June 15, 2022

HIKKY Expands With Vket Cloud, An Engine That Works On Your Phone And Browser

Vket Cloud's digital goods policy including NFTs just might have a ripple effect on the rest of XR.

HIKKY Expands With Vket Cloud, An Engine That Works On Your Phone And Browser
An example space from Vket Cloud's GALLEREAL map. (Image courtesy HIKKY/Vket Cloud)

Virtual Market is the largest virtual convention in VR, but their newest endeavor might cause a change of attitude for XR in general.

On May 6th, 2022, HIKKY, responsible for Virtual Market's line of popular events that take place within VRChat, announced the start of beta testing for Vket Cloud. A game engine rather than a convention, Vket Cloud is designed to be a self-hosted XR space for users to house and sell virtual goods.

Vket Cloud aims to work on PC and smartphones. In the original announcement thread, it was also noted the engine has "no limitations in the use of NFTs". The reference to this pertains to Vket Cloud's terms of service.

However, the announcement of HIKKY's expanded initiatives and open terms of service are two things that might, over time, affect a change of policy when it comes to mainstream social VR platforms and their acceptance of blockchain.

Currently, most VR platforms either accept blockchain technology or don't--it's a hard line with some pretty even division with drastically different audiences in either sphere. While creatives can inhabit either type of social platform in VR, companies either keep clear of the subject or jump in entirely.

HIKKY's decision with Vket Cloud will possibly mark the first time an XR company has been open to NFTs and blockchain, yet won't embrace it to the point of it changing the establishment's identity.

We sat down with Lhun, Global Team's Technical Marketing Director at Vket and HIKKY, to talk about Vket Cloud and the company's future plans.

HIKKY recently announced Vket Cloud, a game engine that allows users to display work in a self-hosted instance with their own domain. Can you tell us how this works?

LHUN: Vket Cloud is designed as a platform, first targeting enterprise, commercial and retail customers to build almost anything they want! It's a high performance, custom game engine developed in house with the experience gained from running large format events. The goal is to be accessible in an Open Metaverse concept. Hikky is also a member of the VRM Consortium, so we support that avatar format as well as providing design services for our clients. Analytics are important too, so we cover that as well. Japan has a very "mobile first" society, so it's popular over there.

Two existing implementations are https://xrw.docomo.ne.jp and JR East's Virtual Akiba world.

Of course, Vket Cloud was originally developed for our own use, for Virtual Market. Vket Cloud allows our indie exhibitors--like you--to reach a much wider range of people by having Vkets (like the upcoming Music and Comic Vket), on mobile devices, not just [...] PCVR and desktop with our partnership with VRChat.

Another view of the GALLEREAL map from Vket Cloud. (Image courtesy HIKKY/Vket Cloud)

Vket Cloud is also NFT-friendly, showing off an example world in their official announcement that is actually used to exhibit minted works. What persuaded Vket and HIKKY to pursue blockchain technology?

LHUN: HIKKY's visionaries on the whole are very principled. We want to enable creators in general and create a place where they can work, create, and make a living in an economic cycle using VR. That's our ultimate mandate, "creator first" - which is why so much more care and attention is put into our Indie Circle creator worlds at Vket (it's a lot like Comiket, even down to the twice a year timing).  

The company at large are not at all interested in the speculative nature of NFTs. Events running on Vket Cloud itself are licensed like everything else: and NFT Fiesta is not a HIKKY endeavor, they're a client.

From Mika (HIKKY art director)'s side, she explained that she saw a TON of enthusiasm and creativity from the artists doing NFTs, at the time even more of them than were creating for other things like Vket, so she wanted to meet and work with them. She wasn't interested in the "NFT itself" kind of thing, she tried it and didn't see the intrinsic value. As the art director at HIKKY, she wants to gather those artists and interest them in Vket and attract them on the whole.  Mika herself does art for things like Line and other products for emoji stamps and Discord icons (she's really talented!), so there's some overlap in the art world.

When it comes to blockchain software, I'm excited about the prospects that "trustless trust" in the way it works on a fundamental level allows for, for things like avatar ownership and distributed databases so that you can't lose your data and or are not dependent on any one host to get your avatars, etc.  And of course to make them cross platform compatible. This goes into the VRM portability and a lot of other things.

That's the interest in blockchain from a development standard. We employ a few people with doctorates in computer science, so we like to stay on the bleeding edge of that kind of thing.

Our goal of course is to have an open, portable metaverse like Ready Player One, but we care about the planet too. Blockchains can be done in a green way, without token economy or speculative markets.

This is our art install in JR east Akihabara Station. The train at Vket6 wasn't just a neat experience, it was a premonition!

One of the features of Vket Cloud is allowing users to "have their own metaverse space". Does this mean Vket Cloud will have multiplayer capabilities?

LHUN: It already does, since Vket 6, so over a year now. Vket Cloud supports many hundreds of users at once, with voice and a subset of avatars.

I've participated and done QA on those tests myself and stressed it pretty hard. GT [a development group] actually released some samples too, the previous iterations used a limited subset of avatars, like the PKCZ "Primals" you can find in Club Emission (in VRChat too!) which were instanced in such a way that it was pretty low load. This allows a lot of people to experience on a mobile device live things and other events if they don't have the hardware to do so, in a more immersive and social way than a Twitch stream, with avatar-based chat and positional audio.

During the last PKCZ event (Bon-Noh-Kai-Ho-Un-Do Festival), they were releasing a brand new track, and they wanted to reach as many people as possible.

So [we] made a version of Emission, and we livestreamed from VRChat into Vket Cloud and online, everywhere. That being said, the "users own space" is designed to operated like your "virtual home".

So, there's two separate things here. We want to implement a personal user home world running on cloud, that allows you to connect cloud-enabled worlds, too.

Do you foresee Vket eventually branching out to host its virtual conventions separately from any other VR platform? This looks like a step in that direction.

LHUN: Not really, no.

We love VRChat, and what they have built is an incredible platform that stays on the bleeding edge of hardware and software support, with development tools and hosting and all kinds of creator first tools. Cloud is there for Vket to fill some of the gaps in reaching a wide, outside of VR audience. And if they want the whole incredible experience with no limits, the best way is on PCVR in VRChat.

Just like Comiket exists in one location and wouldn't work anywhere else, it's where the people are. Our partnership with VRChat is super important to us, but nothing is as important as our everyday exhibitors, volunteers, and collaborators. They're making things for VRChat for the most part and we're obviously huge fans and members of that community.

Did you know that most of our worlds are not designed and modeled by HIKKY themselves? It's guests and invited artists for Vket to keep things fresh. People like Octuplex and Minuette Doll aren't HIKKY employees, they're exhibitors.

GT is a little different in that we're a bit like the original team that formed HIKKY in the first place--multi-disciplinary VRChat social VR and technology nerds, so while we're working directly for the company, we also make content like Club Emission, Metro, Alt World, and some Vket exhibit content.

HIKKY can't survive as a company and grow if all we do is VRChat conventions. We need cloud because we have to have the freedom to build things for our clients. XR World and JR East are good examples of that.