here in the US and Europe, that's not really a thing yet. So that's booming, like streaming as a virtual avatar. That's like the next level thing. And I think that's going to take off. And I'm looking into that right now to become like a virtual YouTuber as well. But that's more in Asia, like we have it in Asia this year to kind of see what we can do there. But over here, there is no leverage to do that.
[00:13:12.485] Kent Bye: Well I know that in the gaming industry there's a whole range of different genres and then in VR there's like a porting of those genres over and then perhaps even completely new genres that are emerging and so how do you think of those genres or the types of games since you've you're a gamer already on the pancake games and then now you're certainly played nearly every VR game that's out there at least a lot of them that you've been able to kind of really do a full comprehensive survey of this landscape of gaming. So how do you make sense of that landscape in terms of the genres of VR and VR gaming?
[00:13:48.685] Nathaniel de Jong: Well, the thing with genres is some of the genres are a little bit overused. Like, for example, shooter games. It's like, they're everywhere. If you want, you can shoot zombies, dinosaurs, well, people as well, of course, in like Onward and Pavlov. But that's like one of those genres that I'm kind of like, okay, when is someone going to bring something unique to the table, you know? When is someone going to really innovate there? But... What I see is that some genres, like if I was to go for the easy money, because they know it works, well, I would like to see something that, you know, they spend more time on it. Like, for example, Clouded Games, they're now working on Pistol Whip. It's still a shooter, but it's also a rhythm title, so it doesn't always need to be violent. You can also go for something else that is kind of artistic, you know. So, some of the genres are, you know, great. For example, the social genre is amazing. It's so much fun. Like, being in Rec Room or being in VRChat, it never gets old. It's so much fun. There's always something new going on. But that's such a hard thing to get into because VR is such a niche that having a community on there, especially at the start, is hard. Like, VRChat has been around for years, same for Rec Room, but building something for Scratch and then hope that people come in and they stay. That's a task that is just so hard to figure out. And, you know, most developers, they don't have that much money, you know, to make a game. They have maybe a five, six-month development window, and then they really need to make something. So they don't have the ability to have the long-term vision to make something. I wish they could, but, yeah, some genres are doing great because there's some more money involved, and others are just like, yeah, well, you know, we have to poop out another game for, like, you know, for six months, so, yeah.
[00:15:32.571] Kent Bye: What's some of your favorite VR games that you've played?
[00:15:36.156] Nathaniel de Jong: Well, my personal favorite, and that says enough about the market right now, is The Lab. It's a classic, it's made by Valve, and it shows all the potential VR has, so it's like this... It's Portal-inspired, also Half-Life-inspired, where it just has all these mini-games in this one lab. So you can play, for example, crossbow, you can use a slingshot, you can go into an arcade machine, you get sucked into it, it has a little healthcare section, you can explore the universe, you can go to space, and there is like a little bit of storytelling in there too. So you have all these mini-games that show different aspects of what VR is. You can even travel to different parts of the world. And I haven't really seen anything that is that good. And that's like, I think, two, three years ago. It's still the best thing out there. So it's weird that we haven't seen anything better. Of course, like, Beat Saber is, like, a lot of people are saying, like, you know, that's the best game, it's like the flagship of VR, but, you know, no offense, as long as Beat Saber is, like, the number one game right now, there's something wrong with the industry, because Like Beat Saber is a genius concept, but it's not like the most next level thing either. So it's kind of like, when is someone going to come up with something that is that good, you know, or better? So yeah, I'm really hoping that we're going to see something that will really push the market, that will make it more mainstream. Like here at Connect 2, like Medal of Honor, it's nice. But it's another shooter, it's not for everyone. I wish there was something for everyone to play.
[00:17:10.989] Kent Bye: Did you get to try out a lot of games here at Oculus Connect 6?
[00:17:14.654] Nathaniel de Jong: Yeah, not really. I played a pixel rip from ar4, but I wasn't on the show floor Actually, most of stuff I played wasn't on the show floor. It's like developers coming to you It's like hey, I made this you want to try it. I'm like sure I'm down well Oculus has such long lines that I'm like, yeah Well, I can't really you know Stand in line for that long because I'm wasting my time a bit because there's so many people to meet There's so much else going on. So I rather check out some new concepts than something I can try later. You know, like Medal of Honor will come out at some point, you know, so why put my time in that? So it was more outside of Kinect than... I wish I could have tried it, but Facebook is not giving me the space to do that. I really just need to stand in line like everyone else. Well, I would love to be press and be able to check it out and give my, like, I have half a million subscribers. So for them it would be interesting to have me try it with some press people and get the word out. It's good promotion for them, right? So you couldn't get accredited as press? Well, the thing is they flew me over and they gave me the streamer pass. But the streamer pass, it didn't mean anything at the convention center. So I showed it, they were like, yeah, but you need to be press. So they didn't take me serious. And I can say to them, like, yeah, you know, I'm this YouTuber, blah-de-blah, but it doesn't work there. So I didn't have any appointments, so I couldn't really try much. After the keynote, I just ran like a madman to this hand-tracking demo because I knew it was the most interesting thing. Stood in line for an hour, tried it, and then I was kind of, well, done, because the rest was like three-hour wait for a game. I'm like, that's just too long. I can't do that.
[00:18:56.279] Kent Bye: Did you so you tried out the eclectic version or the state farm demo? Which version do you see?
[00:19:01.343] Nathaniel de Jong: I tried I tried to insurance one.
[00:19:05.006] Kent Bye: I wish I tried the other one though So you're in you're in a room trying to inspect and you're basically basically touching touching you're kind of touching buttons in VR with your hands
[00:19:14.882] Nathaniel de Jong: Yeah, so this hand tracking demo was kind of hand tracking, but it also wasn't, because you were only poking things. Like, it wasn't really that interactive. I tried to grab things, but in this insurance demo you had to open a camera by just tapping, and I was like, well, this is for an arcade-y thing. I've seen Leap Motion do way better on that side, and even Vive Focus, you know, they had something like this a year ago, and it works way better.
[00:19:37.879] Kent Bye: Yeah, the demo that I saw at GDC two years ago with Leap Motion, where you're actually holding a cube, was one of the most magical hand presence demos I've seen. And this was pretty far away from that. And especially, my hands were kind of flipping in and out, kept on getting out of the field of view. So it just, yeah. I mean, I'm glad I saw it. Yeah, I don't know. I was able to see it right away. So are there other indie games that you really like? Because I know there's a lot of indie development, even people on Itch.io. And if you've been able to see either interesting gameplay mechanics, I mean, I think of someone like Kibibo with Blurp or something that's kind of like these weird, almost like tech demo-ish games that are exploring one mechanic, but you've kind of explored what's happening in the indie development world.
[00:20:23.885] Nathaniel de Jong: So I'm playing a lot of stuff, so I can just mention a few that I played recently. I think Half Plus Half was a good one from Normal VR. They just created this one space where you could meet up with friends and you could just talk with them and just kind of mess around. It wasn't really much to play, but it was just nice to be together. It was mainly about... connecting and then we went swimming in the ocean like this simple thing that is so much fun to do in VR or grab a kite and then just fly through the clouds and like we went through the clouds and then we couldn't hear each other anymore because we were in the clouds of course it was so muffled with the sounds like I can't hear you I'm like in the cloud now you know so yeah Half-Blood Half is like a great concept of how you can just connect with each other you know and also make it easy to meet up with people you never heard of before, like strangers, where it's like, oh, who are you? What are you doing? And it's super nice, you know, like all these mini-games, they made them in a way where you can kind of not think about, I don't know this person, it's like you naturally start to just have fun together. well you don't even know each other so yeah that's a great one and I think like today I met the guy from they made Melita it's like this thing about global warming I think and I met them again it's like this is beautiful story it's so unique like I love artistic stuff you know I people see me as like this guy who plays games only but Seriously, if someone has something artistic, I'm down. Because you feel something and you learn a lot too from those experiences. They give a message. Video games are usually more for entertainment. While with Melita, you have to tear up in your headset. I need to wipe my cover clean again, because here we go. That kind of stuff, I love that. It's really a trip. It's so immersive. It's so... It's beautiful. It's stunning.
