Some time ago, my friend Sasha, who loves enjoying all social VR experiences out there, proposed me to try Anyland together, since he loved that VR experience and he wanted to show me how cool it was. So, one afternoon we managed to meet there and I’ve been able to give a shot to this very nice social VR application, that I found quite interesting. Here you can find my impressions from that experience.
What is Anyland? Anyland is a world creation ecosystem in virtual reality. It is very simple, yet very powerful and the astonishing characteristic is that it has been developed by ONLY TWO DEVELOPERS. These devs are very dedicated to this virtual universe and work hard each day to make it evolve. They’re also very kind and listen to the feedbacks of the community, both on forums and inside the virtual world. Having tried the product, I remained quite shocked when I discovered that it is the work of only two people. I can only imagine all the efforts to produce and maintain such a big product, that is also free to play, so surely it isn’t getting them tons of money. Kudos to them, I’ve nothing more to say.
Anyland is awesome because of its community. Even before talking about the world’s creation, I think it is important to speak about the community. The game is really made to make random people meet in VR, that is the true spirit of social VR. When a new player enters the world, every other person inside any of the VR worlds out there gets notified of its arrival, so that they can come and meet him. When Sasha tried Anyland for the first time, as soon as he entered its homeworld, he wanted to get used to the interface and such, but immediately a lot of people went to join him. They welcomed him to this new fantastic adventure and he felt flooded by all this welcome love. He said that maybe it was even too much since he wanted to slowly start experimenting and he found immediately talking and interacting with random strangers. I have to say that this is not always the case: when I entered Anyland, no one went to welcome me.
I found the community as helpful as all the other people report in their Steam reviews. I met a lot of nice people and a guy also joined me and Sasha in our journey inside this social ecosystem. When I had troubles with avatar creation (more on this later on), a lot of people stopped by, trying to give me pieces of advice and suggestions on how to solve the issue. Everyone that has been inside Anyland reports that he/she has been helped in some aspect of the game by random strangers. That’s the most awesome part of Anyland: the community. Anyland is a social VR experience built on people and where people are more important than everything else. When I think about my past experience with it, I don’t think that much about graphics, about the world I’ve visited (even because I’m not a Minecraft-player, I’m more a RoboRecall-player), I think about having been out there with nice people.
And a person, that is Sasha, has guided me in learning what is Anyland and how to use it: Anyland is a collection of VR worlds. Every person has its own home, that at the beginning is just a grey plane. In this personal place, it is possible to create your own world. To do that, it is necessary to use the “World creation tools”, that are free for a week and then cost something ultra-cheap like 8$/year (buy them if you want to support the crazy work of those two guys!). The interface to create the world is the second thing that I appreciated the most about Anyland. First of all, it is damn simple. You open the menu that you have on your thumbs, select some basic geometric shapes and start creating. Commands to scale, translate, coloring and such are very intuitive and everything reminds an even simpler version of Google Blocks. After some minutes I was able to create simple objects, coloring them, duplicating them and such.
But there is even more: every object can be scripted! Staying inside VR, using some simple scripting choices, it is possible to decide the behavior of every object you create! I was confused about this point, since writing a script file inside VR typing with the controllers is far from simple… and in fact, I have to specify that there is no scripting file. The object has some kind of state machine, that you can program just by clicking some predefined choices in a very easy way. So, for instance, selecting a sphere, you can set the state 1 where it is red, the state 2 where it is blue and then add logic “WHEN TOUCHED THEN GO TO STATE 2” inside State 1 panel. This way the sphere starts as red, but when it gets touched by a player, it becomes blue. Simple, isn’t it?
This video below makes you see very well what I’m talking about (at the beginning there are the creation tools, then there is the logic programming)
Creating the worlds is awesome, but if you’re lazy like me, it is better to see the worlds created by others. First of all, I went to Sasha’s house, that was really intriguing. I started moving everywhere and then I went to a very strange ladder that he created and reached some special secret place he made. Movement is by teleporting, so not that immersive, but I had no problems with it. He enabled me to create into his world so that I could play a bit with his creation (to prevent people from coming and destroying what you’ve created, guests have to be allowed to modify a world). In the meantime, other people joined us and we started chatting a bit. In Anyland, a public space is a place where everyone can come, play and chat with all other people, so it’s normal to see people coming in, staying a bit and then going away.
