Successful Steam social platform VRChat is in a state of disarray following a disruptive update that banned all mods, leaving the game unplayable for many who rely on modded accessibility features.
The mod ban accompanies the integration of Easy Anti-Cheat in an attempt to combat “malicious modded clients”.
The latest debacle began earlier this week, when VRChat announced the ban and the inclusion of Easy Anti-Cheat, as well as an open beta beginning immediately to test the update. On Discord, VRChat staff member Tupper revealed they expected the update to be rolled out to all players within 24 hours.
Unsurprisingly, many players have been vocal about their worries and disappointment in the mod ban. VRChat has little to no native accessibility features, meaning that in less than a day, disabled players relying on accessibility mods would no longer be able to play.
Others are outraged about the loss of quality of life mods – one player we spoke to revealed that they used mods solely to add a clock display so they didn’t spend too much time online, as there wasn’t a clock in-game.
Many are sceptical about the effectiveness of Easy Anti-Cheat. Players took to the official feedback board on Canny and VRChat’s official Discord server to make their voices heard. On Canny, posts on Easy Anti-Cheat and the knock-on effect for accessibility mods quickly began to trend. In contrast, several users reported being banned from the Discord server for bringing up the resulting exclusion of disabled players, or even just raising a discussion about the update.
Following this, the app was review bombed on Steam, where it still sits at a recent rating of Overwhelmingly Negative. The VRChat subreddit is full of people cancelling their VRChat Plus subscriptions and urging others to do the same, or discussing alternative VR apps to migrate to.
Yesterday, VRChat updated its blog post stating it was “reprioritising, reorganising, and changing our internal development roadmap to focus on the feedback you’ve given us”, but by that point it had already pushed the new changes live. It also confirmed it did “not have plans or intent to revert or roll it back”. This has justifiably further frustrated the VRChat community, who say they feel they are being ignored.
The updated blog acknowledges the concerns surrounding accessibility and claims the “internal development roadmap and priorities” have been changed to implement changes as “soon as possible”.
Players who rely on accessibility mods for VRChat have said this isn’t satisfactory. The new statement does not give a concrete timeline of when, or even if, the necessary features that they need to play will be added, they say. VRChat staff have claimed to be in contact with community leaders, but have not pointed out who these figures are.
“A lot of people are sceptical that these features will be added any time soon, and there’s absolutely no chance these features can be built, tested and pushed to release… in the next month or two,” one user told Eurogamer. “I’m glad it’s something they’re focusing on more, but unless they can cover every single accessibility need that a community-made mod can address, people will be losing out.
“It very much feels like a case of ‘believe it when you see it’, and with no public roadmap, it leaves us guessing as to what functionality is being worked on, and what kind of timeframe we can expect.”
Disabled players are feeling the brunt of this update the most. They say they are now stuck with a game they cannot play, with no guidance on when the game will be made accessible to them and no guaranteed way of making sure their needs are being listened to.
Members of the larger VRChat community have described the situation as feeling hostile due to the contradicting claims made in the updated blog post. Players say their concerns are not being taken into consideration as the update has been rolled out without any changes. There are no interactions with staff on Canny and speaking out on Discord has resulted in some receiving bans.
For most VRChat players, this update provides no useful features. It certainly does not address the disturbing behaviour towards minors that were previously reported in February, as part of a BBC report that revealed the rampant grooming and sexual harrassment of minors within the app.
For disabled VRChat players, this is a huge setback, particularly considering the work that is going into accessibility options in high-profile games . They say they now find themselves stuck in an ecosystem that has taken away the tools that allow them to join in without providing a sufficient alternative.
VRChat is notorious amongst its playerbase for its slow implementation of user-requested features. The vague, flimsy promise of a more accessible game at some point in the future isn’t enough, users say – not when a community has already built those modifications for themselves, and not when that accessibility is taken away from them overnight with one day’s notice.
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