[00:22:26.575] Kent Bye: Have you thought about going to some of the more narrative film festivals, like Sundance or Tribeca, South by Southwest, or Venice Film Festival? Or is that just too hard for you to try to cover that, or just to experience it and see it?
[00:22:39.921] Nathaniel de Jong: Oh yeah, I would love to. I would love to. I've been meeting up with a few people that run those events or are demoing something. I would love to, but the problem for us is that we're based in Europe, so when we travel, it's quite expensive to go to the US. So we usually, when we get invited, like for example here, we just add some extra days and then we do some other stuff. So yeah, I would love to go to film festivals, but I kind of need to get invited, or the VR industry needs to grow more, because we do a lot for free, you know, we serve the industry, so, you know, we don't want to ask a developer to pay us to play their game, or, like, I'm like, you know, use that money for your developer, or for the marketing, because, You know, they don't have that much money, so then use it for your own goods, you know? So yeah, I would love to, but then they need to invite us, otherwise it's not gonna happen. And I haven't seen many VR content creators go to those kind of places. Well, I would love to kind of like show what it's like, because you know, I see myself as the voice of the people, so I can ship it like, hey, there is more than just... You know, E3 or Gamescom or Oculus Connect. There are also these film festivals. So, yeah, I'm totally down if someone is listening that would like to invite me.
[00:23:57.076] Kent Bye: Yeah, I'm in a similar position where, because I'm doing interviews and speaking, I often rely upon the festival to fly me over to places, especially for international travel, to be able to speak, and that gives me access to be able to talk to people. But for me, the challenge for something like these independent film festivals is that oftentimes, like, 80% of the stuff will never be released. so it's very ephemeral that you can only see it there and so I've been just trying to go there and see the stuff and do the conversations and record. I've done over a hundred interviews at those four festivals and like there might be five or ten of those that will become available for people to see but it's still for me valuable to see what the bleeding edge is because I feel like that's where a lot of the innovation is happening and that's maybe part of the reason why I haven't been as interested in really playing all the games because I feel like there's what's happening with artists and people that are doing stuff for art galleries or just creating without having any need to try to market it or to sell it or something that may be funded by grants or to tell a story that's moving. That's where I feel like a lot of the most interesting stuff in VR that I see, that I love, just to go and see what people are doing and to talk to the creators about that. So yeah, if you can find a way to do that. But I think the challenge would be if you actually try to cover it, then even to try to record stuff. I mean, like, as you're traveling, you know, I imagine that it's probably better for you to just record stuff at home, but yet, if this is an installation piece, then it's, like, becomes difficult to try to, like, be traveling and then try to capture the ephemerality of an experience.
[00:25:30.067] Nathaniel de Jong: Yeah, that's true. The thing with film festivals is that most of it is behind closed doors. It's like you tried it and you can talk about it. For you it's like you're expressing yourself through audio. For me it's like audio and video. But then on video there's not much to show. Like, for example, I met up with Bruce, he made the kite experience, you know, I'm not sure if you tried it. Yeah, Bruce Wright, yeah. Yeah, and he invited me over to come to, like, the Disney Animation Studios, it was awesome. And it was like, you know, I can try it, but then on my channel there's not much I can do. We could do an interview. But you can also do that without video, because there's nothing to really show. He has maybe a few images, but for a video, people don't watch that. They don't appreciate it that way, they really need to see something. Even if it's a clip of 30 seconds, but it needs to be something. So for me, a film festival, or trying to cover that without showing it, is really hard. And that's what I also wonder too, like, how can I show to film festivals that I have the potential to be there to kind of make something out of that, you know? I don't know how if you don't have any video, you know? It's a challenge.
[00:26:43.588] Kent Bye: Well, then there's the other dynamic, which is that in a narrative game, sometimes if you show the whole thing, you can kind of spoil the story in a way that people actually want to experience it without knowing anything about it. For me, I feel like I have the most latitude with audio because it gives me the opportunity to do the experience and then to try to like I saw the kite experience at SIGGRAPH and did an interview with Bruce and I haven't released it yet but at least it allows me to experience it and kind of unpack it and talk about the process and you know have a half hour conversation and not worry about the visuals but there is value of seeing the visuals but for me it feels like you have to find the whole like you have to like play through the experience twice Like I can play through it once and then talk about it. So it's like, I don't need to sort of go and think about how it's going to look. But at the same time, the type of work that you're doing is so valuable because you're doing all of that work to try to show the essence of something that allows people to see it. And then they want to try it themselves. And I think it's that type of grassroots evangelism that it's going to help the industry grow, but it takes a lot of work and there's not a lot of other people that's doing it. But. Also, you know, I think there's other dynamics of economics and just how Facebook has really not really supported a lot of those independent developers historically. I think things might be shifting now. I feel like there's been a bit of cultural shifts that are happening, but yet historically there's been a bit of like, My impression is that a lot of the people at the top are giving a lot of money to their AAA buddies to create experiences that may not be as necessarily very compelling from a gameplay mechanic perspective. So you have lots of money dumped into very expensive intellectual property, but yet, at the end of it, the actual mechanics aren't all that compelling in terms of what is actually coming from that AAA developer community.
[00:28:27.579] Nathaniel de Jong: Yeah, I think right now they... For example, Facebook thinks that AAA games are going to sell VR more. And for a part, that's true. But the indies are, in the end, the baseline of your platform. It's not the AAA stuff. So you see Medal of Honor popping up now, they're as far as I'm working on Splinter Cell as well and Assassin's Creed stuff. But because there's so much, like these AAA companies want so much money, otherwise they don't want to spend their time in VR. There's so many... I'm sure, like, AAA developers that just don't even take the money from Facebook, they're like, yeah, this VR is not good enough yet, so we would rather make, like, a flat game, you know, a pancake game, than make a VR game right now. Even if we get a lot of money, we don't care. So, no, I totally agree, and because of that, all these indies, they just need to survive by themselves. Like, imagine how many awesome indie games you could have made from the money they put into, for example, Medal of Honor, you know? Like, Respawn. It's an expensive studio. You need to pay them to get interested. Like, I haven't seen many AAA studios getting in there. Maybe Ubisoft. Like, Ubisoft was one of the first ones that just did it by themselves. But it's kind of artificial right now, in a way.
[00:29:48.214] Kent Bye: Yeah, and then they will release a game that costs a lot of money, and like the Space Junkies, it's sort of like, I feel like you have a little bit of a chicken and egg problem where they have to make money, but yet they also have games that, if it is a co-op game, like, what's been happening from your perspective of, like, the co-op game scene? There seems to be, like, a small window with, like, a new VR game that comes out that you would almost need to play it right away, and then it's hard to sort of actually have the multiplayer experience after that.