Sasha showed me another cool feature of Anyland: avatars. In Anyland there are no avatars, there are no characters… you just create the avatar you wish with the objects you find in the world. So, for instance, if you go to the Fallout world, you can take the head of the Vault Boy and put it where your head is so that it becomes your head. You can then take a wooden stick and use it as your arm. You can take a stone and use it as your torso. Avatar creation works this way: you craft your avatar as you wish… you can even model an object using the Creation Tools and then use it as part of your avatar! Wow, amazing!
I and Sasha started exploring different worlds: there are really a lot… and while some are really simple, others are damn astonishing. One where we went was enormous and was linked with other sub-worlds, with one containing something similar to a maze. Interactive objects, when present, are able to double the fun: we found a camera and started taking selfies; we played with a ball; I’ve been able to even find some weapons and start shooting Sasha… that was not that happy about my violent fury :D. It is amazing what people are able to create, given just some simple tools. There are really worlds of every kind: some are abstract, others are more concrete; some are really dark, others a lot luminous; and so on. In every world, we met some new people and had fun.
Sometimes Sasha handed me a special cookie. Exploring the worlds it is possible to find some special elements that give special powers to the people using them. Once you find these objects, you can put them in your inventory (that is a tray that you can take from your back) and then you have them forever. The cookie was meant to give me some voice super-powers, so Sasha could hear me even if I was quite distant from him and so he could help me in any case. Everyone meeting me, after a while, said to me: “Hey, have a cookie”. Unluckily I couldn’t feel its taste (taste will come to VR, but it will need time), but it seemed like an American cookie with chocolate drops: I love them, so some part of my brain was really happy with continuously eating them.
My experience with Anyland has been very beautiful, but I have to warn you about some problems it has:
- The graphical quality of the experience is mediocre. This is not Sansar, it is the work of two devs. Very simple creation tools mean very simple graphical outcome. The UI is very simple and usable, but it is terrible on the graphical side. It’s just a grey quad with some black writings and buttons. Really really rough;
- On Oculus, it is not clear what is the “Grip trigger” to delete elements. I thought it was Oculus Touch‘s middle finger trigger (the real grip button for Rift users), but it was not. I got mad, because no one could explain to me how to delete objects… everyone wished to help, but no one had a Rift! Later I found the solution: I had to press the thumbstick to destroy elements. (If you have problems in destroying elements inside Anyland, I hope you can read this while searching on Google!) I don’t know who has made the mapping, but it is just a nonsense this way (I guess no one made the mapping… they just made controls for Vive and then left the system to perform mapping to Rift). The result of this mess has been that when I was trying to create my avatar, I added a big stone, but I couldn’t remove it. Trying to find the “delete” command, I started duplicating it a lot of times and in the end, I became a huge set of big stones. People passing by looked at me in a very strange way and Sasha made fun at me calling me “Rock(et)man”;
- I found a lot of bugs and problems. Continuously, I took the floor where we were standing and people got a bit mad at me because I was moving an enormous quad and this was disturbing for them. Strangely, I was the only one not noticing this, since I saw my hand empty. I had to quit the program and re-enter again, to see my avatar having a giant floor attached to his hands (WTF). I deleted it and returned to my friend’s house, but then accidentally I added a rocket launcher that I took somewhere to my avatar and this made the application go crazy and sloppy. I had to exit again. My experience on this side was very annoying and I had to exit the program at least 5 times in less than 2 hours.
Again, considering that it is the work of only two people, I find it normal that there are issues. Maybe they’re working especially on the Vive version, so if you have a Rift, you may experience some more problems.
Notwithstanding these downsides, I really have a good memory of my experience inside Anyland. I think that more of all the technical aspects, it’s the nice atmosphere that you live there that makes it an awesome experience. So, my advice to you is that you have to try Anyland for free by downloading it from SteamVR! You won’t regret it, for sure. And if you meet Sasha, give him my regards!!
(Header image by Anyland)
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