#1027: Rec Room’s Origin Story, Oral History, & Evolution to Becoming the first VR Unicorn Company

On March 23, 2021, Rec Room announced that they raised $100M with a valuation of $1.25 billion, which makes them the first VR software company to achieve “unicorn” status. Rec Room was launched for the Vive on June 1, 2016 after 99 days of development, and they’ve continued to rapidly iterate and develop it over the years with a release cadence ranging from a weekly to every other week for five and half years now. They’re the most cross-platform VR application being on Oculus Quest, PCVR on Steam and Oculus Home, PSVR for PS4 as well as a 2D version for PS4 (with a PS5 release coming soon), XBox, iOS, as well as Android.

I had a chance to catch up with one of the co-founders of Rec Room & Chief Creative Officer Cameron Brown on October 7th after the third annual Rec Con community conference. I wanted to get more context on the origin story of Rec Room, which was started by six people who all worked on creating augmented reality experiences for the Microsoft HoloLens — including Nick Fajt, Cameron Brown, Dan Kroymann, Bilal Orhan, Josh Wehrly, and John Bevis. I also wanted to get an oral history of the early days and evolution of their social VR platform, and so we cover some of the big turning points in the evolution of the user-generated platform, their in-game economy, and focus on creating opportunities for social VR interactions that’s embedded into everything that they create. There’s a lot of social VR and user interface innovations they’ve pioneered we well as helped to define many of the design paradigms that will no doubt persist into the evolution of the metaverse.


This is a listener-supported podcast through the Voices of VR Patreon.

Music: Fatality

Rough Transcript

[00:00:05.452] Kent Bye: The Voices of VR Podcast. Hello, my name is Kent Bye, and welcome to The Voices of VR Podcast. So on March 23rd, 2021, it was announced by Rekrum that they had raised over $100 million for a valuation of $1.25 billion, which makes Rekrum one of the first virtual reality unicorn companies that are out there. And part of the reason why they're so successful, I think, is because they're on so many different platforms. They're on Virtual Reality, on the Quest, they're on the PC VR, they're on the Steam. You can play it on PS VR, on PS4, and then soon PlayStation 5. They're on Xbox, and they're on iPhone, as well as on Android. So pretty much the most cross-compatible, immersive experience that's out there that has all the different integrations with Virtual Reality as well. Also, they have a robust economy, where they have a system to be able to sell tokens that allow you to have this in-game currency, and just growing in a lot of different markets. Sometimes they've been even more popular than Roblox on some of the different platforms. They're really built for virtual reality first, so it's been interesting to see how they've been doing an amazing job of not only creating a platform that is One of the first viable user-generated content platforms with their in-game creation tools, but also just the games that they've created as a game development company. It was actually founded by six different co-founders that were coming out of a team that was working on the HoloLens. They were actually working on a lot of augmented reality apps. coming from a lot more game developer background. And after Microsoft was going more and more towards the enterprise, they all jump ship in February or March of 2016. And then, starting around in the last full week of February of 2016, they spent 99 days to create the first iteration of Rec Room, which was launched on Steam on June 1st, 2016, to the HTC Vive. And they've since continued to do, every other week or now, weekly updates, and so they just have a pretty incredible cadence. They continue to push forward and be quite innovative in what they're doing with what I think is laying down a lot of the early patterns of what is going to eventually be ported over into the open metaverse. But they're kind of a closed world garden in terms of the approach that they're taking. But I think it's quite insightful to listen to their own journey and their evolution for starting with games and trying to cultivate this larger community within Rec Room. So on September 24th, 25th, and 26th, there was the RecCon, which was the third year that they've had some sort of conference. 2020 was really the big one that got it onto the radar for RecRoom, that there's over 100,000 different visits to the RecCon room. And this year, they really went all out in having new stuff that they shipped to be able to do instancing, so to be able to have one person speak in one instance, but to be able to broadcast to different rooms. And, yeah, just, in general, doing lots of different things around their in-game economy and being able to support different creators. And I just wanted to sit down with the Chief Creative Officer, Cameron Brown, to not only get a little bit more of the backstory and the history of Rec Room, but also just do a little bit of an archaeological dig. They have lots of amazing release notes for the past five-plus years, just an amazing archive of the evolution of a platform. So I just wanted to hear a little bit more of the narrative oral history of Rec Room and how it came about and where they're at now and where they might be going here in the future. So that's what we're covering on today's episode of the Wastes of VR podcast. So this interview with Cameron happened on Thursday, October 7th, 2021. So with that, let's go ahead and dive right in.

[00:03:31.127] Cameron Brown: Hey, well, my name's Cameron Brown. I'm the chief creative officer and one of the co-founders of Rec Room. So day to day, I mean, basically I've been a creative director in the video game industry for a long time now. I think, hey, it's kind of like an interesting discussion about to what extent Rec Room is a video game and to what extent it's a social app and to what extent it's a metaverse app. But hey, you know, like definitely my background is kind of in games. So this is kind of my 26th year in the game industry. And yeah, day to day, what I do is kind of work with the amazingly talented team that we've been fortunate enough to assemble around Rec Room to help figure out strategically what are we building and why. And yeah, that's basically it.

[00:04:11.227] Kent Bye: Maybe we can start with a little bit more context as to your background and your journey into virtual augmented reality.