[00:30:15.115] Nathaniel de Jong: So most titles turn into a ghost town after a week, because the community is so small, and everyone always goes back to the games they played in the past. Most games don't get the momentum. It's the same with Half Plus Half that I played. If you play it now, there's almost no one you can find. After three days, after it launched, there was no one really in there anymore. So for me, it's also hard to recommend those titles. Like, most developers I speak to, I see them and they're like, I'm gonna make a multiplayer. They have a really genius concept, I totally support them. If it's kind of basic, I'm like, maybe you should reconsider things, because going single player is a little bit more risk-free. If you have, of course, more money, then you can try, but... Yeah, like new multiplayers, most of them are just, you know, after a week it's like over. And I don't know what the problem with that is. I think it's definitely money. You need to kind of have the patience, and patience costs a lot of money. Like with Rec Room and with VRChat and those kind of titles, they had such a long lifespan already. before they became popular. And that's something you need, otherwise you can't do it. So again, if you are a developer that has money to make a game for six months, but then you have almost no money for marketing anymore, then you're kind of screwed. And there is also like with some platforms like Steam and also Oculus Home, they're based on data. And the more data you get multiplayer-wise, the more you're going to get pushed on the front store. If you can't, you know, perform in the first week, they're going to put you on the second page. And if you don't perform the second way, they're going to be on the fifth page. And then you kind of, you know, it's like eBay where you sell something and no one is interested. And then in the end, it will be on the sixth page while the cool things, the cool kids are selling on the first. And that's the same with VR and especially with multiplayer.
[00:32:08.525] Kent Bye: Sounds like that there's a little bit of algorithmic curation of like data driven, like just like on YouTube, you have to play with the algorithm, but there's, you have to have the data and the numbers that, I mean, it feels like that there should be a little bit more of a human curation, but you feel like there's even these big companies are looking at the data.
[00:32:25.796] Nathaniel de Jong: Well, there is some man-made curation, you know, but it's... I don't know if that works either. I know that Steam is pretty much based on data. Like, I think almost every developer gets a fair chance to promote their game there. Because with Steam it's like... If you already made a game, you get like two or three moments to put your game on the front page of Steam, and you can activate whenever you want to do that. So you could wait it out until Christmas and do it then, or you can decide by yourself, but with Oculus, it's like they just put something on there they like. But it's kind of like this person is not the voice of the community. So it's more like you need to know someone from Oculus that is kind of like, hey, we like each other, right? So they put it on the front page. So in that case, it's like, if you are not good at networking as a dev studio, then you're not going to be in the front store. It's really about who you know in that case. And I don't think that's a fair way to do it.
[00:33:26.537] Kent Bye: Well, you're also somebody who's talking to developers all the time. I talk to developers. And this is my sixth Oculus Connect, so I've been able to kind of hear different feedback. So what kind of feedback are you hearing from the developers?
[00:33:40.127] Nathaniel de Jong: It's very mixed. I feel like a lot of developers are struggling and it's sad to see, especially the indies, where, for example, here at Oculus Connect, they had so much empty space. They had so many places where they could have had some indies show off their titles, but they wanted to curate everything so tightly. that they don't get the opportunity so they have to rent a hotel room here that is quite expensive because I mean the Hyatt, Hilton, etc. it's not cheap to rent a room here and then you show your game and people have to get out of the convention center to come to you Well, there's enough space. So you see that on that point they're struggling. And also developers that, you know, for example, work with Oculus who get funded by them. It's like sometimes we want to work together with them, but then Oculus decides what the marketing strategy is going to be. And they don't have any input on that. So for us it's kind of like, okay, so what does Facebook want? But they also want something. So we have all kinds of parties. It's almost like Facebook is like the middleman. So there's someone between the developer. Well, we should be able to come up with a cool idea to promote a game, for example. And something that I've also seen is that some developers don't even know if they get approved on a platform yet. And they have been working on it for so long, they put a lot of money into it. And then I'm asking them, like, did you get greenlighted for Quest? They're like, we still don't know. We don't know what Oculus wants. And then it's like, but Carmack liked it. But yeah, Carmack is not in charge. But that's so weird. It's like they, yeah, they're struggling. And I can see it. I can see it from a distance. And for us, it's also frustrating, you know, because we want to help them out. We want to promote their games. But if there's someone in between that decides what they, you know, they don't know anything most of the time.
[00:35:32.062] Kent Bye: Yeah, I hear about this launch window, where even when they get accepted, then they don't necessarily get a launch date. And it just kind of becomes a part of the larger marketing push that they're in control of. But I don't know. I've always kind of questioned this whole curation process, because there's experiences that are out there that You know, there was Audio Shield, which I was a big fan of, and then, like, Sound Boxing, which didn't have necessarily great graphics, but I absolutely loved the mechanic, and actually was, in some ways, a predecessor to Beat Saber. And a game like that would not be accepted onto Oculus, and the developer couldn't even get a good answer for why. And so, it's like, you have an experience like that, and then you have Beat Saber, this huge hit, and it's like, unless it was actually like a breakout hit and went viral, you know, Oculus probably would have rejected it, or not even really potentially include it. That's the thing that I worry about, is that like, what are the developers that are out there that are getting rejected by Oculus that could be the next sort of breakthrough thing, but that because there may be such a curated, like I feel like so much of the early games that were coming out had so much more emphasis on the aesthetics and what it looked like than what the actual gameplay mechanic was. And then prioritizing the look and feel of it over the actual experience of it felt like they're missing different aspects of what the actual magic of VR may end up being. And so with this turn towards the really highly curated approach, that's my fear, is that they're kind of like doing stuff that they think is gonna work, but doesn't necessarily work, dumping a lot of money into these AAA games that they're kind of risk-averse and not really taking these challenges and are really trying to take risks to innovate. And then you're kind of left with stuff that kind of looks pretty, but then you play through it once, but it doesn't kind of bring you coming back each and every day and then Yeah, I just, for me, I just feel like I feel concern around that overly curated approach and that there's so much energy out there that's wanting to break through but that there may be ways in which they want to give people a good first time experience and like trading off only making a few handful of developers be able to make it Economic sustainable and that they're saying well look at steam and look at how that's also like a bunch of shovelware And we don't want to like recreate that so I can see where there's an argument for that But also like I don't know. I just I kind of question whether or not that's the right strategy.
[00:37:53.198] Nathaniel de Jong: Yeah, no No, I totally agree. But it's funny, like, Oculus Share back in the days was kind of like the place for developers to express their ideas and creativity. And now it's kind of like making its comeback because we have SideQuest. It's like this store that pretty much allows you to play unofficial apps on your Quest. And it's great, because let's say if you made a game and you get denied by the curated system that Facebook has, then you can still put it on there and people can play it. The only problem is that it's kind of like a ticking time bomb, because it's getting more and more popular. And it's not an official store, it lives next to the Oculus store. And they started to also have a shop now where you can buy the games. Where first they were free, and I said, like, the moment money starts to flow, that's where Facebook was like, we don't know if we want to keep this up. Because it starts to compete now with their own store. It starts off small, but I feel like they don't want to keep it around. I think it's kind of like, for now they just, you know, they accept it. But I can tell you, here at Oculus Connect, they had almost no games coming to the Quest. SideQuest has a way better lineup right now, and they are not funded by anyone. And Oculus Share has always been such a beautiful place, that if Oculus doesn't make it, the community does it. And as I said before, you can have an early access title on there and get feedback from the community for free. Well, on the Quest, like on the official store, you don't have that environment to do it. And if your game is not getting approved, but you already put like two, three months work in there, Well, you still want to make a few bucks because, I mean, you've got to survive. Every developer needs to eat, right? So SideQuest is a lovely thing that we have. Plus, it's OpenVR, so it actually breaks away again that closed ecosystem. You know, I totally support OpenVR. Same with Revive, you know, it's such a blessing we have that. Because imagine if you couldn't use that. Or now with the Oculus Link coming, I just know someone is gonna crack the code and then we can play Steam on it. I think that's what we should have, like a shared environment. So, yeah, SideQuest is awesome, but I can predict that it's gonna be taken down and it's gonna, of course, create a little shitstorm. I mean, the internet never forgets. But I think they can get away with it because At this moment, the VR enthusiasts are using it. It's not the main consumer because it's too complicated. But you can see that if a consumer buys, for example, Quest, there's this curve of, like, after six months, they get kind of, like, boring of playing all those games because, as you said, it's so tightly curated that there's nothing adventurous there. So if you want to be adventurous, then you start to look at other options, and then you get into SideQuest. So, no, it's a great place and it's a solution for that problem of having such a weird-ass curation thing going on.
