It’s nearly the end of the road for the Gear VR version of Minecraft; support for that version of Mojang’s enduring hit will end in October.
What does that mean, exactly? Well, as of October there will be no new updates for Minecraft Gear VR, and multiplayer and Realms support will be taken away too. You’ll still be able to play the game in single-player, but Minecraft with no online mode is a bit of a sad thought, isn’t it?
Support is also ending for Windows 10 Mobile, Android devices with less than 768MB of RAM, iOS devices running iOS 10 or below, or video cards that only support DirectX 10.1 or below. Make sure you’re updating where necessary if you want to keep playing.
Minecraft is still available on Oculus Rift and it doesn’t sound like support is ending there. Gear VR itself is basically dead at this point; Samsung itself has stopped updating its software, Facebook dropped Oculus SDK support for the device and the latest Samsung phones don’t support the headset, so it’s not too surprising to see this news. Minecraft never came to Oculus Go but, even if it had, that platform’s going the way of the dodo soon too.
Many of our hopes for Minecraft VR’s future rest on Oculus Quest, then. Back in June, Facebook’s John Carmack revealed he had the game up and running on the standalone headset, but could never get his company and Mojang owner Microsoft to collaborate on release. Minecraft VR support has always been a pet project for the legendary developer. Look, here he is wearing a Gear VR and playing the game at an Xbox E3 conference a few years back.
Online support for a port is gaining ground, though; even the Oculus Gaming Twitter account is encouraging fans to let Mojang know they want it. Fans are upvoting the idea on the official Minecraft site, too.
Still, even if it never comes to Quest, we’ll always have Minecraft Earth, right? Right?
Mozilla is Shuttering its XR Team Amidst Major Layoff, But ‘Hubs’ Will Continue
Mozilla, the company behind Firefox, today announced that it’s laying off 250 employees, apparently shuttering the team responsible for most of its web-focused XR development. Hubs, the company’s web-based social VR app, will continue forward.
Mozilla has been a leading proponent for bringing XR experiences to the web. Five years ago the company published a guest article on Road to VR laying down their plans to make VR a “first class citizen on the web.”
In the intervening years the company’s XR team has created and contributed to a foundation for immersive experiences on the web with projects like A-Frame, WebVR & WebXR support in Firefox, WebXR Viewer on iOS, the Firefox Reality browser, Hubs, and more.
Hubs—perhaps the team’s most ambitious project to date—is an immersive social space that runs directly in the browser with no installation and has rich support for VR headsets while still being accessible through smartphone and PC browsers. Supporting Hubs is Spoke, a completely browser-based 3D modeling tool that lets anyone build custom spaces for Hubs.
Hubs (and possibly Spoke by extension) may turn out to be the only ones of the bunch to survive the shuttering of Mozilla’s XR team which has come as part of a layoff of some 250 of the company’s 1,000 or so employees.
The company announced the news today saying that “significant restructuring” needed to happen to “ensure financial stability over the long term.” In an internal message shared today with employees, the company said the layoffs were more than a short-term decision:
The changes we’re making today are focused on creating an organization that is best equipped to provide products and services that deliver on our mission and aim to make Mozilla Corporation sustainable, over the long term, in the COVID and post-COVID eras. We did not simply “trim.” We did not approach this as a stop-gap or a way to get us through the next few months. We looked at what Mozilla Corporation needs to do to be sustainable and have impact over time. Then we reshaped the organization to meet this, mapping the critical roles and skill sets required to deliver on this outcome.
According to the message, the restructuring will bring a “new product organization outside of Firefox that will both ship new products faster and develop new revenue streams.”
Initial projects handled by that group will include Hubs, the company says, among non-VR projects like Pocket, VPN, Web Assembly, and security & privacy products.
The company hasn’t offered much more in the way of detail, but an employee on Twitter said that the company is “closing down the XR team,” which suggests that most of the company’s immersive web projects beyond Hubs may not continue.
Another Mozilla employee urged on Twitter, “don’t write off Mozilla Hubs just yet. We’re still here, fighting for the open web,” and said that the company’s XR team has “put us in a position to succeed and we won’t let their work go to waste. Hubs was designed from the start to be resilient and we will get through this.”
Earlier this year Mozilla launched Hubs Cloud. While anyone can make and join rooms for free in Hubs, with Hubs Cloud, Mozilla is giving away the foundation of the platform itself so that organizations can use it as a basis for their own, self-hosted virtual spaces that can be customized and extended to their needs, making it a decentralized platform.