[00:04:17.592] Cameron Brown: Sure. Yeah. Well, let me give you the quick backstory of my journey into the industry. So I was born in Australia, kind of grew up in Australia. My original dream was to be a musician and I'm still a very musical person. I actually do all of the rec room music, which was anyway, I'll get to that. But you know, like, as a typical musician, that meant I was broke and starving and needed a job. And I was living in a share house in Melbourne, Australia at the time. And a good friend of mine, Angie, we were looking in the, this is still in the time of physical newspapers, so kind of in the mid 90s. And so we were like looking through the newspaper looking for jobs because we were broke. And she read out to me, she was like, oh, this is a really interesting ad. It said, do you want to build worlds? That was the message in the ad. And I was like, oh, OK, what's that about? And she read on and it was an ad for a design job at a company called Melbourne House in Australia, which I actually this was before you could just look things up on the Internet really quickly. So I actually didn't realize that there was a pretty major video game developer in Melbourne, the city I was in. And it honestly, even though I played games at the time, I grew up with a Commodore 64 and an Amiga and I always loved games. I'd never really thought about the fact that somewhere, somehow humans had to be building these things. You know, I knew humans wrote books and made music and made movies, but I for some reason had never made the mental connection that humans made games. So long story short, I was like, well, that sounds interesting. I went and applied for the job. And, you know, that really just entailed calling them up, setting a time and turning up without much context for what they wanted or who they were. It was a bit like walking into a William Gibson novel at the time. The game they were working on when I kind of walked in the door was Shadowrun for the Super Nintendo, based on the Cyberpunk RPG. And there was a lot of trench coats and mirror shades and mohawks, and it was a very kind of amusing place to walk into, filled with really, really great humans. Long story short, I didn't get the job. I went through an interview loop, I talked to them, it came down to me and another guy, and they were like, we're going with the other guy. And at the time I was like, okay, well, I guess that's it for me and my video game career. And I went back to being a starving musician. But about two weeks later, they called me up and said, hey, you know, we passed on you for the design job, but do you want to be a tester, a game tester for eight bucks an hour? And I was like, yeah, absolutely. I'll make eight bucks an hour. And yeah, and that was kind of my first job in the game industry was going and being a game tester. basically spending all day every day playing Super Nintendo games, testing them, finding bugs. The first shipped game that I have a credit on was called Radical Rex. And it was the most 90s video game you can possibly imagine. It was literally a baby dinosaur wearing shades, riding a skateboard and saying like, radical and awesome. And so I tested that game. And yeah, I basically spent years at Melbourne House, had a great time, learned a lot. went from tester to managing the test department, dabbling in design a little bit. I think I was always pretty opinionated, so they were like, all right, well, why don't you try designing something? Then I moved states in Australia, met my future wife and moved to be with her, and ended up at another company called Oran, who were making a PC RTS called Darkrain. And so I spent some time at Oran, kind of learned a lot more about game development there. I was a designer there for many years. And that ended up being the connection to why I moved to the States. So the Australian game industry at the time was awesome and it's still really great, but it was a little small, you know, it's like not where all of the big companies are located. And I was definitely craving working on some bigger games, having some more opportunities. So I ended up moving to the West coast of the States, moved to LA in about 2000 to join a company called Pandemic Studios. And Pandemic was actually like founded by some people who had worked at Oran. And yeah, they needed a lead designer on a PlayStation 2 game. So I kind of moved to L.A. to do that and then spent 10 years at Pandemic in L.A. First as lead designer, but then creative director. And so did the Mercenary series. I helped out on Destroy All Humans. and basically shipped a bunch of really, really fun games. Like Pandemic had a great run of just really kind of cool PS2, Xbox era games. And from my perspective, as someone who had turned game development into a career by then, like, I think my goal was like, I wanted to make the classic running around, blowing shit up kind of games that I grew up with on the Commodore 64. And I kind of got to do that with the Mercenary series. It was a really, really great experience. That was an amazing team. I have very fond memories from that time. There's a whole thing where we recently found a speed run discord and spent some fun time talking to people who are still playing this 15 year old game, which was awesome. But anyway, basically was with Pandemic. We got bought by Electronic Arts. There was a pretty major acquisition deal in the industry at the time. But EA kind of did the thing that EA does with acquired studios. They shut us down. And so I went down with the ship at Pandemic and that was about 2010. And that was kind of a real pivot point in my career because I was like, ah, I kind of have made the console game that I craved making. I kind of grabbed the joystick, shoot at things, there's explosions. I was like, I kind of did that. And I was really craving something different. I wanted to do something different with the next thing I worked on. So I spent some time just doing contract work and learning to be a better programmer. I'm still not a good programmer, but I'd always dabbled in programming, but I spent some time just doing contract programming. And I actually published an OUYA launch title, if you remember the OUYA video game console. But A bunch of the ex-pandemic folks have moved up to Seattle to found 343, the Microsoft's Halo studio. And one of them, a good buddy of mine, Scott, called me and said, hey, the Kinect team at Microsoft are looking for a creative director. And he knew that I was really fascinated by the Kinect because we had talked about it. You know, I thought the Kinect was really cool because it like As a musician, I grew up playing the drums as a kid and I've always been very connected to just the joy of flailing your limbs around and like moving your body and like being physical. And I was fascinated with the way the Kinect crossed the streams of physical and digital, like the fact that, hey, a computer can track your body and know what you're doing. I just thought this was really interesting. It got my creative juices flowing in a way that making more console games hadn't. So I talked to Microsoft and they were very cagey. They were like, we're not going to tell you what you're going to be working on. We're like, it's the follow up to the Kinect. Do you want to come and work on it? And I was like, what is it? And they were like, we can't tell you. I was like, well, this is weird. But by this time, my wife was kind of sick of L.A. at this point. She really wanted a different climate, less cars, more trees. And so, you know, we came up to Seattle. She loved it. She loved the Pacific Northwest. And so, you know, the promise of whatever weird thing came after the connect plus Seattle got us to move to Seattle. And yeah, and I joined what turned out to be the HoloLens team. And so that was really my path into, you know, XR was the first kind of real work I did in that space was on the HoloLens team. So I was one of the creative directors for the experience teams. I was on a team called LXP. We ended up shipping three of the launch titles. So we did Robo Raid, which is a really cool game about robots coming out of your walls and crawling around on the walls, like really fun AI game. We made Holo Studio, which was kind of a 3D creation tool. And the 3D Preview app that just for like default displaying 3D assets in the HoloLens. That whole thing was a fascinating, fascinating time. I spent about four and a half years there. And it really helped me grow as a designer because I had design process and I had experience working with teams and leading creative teams. But the actual designing for the HoloLens itself was a completely different experience that got me way out of my comfort zone and really opened my eyes to the potential of mixed reality, VR, AR, all that kind of stuff. And anyway, by the time the HoloLens 1 shipped, you know, A, it had just been a really fun journey and we'd kind of done it. B, Microsoft being Microsoft, they were trending very enterprise with what they wanted to do. And they were kind of talking to me. I was like a 20 year game vet at that time. And they were like, hey Cam, we want you to work on data visualization apps and, you know, maybe doing things with Bing, which is cool stuff. Don't get me wrong. I'm like, that's great stuff, but I don't think it's, you don't need me to do that. I'm kind of more of a consumer focused game experience guy by nature. Plus a few of us had gotten restless and having the same feelings of like, we just don't really want to work on enterprise stuff. And so ended up a bunch of us quit and then started talking in my living room, but kind of a very classic startup story of like, Hey, why don't you guys come over to my living room? Maybe we can go do something together. And so we literally started, you know, one of those kind of whiteboards on an easel in the room and just kind of like started throwing around ideas. And like, you know, we were like, well, this is right when the vibe had come out. And having worked on the HoloLens, which I'm sure you know, Kant has very limited input modalities, you know, really had the one finger tap and very limited hand tracking. So it was always very difficult to design interactive experiences for the HoloLens. Cool as it was as a headset, it had significant limitations. And so using the Vive and those amazing 6DoF tracked controllers was really, really inspiring from a design perspective. It was like, whoa, this is really cool and amazing. So we knew we wanted to do something with the vibe and with VR. We're like, this is really cool. It also felt like an opportunity for, you know, a small team to potentially have a big impact because VR was like, you know, very nascent as a consumer product. So it felt like there was space to come in and do something and make a splash. So we basically had a bunch of ideas. The one that really stuck out for us was basically we said to ourselves, someone is going to make the Wii Sports of VR. Someone's going to make that. And maybe we should make that. And that was kind of the initial seed. And from that, we were talking about like, well, OK, Wii Sports was cool, but it was really kind of more of a fad than anything else. We want to make something that's kind of more of a long-term platform-y kind of thing. So using that as a starting point, there's something cool about getting together in VR, playing games together. what could we do to make it more interesting? And really what it came down to was adding the social layer. It was like, well, what if we sports, but you're meeting humans from all around the planet and you're playing games with them and you're hanging out with them and you're chatting with them and you're using the new headset and controllers to have a kind of a richer social presence. And that was the basic formula as the starting point. And we kind of like quickly spun that out to like, oh man, if you could build that platform, you know, you don't have to limit it to games. It can be events. It can be music. It can be all kinds of things. And so, yeah, that was basically it. We got, you know, we are such a startup cliche in some ways, because we we went to WeWork in Westlake Tower, got the co-working space. And yes, and basically six of us started building. We built the first version of Rec Room in 99 days from a standing start. We went from writing the first line of code to shipping the first version into the Steam store. I always remember it's 99 days because I checked the commit logs and it's just under 100 days. And yeah, and then kind of like shipped it. And yeah, now we've been working on it ever since. So yeah, there you go. There's the backstory from, from starving musician to starting record.

[00:15:03.214] Kent Bye: So, yeah, I think the, you just recently had your five-year anniversary. So on June 1st, 2016 was the first time you shipped it. So it sounds like, you know, about 99 days before that, it was when you really started to come together. When you first shipped the first version, was it just for the HTC vibe for the wands? So you always had the six off interactions. Yeah. Yeah.

[00:15:23.160] Cameron Brown: That's right. Yeah. Like at first it was for the Vive and then we didn't really support the Oculus at the time because they didn't have the touch controllers yet. I think it was December of that year they came out. So we were an Oculus Touch launch title. So that was really exciting when that came out. But yeah, at first we were like, it was VR only app with six dock controllers only. And that's what it was when it launched in the Steam store.

[00:15:44.504] Kent Bye: Okay. Yeah. As I was going through and looking at the evolution of Rec Room, Rec Room is its own metaverse kind of entity that has had layers and layers of complexity, but you had a lot of the social interactions from the watch. Maybe you could talk about like, was the watch interface there from the very beginning? Because you've certainly evolved and grown that over the time to be able to be a primary user interface, to be able to navigate around into all these different things.

[00:16:11.687] Cameron Brown: Ah, so you are stretching my memory a little bit. If it wasn't literally there on day one, it was real close. And yeah, and I think that was like some of the early work we did was from just playtesting the app and exploring the design space of like, all right, well, you've got high fidelity tracked hands. What do you do with them? And certainly that look at your watch gesture was kind of just a very obvious, natural kind of thing. I think it's possible the Apple Watch had just come out. And so there was a lot of talk in the design space around like the raise to look at gesture, which maybe it was a bit of an inspiration. I can't remember. But yeah, we always had that watch and it was, yeah, started out pretty basic, but we kind of realized that that ended up being like kind of your hub for Even one of the really earliest lessons I feel like we learned with Rec Room was that being embodied in VR and having the tracked hands brought a new level of social presence to the fact that you could get pretty uncomfortable in certain situations, like if people were invading your personal space. We always wanted to have a kind of really easy way to retreat to a known safe state in Rec Room. And so even to this day, when you start Rec Room, everyone gets a dorm room, which is their default private space. And we've kind of kept to the idea that you can always just pull up your watch, hit one button, and you're back in your dorm. So no matter what kind of weird, far-reaching, metaverse craziness you go and find in Rec Room, you're always just one button from just teleporting magically back to your safe little known home zone. And so that was kind of an inspiration, even when we first shipped, was like, we knew we wanted just quick shortcuts. Bring up your watch, mash on buttons, and you can just quickly jump from place to place.

[00:17:41.982] Kent Bye: Yeah. So as I was looking at the different worlds, that looks like there was a clubhouse update that came about a year and a half after launch on December 15th, 2017, the clubhouse update, allowing you to create your own rooms. Actually room number one is actually the Ghibli theater that you created there.

[00:17:58.019] Cameron Brown: Yeah, I think that's right. One of my mini test rooms.

[00:18:01.520] Kent Bye: But before that launch into user-generated worlds, there seemed to be this era where the Rec Room Originals was probably the only thing that was really there in terms of the content that the coach, user number one, who had been really creating a lot of these different paintball and other things. So maybe you could talk a bit about the initial experiences that you had there in terms of if it launched with paintball and what other things you could do if there was the Rec Center. What was the earliest days of the Rec Room and the first iterations that you had there? for people, what could they do?

[00:18:32.805] Cameron Brown: Totally. So from memory, the very first version of Rec Room, you had what we called the locker room at the time. We now call it the Rec Center, but that's the default public space. So if you just kind of go out the door from your dorm room, so everyone has a dorm room. In your dorm room, you can dress up your character. So there was clothing that you could put on, different hats. You can change the appearance of your avatar a bit. We've obviously evolved that a ton over time. So it's pretty basic at first, but you could customize your look, get a little mirror that you could wave at yourself with. And then you could go out the door and you would go to a default public space that we called the locker room at the time. And that was kind of like just a big rec center kind of thing. You know, one of our early inspirations for Rec Room was we wanted it to feel kind of grounded in sort of a college campus kind of vibe. You know, we were pretty big believers in like We love supporting the kind of really weird and wonderful worlds, but we like to ground it in a reality that you can return to. We think it makes the really weird and abstract stuff kind of hit even better if you kind of ground it in this kind of more comprehensible, familiar reality. So the kind of default spaces of Rec Room are very relatable and feel like real spaces. So we have this kind of rec center space And that had various doors. I think the games that we shipped with, the mini games that we built were dodgeball, which was a early favorite. People liked the dodgeball. And we have long thought of that one as kind of the spirit animal of Rec Room. It's like a very Rec Room-y activity. It's like, you know, throw balls at each other. You had disc golf, you had paddle ball, where you kind of had like this zero gravity tennis game that you could hit back and forth. I think I'm forgetting one, but that was basically it.

[00:20:01.980] Kent Bye: Paintball was a pretty big theme with that launch later.

