My Dinner with JanusVR
And not Andre, that cunt
Neocities is a beautiful, fertile ground, where anybody can come in and make any website of their choosing, must like the immigrants can come in and take any job of their choosing, destroying the livelihoods of billions of Americans and causing them to make our money completely worthless. Fortunate then that JanusVR tells us what such a scenario would be like, where the cities have been deserted and replaced with plastic facsimiles populated with about three white supremacists, which incidentally is the plot of Fallout 4.
The premise is simple, though brilliant, though executed half-heartedly. The Web is now a series of 3D environments, and you get to explore them. You pop yourself into a lobby, are told absolutely nothing about how to move, then immediately going to the JanusVR subreddit list looking for something to do, wherein you find yourself in a functional though uninspiring design with a bunch of doors, and you're supposed to go through these doors to explore similarly functional though uninspiring design. I think it says worlds about a program when it's dedicated the very first room that people will explore to a website which is most famous for accusing somebody of doing the Boston Bombings and then causing them to commit suicide.
After the Reddit excursion, where I found myself in Spyduck's pastel void in front of gay Mewtwo (and we all like gay Mewtwo), some bloke came by and pedelled a portal right in front of me two eyes. Now I may be a conservative man, who only agrees on having sex with at most four people, but it seems to me an incredibly classless thing to dump a theoretical quantum device in front of my eyes and not even have the decency to invite me in proper. You would think that being the case, I would then enter the portal. So I did that, heard an MP3, then fucked off lest I discover that I was back in worlds.com.
So being back in Spyduck's thing, and spending some time admiring gay MewTwo's beautiful sheen, I decided to explore his projects - just as an example of that virtual mall that Macintosh Plush is so fond of talking about. I guess I should have actually entered the mall, because the Pokemon game corner invested my ears like a slinky full of charcoal with its bootlegged MIDI, and my eyes with more green than my blog (impressive!). You thought autoplaying video was bad? Yes, because you're not an idiot. Well, consider autoplaying video in a 3D space in fullscreen. The malicious screaming potential is higher than it ever has been before, and I am no longer afraid to die.
I'm noticing the collision is a bit off, though - namely, there is none. Throw yourself at the floor, and you stay on the floor. Reasonable enough, but when it comes to anything else, even the backs of the portals you walk through, it all falls apart. I guess it's understandable, given you have to assemble the buildings in markup. Yes dearies, we're back in the 1980's where everything is made of code. Salute your masters, because programming these worlds mean you're either a god, or severely bored. The distinction between the two is at the point where you decide it would be a good idea to build the "Church of McDonalds".
My introduction to Spyduck's creations ended when I went into the "Fuji" room, and heard the Lavender Town song. Being a connoisseur of conspiracy theories involving Pokemon (did you know that Espeon is a lesbeon?), I knew when some shit was going down, so I ran out of there faster than a Palestinian spotting the bulldozers. I have no idea why people are insisting that the Jews did 9/11 when they're already running their own personal 9/11... in our hearts. Actually this was a horrible idea and I am so sorry that we got to this point.
I have no idea what it is about these 3D environments that are so off-putting, as if the world exists by itself and you're just exploring the ruins of a civilisation where God actually existed and the Rapture wasn't a shitty premise made to make people feel good about dying. Perhaps it's because the interiors are always hanging above you, larger than life, like you're a little person in a world full of giants. Perhaps it's the lack of human interaction, any of such being fleeting moments of solidarity between you and another silver-coloured bloke. Perhaps it's the lack of music, unfitting for an adventure on the Web, where you would at least expect some vaporwave being blasted in tune to environments that a seapunk enthusiast would seapunk all over.
Indeed this sense of dread has stuck with me through this entire excursion, where in the course of a few rooms, some spooky, some otherwise, I get pain in my eyes and bile in my stomach which tells me that "I don't like the looks of this, Scoob", if I was the star of a cartoon from the 1960's. I guess our adventure is like that cartoon - a not really engaging series of hijinks that leads to slightly unsettling sights and environments that a bunch of dumb young adults have no business being in.
The interesting thing about my observations is that there wasn't anything scary at all within JanusVR. I'm dead sure you would find it if you looked hard enough, but beyond the innate feeling of helplessness you get when you're stuck in a full-screen application in the dead of night with only your headphones and lamplight guiding you, the only things you have to fear is your own imagination. That, and the inevitable amount of porn, which after an hour of looking around I didn't find, so I'm guessing there's a black market around here that I need a password to enter.
I am disappointed to say the supposed benefits of VR porn, at least without the goggles, as if I'm spending real-world dollars on real-world hardware, it better be a real-world investment, has been greatly exaggerated. The video wouldn't even play for most of the rooms, I got audio on the gay one (you start getting desperate), and the deep throat kings froze on the intro. Bloody hell, if I knew I was wasting valuable bandwidth on this instead of folding proteins for cancer, I would have spent it all on regular porn.
So having left with my seapunk firmly in my vaporwave, I decided to retire for the night. The issue of the disappearing porno would have to be solved another time, though I wouldn't be surprised if it ended up being a man in a monster suit. Actually, that's an accurate depiction of murrsuiters. Sorry, sorry - I'll never speak again.