‘Noda’ Mind-mapping App to Get Freemium Multi-user Update in Q3, Quest Version Next Year
Noda is a ‘mind-mapping’ app that uses VR’s unique affordances for spatial brainstorming and information organization. Launched initially Early Access in 2017, later this year the 1.0 release of the app will add multi-user functionality and switch to a freemium model with core functionality free for everyone. A Quest version of the game is planned for release in 2021.
Noda is a free-form mind-mapping app for VR. Conceptually, mind-mapping is similar to writing an outline to organize your thoughts before writing a paper, but the mind-mapping method typically makes use of spatial relationships to organize ideas rather than a more abstract hierarchy like with a written outline. Noda uses VR to enable mind-mapping in three dimensions and also strives to help you focus on the task at hand by leveraging VR’s ability to take you away from your usual (and sometimes distracting) surroundings.
The app has seen intermittent updates since its Early Access launch on Steam and Oculus PC in 2017, which have added a handful of features not available at launch like speech-to-text input, background images, and ambient music. The app’s interface has matured too, making things cleaner and adding new icons and colors for nodes. Most recently, Noda was updated with video tutorials to make learning the app easier.
Multi-User Feature & Freemium Structure Coming in Q3
Developer Coding Leap says that a major update for Noda is planned for Q3 of this year which will add multi-user support for collaborative brainstorming sessions with other users. Additionally, the app will change to a freemium monetization model where the base app is free for everyone, while premium features can be unlocked for a one time price of $20 (which is the current price of the app).
Fortunately, Coding Leap has confirmed that multi-user support will be available to all users whether they use the free or premium version. All users will be able to spend unlimited time in the app, but premium users will be able to save an unlimited number of mind-maps and also access features like speech-to-text input and specialized music.
Those who have already purchased the Early Access version of Noda will own the full premium version when it launches later this year, Coding Leap says.
Oculus Quest Support Planned for 2021
Coding Leap also plans to bring Noda to Oculus Quest next year. So far the studio hasn’t confirmed whether the app will launch on the Quest store proper, or if it will use the official Quest sideloading process which earlier this year Oculus confirmed would be coming to the headset.
More unannounced features are in the works for the Quest launch next year, which we expect will also find their way to the PC version. We’ve reached out to Coding Leap to confirm if the Quest version of Noda will support hand-tracking as well as multi-user and (if so) if it will be cross-platform with the PC version.
Little Witch Academia: VR Broom Racing for Oculus Quest Lands in October
Japanese studio UNIVRS Inc. announced plans to bring its magic-based virtual reality (VR) racing title Little Witch Academia: VR Broom Racing to Oculus Quest a few months ago. Now the studio has confirmed a date, with the title set to arrive on 13th October 2020.
Based on Studio TRIGGER’s anime, Little Witch Academia: VR Broom Racing will feature a new storyline within the magical universe, where players find themselves as a guest student at the famous Luna Nova Witchcraft Academy.
Players will be able to grab a flying broom and compete across more than ten tracks, being able to customise their brooms and partner with characters including Akko, Lotte, and Sucy. Alongside the story campaign players can connect with friends via various online multiplayer modes.
UNIVRS Inc. completed a pair of successful crowdfunding campaigns in 2019 to help create Little Witch Academia: VR Broom Racing, managing to raise over $165,000 between Kickstarter and Campfire (the Japanese equivalent). It’s a trend the franchise is good at, previously a Little Witch Academia short film managed to secure $625,518 from 7,938 backers, leading to Netflix commissioning a 25-episode series.
“The fans are the lifeblood of the Little Witch Academia series, and that principle guided us at UNIVRS when creating VR Broom Racing,” said Naoya Koji, COO at UNIVRS in a statement. “We strived to make this as accessible an experience as possible for the fans, even if it’s their first virtual reality experience, and know we will live up to their expectations.”
When Little Witch Academia: VR Broom Racing launches on 13th October it’ll retail for $29.99 USD on the Oculus Store. The title includes both English and Japanese language text as well as voice acting. Additional versions are planned for PlayStation VR, Oculus Rift and other SteamVR headsets, with support expected early 2021. VRFocus will continue its coverage of Little Witch Academia: VR Broom Racing, reporting back with further updates.
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