An Open Letter to the Community
Hi there and thank you for checking in.
We are writing this open letter to answer concerns and questions that the community as a whole has raised over the last weeks and months.
To start off we would like to assure you that we are very well aware that a lot of things did not run flawlessly in the past.
We would like to give some insight into why specific updates / announced features were moved, what we thought and what the reason in the background was.
Additionally, we will give out some information to inform about the plans of change as well as short term plans we have for the project.
This will be a longer-than-usual read so please make sure to read it when you have the time.
To make this easier to read partly, we have split it into multiple major topics and gathered the corresponding topics under them.
The update schedule / work at ABI
First we would like to mention facts most of you are aware of. To make sure that everyone is on the same boat, we will still mention them.
We have started working on ChilloutVR in April 2019 and ABI has incorporated on July 18th 2019. At this time NicoKuroKusagi was the only developer working on the project, mainly focusing on getting the plain base for networking implemented to then plan further steps, back then mostly meant to see if a project like this is an option for him or not.
ABI currently has a total of three development team members, one full time, two part time.
None of the developers are being compensated for their work, everyones work is voluntarily and community income is used to cover running costs.
On July 31st 2019, Khodrin has joined the development team. Since then the team has started working on implementation of custom user content, proper input systems and the IK System. Later that year Khodrin has started working on the user interface based on the early drafts for a closed alpha temporary UI.
Over time Khodrin has been working on implementing more and more creator-oriented features like advanced avatars, the trigger system, the CVR Interactable and several others.
Early in 2021, Luc has joined the development team now supporting the development by working on the video player and several features around it like in-game youtube search etc. Since then more and more work has been split across team members to make sure the workload is distributed as even as possible while the base is still being built.
NicoKuroKusagi is currently working on further improvements and expansions of the network as well as several non-announced features to give creators and users more control over games and content they create.
Due to the different levels of knowledge in specific areas, some areas are handled by a single developer to this day.
So, why have so many updates been delayed?
Glad you asked, to make it easier to understand we have grouped the explanation into a descriptive part as well as a part mentioning specific cases and their reasonings.
In general it was a mixture of updates being announced too early, some updates / patches taking over higher priority and updates just taking longer than expected. We know that this is unfortunate but there was not much to do about it back then. We are well aware that there have been a lot of issues, and we were constantly working on improving the flow for the community as well as for us internally.
The most prominent updates announced but not delivered are:
- Newton BE: Was announced for the far future, as a lot of work is required to get scripting engines like this to function. We are unable to deliver this anytime soon but we are working on tools to provide proper tools to make more interactive content rather sooner than later.
- The UI rework: We were working on the UI rework design-wise for a longer time but the huge networking system rework caught us in for a long while causing frequent delays to UI 2.0. Regarding this topic, we can assure you that the quick menu is close to be ready and the main UI will follow once ready, sadly we are unable to provide any ETA due to reasons mentioned before. In addition to this, Khodrin is currently reworking the whole backend system of the UI to make UI modding, workshops, and overall feel a lot better. This will be a benefit to every user and we are more than certain that this is worth the additional wait.
- The calls system: Due to the audio system issues as well as the UI rework being pending we decided to move the calls system to come after the UI 2.0 update has been fully pushed. The reason is simple, implementing calls requires a lot of UI code, having this implemented into the old UI would be a waste of development resources that other parts of the game need right now.
- The CCK 3.0: We have been reworking the whole procedure of uploading content which took a longer time. We are currenly working on creating the final parts of the new upload network and after successful testing of it we will be releasing the final CCK 3.0 version to the public.
- Audio rework: Due to several backend performance issues, we had to push the audio rework back. The audio system improvements are required, we never questioned that, but without working backend servers and no players being able to log in, the audio rework would not yield any benefit. It is currently planned to come around the release of the quick menu.
- The groups and events system: The groups and events system is a way we have announced, meant to make overall management of events and gatherings easier. While we thought we could deliver it with one of the past major hub updates, we were not able to as constant focus switches to more important tasks (networking, attack prevention, major bug fixes) were a frequent happening. We have now re-considered the scale of the groups and events system and are aiming to have it out until the end of this year without guarantee. We are hoping to have it out by then, but it might move to early next year depending on high priority tasks that might arise.
Will the announced-but-never-delivered features ever find their way to the game?
Yes! They definitely will. We have re-scheduled several announced features to be coming at a later date.
To protect ourselves, we will not provide any ETA on any of those, but we can assure you that we will deliver every feature we have announced.