[00:20:05.105] Cameron Brown: That launched later, yeah. So those initial games, they were all designed. Oh, it was 3D Charades is the one I'm forgetting, which is actually probably the best one. And so they all had a shared design theme, which we were exploring different ways of facilitating social interaction with games. Like really the point was not so much to play the game. Like we decided early on, like, we're not going to be an e-sport. We're not going to go down that road of like, really going after hyper-competitive gaming, what we wanted was gaming as a reason to be social. And so playing dodgeball, playing disc golf, and then the 3D charades where you're guessing and yelling out of each other, like these were great just social experiences where you would kind of get to know people. And even from, you know, we've still had people who play Rec Room from year one who kind of met playing dodgeball or met playing disc golf and are still friends and have even had, you know, a few marriages out of those early connections, which is still blows my mind. But yeah, and I think paintball, we were like, well, we're like, hey, what's the interaction that works really well? What's something we know that people like? And we like, well, you know, shooters are obviously cool. I think Onward had come out by this point. So we're looking at Onward and saying, that's pretty cool. And we were like, well, we want to put a rec room spin on it. You know, the kind of rec room vibe is very kind of friendly, very positive. We didn't want to have shooting and blood. So we made a paintball. We're like, hey, it's still the same kind of very fun mechanic, but no one dies. You know, in paintball, when you get out, you get a splat and you freeze, but you can still wave at the other person and go, oh, you got me. So it's all kind of very friendly. And that was definitely our first really sticky game room that we built where people were coming to record just to play paintball. They were like, wow, this is really fun. And so we found a formula with that one, but we also learned something from that, which was paintball is a really fun game and still is to this day. People play tons of paintball, which is awesome. but it's not actually very good social surface area. Like because you're spending most of your time at a distance firing at each other with paintball guns, you're not really hanging out and chatting. And so the next game we made was what we called a quest. It was the quest for the golden trophy. And that one was very specifically designed to be a friend creation machine is a way to put it, I guess. So it's a more intimate group. It's four players. There is a lot of points of the game where you're not under intense action. So you have time to socialize and talk to each other. There's a rescue mechanic. So when you get out in that game, you have to high five one of your friends to revive them. So it creates this kind of like positive social interaction of like, hey, thanks for saving me. And then we also very deliberately made the quest for the golden trophy incredibly hard. It is tuned really, really hard. And that's for two reasons. The primary reason is we wanted it to be once you got through it with your group of friends, you would feel like you had just gone on an epic adventure. You'd be like, oh, my God, that was actually hard work. And you've kind of created this bonding experience of like, man, we just ran through a gauntlet together. The other reason was. we wanted to give you clear signal that, because we didn't stop you from trying to play it solo. And in the end, we ended up having people speed running it and challenging themselves to get through it solo. But at first we're like, if you just go to the room by yourself, we want you to start the game and just get absolutely destroyed by the AI. And then how do you solve that problem? You're like, wow, this game's really hard. What's the solution? The solution is come back with friends. And so we just tried to create this natural incentive to be like, I want to experience this thing. It's fun and cool. I can only do it with others. And so that was kind of us deliberately learning from paintball. How do we make something that's more social? And I think that experiment worked really well. So we ended up making a whole series of quests and it's still one of the number one questions I get at every AMA I do is like, when are you making another quest?

[00:23:35.311] Kent Bye: Yeah. I don't know if this was the first one, but I saw on the blog that February 2nd, 2017, I don't know if that's around the time that was. Yeah.

[00:23:44.155] Cameron Brown: So yeah, I think it would be.

[00:23:46.053] Kent Bye: Yeah, the first quest. A quick question on the quest is there seems to be friendly fire that's in quest. Has that ever been a thing that you've, like, is that deliberate?

[00:23:54.176] Cameron Brown: Yeah, yeah. We kind of go back and forth on that sometimes, but yeah, it was kind of part of, we want you to communicate and coordinate, and we don't want four individuals playing the game at the same time. We want a group of four people playing the game together. And so that means, If I got friendly fire, it means I have to be aware of where you are. I have to consciously not hit you with my bow and arrow or my sword or whatever. And so it just makes the other human more present in your brain. It does create some drama sometimes. It does create some griefing. We definitely hear complaints about it. So it's a bit of a mixed bag, but pretty much anything you can predict we're gonna do is we will land on the side of what makes for more social interaction.

[00:24:32.935] Kent Bye: Okay. Yeah, that makes sense. Cause it just playing through some of the quests recently, it ended up being where we get to a certain point, but then we'd accidentally shoot another person. And so, yeah, I think they really have like a strategy going in and yeah, I think there's value of having it hard enough so that you fail and you go through and that you really have to kind of like figure out how to navigate it. So.

[00:24:53.917] Cameron Brown: I think, you know, I think at this point, given how much the player base, I don't want to jump ahead in your timeline too much, but given how much the player base has grown, I think if we were to make another one, I think we probably would make an easier one or at least have one that has an easier on-ramp. So it's a little bit of, because even as fun as these games are, they're not a great new user experience. Like if you come into Rec Room and you're like, all right, let me go check out this interesting looking golden trophy game. or Jumbotron, the sci-fi one that we did, you're just gonna get housed within two seconds. And if you don't know what Rec Room is or don't know what to expect, it's not a very welcoming way into the world. So I think if we did another quest, we probably would re-choose the difficulty level.

[00:25:34.100] Kent Bye: Yeah, and just in terms of the update cycles, I don't know if it was a cadence of every one week or two weeks, or there seems to be a pretty consistent shipping of Rec Room. What has been the cadence that you've had?

[00:25:45.250] Cameron Brown: So that's why I'm laughing because it's kind of a funny story with that is like initially when we started, we knew we wanted the update feel of more like a mobile app than a traditional video game. You know, something that I loved is like I love when I on my phone, I love that my apps are updating all the time. It makes everything feel very active and I'm always getting new cool stuff. And so we wanted to always be bringing new stuff to record. So at first, our target was every second week we would ship an update. So for the first year or two, if you look at our release logs, it'll be two weeks, two weeks, two weeks. We probably missed one here or there. At a certain point when the team grew and the complexity of the app grew, We were starting to hit problems with like, man, we're struggling to maintain that update cadence. It's hard to get all the bugs out. Anyone who's listening to this is laughing at me saying, oh, like we still don't get all the bugs out. But, you know, we like we're definitely getting to a point where it's like, man, it's actually really hard. And like we were faced with the choice of like, man, maybe we got to like go to a monthly update cycle or something. Just give us a bit more breathing room. And we actually made the opposite decision. We sat down and we're like, oh, we just really don't want to do that. So we were like, all right, what if we do this? What if we double down? What if we say, we're not going to ship every second week, we're going to ship every week? Let's challenge ourselves. And what that meant was, it actually ended up meaning we had to completely restructure the way the company was built, the way the team was built. Everything got really optimized around the service model of like, how do you build this game as a service, this metaverse as a service? Honestly, it seeped into literally everything that we do. It's how the company is structured. It's how we plan. It's how we talk about things, how we test everything. So I mean, that ended up being like one of the key moments in the company was like, well, it would have been easy to just be like, you know what, we're going to give up on the update cadence. Instead, we kind of challenged ourselves to go even faster, which was scary at the time and felt a little crazy. But I think it was the right move in retrospect, because it meant that we ended up structuring the company fundamentally differently than we would have otherwise.

[00:27:42.000] Kent Bye: Yeah. Cause as I was trying to come up with the archeology of Rec Room, there's the Twitter that you had, and then there's the YouTube videos, but probably the most consistent thing has been the updates that a lot of them that you've written that are posted not only to Reddit, but also some of them that go out to Steam, not everything is Steam related. And so you have the Steam updates, but you also have the generalized updates that I've found, like your Reddit posts going through the different updates and the different themes that you had. So that was just an interesting way to kind of see. the evolution, because now that you see it, it's like really a fully fledged social platform. But to see like, OK, here's the maker pin and here's a maker pin update. Here's circuits updates and there's certain different incremental updates as you go along. And I think the thing that I find that's so interesting is that I think Rec Room is one of the few apps that allows you to actually make a virtual world within VR. you know, just have a full pipeline within an immersive space, which is, you know, there's not a lot of other apps that have really achieved that yet. And I think that's a real testament to being able to be this true user generated platform is to have that launching of both the maker pen, but also the worlds. So the clubhouse update in December 15, 2017 seems to be when the worlds were being able to create it. But the maker pen seems to have come earlier. I don't know. I saw some stuff with October 2nd. When did the MakerPen come about for people to start to create stuff? And there's also the, I should say, the sandbox, which seemed to be maybe a way of actually generating stuff. So what came first, the MakerPen, the sandbox, or when did you actually enable this kind of user-generated aspect?