[00:40:52.737] Kent Bye: Well, my hope is that it is extremely financially successful for not only developers but also to give a little bit of market feedback to Oculus to maybe bring it on board and that would be great for them to make it irrelevant by changing their own policies. And I think that, you know, I think there's trade-offs that They want to create the iPhone, the curated experience, they want good experiences, they want things that look polished, they don't want people's first time experience to be really poor. And so I can understand that there's been a little bit of conservative approach of really trying to do that highly curated and Yeah, I guess for me there's certain elements of the experimentation of things that were happening on Oculus Share and for me it feels like a tragedy that they just deleted it and just like memory hold it like all that early history of like even the history of the evolution of the medium to kind of just delete it and I can understand that they don't want to update it forever but I hope that there's something like that that comes back or that either just they let the side quest be because, you know, when I talked to Chris Pruitt, the head of content ecosystem at F8, I asked him, like, the side quest, you know, like, are you going to let that be? And he's like, you know, we need to allow people to continue to put content onto the quest because it is an open development platform, not all like the PSVR, you have to get special application to get a developer kit and pay extra money. But every consumer device is also a developer kit, which I think is amazing. And that has been one of the amazing innovations with Oculus, from back to the DK1 and DK2. And so to make it so that you can create both a consumption device and a developer device. And so there's certain ways in which that's architected that is always going to allow you to need to put that stuff on there. But previously with the Gear VR, you had to get signs. you know, there's certain ways that they could put cryptographic keys and whatnot. So if it's successful, then it's going to be feedback to maybe what is the most important is not aesthetics or graphics or that to be able to actually see what people are engaged with. And maybe that'll be a forcing function on the actual curation process.
[00:42:51.990] Nathaniel de Jong: Yeah, no, I totally understand. They're trying to protect their users, but on the other side I feel like they're protecting them so much that they don't get to experience a lot of beautiful and new stuff, you know, that is actually making VR way more immersive. where you know Oculus for example for a few years they were only about teleportation right it was like we don't do any you know you can't walk around with like a thumb stick because people get sick but you see that it's it's transforming now like people start to use VR longer they start to get into more you know intense things there you can train yourself but I know there's like no clear program in where you can become like, like some people get motion sick quickly and they will never be able to, you know, be able to kind of conquer that. Well, others can. So you kind of need, it's hard to find something for everyone, you know, but because it's so moderated at this moment, it's, yeah, it's a little boring, you know, like sometimes I have the question, like, I'm just bored. There's nothing to play. And I cover a lot of stuff, you know, for me it's like content is king. Hardware can be great, but content is where it's at. So for me it's also like I'm struggling to show off some interesting stuff now. I'm happy that SideQuest is there, I'm happy developers sent their builds to me so I can try them anyways. So that's good, but... Yeah, I don't know. I don't know what they're gonna do. I think that what Steam did with their green light system was nice, you know, where the community could give feedback and then it would get approved and then Valve would look into it and then be like, okay, you have enough votes, you can be on our store. But they kind of got rid of that where Then the floodgates opened, you had all this shuffleware coming out, all these wave-based shooters and things like that. But yeah, a green light system, kind of like what Oculus Share had, there was so much feedback on there. And of course, Oculus Share was around when there was no consumer market yet. But I still think something like that could work. but it does need to be something that is not that easy to access because I don't think a regular consumer should be able to access that because it is kind of adventurous and you could get maybe sick on those games because you're testing them, you're like a test monkey so you want to help them improve it and it could work but it should be out of the eye of like a regular person who just bought their headset.
[00:45:15.061] Kent Bye: It sounds like that's what SideQuest is doing as well. So it's happening, but it's just not officially sanctioned.
[00:45:20.385] Nathaniel de Jong: No, no, no. It's hard to find. If you're more in this inner circle, in this VR bubble, then you will know about it. But someone from the outside is still playing the games that they have in the store. But I've seen a lot of people that are now like, you know, I played everything I wanted, but what's next? Because you can say, yeah, you know, for example, Steam or Oculus or Viper, they have all these games. Not everyone wants to play everything. Some people like puzzle games, some people like shooters. And if you then look at it that way, it's not like there are so many titles for you to get into. It's the same with No Man's Sky. People are like, yeah, what's the biggest hit ever? I'm like, yeah, but No Man's Sky is not for everyone. It's not everyone likes No Man's Sky. And not everyone likes, for example, VRChat. Not everyone wants to be social. Some people just want to play single player because they like that more, they're more comfortable with that. So, I think what Sony is doing, Sony is the only one that knows how to do this, where they have a great platform going on. If you bought a PSVR, you get something new almost every month. and otherwise you get a good discount on something that already came out months ago. But they have so many developers working on titles that are all kind of different. They just offer you the entire spectrum. So there's something for everyone to play. So there might be a month where there's a shooter coming out, but that same month there is also a puzzle experience or something else. And that's something I'm missing, where the moderation on Oculus Home is so, so strong that you sometimes wait for one game in a month and then it might not even be something you're interested in. And then on Steam it's like, you just gotta hope that you don't buy the wrong game because you have to refund it again because there's too much shuffleware. Because there's so much shuffleware that you can't even find the potential good VR game. And with Sony, they have such a good moderation that is not too tight, not too loose, where if you buy a PlayStation VR and you buy a game on their store, it's probably a good one, and you made the right decision, where Steam, it's still a risk, and on Quest or like the Oculus Store, you might not even find what you're looking for. So it has both aspects in a good way. Yeah, Sony is like killing it. They're doing great in that sense.
[00:47:36.411] Kent Bye: Do you cover a lot of PSVR titles on your channel?
[00:47:40.093] Nathaniel de Jong: I'm trying to, I'm trying to, but on the channel it's more like we play with the headset that's most popular. Because right now Quest is still kind of the thing. So if we can play it on Quest instead of PlayStation VR, we do. Because for us, we get more viewers on that, because people search for Oculus Quest. But yeah, PlayStation VR, I do play on it because it makes me appreciate the fact that you don't need high-end hardware to have fun. Like, this headset is still... competing with all these other ones that are more high-end, but just don't have the content. It's like, I don't care if the headset is not that great compared to the rest. If the game is good, I'm immersed. I don't care about resolution. I don't care about field of view. If the game or the experience is nice, I'm in my zone. That's it. You don't need hardware to be immersed, like good hardware or crazy hardware. I wasn't even immersed with the DK1. I saw like six pixels. And it was still immersive, right? So it proves that it doesn't even need to be, even cardboard or Gear VR, like you can be immersed too. If it's a fun thing, you're like totally in there.
[00:48:50.025] Kent Bye: And so what do you want to experience in VR? Yeah, that's a good one.