As a side note, we kindly ask you to take the talks about features we are hoping to present in the far future as an idea, not an announcement.
We love to deliver features, but talking about our vision does not make it an announced feature.
Why have so many things been announced early in the first place?
We love to share our vision, and most of the plans announced early on or earlier were visions of future features we had in mind to be implemented at a later date. We alweays strive for the creativity and the features no other platform has delivered to date. We seek for innovation wherever possible.
Due to the way of expressing our vision it has happened that too many features were announced too early repeatedly.
While we never had any intention not to deliver them, there was just not enough time to do so yet.
To prevent issues like this in the future, we will announce features only when ready or close to ready.
In addition to that, we will have a community relations team handling bi-weekly status reports in the future.
Does that mean you need more staff members?
Before we were mostly focusing on recruiting users in the community we felt were a good fit.
This was working out as intended for the most time but due to community feedback we think that it is now time to open the applications.
You are now able to send an application for the following teams to us:
- Development Team
- Community Relations Team
- Moderation Team
To apply you should be:
- At least 18 years old (or older depending on the country of residence)
- Willing to learn and listen to instructions
- Able to work alone as well as in a team
We reserve the right to deny any applicant without any need to provide a reasoning.
Just like any other employing company, we have to ensure the communication and athmosphere in the team is healthy, and as such we have to select and decide for those who we see a fit. So please note that meeting the requirements is considered a bare minimum and does not guarantee any acceptance into a staff position.
At the moment all positions are voluntary positions without a salary - once the general income of ABI allows so, hired members of the team will be compensated for their work accordingly.
To apply, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and we will get back to you within 14 days.
Accusation for "favoritism"
A few members of the community have accused us of favoritism because of the moderation team members being mostly german.
We would like to give our input on that one.
The moderation team as well as the creator program are closed groups working together closely with the development team and as such are required to be able to maintain healthy and respectful communication with everyone involved. We also need to rely on each of those members.
As such accepting members purely on them meeting the requirements is not an option - if you have to hire someone, you hire those who are compatible not those who are looking good just on the paper.
We ask for understanding that choosing the right teams to work with is a task that is based on whats best for everyone involved, not whats best for those who want to participate.
We have adjusted the creator program requirements on the community hub based on community feedback.
Additional questions answered
When will the next update drop?
We have a bigger update involving a lot of fixes for long-standing issues coming within the next days.
The most prominent changes in the update involve implementation of cars, improvements for props, general UI responsiveness improvements and the fix of numerious lag spikes caused by the UI reloading images where it is not required.
Why hasn't there been any developer update for a while?
We know the partial lack of transparency is frustrating to some users, this was mostly due to the way of community management. Right now, the development team has to tackle a few of those tasks as well. To solve this issue we are now looking for a motivated community relations manager who wants to contribute and help us grow. We want to improve the community side of things and are certain that it would be beneficial for all sides if the development team could disconnect from these tasks.
What's up with avatar / prop publishing?
As we have mentioned several times, it is not currently possible to publish props or avatars, this is a system limit as not every system is compatible with infra 2.0 yet. We are aiming to have this resolved with the release of CCK 3.0 - we can't provide you with any ETA but we are doing our best to have it out as soon as possible.
Why are you still giving ETAs at all if you can't meet them?
We have been talking about this frequently but a solution was never really found. Due to the recent discussions in the community we have now adjusted the way this is handled to announce features only when they are actually close to be ready or already ready for release. We will still hint and show off work-in-progress features but we will not provide any ETA for their release and mention when features are going to take a longer while to develop.
What about in-game friend requests?
They have been re-implemented for the next stable update.
What about blocking users within the game?
We have been working on this feature recently and will have it introduced with one of the next updates. Due to bigger changes on the server side, this update will require more extensive testing and might take a while to become added to the regular public branches.
What about patreon meetups?
We have always enjoyed the patreon meetups as a way to show wip features to our supporters early.
As we would like to contribute more time to the actual development and improvement of the platform, we will no longer offer the patreon meetups as a perk for any patronage tier. We are sorry about this, but we would like to focus on improving the product rather than showing features off to supporters only in a non-fixed time frame.
We are grateful for the support we have received and we understand if you do not wish to support us anymore due to the fact we have to remove this perk from all tiers. We just want the best for the platform and think it is the best way to dedicate more time into actual improvements.
While it is not a perk anymore, our future community relations team might be able to hold meetings independently of that.