[00:29:16.755] Cameron Brown: So I am bad at calendars. So I'm not going to try and give you exact dates, but I can give you the order of operations. So here's what happened is we had this kind of like, you know, set of rooms that we had built. And what we started to notice was, you know, from the day we shipped, we didn't know what to expect really. We're like, we just put the game up on Steam and like, is anyone going to play it? But sure enough, people started turning up. And so we would hang out in the game. And like, I remember having this really interesting moment where I was like playing disc golf And we saw other players sitting at one of the picnic tables, which is just a decorative prop. And as we were playing, we walked over to them. I was like, oh, hi, what are you doing here? And they were just, oh, we're just hanging out. This is my old buddy from college. And we just sit here and we talk. And we were like, oh, well, that's interesting. OK, have fun. So what we noticed was people were reusing the spaces for purposes other than what we intended. And there was a player, I want to say it was 2016, maybe it was 2017. But anyway, we had an early player called Mama Monkey. who we saw was putting on events. And so she would put on these events that was like, she had a murder mystery night that she would host. She had a game that she would play. What was it? It was called, it was like a hide and seek game that she would play. And she would go on our paintball map and she wouldn't stop the game. And she would just have go people, it was like reverse hide and seek where someone would go hide and then someone else, when you found the person you hid with them as well. And eventually like there's only one person left looking. And it's a hilarious game. I played it with her a few times, but the kind of key thing was like, oh, she's being really creative with like creating other kinds of social experiences, using the maps we've created, using the rooms we've created, but not using the game rules that we've created. So we're just like, hmm, that's really interesting. And it's definitely like, We saw the value in like the fact that she was bringing fun stuff for other players to do. And like that started to, we were going, oh, okay, this is really interesting. The community can kind of create their own fun. We always had this idea right from the beginning of part of the magic of what makes Rec Room interesting is that you are content for me and I am content for you in terms of just being humans that we encounter. And we've always said like reliably the most interesting thing you're ever going to find in Rec Room is another human being. There's no object or UI or mechanic that we can make that's ever going to be as interesting as another human brain. So we're just like, okay, this is interesting. People can just be content for each other and they can also create content for each other. And it just gave us that kind of platform feel that we were looking at. And so yeah, so she was making all these interesting things. And so we started to lean into that. Our entire philosophy as a company is what we call ready, fire, aim. If you go to our website, record.com, you'll see our company principles. One of them is ready, fire, aim. And it means basically get going and learn by iterating in public. So don't be shy about publishing something early and just put it out there and learn. And so we're like, okay, well, let's just start experimenting. So the sandbox machine came first, I think. And it was just like, well, why don't we just take all of the props from all of our games and put them in a machine, and then you can spawn them in any other room. So you can have a frisbee in the paddle ball court, or you can have the paddle ball stuff in the frisbee area. And we also started to make some more generic rooms. So rather than having to go onto the paintball map and ignore the paintball rules, you could just have a space. So we made a room called the lounge, which was just like a kind of leisure hangout space with a little meeting room in it. And we did the whiteboards, I think. It had a little poker table. And we did a room called the park, which is this giant open space where people could just really, really do whatever they wanted. And then we put the sandbox machine in there. And the sandbox machine is literally like a vending machine. You could walk up and press a button and it would poop out the thing that you pressed and then you could mess around with it. And people would use that to kind of, they would go in and they would set up games and they would play the games. And then when they left, everything would just disappear. Like nothing was persistent. I think if we'd sat down on paper and said, we're going to design a UGC system, I think the first feature we would have made was, well, you've got to be able to save the room. But instead, we did it in this ready, fire, aim, repeat kind of way, where we were just like, let's just let them do it. And the analogy I was using at the time was like, all right, well, it's like going to play with friends in the actual park, right? If I want to play soccer with my friends at the park, I don't save the park and it's there next time. I go down, I put my sweaters in for the goals, and we kick the ball around. And when we're done, we pick everything up and go home. And that's fine. Why is that not fine in a virtual world? And it turns out it was. People were fine with it. They would come and they would make crazy things and they would play with them for a while. Then they would leave and everything would disappear into, you know, digital limbo. And so we kind of got a long way of just seeing what people would do, what kinds of things they would try and create, what kinds of tools they wish they had. We probably spent three to six months without being able to save the room just going from the sandbox machine. The Maker Pen actually has its origins in that 3D charades game that I was talking about. We had this kind of very Tilt Brush inspired charades painting mechanic where you could paint. And that was really just for the charades game. And then we were like, okay, well, we want you to be able to build objects and stuff. The charades gun's really cool. Why don't we just start evolving that to be, well, it can also do cubes and it can do spheres and you can change colors and, you know, now it can do entire circuits and programming and all kinds of craziness. But, you know, it was pretty modest at the start and we just let people play with it. And then that clubhouse edition that you're talking about was when we finally were like, okay, this is getting serious enough and people are led this clearly enough appetite for the creation tools that we should make the investment of allowing you to save the rooms. And so that was that clubhouse update, which was really marks, in my mind, the transition point of Rec Room from being, you know, a collection of mini games with some kind of toys that you play with to an actual UGC platform.

[00:34:45.377] Kent Bye: Yeah, that's what I saw just in looking at the archeology of how that was still fairly early. I mean, that's still about a year and a half after you, you launched, but it was since then you've have all the rooms that are created as well as the dorm rooms. So you can change your dorm room as well. So was that dorm room update from the very beginning? Because a lot of times they'll say, Hey, there's 30 million rooms, but some of the rooms are more public rooms and some of them are more private rooms in terms of like just your own modification of your dorm room. And so was the ability to modify your dorm room a part of that initial Clubhouse update, or did that come later?

[00:35:19.322] Cameron Brown: I don't remember. I think it might've come a bit later, but it wouldn't have been much later. And actually, you know, I think we still have aspirations to make the dorm a lot more customizable, but yeah, that came a little later. I honestly don't remember. My memory is not good enough to remember if that was the same, but it wouldn't have been much later. And definitely like there was a pretty major transition that we made. I think we had an update that was called the everything is a room update. And that update was us kind of unifying a lot of the technical underpinnings. So when we first shipped, there was kind of really serious technical differences between our paintball room and a player UGC room. And those were two different kind of entities. And so we did a lot of foundational work to be like, well, look, if you zoom out and you just kind of go, all right, If you were designing the UGC platform from scratch, you wouldn't for some reason have, well, you've got these types of rooms and those types of rooms. You'd just be like, well, everything's just a room. Once we had decided like from a strategic perspective, oh yeah, this UGC platform is the way to go. This is going to be awesome. We kind of really paid some early development costs to be like, all right, let's transition everything over to this kind of everything is a room model. And the system is going to be not very opinionated. We don't care who makes it, whether it's us or whether it's players. And so that was kind of a really major update. It probably wasn't so much a player visible update, but it was a very big back end update to how do we store the data? How do we load the rooms? Like we kind of unified everything to just be that might have been when we allowed it to save the dorm room, actually, because it was like the dorm room went from being this special thing that we built to being, hey, it's just a room that can save like any other.

[00:36:49.448] Kent Bye: Okay. Yeah. Yeah. Cause I look at the early history and it made me wonder whether or not some of those very early experiences from like, say June, 2016 to December 15th, 2017, before you made the architectural shift on the back end, if those rooms just kind of disappeared or if they were even still, they're all still there.

[00:37:07.289] Cameron Brown: And like you can. With certain exceptions that I'll talk about in a second, you can clone them and use them as UGC base rooms if you want. So you can clone our paintball map and build all kinds of different stuff on it. The one that you can't do that is the quests. We built them in a very special way where we decided not to transition them over. But if we were to build a new one, we would do it in the UGC way. But yeah, there's details there. But yeah, creators have often said, oh man, I really want to like clone the quest boss room and like use that for UGC. But they are constructed in a different way that we haven't brought them over.

[00:37:37.353] Kent Bye: I imagine you mean like built directly in Unity and then just ported in.

[00:37:40.975] Cameron Brown: Yeah, the quest. So those quest rooms are Unity scenes and then I'm going to get out of my depth because I can't remember how we made it. But those are like sub levels that are loaded additively or something like that. But yeah, it's definitely work. We could do it since we haven't bothered to do it. like a really interesting learning, like something that I didn't expect when we first did the UGC transition, we put a bunch of effort into allow players to clone our rooms and kind of use them as bases. But we also added this thing that we called the maker room, which is just the most plain vanilla, just four walls on a floor, all of which you can delete. So you can, that's like kind of our blank template room. And what I didn't expect was that pretty much all of the really major serious room creators in Rec Room, they all use the Maker Room. It's very rare that someone builds a room on top of one of our rooms. They always want to use the blank template. And I wouldn't have predicted that. At first, I was like, oh, everyone will want the leg up of our park or our lounge and they'll build on top of that. But no, they want to start from scratch and build everything themselves.

[00:38:39.565] Kent Bye: Well, even from the, so there's the rec room originals, which as I look through the big top rooms, those are the ones that get the most visits in terms of your own production process. Do you still like rec rally, which just launched, was that developed internally with the tools of the maker pen and everything else? Or are you using like a third party development, like unity and uploading that in?

[00:39:00.927] Cameron Brown: So it's kind of a hybrid. So definitely we have pushed everything over way more towards being built with the UGC tools. So for example, when we shipped Wreck Rally, we also shipped the buggies in the maker pen. So you can like build your own racetracks and all that kind of stuff. The way we do it these days is we still use Unity to lay out, for example, the Wreck Rally track is laid out in Unity, but it's all done in a way that the game thinks it was done with the Maker Pen. Like the end result is the same. They're all just UGC props and it's all just done in the same way. And so, yeah, it's kind of a hybrid mode. Like the team is used to working in Unity. That's how they built all of the quests and paintball. So that's their workflow is they just build it in Unity. But under the hood, we've kind of made it so by the time the game's loading it up, it may as well have been built with the Maker Pen.

[00:39:46.709] Kent Bye: Okay, yeah. When I look at some of the different user-generated worlds, I mean, they're really getting sophisticated and quite complicated and things that kind of match other experiences I see outside, especially I'd say when it comes to lighting and the interaction design that people can do, all built within VR. I think it's, for me, I see that there is a lot of innovation that's happening when it comes to the community in Rec Room and what they're doing, what they're able to create. And I don't know how you're able to quantify. Cause I imagine there's a long tail of some people having some rooms that are not as popular, but some of like really popular rooms, like prison time was one that was up there in terms of how many people have visited, but really quite sophisticated use of with the circuits and being able to do like game logic and different teams. So. When was the turning point in terms of being able to really take it just from turning it into, say, a room into the introduction of the first circuits and the updates to circuits, so you have more game design elements within these rooms?