The morning after:
It turns out I cannot be silenced. So having re-entered the electric playground, I decided to try my hand at some websites that weren't inspired by the mixed fever dreams of Tumblr and codeine. It's during this scrubby, scrubby process that I realised two important things: one, that any practical use of this thing to a regular old user would be severely limited to people who are interested in the novelty of a virtual world above all else, and two, that my bandwidth is being used ten times as much as if I had just visited a website normally. So I suppose this type of program is best suited to rich assholes with nothing better to do with their time.
The keyboard shortcuts are unmarked, and because of this, confusing. My fun times at the electric playground (would make a good SM64 stage name) were not enhanced by my character deciding to float all over the place without my consent. I greatly appreciate the teleport function, the controls for which I won't tell you because if you can't learn them by yourself then it is a very poorly designed program, though I very much dislike when it decides the best place to put me is in the thousand-foot void under the map, causing me to float without my consent and me having to restart the program to earn my gravity.
I fail to see the correlation between me falling through the floor and being forced to respawn, and the program deciding to give me noclip. I couldn't use it to get back up to the map - it only gave noclip after I was unceremoniously sent to the Nether Realm and then booted back to where I would have been if I hadn't spent the last ten seconds of my life watching the map float away like a little square balloon. You might equate this with some fourteen-year-old on Garry's Mod whining about how he lost his admin privileges. I instead use it to illustrate the frankly batshit insane design decisions that went into this out-of-bounds error-handling process, and if they can't get something as simple as that right, then I am deeply concerned for the dozens of hundred poor decisions that is certain to plague me.
Anyway, that Garry's Mod comparison wasn't to make fun of fourteen-year-olds, who are basically scrubby cats without the certainty in their lives to be somebody respectable (source: me at fourteen, playing Garry's Mod). I discovered that pressing the two key led me to YouTube, a brilliant and insightful connection to how YouTube is the #2 website in the world right now, putting the program on par with Neon Genesis Evil Eye Rub with sheer force of symbolism. Step through the portal and you'll find yourself in a big comfy room with the YouTube website on a television screen, letting you and your buddies watch movies just like the Gmod Cinema. Would be nice if I actually had some buddies, seeing as it was a Saturday night when I started and the most people I've seen in one room together were three - including me. And two of them were AFK.
The entire setup of this program seems to be a missed opportunity for a bunch of random assholes to watch porn and play flash games and go big on that bitch like you would in Gmod Tower - which was a space where a bunch of random assholes could watch porn and play flash games and also had the opportunity to kick somebody's ass in Super Monkey Ball or even Mario Kart and throw an afterparty where you could get drunk and watch Mythbusters while some asshole plays badly-composed Coldplay songs. It was probably the greatest argument for the existence of Garry's Mod, and to see such an opportunity implemented in Janus yet with none of the variety, community, or even inherently interesting concepts screams to me as a massive waste of effort.
Yes, it's interesting to explore the architecture that other players have made, but it doesn't feel like exploring so much that it does aimlessly walking around and taking in the sights. There's no interactivity to any of the environments, beyond having the ability to go through a portal and see another one. You walk, you jump, you can teleport to a place, and that's pretty much it. It's a limiting system, and one whose novelty wears off quick.
One of my biggest pet peeves with video games is when they build this truly beautiful environment, full of life and unique sights to see, and doesn't even give me the opportunity to explore it. Games like Spyro the Dragon had this component locked up, where you could run jump and fly to a place which you though was impossible to reach, and then knock out that cunt who stole your eggs. It was an environment where you felt you could actually be a part of it, and not just exploring the plastic and vinyl constructions of a bored level designer with little imagination.
And that's the problem with JanusVR - it lacks imagination. It seems to me it's trying to be the blandest, safest construction of a 3D environment trying to appeal to as many people, and hopefully businesses, as possible. It doesn't have the edginess of worlds.com, the batshittery of IMVU, or the spaghetti and spicy meatballs of Second Life. It's the most uninspired construction of GUI elements and 3D modelling that I've seen in a long time, and it doesn't turn its very cool premise of turning the Web into a three-dimension space, any justice.
For all the cool stuff that it offers, it's bogged down by the inability to feel connected to any of the places that you explore, which is a damn shame because there is a lot to explore if you just look. If I had the opportunity to run, jump, climb, and fly away within any of the environments that you construct, it would improve your product by an extraordinary amount, giving it that Minecraft feel (yes, I'm mentioning Minecraft and Garry's Mod in the same review) of a massive world for you to explore and manipulate to your whim. But the mechanics aren't there, and for that, I am left dissappointed.
To answer that burning question of whether or not it's worth it to try out, because the reading comprehension of the average man is falling close to that of a monkey's, I suggest you do. There's still nothing like it online today, and if you can get past the wasted potential, it's a free but nor libre download that leads you to some cool sights at the cost of jacking up your data cap like Macintosh Plush jacks up the reverb. It's free as in cheap and cheap as in you got pretty much nothing to lose - even if you arens't one of those poor degenerates who bought a VR headset and are trying to desperately find use out of it like you are the PS4. Or the Xbox One. Or anybody who didn't buy a Nintendo thing, because having backwards compatibility with the two strongest and best-selling libraries of all time, barring the Playstation 2 that sneaky bastard, wasn't a compelling enough offer. I guess the joke's on you now - a games company making systems with games on them? I guess my predictions are more accurate than most, because you can shit on a brick if you doubted my good old staple stock.
JanusVR in stores for Wii U.
Two faces, one for each friend: Froghand.
Today's page was updated on September 19, 2016!
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