[00:48:56.528] Nathaniel de Jong: Yeah, that's a good one. I would love to. My favorite game of all time is Bioshock. I'm not sure if you've ever heard of it. It has a legendary status in the game industry. It's my favorite game because the characters that were in there, I could relate to them. They were kind of like me, where I was like, I feel like we're friends, and I was just playing it on a monitor. I wasn't even in the game, but I was like, got so sucked into this story where I was like, whoa, I'm now a part of this, like, I'm like in a movie, you know? I'm like in an alternative universe where I could be in and be a part of the adventure. And that's something that... I haven't really experienced in VR that much yet where I have this sidekick I play with that I'm like whoa I'm totally like we're friends we're partners we're like you know doing this together and I yeah I would love to see like something like Bioshock come to VR but it's not Bioshock in particular it's just like a good storyline with characters that are intelligent enough or I just haven't seen that yet. I haven't seen something that made me really cry or made me feel emotional in a way where I was like, well, I feel for those characters. I'm really, you know, caring about them to a point where it's like, I want to see more of that. I want to go back in, you know, so yeah, that's something I want to see. I just want to be a part of the adventure to an extent of like, this is like an alternative universe I'm in.
[00:50:25.422] Kent Bye: So for you and the work that you're doing, what are some of the either biggest open questions that you're trying to answer or open problems you're trying to solve?
[00:50:35.545] Nathaniel de Jong: It's definitely the influencer market right now. How does a developer communicate with a YouTuber? Also the other way around. Or how do I communicate with Facebook? Like, you know, what do they expect from me? But they should also know what I want, you know, and kind of find the middle ground. And that's with hardware, that's with software, that's with events, that's with everything. Because I feel like we're getting misunderstood a lot, where they don't really understand what we want. Where sometimes the developer sends me a key, Like, they sometimes expect me to play their games straight away. It's like, oh, here's a key. We're looking forward to your review. I'm like, well, the thing is, I'm not sure if you know, but there's so many games coming out that I got to play. And then they email me every week asking if the video is already ready. But I'm like, I'm not a Netflix show. Like, you know, I do this, like, for a living, and I kind of need to please everyone in a certain way, but they sometimes don't understand the demand of that. And with the smaller indies, it's like, they sometimes don't know how to talk to you, where it's like, they don't know that if you send an email to a YouTuber that you should include a trailer or a press kit of some screenshots or tell what your game is all about. I have some developers that send me like, hey, I have a game, you want to play it on your channel? And that's it. I'm like, but What are we talking about? What game? They just totally forget about that. You kind of need to deal with that, and then you need to decide, should I just teach them how you should send an email to me, or how you should talk to a YouTuber? Things like that. So I see so many emails where I don't think you know how to tell me what your game is all about. And that's a shame. It's a missed opportunity, because it could be super cool. But if they can't tell me what they are working on, then we're already kind of have a disconnection going on. Because I don't have that much time. I get emails on a daily base of all kinds of developers, all kinds of people that want me to try something. And sometimes I just need to be like, OK, sorry, but this email, it's just not enough information. I just got to skip it. And then just hope they come back later again and learn from it. But it's hard. And with events like this, it's like, Like with Facebook, it's like they should talk to me and ask like, hey, what are your goals for the future? What do you want to do at Oculus Connect? You know, like kind of have a shared kind of thing going on, like some feedback, sharing it in a way where we can learn from each other instead of having it from one way. Because, for example, here it's like I get invited to Oculus Connect and Facebook is like, OK, we want you to play these video games. But that's it. And I'm like, you could also ask me what I would like to do, you know? Like, do you want to, for example, make a video about the keynote? Or do you want to maybe interview Carmack or someone else, like, and kind of facilitate with that? But it's usually... It's hard and the influencer marketing is still quite new. There are almost no YouTubers out there that do it full-time. I'm one of the only ones that does it. I'm trying to find my way around, but it's a challenge.
[00:53:50.145] Kent Bye: I ran into a lot of similar issues as a podcaster because, you know, most of the people that are doing interviews or press, they're doing written. And so, like today, I did a whole experience of The Horizon and then they had me do an interview and I was like, can I record it? And they're like, no. And then everything that was said, it was like, this should have been a podcast. I'm like, why couldn't I record it? And they're like, well, you can still report it because everything was on the record. I was like, no, it's not. It's not on the record unless I can record it. So it was sort of like this weird, moment, but then also talking to other journalists who like cover Enterprise VR and then they sort of pre-schedule stuff that's a bunch of games and it's like for me my experience over the years at Oculus Connect in particular has been that there is Facebook that has a persistence but then there's like an outsourcing to like a PR agency that handles the event but then there's been so much turnover with those companies that like often people have no idea who I am and there's no context. for the first years I would put requests in for interviews and then it would be like they had no context and they would just go to the death and I realized that the best way for me to work was to try to make connections individually with people at the company that I wanted to connect and then have them work within the internal process from reverse to say let's make this happen and then that's when I would get the interviews and it wasn't until I talked to anybody from Oculus until like Oculus Connect 3 or 4 but then even this year was like couldn't do any interviews and I do a podcast and it's like it feels like there's a certain amount of like a lack of real honest exchange and engagement where I have this question of like, is Oculus Connect paid by developer relations or marketing? Because sometimes I feel like it's a one-way broadcast, but there's not a conversation. Is this a relationship that is being cultivated? And there's a lack of engagement of listening what's emerging from the community. And that, like, I want to have those engagements. And I feel like it's a kind of a universal thing of both the developers want to have more meaningful interactions and as well as with you. So I feel like There's certain things that I run into each year at Calculus Connect. There's still all this kind of weird institutional bureaucracy or things that I feel like shouldn't be problems, but also finding the frustration of not having a way to give direct feedback. And so here we are talking about it.