[00:40:46.589] Cameron Brown: That's a great question, because that's exactly how we thought about it. Because, yeah, we went from that kind of toy version to, all right, you can save your rooms. And then the first kind of wave of rooms, because you really couldn't do much else, but they were very purely decorative or kind of visual only, like you could create an environment, but you really couldn't create custom game mechanics. And so we had a design strategy for a while, like, you know, after we were like, okay, we've got these saveable rooms. We went through a phase where we're like, okay, our goal is to make stuff move. That was the kind of way we put it to ourselves. It was like, you know, it was like, these rooms are awesome, but pretty much every room you go into, everything's static, nothing's happening. So we wanted to see things moving around and like, which is really just a way of saying, let's let you script things and animate things. And so that's when we started to invest in the circuit system. which kind of was born out of a prototype one of our engineers did over his Christmas break. He was like, hmm. He was like, I remember he was a huge fan of Factorio. If you played Factorio, this kind of like conveyor belt factory building game that he and I kind of spent a lot of time chatting about. We have a shared love of very systemic games that let you use simple building blocks to create really interesting emergent complexity. And so he was like, I think I could do a simple scripting system It's not really much like Factorio to look at, but it has a similar vibe in the sense of it's a bunch of simple building blocks that you can just have a combinatorial explosion of interesting stuff that you can do. So that was our first circuit system. It was pretty basic. We called it Circuits V1. We shipped it. And yeah, and immediately people used it to create really wild things like the talent and patience of the creators. never ceases to amaze and inspire me. What they can do with the relatively simple tools we give them is absolutely amazing. We saw a huge uptick in the sophistication and interactivity of the rooms when we shipped that circuit system. We have tools that we call gizmos, which let you connect objects and move them around. And so, yeah, that's kind of been the backbone of a lot of the interactive rooms. Over the last year or so, we've been working on an updated circuit system that we call CircuitSpeed 2, which is much, much, much more sophisticated, much more like a true programming language, and kind of has a much, much higher ceiling for the nature of interactive stuff that you can build with it. So, yeah, we're just going to keep evolving that as far as we can.

[00:43:01.333] Kent Bye: Yeah. So I started to do a little bit more of a deep dive into rec room after recon. And, you know, there was some special outfits that were only available for a limited amount of time. And I, it was really interesting to see the social dynamics around the different avatar things that people are wearing. I was able to kind of click on people and see what they were wearing and see what was available, what wasn't available, what kind of special things that they got from a special event or whatnot, or things that may not be available anymore. And you said from the very beginning that. people were able to change their avatars. And as I was looking through the different updates, like in September of 2016, there was a dress update, so more avatar clothes for female avatars. And then the fancy pants edition in July of 2017. So there's different ways that you were sort of updating different aspects of the avatar expression of identity, I'd say, of the image and likeness. But when was the moment when you'd say it shifted into like launching the economy, being able to actually buy the clothes? Because you have for the first part, you didn't have I don't think there was a way from the very beginning to be able to buy clothes. No.

[00:44:05.370] Cameron Brown: So, yeah, no, no, that's true. And you still can't buy clothes directly. The only thing you can buy in Rec Room is tokens. So you can buy tokens and then you can buy clothes with the tokens. But yeah, no, originally we had clothes and they would come out and we would top them up. And so we wanted to kind of get a good basic library of hey, as a new player, you can just kind of get a look that you like, that reflects you. And, you know, and at first, you know, revenue was not really our goal for the first couple of years. We were able to attract some financing that funded us for the first couple of years. And, you know, we're a pretty small team. And I think, you know, like in year two, I think we're only like 15 people or something like that. And so we're like, all right, well, where are we putting our time? Is it in the economy systems? Or is it in the UGC systems? Or is it in building another quest? And so, yeah, and at the time our priority was to be like, hey, we want to build a cool app and have people come and play it. So our priority was not selling clothes or anything like that. But we are, you know, we're a business and this kind of like our we've got a kind of a short-term and a long-term idea of how we want the revenue to work. So currently, we've got a fairly traditional store where it's like, hey, we're going to make increasingly fancy items, some of which we give you for free, some of which you can earn by playing the games, most of which you got to buy, some of which you've got to subscribe to our Rec Room Plus subscription to have access to them. So, you know, in that way, you know, it's a fairly traditional store model for a game and it's like up to you, like, hey, if you really, really want the fanciest looking avatar, you're going to have to spend some money for it. Long term, we really want the bulk of the economy to be centered on the player-to-player economy, the UGC economy. So we have a bunch of interesting tools that creators can use to sell tokens in their room. They can sell keys, they can create currencies, they can create consumable items in their rooms. And long term, that's what we'd prefer to see most of the economy be about is a player-to-player economy. So I think it's kind of a moment in time where we're like, hey, We're going through a fairly traditional model, and we will probably always make and sell avatar items, but long-term, we really want to see that much more based in the player-to-player economy.

[00:46:05.297] Kent Bye: Yeah, I think one of the other unique things about Rec Room is how cross-platform it is from, you know, having things on Steam and PC VR, and then the PlayStation 4 launching on November 21st, 2017. Oculus Quest was a launch title, so March 21st, 2019. iOS, November 25th, 2019. Xbox, December 3rd, 2020. Android, August 5th, 2021. So you basically have, like, almost every year- PS5 before the end of the year. You have PS5, you have PlayStation 5, so you have all these different platforms. So the first one, PlayStation 4, you have PSVR, but you also, the initial launch of PS4, was there a 2D version for that, or was it only for PlayStation VR?

[00:46:48.213] Cameron Brown: Oh, so it was PSVR first from memory. And then we wanted to experiment with a kind of flat screen version. We're like, all right, what would it be like to play Rec Room in flat screen? And so I mentioned before our approach to everything is ready, fire, aim, repeat. And so we were like, let's try it. And our reasoning, I think, is pretty obvious. VR is exciting, but a relatively small market. I think it has huge potential ahead of it, but from a business perspective, we wanted a larger addressable market. We were interested to see VRChat's approach. VRChat had a lot of interesting success with having a hybrid model, so we're like, okay, we'll play around in this space. I think our first attempts to do this were not very successful. Our first, if you go back and look at the very, I'm not sure if there's any way to get this, but the very first version of screen mode Rec Room that we ever made was a third person version. So you actually, we pulled the camera out and you could see your avatar and, you know, we made kind of third person controls and it was kind of cool and interesting. And then there's, some advantages to that. Like, it's fun to be able to see yourself at all times and all that kind of thing. But we kind of quickly realized that this is just too weird. Like, we got more excited. Like, you know, we definitely liked what we saw. It was like, oh, hey, there is definitely more players we can attract. It increases the user base. It means we were getting pretty deep into supporting our creators at that point. So we're like, hey, what do creators want? They want an audience. Like, what's more exciting, having a thousand people play in my room or a hundred thousand people play in my room? So we're like, it's kind of cool if we can just really grow the player base. But our first attempt at screen mode, I think, was not super successful. And so we reflected on it a bit and we're like, okay, well, what are we really trying to do here? And we realized that the exciting opportunity, and this is kind of what, you know, going back to me with my designer hat on, like what got me excited about it was, we really felt like we had an opportunity to do something really unique, which was take the really rich social presence that you kind of get automatically in VR. I'm not saying it's trivial to get, but you get a huge leg up by being embodied in a VR avatar, by being in a headset, by having your hands. I remember I was going to go down a rabbit hole. I'm a big believer that so much of VR is actually about your hands, not about your head, but that's a whole philosophical discussion. I got really excited by the opportunity of like, there's not really an app that I would call radically cross platform, you know, where it's like, it's got the starting intent of like, we want to embody someone socially with the highest possible fidelity. And so we started looking at the PlayStation, we started looking at the phone, like the phone is a really interesting one, because we're still iterating on that one. And I actually really love Rec Room on the phone. I think Rec Room is an amazing, like this tiny metaverse on my phone screen, I find wildly exciting. And something that I think about a lot is like, the phone has so many interesting sensors on it, and it has so many interesting possibilities that are really underexplored in the game space. And so I think we took a big step back and kind of spun out all those thoughts about, well, what does a real cross-platform rec room look like? And I was like, well, really, it starts from the aspiration of that very high social bar set by the VR product. and then gives us an opportunity to really explore something unique. And like, I don't think there was a model we could look at because initially we were like, well, let's make like a third person game. We know what those are like. So instead we went back to the drawing board. We're like, okay, no, it's going to be first person. So you're actually got the same POV as the VR players. And then our task is to get the screen players to be as expressive as the VR players can be. And, you know, realistically, I don't think you can ever get 100% one-to-one fidelity. You just don't have the input sensors. You just don't have the data. But there are some really interesting things you can do. For example, I think one of the most successful little experiments we've done with the screen product is the wave stick that you have in Rec Room, which is pretty unique. I don't think there's many games that devote an entire button to just waving, but it's kind of inspired by You really want to feel connected to other humans. You really want to be able to act and emote and talk at the speed of human conversation. And so we think we're still at the very beginning of a long, long journey to explore the space of what is a radically cross-platform social UGC app look like. And We've obviously invested a ton of time and energy into figuring that out on console, on PC, on phone, as well as VR. But we honestly feel like we're still in the kind of opening act of figuring that out. We think there's a really, really amazing set of unlocks to be found.

[00:51:12.028] Kent Bye: I kind of got off the topic of your The question was around the 2D translations and talking to Sean Whiting, he was mentioning how there was a lot of work that has been done to be able to create more social dynamics of moving your hands around and create it more like you have a sense of embodied presence because a lot of other apps where they don't allow you to have that much expressivity, you can really tell people who are not in VR are just kind of like stiff zombies that aren't able to really express. And, you know, when I was at Rec Room, I was hanging out with somebody who was in a PlayStation four and an iPhone, and I was in my quest and we were just kind of walking around and there was able to create this social dynamic. It feels pretty good. Yeah, it feels. What I've heard, though, from some people is that playing the first person shooter games, that there is a difference between interacting with people who are in VR and not in VR, and that some people, they felt that having people that are in the 2D were degrading their fully immersive experience. Yeah.