[00:56:02.462] Nathaniel de Jong: Yeah, no, I've been there too. Like, one of the examples here was that... So, I watched the keynote, and then they announced Vader Immortal. They said, like, it's out now. So I was like, oh. Because we had this press booth where we could record video games. And they had, like, a set amount. It's not like you can just go on the Oculus Store and download something you want to play. No, it's like, they just decide what you can play. And it's like, there were, like, Stormland and Asgard's Wrath and some other things. And then I was like, I already played all of those titles. They didn't tell me up front when they flew me over what I could play so I couldn't even like figure out for myself if... So one of our YouTube friends he went to that press booth first and he told us what was there and we were like well we already played everything so we kind of need to come up with something new. I was like Wait, so S.T.A.R.S. Vader Immortal came out, so let's try that, right? So I was asking them, I said, like, can I download it on this account and then play that? They were like, no, no, you can't do that. I was like, can you maybe ask someone? No, no, we can't do that. It's like cubicle thinking, where it's like, but it's out now. So one of us had to go to Best Buy to buy an Oculus Quest that was actually there that we could use, but he had to buy one to use that one. It's the same thing. It's just not their quest, but it's... And that's the way we need to make content then. It's so weird. It's so weird. And even worse was when I went to PAX and I also got invited by them to go there. And, you know, the thing is I do appreciate them inviting me and I really help them to give feedback to kind of improve it because, you know, it's nice to be able to go to the US and go to these events and be able to play one of the newest games and share it with your audience. But then the problem is, is that sometimes there's like this huge disconnection between you and Facebook and and then I'm like It's a frustrating thing and it gets me angry and I'm like I want to just enjoy Like I don't want to be this grumpy man being there. It's funny that at PAX I was so angry that one of my fans saw me being angry and he made a video said like I what's going on. So they see it as well in my attitude and I don't want to show that because I want to promote VR, I want to make people excited for VR. I don't want to be like that. But sometimes I'm like, what are you doing? Because that packs. So what happened was, before they flew me over, they sent me the schedule. I could sign up at also this press booth to record video games for, let's say, four hours or something. And it was the first time I could try the quest and also the Rift S, so I was like, wow, this is my opportunity to really make some awesome content. And what they did was they, out of nowhere, cancelled my appointment there. I flew all the way to Boston to come there to record stuff, but in the end I couldn't because apparently there were so many attendants there that they wanted to have that press booth to let them play the stuff because they were just overloaded in queues so they just gave up my spot to let those people in and of course I do understand like you know you want to have people play some games but I was like you know we have an appointment and usually like I'm from Holland if we make an appointment then it's set. And if you have a good reason for it, you can cancel it. But there was no good reason. And so, like, can we find a solution? Can we do something else? Can I maybe get a quest and play outside of this press booth and play? It was not possible. So I didn't have any content. And all the other YouTubers that also had a point, they were fine. It just showed that they didn't care to a certain degree. Because they didn't think about a solution, you know? I'm fine if you cancel something, but can we then at least come up with a different idea? And... You know, you can have like a hundred people getting into that press booth to try a certain game, but I have like half a million people watching my channel. So you're not gonna have half a million people show up at your booth in one day. But I can make one video and show it to everyone. So it's like super weird. And then they didn't really apologize to me in any way. And I felt kind of insulted too. I was very disappointed. I was very mad. But I couldn't do much about it. I need to roll with it. And then one of my fans saw that. It's so odd. It's so odd. And this is something I wanted to actually talk about at Disconnect. Like, how do you work with influencers, with YouTubers? I wanted to have a panel here and I sent them an email last year about this whole idea like, hey, I can do a panel and it's going to be awesome. They didn't respond. Because as you said, they have a certain thing they want to do. Like even with you, they kind of want to Moderate that too in a way like maybe not the opinion But it's like they don't want to have people show up do an interview and then have the internet and there's something in there that they don't like they kind of want to Control it
[01:00:56.898] Kent Bye: Yeah, I think the control aspect, I think, like my dream is like when I went to GDC 2017 and I was at the Valve booth and Chet told me, you can interview anybody here. You can just talk, walk up to anybody and do an interview. I was like, great. And I did. I did like three or four interviews with like Valve employees and like, but other aspect of like Valve has been very closed down. It's like very difficult to get access to people at Valve and to talk to them. So since then, it's been not as open as it was in that moment. but just to be able to have conversations. And I think part of the challenge I see is that I've had a lot of frustrations over Facebook and Oculus over the year. I usually have things that come up at each Oculus Connect that are annoying and that there's a lack of channels of feedback or communication. I feel like there's a dialogue to be able to have and to be able to like, I feel like I've gone through the different protocols or made requests and put things in there and then they either find ways to say no or just, you know, not have it happen. And that's fine. It's sometimes just the way I work. I understand. But I feel like in this conversation now, we're just kind of airing all of this stuff of like speaking about our mutual frustrations and our anger that we've faced with what feels like this institutional bureaucracy sometimes that doesn't feel like there's a listening or a paying attention and I think a disconnection of the community, which has been a metaphor of sometimes where I've talked to developers at GDC, where in order for developers to even talk to anybody at Oculus, you would have a pre-set appointment. And one of the very early developers would try to go up and talk to somebody, and they get sort of blocked by levels of security that sort of shut things down. And so I'm hoping that things have started to shift. I've heard from some developers that maybe starting to work with them a little bit more, just to see that there's been some cultural shifts that that maybe things are changing and moving towards that but I feel like with the medium of video and podcasting these are like new media that is difficult to know like the needs of these new media and how we actually cover things that an openness to kind of listening to this feedback and find ways that they have a little bit more of that collaboration.
[01:03:00.769] Nathaniel de Jong: Yeah, and like, Facebook is such a big company, so it's like some people don't know each other, but they work at the same company or kind of in the same area, so I do understand that it evolves. And, you know, when I speak my mind about this kind of stuff, I always have other people like, yeah, I totally agree or I feel the same way. So it's like, it's not just like a developer problem. It's also a problem for us as like YouTubers to, you know, try to kind of get closer to each other to really make the best out of VR because In the end we all want VR to succeed. We want to have people jump into VR for the first time, check it out, stuff like that. And this is not just a problem with Facebook, this is also a problem with HTC and others. I had the same kind of experiences with HTC where you sometimes... see a new headset come out and then they have this press event where they try it but then we don't get invited and it's like we're also press but then they still see you as this influencer. I'm like, have you ever heard of an NDA? I can sign it, it's no problem. I can also keep my mouth shut, it's no problem. But they usually see YouTubers like, oh well, it's kind of dangerous, we don't know what they're gonna do. Kind of unpredictable. And sometimes we are unpredictable, but we can have an open conversation about it. I don't start recording out of nowhere. It's not like some people think that. It's like, oh, here he comes. But the more it grows, the harder it is to deny certain people. It's the same with my channel. I feel like nowadays I have more leverage. So if someone screws up, it's like, it's your loss, not mine. And then they will find out, you know. So yeah, it's not just a Facebook thing. It's something that you see going on a lot. I feel the most for developers. I don't think I should put myself on the spot here. It's definitely, the developers put so much time and effort and work into their projects, and in the end, they're not really sure if their game is ever going to make it on these platforms. And that was something that was easier back in the days, and I don't understand why it's not easier now, because there is so much more money available now to innovate, but I don't see it in public, and that's something I would like to see more.
[01:05:13.280] Kent Bye: And I think the value of us having this conversation is that we can talk about this. I've talked to tons and tons and tons of developers who they privately share these types of similar frustrations, but yet they can't publicly talk about it because it's kind of a career-ending move to complain publicly. And also, they've signed NDAs where they actually can't talk about things. So NDAs on top of the career suicide type of dynamics create the situation where the power asymmetry means that there is this similar type of lack of listening that we've personally experienced is, I think, universally happening over time. Hopefully, maybe that will start to shift. But there has been similar frustrations that I've heard from the indie developer community. But at the same time, Oculus has also done a lot of great stuff, when I talked to Andre, Elijah, about the launch pad, Oculus Star, sending dev kits to communities. there's certain, well, going back to like just the frustrations of just like the indie developers and that what they experience and the thing that I hear is just like frustrations that they've had but also good positive experiences that they've had as well but also just like the fact that they can't really talk about it or have any outlet to really express that.
[01:06:23.537] Nathaniel de Jong: Yeah, no, no, that's true. And I agree, there is so much stuff that Oculus has done that is super awesome. And because of the early developments of the DK1 and the DK2, I got to get into VR. So it's all based on their hardware in the end. And they make great experiences. They invest a lot of money into all kinds of cool stuff. Like, without them we would have never been able to, for example, play Lone Echo or Superhot in VR and things like that. So, yeah, there is a lot of good they do. It's just a barrier a little bit of, like, being able to share that with the people that, you know, listen or watch the stuff you do. So, it's more trying to find an easier way to kind of be able to give your own opinion because That's the part like you and me are similar in the way where like we want to be ourselves, we want to give our opinion and you know we're not for sale in that sense and that sometimes comes with some issues too you know where it's like you're kind of unpredictable in that sense like for example I as I said before I support open VR but sometimes because you have a closed ecosystem but you kind of show it can also be different it's not always like the most popular thing to do and it maybe in the future you could potentially if you let's say say something bad about a triple-a game you could get blacklisted for the next time so if the community then supports you through let's say patreon and you can buy the game it's not that bad but it's like sometimes you burn some riches But do you want to build bridges through just being not yourself? Or do you want to burn bridges but still be able to express who you are? That's for me the most important. If I can't be myself in this space and I just have to play a role, I'm out. I can't do that. In the end, I just want to be happy with what I do. It's my passion, it's my work, and that's based on honesty. It's not based on, oh, you know, I want to be able to go to the next event, so I'm just going to play the nice guy. Or, hey, maybe I should just say that this AAA game is the best thing I ever played. No, if it's bad, it's bad. I will just give honest feedback and good feedback. And that's all I can do. And if people then want to decide to not invite me anymore or not send me a key for a game, that's fine. Then you find some people that are not themselves and just fake everything.