[00:52:10.593] Cameron Brown: Yeah, we've definitely heard that feedback. And that was a controversy at the time. Like, I remember spending a lot of time on Reddit talking to people about, like, how is screen mode record going to like, and like a lot of VR players at the time, and I'm sure there are still some who would prefer it this way, are like, you got to segregate the screen players from the VR players. They're going to mess up my experience. There's plenty of other VR players who are like, hey, let's try it. Let's see. You know, it's going to be interesting. More the merrier. We ended up going with what we called the one big happy family strategy, which was just, let's just mush everyone together. You know, it kind of goes all the way back to what I said about we kind of set our intention early of like, we're not an e-sport. You know, if your goal is really, really hardcore, competitive shooting games, then you probably got better options than Rec Room. Like, we'll give you a really fun challenge and people take it seriously and we love that. But you know, but if you really, really, really care about perfect game balance, we're probably not the right game for you. So we'd rather you're like, hey, I want to have fun. It's more important to me that my friend who doesn't have VR can come and play with me than it is then everyone's on a completely equal playing field. Different people have different preferences, but I think we feel really, really pleased with how that transition has gone and certainly it's enabled us to grow the app hugely. And like I was saying before, I think we still feel like we're just in phase one of figuring out what rec room on the screen platforms Like it's something we're focusing on quite a lot right now is another iteration on the mobile products to be like, we don't feel like we've cracked it yet. Like it's too complicated. It's clunky. There's a lot of weird interactions that honestly just aren't that good. Like even just the process of taking a photo, if you're on the phone, it's just not a great experience. It's kind of weird and clunky. So yeah, I think players will see us put a ton more effort into all of the products to just try and get it like smoother and better. Like we don't want you thinking about controls. We want you thinking about other humans.

[00:53:56.997] Kent Bye: Yeah. And speaking of the camera, you can take a photo and post it to your own social network called rec.net, which launched on like January 17th, 2018. So the beginning of 2018, you have. A website that is able to, and it's interesting to be able to go to like, say a world that someone created and you're able to, in some ways, check out like what kind of social dynamics have happened here. And you can kind of see what's happened in this world, but it automatically tags people in a way that you could. keep track of different memories that people have. And so having these immersive embodied experiences, if you're in VR, and then you're able to create these selfies and these photos of you being there, and you have this projection of yourself into your avatar representation and wherever you were traveling, which is kind of an interesting expression of identity, but also ways of having this whole social network. And so Yeah, I'd love to hear a little bit more backstory of rec.net and how that came about. Cause that seems to be a big part of creating this larger social cohesion of these different social graphs and social networks within rec room.

[00:54:59.707] Cameron Brown: Yeah, totally. Like honestly, you put your finger right on it when you said memories, like that's honestly how we think about it is like, you know, one of the motivations behind rec.net was like, you kind of have these, like what really feel like meaningful social interactions, meaningful moments. you know, whether it's in one of the UGC rooms or whether it's finishing one of our punishingly difficult quests or going to an event. Like I had an amazing experience going to events over retcon, like the Grimecraft show was like super amazing. And so it's kind of like going to any real world event. You sort of want a memento of it and especially if you're there with friends you kind of want to have that photo of like hey it's a reminder it's really a memory like you know we've thought about this a lot in terms of you know well we think of rec room as a social app first really like it's kind of a social app with games in it as opposed to a game with social features in it We think one of the really interesting things about it is that it's fundamentally synchronous in a way that existing social acts aren't. And so a way to think about it is like, if I go for a hike to some amazing area and what I'll do is I'll take a photo and then I'll put the photo on Instagram to share it with my friends, right? We think that Rec Room is the hike. You know, so it's the memory creation actually happens in the kind of synchronous social space. Then, of course, you want that glue of being able to be like, I'm going to share it. I tag my friends. They can see it. They can comment on it. So, yeah, we definitely see it being founded on shared memory creation and then letting you kind of share and stay in touch with your friends when you're not actually in the app.

[00:56:29.088] Kent Bye: Yeah. And as I had some coins at the rec room and Sean Whiting suggested that I try out gifting people different things. And so I get some things from people I noticed in March 14th, 2019 was the gifting ability. So, I mean, there's ways of getting coins. You can either buy different packets. You can. Yeah. Become a Rec Room Plus member, but it gives you a certain amount of coins each month, or you can play the games. And as you play the games of the Rec Room original games, especially, you can earn coins, and from the coins, you're able to buy different objects. But for some of the objects, it takes quite a long time to get up to the point to be able to buy some of these different shirts. And so I noticed at RecCon in particular, there's a lot of people that were kind of hanging out around the merch table, and people who had extra coins were also gifting them. Having a chance to actually gift people, for them it meant a lot more than what it meant for me because, you know, I had these coins and for me it was five or $10, but for them that's many, many, many, many hours within Rec Room and limited time objects that were going to go away at the end of the conference. There was a lot of people who really wanted those special shirts, like limited edition. This is only available during this time, but it's like, you know, anywhere from $1,000. Yeah. Anyway, from 1000 to 4,000 coins, which, you know, it's like 550 to 700 coins per dollar if you buy it. And then if you cash out, then it's like 2,500 coins or so for every a dollar or so, but for just from the economy aspect, they're being able to have the option to give things to other people. So maybe you could talk about the gifting and what kind of dynamics you saw when you started to introduce the gifting in March of 2019.

[00:58:02.878] Cameron Brown: Yeah, well, I mean, it's like I said, everything comes back to social for us. It's like, what's going to strengthen social connections? What's going to make meaningful connections between people? And I think being able to like, honestly, it was a hugely requested feature from players like was like, I've kind of bought all the items. I play Rec Room all the time. I've got more tokens than I know what to do with. Can I buy gifts for my friends? And it's kind of a win-win from our perspective because it's like, well, okay, great. That means people are spending more tokens and buying more stuff. So that's great for us, but it's also really nice for the community to be like, hey, I can buy something for someone as a token of appreciation or a way to be nice to them. So yeah, I mean, I think we saw those dynamics pretty immediately was like, it's a really nice connection between people if they can buy stuff for each other.

[00:58:48.550] Kent Bye: And you mentioned that there's a lot of focus on the hands. And I know from some of the very first YouTube videos, you have people kind of like shaking hands to become friends. And then you have the gif of the first fist bump within VR.

[00:59:00.234] Cameron Brown: Oh yeah, that's right. The fist bump to potty up.

[00:59:02.955] Kent Bye: Which the party up feature, I think it was quite interesting to be at Rec Room and to kind of go around and do the world hopping with fist bumping, to be able to join someone's party. And then when somebody goes into another room, then you can invite everybody. And that ends up being a really lightweight way of having these ad hoc groups get together, but to kind of move around together as a group. And so, yeah, maybe you could talk about some of the dynamics that you have in terms of being able to have the parties and the friending and everything else in terms of having people be able to connect to each other socially.

[00:59:32.991] Cameron Brown: I'm laughing a little bit because for me, all I see is the flaws, right? Because all I want is to make everything better. But yeah, no, exactly right. That was the goal very early on when we're mucking around in the vibes and figuring out. It was obvious that fist bumping in VR was just a really natural thing to do. Everyone did it. It was an observational thing. We would have someone test out the game. and you would just offer your fist and everyone would fist bump it. It was just an incredibly natural interaction. From there, we were just thinking like, okay, well, we want ways for people to cohere. Because early on for the app, a big problem we had in the early days was just concurrency of how many people are online. Actually, I think when we shipped, we didn't support private rooms, for example, because there wasn't enough people in the Rec Room ecosystem for us to afford people hiding away in private rooms, we kind of needed everyone in the public area so you would find other humans. So I think the party system probably grew out of that of like, once you find a person that you're having fun with, you don't want to accidentally leave the room or deliberately leave the room and then not have any real way to find them again. So just like, fist bump that puts you in the same party together. It changes the color of your watch wristband. So it's like, hey, we're in the same party. And then, like you said, yeah, if I go to another room, it'll offer to bring you along or it'll invite you to come along. So it kind of gives you this way of like, yeah. touring through all the different rooms in the world without getting split up and separated. And then if you want to make that a more permanent connection, we map that to a more intentional gesture, which is the handshake, where it's got a duration to it. You've got to like, you know, actually devote yourself to it for a few seconds. And that's like, if you think of partying as kind of in-session glue, that social glue, the friend relationship is kind of cross-session social glue, where it's like, all right, well, now I can find you next session, as well as in the next room.

[01:01:20.870] Kent Bye: And so for Rekkon, was the first one in 2019 or 2020?

[01:01:24.032] Cameron Brown: So the first one was in 2019, but it was relatively small. And it was like Rekkon is like kind of awesome. Like we love Rekkon because it's actually a very grassroots event. Like obviously we support it and we help and we help promote it. And we've put effort into kind of like helping it be successful. But to a large extent, Rekkon is put on by our creators and the community and just a lot of the energy for it just bubbled up. So 2019 was very much people trying to do it. And I think the tools weren't really ready. We didn't have a lot of the things in place, but there was a retcon in 2019. It was really retcon 2020 that I think really took off. And like, that was like a much larger event up from memory. There was about a hundred thousand visits to retcon 2020 over the weekend. And that was like, definitely got my attention. Cause I'm like, that was, you know, 2020 was obviously the COVID year, you know, so there was a lot of, As a game industry person, I'm used to going to GDC, going to PAX, or at least having most of my colleagues and friends going to GDC and PAX. And so I was like, 100,000 people is a decent-sized conference. That's no joke. And so I was like, huh, that's really, really cool. And so 2020 feels like the start of Retcon, because that was the one where it really, really had serious numbers. There was a lot of events. And that was really influential on us because The number one piece of feedback that came out of Retcon 2020 was people would put on these panels like Q&As and stuff, like developer talks, and they would get 5,000 RSVPs to the event and our room system could only support 40 people in the room. So it was kind of like a really crappy experience in the end. Cause like, you know, 95% of the people couldn't go to the event. And so that was the number one piece of feedback we heard was like, I want to be able to go to the events that I signed up for. So this year we invested in a, um, what we call broadcast events where you can have one main instance that broadcasts in real time to all of the other instances. So we had some events that had 2,500, 3,000 attendees this year, which is pretty awesome. And so that's very new. It's a new thing for us, but like, we're really excited by the potential.

[01:03:22.037] Kent Bye: Yeah, I went to Retcon 2020, but like you said, only 40 out of like 5,000 people were able to get, I was not able to get into any of the panels at all.

[01:03:31.825] Cameron Brown: To be fair, I've had that happen at Real GDC as well.

[01:03:35.692] Kent Bye: But one of the things I noticed at both retcon 2020 and 2021, where the exhibition booths were different, creators were able to show off. And I subscribed to a number of the different creators and makers. A lot of clubs were able to show off, like these are different groups and gatherings. And so the whole clubs and events system, there's a whole notification. Like if you sign up for clubs or you subscribe to people. they can push out different notifications so that when you log into Rec Room, you have a number of different notifications that you could check out either new inventions or different events or new rooms that get launched. And so it ends up being a way to have individual creators broadcast out to people that are interested in their creations to be able to keep up to date to whatever they're working on. So when was the ability to create this whole subscription and other events? What do you remember in terms of how that came about?

[01:04:22.880] Cameron Brown: Yeah, well, I mean, it definitely was downstream of the UGC platform and, you know, probably, you know, maybe a year, 18 months into being able to save rooms and publish rooms. And, you know, with a bit of time for creators to learn the tools and for us to kind of add a lot more capability to the tools, you know, we started to see like, man, these rooms are getting really good. They're actually legitimately fun. You know, for us, like, you know, internally, like I remember us looking for, you know, we were looking for the moment that UGC rooms started to have similar visits and engagement as the rooms that we built. And so I forget when that was, but there was definitely a moment when it's like we started to see that player created rooms were capable of attracting as much traffic as the rooms that we built, which was a pretty significant milestone. And I think it was around then we were like, OK, So the next step here is we want our creators to be able to build fan bases. You know, we want them to be able to create a connection with the people who like the rooms they build and the stuff they build, the objects they build. And so, yeah, we kind of created that subscribe relationship, the announcement system. So if you're a creator, or if I subscribe, let's say I subscribe to Kent Bye, Rec Room creator, and you publish a new room, then, yeah, next time I start a session, that'll pop up in my watch. I'll be like, Oh man, Kent's made a new room. I'm going to go check that out. And yeah, it's a really fun way to see, you know, we have some amazing creators. Like I've subscribed to like Seb and Fandorn are like creators who just continually blow me away with stuff they do. So like I subbed to them. If they make a new room, I'm going to go check it out. So yeah, I think that was probably, you know, 18 months into the UGC platform. And we have huge aspirations for that. Like with many things, it's all a process of iteration. And so I think we can make all of that stuff a lot richer and a lot better. And I think one of the things we've added on top of that over the last just under a year is the ability for our creators to pull tokens back out of the system and sort of turn their tokens into money. So they can actually like, with the rooms they're building and the fan bases they're building, they can actually make money from building stuff in Rec Room, which is just, A, we're just getting started with, but B, we just think it's just such an exciting dynamic.

[01:06:22.869] Kent Bye: You know, one of the things that I think has happened to anytime you have a network of scale, you start to get certain behaviors that you want to try to avoid having, whether it's harassment or abuse or racist language or behaviors. And I've certainly, as I have spent time in rec room, I've come across different scenarios where there might be a microphone, someone jumps on and starts to say something that's racist or. someone will just kind of run through very quickly saying different racial epithets. And so I feel like, you know, with part of the announcement that you made for the keynote, having new systems to be able to potentially record what's happening locally on a headset, and then if there's some report, maybe it gets sent up. But this feels like there's a code of conduct which is basically like, there's different ways of vote kicking or reporting people for violating behaviors. But still, this is like a chicken and egg problem where if people are going to be bad people, then it's sometimes hard to algorithmically enforce a lot of this stuff just from the technology alone. A lot of it has to come from the people within the experience of actually reporting or a part of creating the type of culture that you want to create. So this is sort of a, an ethical issue in terms of how do you sort of have this balance of cultivating the culture that you want with the code of conduct, but also have the technological tools to be able to enforce that. So I'd love to hear a little bit about that journey. Cause that seems to be something that's still evolving. I'd say.

[01:07:41.303] Cameron Brown: Yeah, totally. Yeah, no, it's a great question. And it's a really, really tricky one. And I would say our approach is we try and do a lot to set the tone and set the culture. We had that code of conduct from day one when we shipped, because we're like, at least at an intent level, we're like, hey, we're going to try and create a fun and welcoming environment for people from all walks of life. So we didn't want to tolerate racist behavior, homophobic behavior. But, you know, we feel like a, you know, just realistically, there's probably no way to ever be perfect, right? Like, I don't think there's any ever going to be a way to have just, hey, there's like millions of humans from all around the world interacting in real time with live microphones, there's going to be some friction from time to time, like, and I think, in my mind, and I think in most of the players minds, it's like, There's a certain amount of that that's going to be expected, just like walking around a city. Not everything's going to be perfect until you're liking it all the time. So there's some shades of grey there, but then we want to do the best possible job we can to get as close to that perfection as we can. And I think the only way to approach it is with a a kind of a wide variety of tools that interlock and overlap. And so, you know, for a long time, we've relied on community powered reporting. I never like talking about the details of how our internal moderation systems work because it encourages people to game them. But suffice to say, you know, we have tools for like, like you said, report vote kicking. We automate timeouts that have kind of an escalating nature. So if you get repeated timeouts, you'll eventually, you know, be locked out of the game for minutes and then hours and then days and then weeks and then forever. And then, you know, we've got our internal trusted safety team. We have moderation support staff that are full-time employees and a bunch of hourly employees who help us moderate the game, who review the reports, who apply the bans. We then have a wonderful crew of humans who are volunteer moderators. So we have, I think it's 150, 200 volunteer moderators who really help us. They have, you know, some special mod powers. Then on top of that, we've also built out some moderation tools for, you know, we find that our best creators and our best rooms usually are on board with the code of conduct and the kind of tone that we're trying to set. And so we've given them pretty rich moderation tools so that they can build a moderation structure for their room. So, you know, our rooms have kind of permission levels. So there'll always be a creator for the room. Any room has one creator. And then you can have any number of co-owners. Well, I think there might be a max, but you can have a bunch of co-owners. And then you can have moderators, you can have hosts, and you can have guests. And so this is kind of like this cascading level of permission. You know, some of our rooms do a really good job of kind of having a mod structure where they'll have their own moderation team that they use. And so I think it's like really all of these kind of overlapping elements. And then we're getting to a scale where, you know, we're probably reaching the breaking point of mostly human powered moderation. And so you're seeing us invest in more automation of the moderation. which is including the voice moderation that you just talked about. That's rolling out before the end of the year. Like everything, it's going to be a ready-fire aim. We're going to learn a lot about how to do it. But really, I think the goal is twofold. One, it's to catch those moments when people are like, for example, as you said, very regrettably, there are people who will come into the public areas and use it as an opportunity to say the things that they know will upset people. So whether it's racist slurs or homophobic language, I think we can catch a lot more of that at the moment that it's happening, as opposed to relying on reports that have a latency to them. So it's like, hey, you'll probably attract enough reports that you'll get kicked, but it might take an hour or two hours and you can contribute a lot of toxicity to the community in an hour. So we hope that we reduce that latency down a bunch, at least in a lot of cases. The second one is we honestly want to send a signal to the community saying, hey, we take this stuff seriously. We're continually going to be evolving our systems to do that. We're not going to lie back and just be like, oh, well, we tried our best. We're just going to let it turn into a toxic mess. That will never be our attitude. I think it's really about combined strategies, and I don't think there's any one perfect silver bullet that's going to work. But you know, we just want to invest in it. We want to try the absolute best we can to make a fun and welcoming environment for everybody. I doubt we'll ever be perfect, but that's our goal.

[01:11:55.745] Kent Bye: Yeah, I remember the very first experiences that I had. Well, the first time I was in rec room was like March of 2017 with the eye tracking demo at GDC. Oh, sure. And then after that, I think I joined in like September of 2019, but I remember early days of playing like a paintball and just getting absolutely crushed. And these sort of teenage kids just kind of like, it felt like harassing or bullying of like telling me how much I sucked. And, um, It was sort of off-putting enough for me to not spend a lot of time. I've since realized that you could turn down the audio to only hear your friends or to kind of like have different control of who you hear or what you hear. And I think that, you know, there's some different ways of modulating some of that, but there's still an element of competitiveness and taunting that can happen that I feel like there's this sort of line between harassment and when you were playing with other people that in some ways it's sort of part of the game, but other ways it feels like when is this crossing a line and feeling like this is violating the code of conduct?

[01:12:48.572] Cameron Brown: So yeah, absolutely. So I, yeah, so that's, I have a lot of thoughts on that. So, um, so, Hey, yeah, I was good. I was thinking as you were saying that I was like, well, look, you know, Hey, it's not against our code of conduct to taunt you for losing. Like it's, you know, maybe that's not great sportsmanship and maybe it doesn't make you feel great, but that's kind of not the intent of the Code of Conduct. The intent of the Code of Conduct is really for a little more egregious harassment. That said, zooming back out to that, like, hey, you know, it's a community of millions of people. We say one big happy family, but realistically, it's not like everyone's gonna get along all the time. And so really what we think is the next step, and we've taken some steps towards this. We think we've got a lot more iteration to do to get it to work as well as we want to. is we really want to allow like-minded sub-communities to form inside a rec room. So people who are like, hey, I'm a little older, I kind of want to play paintball casually and go, ha, ha, ha, good game, you know, when I lose, not like whatever nasty teenager behavior you were subjected to. You know, we want to help people find like-minded players who have got the same vibe that they do and kind of want to experience the game in the same way. Because we're never going to find a balance that pleases everybody. Like the way I've said it in the past is like, you know, this obviously can be a very fraught topic, but like, you know, it's like one person's joke can be another person's insult and vice versa. And it's honestly very often comes down to context as to, it's kind of, I guess the way you would say it is like, unless there's like actual harassing language involved, it's often like hard to say who's right in this context. It's like, you know, it's very, very, a lot of gray areas, very tricky. So I think the best way to do it is to let people find their own sub communities that they vibe with. help them get together, help them stay together. And so our investment into that is really the club system that is very imperfect at the moment. It's kind of a very first pass. It's really interesting. We've seen some really, really large clubs form, and some of them are really kind of interesting. Our biggest one, I think, is the Creative Club, which is a big bunch of creators led by our internal creator, Marisa. And that's, I think, 150,000-person club at this point. Then we've got a bunch of smaller clubs centered around all kinds of different interests. We think that's going to be a really powerful tool for like, hey, you know, maybe you join the more casual players club and we matchmake you with players who are into that vibe versus the more competitive paintball players who take it way more seriously and are going to curse and spit when they lose, you know? Does that make sense?