[01:09:02.765] Kent Bye: Well, just to kind of wrap things up here, I'm just curious to hear from you what you think the ultimate potential of VR might be and what it might be able to enable.
[01:09:13.279] Nathaniel de Jong: Well, if you watch Ready Player One, then you know what I'm talking about. I mean, that's it. Having this civilization in virtual reality, that's the way to go. Having this city of the future where people can be themselves, can do whatever they want to do, and also just make an avatar and step into the shoes of that avatar. being able to build worlds and create their own cultures, things like that. Something that is sometimes hard to do in the real world, but in VR, I think it's going to be easier to do that. Because in this world, we're all living in different countries, we have borders everywhere, we have controls everywhere, and every government knows what's best for everyone. But I feel like in VR, there are no boundaries in that sense. even walking around here like I know so many people because of VR and not because of you know anything else so in VR it's going to be easier to connect to each other you can just walk to each other without having to deal with all these issues so you can really have something that is more about connecting and it's not that much about, let's say, politics or things like that. It's more like, hey, let's be friends, let's do this, let's build something awesome that you would never be able to build in the real world. Because in VR, it doesn't cost any money in a way. We, for example, could build something together. We follow a Unity tutorial and before you know it, we made something together. So I think that's the thing VR is heading to, where we have these awesome virtual worlds that are all connected. Right now, all the apps we play, it's like you need to jump from one to the other. But I hope there will be a gateway that allows us to just jump from one to the other and do all kinds of stuff and always use our own avatar. So you can play Job Simulator. and have your own avatar, but then suddenly you go into VRChat, and it's the same avatar, and it's all going to be seamlessly blending together. Yeah, like VR becoming social, where people see like, oh wait, so I can hang out with friends in VR, and not, you know, if they're on the other side of the planet, it doesn't matter, I can still, you know, do great stuff. I think that's, yeah.
[01:11:29.968] Kent Bye: Is there anything else that's left unsaid that you'd like to say to the immersive community?
[01:11:36.996] Nathaniel de Jong: No, I don't think so. I think that everyone should just keep battling for virtual reality. I definitely think it's going to go mainstream. All of these things we have been talking about are just super exciting and also the barriers are there because everything is so new. The market is so young and there is so much going on. We're just setting the path for the future, I would say. For me, it's like I'm just trying to find a way to make YouTube something that just blends in with the whole VR ecosystem, you know, where we're also a part of the whole adventure and we can do our own thing. And it's the same with developers, like, it will change, you know, and it's already changing, like, five years ago. I had to wait for a VR experience to play in my email. Now I get like five a day. And it's crazy, I don't even know where to start. So you already see a change. So yeah, everyone should just keep innovating, keep being creative. And places like Oculus Connect, people should go there because this is a community that doesn't think in problems, it thinks in solutions. And that might sometimes be hard in your daily job or wherever you are. But these kind of events is where you can share the love. And it's like, OK, how are we going to make things better? So yeah.
[01:13:00.949] Kent Bye: Awesome. Well, Nathan, it was great to sit down with you and to learn a bit more about your process and to see all the things that you're doing behind the scenes to both support the developers and provide that feedback and to do the work to both amplify and promote what's happening in the industry. And just wanted to thank you for joining me today on the podcast. So thank you.
[01:13:18.172] Nathaniel de Jong: Thanks for having me.
[01:13:19.795] Kent Bye: So that was Nathaniel de Jong, also known as Nathie. He's a VR content creator on YouTube. So I have a number of different takeaways about this interview is that, first of all, Well, first of all, I didn't realize all the different research and communication and going back and forth with developers, fixing bugs, just trying to ensure that he's showing the best possible version of these independent VR experiences that he possibly can. I do think there's a bit of a trade-off of going through an experience that you've already gone through. I think there is some value to having an authentic first-time reaction. And, you know, I think that's just his decision that he's made as part of his production process to as best he can to, you know, see as much as he can. But then when he actually does record, then he has to do a little bit of this performative, like acting like he's surprised or acting like he's seeing things for the first time. Which I don't know, I would want to see if he was going to push anything forward to try to record some of those initial takes and to see if it would go faster. Maybe that's just in a way that he's optimized his production process. But I don't know, for me, I kind of like those authentic, candid first reactions and. You know, if there's bugs, then maybe just try to edit those out. But, you know, for him, he's saying that he has to really pay attention to a lot of the things of what the YouTube algorithm is to pay attention to what the hottest headset is. And for him, it's the Oculus Quest is going to get a lot of the biggest views. And so he's really tailoring a lot of the stuff that he's seeing with, I guess, the market in terms of what content is going to drive the most views. And, you know, the whole thing of Twitch live streaming that Twitch, I guess there's like the game bomb official taxonomy that is being used by Twitch fed into Twitch and that for some reason that the virtual reality tag was deleted, which had a side effect that this was back in like April of 2019. The deletion of that VR tag, a general tag for anybody doing virtual reality variety streaming, because that was taken off, the streams already get pretty low numbers. And so to take that away really kind of decimated a lot of the VR variety streamer community. Unless you're doing Beat Saber or VRChat, then there was just not a lot of people that were able to get much views. And so the VR variety streamers like Zimtalk5 ended up jumping ship from Twitch and going over to YouTube and to do a lot of the content there. But live streaming on VR is, I guess it's not very easy because there's not a lot of VR headsets. And so the numbers are pretty low. And so it ends up being just big games like VR chat or Beat Saber end up dominating the whole VR streaming scene at this point. So for Nathie, he's really decided that, you know, for him to really make a viable business out of what he's doing is to really focus on creating these produced videos, which take him a couple of days for each video. So we're talking about some of this different stuff of the different ecosystem and some of the games he really likes in terms of like the VR lab and you know there's certainly a lot of VR wave shooters and I know that he got a chance to try out the Clawhead Games Pistol Whip which definitely is this blend between like a a little bit a combination of a rhythm game but with embodied gameplay so a little bit of a mashup between Beat Saber and something like Superhot where you're really kind of dodging and ducking and moving around but also have a rhythmic element to a shooter game so there does seem to be some sort of innovation in that way but Yeah, just talking about the overall complex dynamics of the content ecosystem and the curation and the very tight curation policies of Oculus, which has, for him as a content creator, created a little bit difficult to play a bunch of new stuff just because it is coming out at a slow pace for him as a content creator. And so he ends up having to get a lot of private builds from independent developers and find ways to kind of fill the time. but that there's this whole movement of the SideQuest. And he said during this conversation that the SideQuest was a bit of a ticking time bomb. And since this interview was conducted on the last day of Oculus Connect, and that time since then, there was an announcement that Oculus had released new terms of service, which was trying to cut down on the mods on SideQuest that were having violations of IP property or content violations or weren't done with the full consent of the content developers. And so one of the Beat Saber modding applications for SideQuest beat on announced that they're stopping support for mods for Beat Saber just because they're in some ways in wrapping and bundling the mp3 file which in essence is like Music piracy which you know, I think it makes sense for Facebook for why they would say that but at the same time some of these modding communities it's given a bit of a chill in terms of How viable of an option is this if you don't get accepted into the aqua store if you go with the side quest? Is there gonna be some other policy change that all of a sudden is gonna kind of rip that out from underneath you as well? And so I think certainly the side quest is not with the intention for what they're trying to do which is to create an open platform for experimentation and but it does seem like that there's a little bit of treating the side quest as a Oculus Share or to do experimentation or early access experimentation. I personally think it's like super important to have that, especially if things are super locked down on the Oculus Store and that there's not going