[01:15:11.366] Kent Bye: Yeah, yeah, for sure. And I guess, finally, what do you think the ultimate potential of all of these immersive technologies of virtual and augmented reality might be and what they might be able to enable?

[01:15:24.793] Cameron Brown: Man, I knew you were going to ask that, so I probably should have prepped a good answer, shouldn't I? But you know, where my brain goes when I think about the potential of VR and immersive technologies is I'm very into, in my kind of non-rec room time, I'm very into energy and climate, and I love batteries, I love renewable tech. And so I'm fascinated by all of that stuff. And so like, my mind immediately goes to the potential of using immersive technology in place of really carbon intensive transporting thousands of humans around the world to get together for music festivals and conferences. And I think there's a lot of stuff that VR and immersive tech can provide that really rich, really satisfying human-to-human synchronous social interaction that allows you to have really meaningful memory creation and memory formation in a really satisfying and healthy way. that avoids gigatons of carbon being dumped into the atmosphere. And to me, that's a really huge inspiration for why this stuff is really, really worth investing in. So that's where my brain goes. I think there are many other potentials as well, but I am really excited by, you know, just as humans, how can we efficiently come together in social gatherings with a much, much lighter touch on the planet? That really inspires me.

[01:16:41.420] Kent Bye: Great. And is there, uh, is there anything else that's left and said that you'd like to say to the immersive community?

[01:16:46.693] Cameron Brown: Well, first of all, hey, thanks to you for your wonderful podcast. I think it's been great over the years. I've enjoyed many of your episodes. I also always, anytime I get a chance to, I always want to shout out the Rec Room players and the Rec Room community. It's just a constant source of inspiration. You know, I sometimes say there's many ways to describe Rec Room, but one of the ways I like to describe it is as an explosion of love and creativity around the planet. And that's really down to the players and the community. There's just, I've met so many wonderful, creative humans who play Rec Room. And it's just always a joy and an inspiration. So I just want to thank all of them. And I guess once I'm on a roll of thanking people, I should shout out the team. We are blessed to have made, I think, one of the best development teams on the planet. And so I feel delighted and honored to work with my Rec Room colleagues every day. So I should probably say that for the record.

[01:17:36.127] Kent Bye: Yeah, well, I've spent a number of times in Rec Room. I feel like the type of public spaces that have been able to be created by Rec Room give me a sense of like where this metaverse is all going to go from identity to economies. Yeah, that's great to hear. Game and play and world hopping and all the different worlds that are being created, the user generated aspects and the clubs and the sort of emergent cultures. I think the prison time is, prison time as an experience feels like the Milgram experiment. It's really quite trippy. But the ways in which that you can set up rules and set up a culture from the social dynamics and social interactions, I see some really interesting stuff that's happening within these different rec rooms. And yeah, as being one of the first unicorn companies of being a valuation over a billion dollars, I think it's a testament to the community and a platform you've been able to create. And also just a cross platform to be able to have things both in immersive 3D and virtual reality into the 2D portals, I think that's another key part of having a graceful degradation between different ways of having access to these experiences. When I think about the WebXR and the metaverse, I think about having an embodied immersive experience, but then having different portals into that world that, depending on what people's access to technology are going to be. I feel like there's a lot of things that you've been able to really prototype with this ready fire aim approach of this faster duration that you've been really able to prototype a lot of the different patterns of the metaverse as we look into the future. So, yeah, thanks for just taking the time to be able to unpack some of this and share about your own journey, but also the journey of Requiem.

[01:19:09.534] Cameron Brown: Yeah, absolutely. My pleasure. Thanks for having me.

[01:19:12.176] Kent Bye: So that was Cameron Brown. He's the chief creative officer and one of the co-founders of Rec Room, along with Nick Focht, Dan Croman, Bilal Ornan, Josh Worley, and John Bevis. I would have loved to get all six of them together to be able to talk about the entire origin story, but logistically it was a little bit too difficult to be able to coordinate that. But I'm super happy to be able to get a little bit more of the backstory for Rec Room and how it came about, and also just some of their different design principles. You know, they're really trying to foster communication and social interactions, and so a lot of their design decisions over the years have been tuned towards that. But also, this whole ready, aim, fire, repeat, rapid iteration principles, some of their other principles they have on their website is, when in doubt, build it, and it's a small world, so try not to create toxic economic dynamics. But that ready, fire, aim, repeat, I think, is a big theme for, if they don't know, they just try to build it and start to ship it as soon as possible, and then from there, start to evolve it and grow it. So I think that process relational and that quick iterative game design approach is a big reason why Rekrum has been so successful. Because they have such a strong background in that game design, they've been able to have the first-party games to be able to draw in the initial interaction. But then, eventually, they reached a point where the user-generated content was getting more hits and more traction than some of their own first-party content. And they wanted to be able to eventually create an in-game economy that rewards that type of player-to-player type of interactions and exchange. of the different experiences that folks are creating. There's a lot of different apps and experiences within Rec Room, the really popular PVP maps, and there's different ways that you can buy guns. As you spawn in, there's enough people that if it's hard to find weapons, sometimes you just want to buy a weapon and have access to the weapon. But there's also certainly a lot of different inventions. I don't think they have as much clothes yet, but maybe they'll start to have folks designing their own fashion. So a lot of the different exchange for the tokens that they have are trying to eventually move more into that realm of the player-based economy. But for me, it was just interesting to do a bit of an archaeological dig. This is a whole fully-fledged community that I haven't been tracking closely from the very beginning, and I'm just dipping in and seeing, OK, how do you start to tell the story of what this community is? And look at the different design decisions I think is probably a good place to start to look at some of the overarching infrastructure that is helping to shape the culture that's here. And having a lot of the focus of both the user-generated tools I think is also going to really shape what has ultimately been, I think, one of the better in-game virtual experiences where you can create different worlds. And I think, actually, the Facebook Horizon has probably taken a lot of inspiration from Rec Room, actually cribbed a lot of the different types of user interaction, and they're also taking a similar approach of trying to do user-generated content. But I don't know how many fleshed-out games the Horizon Worlds has, so I'll have to dig into that more just to kind of check in to see. It's been incubating for quite a long time, and I think the... The Reg Room is taking the opposite approach, which was to 99 days get it out and start to engage with the community and start to slowly organically build it, which has been a little bit of the opposite approach for what the Horizon Worlds has done, which has been behind closed doors for so, so long. My concern is that they weren't engaged with that community process to develop something that was going to strike a chord and resonate with the larger community. That's all yet to be seen, how that continues to play out. But I can say for sure that the way that Rec Room has focused on the compelling interactions and the social interactions, they seem to have found a pretty good sweet spot there. And I think the moderation is probably one of the bigger open challenges as they continue to move forward in how to create these safe online spaces that has these real-time interactions and how do you ensure that everybody's following the code of conduct. Cameron had mentioned that they're going to start to do artificial intelligence recording of people on board and then If people get reported, then that would get sent up, but wouldn't otherwise be sent up. So starting to experiment with some of the similar things that Horizon Worlds have been doing and experimenting with in terms of meta. So yeah, that's probably one of the bigger open questions as things move forward is those issues around moderation and really trying to preserve the context and the community that they're trying to do as you start to have this flood of people coming in, you know, how do you ensure that people are following these exact rules? And when you go in there and you're playing in a world and you get like a notification on your watch, for example, to be able to vote kick someone, and you may have no idea what had happened, if people are being falsely reported, or usually at that point, they've been able to exhibit some sort of behavior that has been egregious enough, but you kind of have to have enough people to vote people out. Of course, Cameron didn't want to really go into great detail for all the different stuff that they do, but it does seem like they have a multilayered approach of not only doing the reporting, the vote-kicking, the different timeouts, having an internal trust and safety team. I believe they have even different degrees of social score to be able to rate based upon their actions over time, so they can at least do an initial first cut of filtering through some of the different reports. They have both full-time professionals as well as contract workers who are moderating they have volunteer moderators and then they have the moderation tools for world creators that they can create their own set of owners co-owners moderators hosts and guests that have these cascading levels of permission so multi-pronged approach and I think that's probably the best that they can do at this point but certainly still a lot of room to improve upon that they also we didn't talk about this but they also have the ability for junior accounts so for folks who are less than 13 especially because they have a lot of people that are either on the console or iPhone or Android technically folks who are less than 13 are not supposed to be on the meta quest to be able to use some of these different apps but of course they end up there anyway and And the different 2D interactions I think has been such a huge key for why they've been able to grow to the extent that they do. And they've really focused on trying to give some level of expressivity to the folks who may not be in a fully embodied virtual reality environment. So they have these different wands to be able to allow people to move their hands around. which, as I was interacting with some different folks at the RecCon, does a pretty good job as people are on the phone interacting with them and they're moving their hands around, so you get a good sense. I think when you start to play the first-person shooters, you can start to really see some of the differences between people who are in VR and people who are not in VR. And yeah, just a lot of different innovations and from the creation tool to the fist bump and to the party system that they have. They've just been really on the frontiers of helping to flesh out some of the different design patterns that I think we're probably going to see in a lot of other what we'd call the metaverse applications. And again and again Cameron says, you know, this is not an eSport It's not meant to be a place where if you really want to have like high-level competition There's probably other places where you can get better balanced games and folks that are more fully immersed within virtual reality But this is really meant to be a context that's being set for people to be playing games with each other but to be able to connect to each other and to have these different social interactions and I the quest experiences that they have, where you go on to these different quests that are really difficult for an individual to happen, and they have friendly fire, so it's really encouraging this type of cooperation and collaboration while going to these different quests. 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 I do rely upon donations in order to continue to bring you this coverage. So you can become a member and donate today at patreon.com slash voices of VR. Thanks for listening.

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