to be other methods to be able to have that. Because, you know, people who are super huge enthusiasts who want to try out the latest greatest stuff and maybe aren't as concerned with the graphics fidelity and want to just have like interesting gameplay mechanics, then you could certainly find a lot of that innovation that's happening on Oculus SideQuest. So in terms of the personal experiences that Nathie's talking about, for me, I think there's a couple of themes, whether it's from my experiences of Nathie's or what I hear from the broader community, which is just that sometimes there's just these huge communication breakdowns where it does kind of feel like a one-way communication, like a broadcast where you go to something like Oculus Connect 6 and there's a lot of these marketing messages and that it does feel like it's very controlled in terms of what they're trying to put out. And then if anything that you're doing is kind of against what they're trying to say, then it can be difficult to have things flow. or they're just highly risk averse. And I know for me, I'm extremely risky to talk to. I think most of the press that deals with Facebook and Oculus is written press, which is, you know, a little bit easier for risk mitigation when it comes to public relations because you have a little bit more of going back and forth and approving quotes and whatnot. And so, but if you're live on Podcast then you kind of have to be present and authentic and real and I think it's just a higher demand to be able to be able to respond to a whole range of different questions and I think because there's just stuff that They want to mitigate the risk in different ways. They just choose not to talk about things which you know for me is It's frustrating, but I also understand that it's a new medium, both audio and video. And for Nathan's perspective, you know, just having his primary medium be video, you know, they're not necessarily listening to a lot of the needs of those influencer creators to the point where they've already sent them out to a lot of these other things like packs and. you know they played a lot of the games that they're showing there and there's just kind of like this communication breakdown where they're not really explaining what games are going to be there to play and in some ways there's this embargo where things are going to be announced at the keynote and then you don't actually even know what's going to be played and so you know i had a a demo and I don't know what it's going to be until after the keynote and then I can kind of see what the demo is so I can at least book a time in my schedule but still there's kind of a function of trying to do the whole marketing campaign where things are occluded in some ways but for these content creators you know they kind of show up to Oculus Connect 6 and a lot of the stuff that they're being offered to play they've either already played or they have to wait in line like everybody else and which I think is a little bit of a weird thing. It doesn't make any sense to me why there wasn't press access for the streamers to have them to be able to see this content as well, because, you know, they obviously are trying to see a lot of these demos as well. And I don't know if it's just a breakdown in communication, but. For me, there just seems sometimes to be a lack of a feedback mechanism that can be frustrating. And I've found that with a lot of other people as well, just talking to independent developers who are trying to get different stuff done with Oculus and they don't have the right contact. And then when they go through the official channels, things just get a little bit frustrating. So I feel like that there's generally a bit of frustration just in terms of the back-and-forth communications with Facebook but also what Nathie's talking about is this kind of unease and the struggle that a lot of independent developers are facing that there was quite a lot of extra space that they could have made available for booths for different independent developers to help Give them an opportunity in a way for them to show off what they're doing But you know I think they have very specific curated things that they're showing and you know the upside is that this year more than any other year aside from like the very first year of oculus connect where there was like kind of demo areas, but Now with the Oculus Quest being out and available, I did see quite a lot of other independent developers just bringing their demos and experiences and showing it on the hallways. People have waited in line to show John Carmack their experiences, and he was able to see quite a lot of those different experiences. And Nathie and other YouTubers and influencers that were there were able to see quite a lot of these other VR experiences as well. The final thing is just Nathie talking about some of what he needs in terms of communication with the broader virtual reality development community in terms of, you know, having trailers and clear communication and more of an open line of dialogue. You know, he's saying he's getting like five or six requests per day and, you know, it takes him two days to put out a video, a video that comes out, you know, once or twice a week or so. So, you know, he's doing these long extended videos and You know, it sounds like he's keeping pretty busy with stuff, but sometimes he gets frustrated because he's needing to have a certain amount of interaction. And I would just suggest for Nathie to create either a website or send people the different protocols that you would need to be able to interact with people. I think people find similar type of interactions with me, although I don't tend to use email that much at all, and I tend to do a lot of those things face-to-face at these conferences. However, I'm also just thinking about the downfalls of that. I went and did these 27 different interviews and had quite a lot of other conversations off the record as well. you know I have limited time and I ended up recording like I said over 17 hours of conversations but yet there's just so much that's happening and so just thinking about like what are ways to recreate these more serendipitous hallway conversations to be able to learn about some of these things because there's quite a lot of stuff that's going on in the VR community and you know I'm already recording an enormous amount of content and like I said I've I've recorded over 1,300 interviews and published over 800, but yeah, that's still about two thirds of the content that I've already recorded. And then to deal with the influx of different people, unsolicited pitches or content, you know, a lot of time engagement for me personally on Twitter, but also meeting up face to face, like right before a conference, if you're going to be there, then that's usually a good time to try to sync up. And I usually don't keep a schedule, I keep an open schedule. And so that can also be a little bit frustrating. because it's a little bit of a luck of the serendipitous collisions as I go into these different conferences. But yeah, I think there's similar kind of issues and challenges that I have, similar to Nathie, although I think because I'm doing audio, I do actually have a lot more latitude to be able to cover a lot more things. And I do think there's value of having interviews and conversations. But at the same time, I do think that Nathie's right that People have asked me quite a lot of times. Why don't I do more VR or immersive stuff? And you know, I think it's like, you know, cause for me having those long extended conversations on audio, just give me a lot more leeway without having to think about what kind of visual things are going to be interesting to look at. And I think. In the video medium, there's just going to be different affordances that I think are going to be better suited for maybe sometimes short form video highlights. Although, you know, there's podcasts like Joe Rogan where he does these two and a half hour conversations where, you know, it's just them two people talking. So I think the long form talking is something that is something that's valuable and interesting. And so I would encourage Nathie that if he does start to do those interviews, that he could start to experiment with that as well. But it's hard to go to some of these more narrative festivals and conferences and to be able to try to do a video element as well. I think VR Scout has done a good job of going to those different experiences and trying to just do a high level stuff. But in order to try to cover individual VR pieces, it becomes even harder as well. So you tend to see just more of a, like, this is what the scene and the vibe is. And so I don't see a lot of other video coverage at those other narrative events. But I enjoy talking to Nathie to get a sense of the landscape. I think, you know, he's got his own preferences for kind of games he likes. And he's a part of the F-Reality podcast with SimTalk 5 and Rowdy and VR Oasis, Mike. So they're do this podcast, I think for a couple of years now. And so they've cover a lot of the news around the games and what people are playing and yeah, really keeping up with the speed to what's happening on the bleeding edge of all the games that are out there. So, that's all that I have for today, and I just wanted to thank you for listening to the Voices of VR podcast, and if you enjoy the podcast, then please do spread the word, tell your friends, and consider becoming a member of the Patreon. This is a listener-supported podcast, and so I do rely upon your donations in order to continue to bring you this coverage. Just $5 a month is a great amount, and allows me to continue to do this real-time oral history, capturing the evolution of virtual reality as a medium. So, if you want to see more of that and to allow me to continue to bring you all these different conversations and interviews, then please do become a supporting member at patreon.com slash Voices of VR. Thanks for listening.