Interview with Brian Shuster, CEO of Utherverse Red Light Center
Editor’s note: This interview is a few years old. Curio is now out but the older version of Red Light Center is also still going strong.
Sexgame Reviews recently had the opportunity to talk to with Brian Shuster, the CEO of Utherverse / Red Light Center at their swanky offices in Vancouver, B.C. Utherverse has been working on a next generation 3D web product that promises to take virtual sex to the next level of heaven. Let’s see what Brian has to say about it.
SGR: Why did you start with adult?
BS: Well, my partner and I, my late partner Ray and I were looking for a new business venture to get into after I had had some success in the internet space. I had been playing one of the early MMO games, Ashram’s call and we took a trip out to Amsterdam. We were hanging out in the red light district and, you know, doing what was legal in Amsterdam. The actual original project that we came up with was a project called Virtual Island which was an MMO dating service which was non-adult, which was really interesting. Immersed in all of this real world adult playground stuff and the first concept we had was non-adult. … The second trip to Amsterdam we realized, you know, we’re doing this backwards. If we want to establish Virtual Island, a dating company, the first thing to do was to move into the adult space with Red Light Center and then backfill with all of the mainstream channels that we were looking at. So really it was a business decision, it was learning from history about how all these innovations in photography and videography were all really ushered in by adult first. First pictures that were ever taken were nudes. The first videos, they had little flip machines and of course those were striptease and nudes. I learned all of this in my history of communications.
SGR: If it wasn’t for adult and the military we’d probably still be living in caves.
BS: Yeah, right. So it’s a fundamental driver of human interest and that’s why we selected adult really to get things going.
SGR: Do you have an in-game presence like Lord British? Perhaps with a giant wand to please the fair maidens?
BS: I have an in-game presence. My avatar is Brian, endowed like everyone else in Red Light Centre but you know, it’s more how you use it.
SGR: The utherverse empire has expanded to include user created worlds, conventions complete with virtual swag, a social center, real estate walkthroughs, and even a virtual training center. I’m not here to talk about any of that. I just want to know how to get laid online.
BS: Ha, ha ha.
SGR: Can I create my own sex planet that only allows munchkins with a Unicorn fetish?
BS: Yes and no, I will say yes we’re happy to have user generated content, user created interesting elements, but our software terms of service prohibit doing anything which is going to make it look like anybody is underage so as along as the munchins are clearly of the age of majority then you should be fine. You know actually I say it in jest but it is a bit of a serious thing because governments of course go crazy and we started to see some absolutely absurd kinds of things like stories that I am not going to attribute to sources because the sources aren’t immediately available in my brain, but I recall a case now where somebody has gone to jail in the states for having drawn a picture of something that appeared as a child, somebody who wrote a story of an under aged person being raped and in jail for pure thought and for pure writing of course somebody being arrested for having a Japanese Anime comic book which had somebody depicted as a minor. So these things where we obviously have to take it seriously, although I think it is absolutely preposterous that thought crimes have been illegal particularly when they serve the greater good of everybody. If you can’t discuss, if you can’t write about someone being under aged and having an experience which may be a brutal experience then how do we know whether this is a bad thing and how do people learn lessons from it? I think it’s absolutely criminal that people can be arrested for pure creative expression nevertheless we live in a crazy world.
SGR: That’s good No under aged munchkins. Actually I was afraid you were going to be opposed to the unicorns.
BS: Right. Hey I don’t know what you’ve got for a horn on that thing!
SGR: In Red Light Center you can create avatars that are pretty small and childlike. Has this been an issue like in second life wonderland?
BS: Yah no, it really hasn’t been as much of an issue, or let’s say any real issue because all of our avatars you can make them small but they are all designed to be twenty one and you can’t produce these from scratch avatars that you could in second life. We prohibit age play and we have active world ops present so if it get reported we do everything that we can to ensure that this is an adult platform.
SGR: You introduced virtual drugs back in 2007 can you tell us how they work?
BS: Pretty well! A lot of real drug effect is placebo, it is the act of doing the drug it sets up the body and the mind, it prepares you for the experience. So we recreate a lot of that with some hallucinogenic virtual drugs and it loosens people up and it makes them enjoy the virtual experience more. An avatar can drink and that will not only give you the wine glass in your hand and give you the physical drinking motions but it will start to alter your screen perception and alter the way your avatar moves.
SGR: Do the other avatars start to look better to you?
BS: Well it starts to alter the appearance so it is certainly possible that they look better and you can see somebody who is whoozy but then also your avatar can smoke virtual pot, take virtual ecstasy or take virtual mushrooms and all those things have different kind of psycho-active effects on your screen and on your avatar’s movement, on your avatars ability to dance and we have a lot of fun with that. Users have a lot of fun with that. Virtual ecstasy gives you a glow stick. The mushrooms make you see trails and such so yeah definitely different ways to experience the virtual word that way and give a little bit of mind seasoning as my late partner used to say.
SGR: I’ll definitely have to try that. I haven’t tried it yet.
BS: Oh you definitely have to try that.
SGR: Red Light Center allows people to work as virtual prostitutes. Can I make money doing this? Is it legal? Can I catch virtual herpes?
BS: Well no to the virtual herpes that’s for sure and yes you can make money. What users are doing in this instance they are essentially providing content for the game. So a virtual working girl spends time with somebody, shows them around, shows them how to use the various functions. They might introduce them to the virtual drugs, they introduce them how to have virtual sex. They have a whole experience with people and people pay them for doing that. It’s not in any large way different from a phone sex operator except this is more of a real experience and more of really interacting and spending time and having the ability not just to have it about sex. So it adds up foreplay and arousal and bonding and really people have very positive and fulfilling experiences. Working girls make money. Some of them do webcam shows which also they can charge for so it’s a great way. We have a lot of people who supplement their income or people who make an entire full time income just escorting in the virtual world, providing companionship services and sex services and virtual sex services and all of these things. So it is a positive thing all around.
SGR: You’ve been working on a reboot of the 3D environment code name Curio. We’ve seen some tasty graphics on YouTube this year but nothing in the past few month. What’s the state of all this and when can we expect a release?
BS: Well I am going to be discussing this quite extensively at the town hall meeting but the sandbox for Curio which will essentially be our alpha is launching on January 2nd . Then we are going to be incrementally adding features and expanding the capacity. Actually, it’s not just code named Curio, Curio is the name of the 3D web browser now so instead of just calling it the client or saying Red Light Centre you will browse the Virtual World Web using Curio. I am anticipating sometime in the second quarter of 2014 Red Light Centre is going to be opened on the Virtual World Web and at that time we are going to start to move everybody over who wants to move over. We will move content over. Curio has some fantastic capabilities, things that we could never do in the current Red Light Centre. The capabilities for sex using Curio are almost unlimited. So just a few examples of things that can happen, instead of clicking on somebody for sex, I don’t know if you have done this sex stuff in that setup?
SGR: I haven’t done it for a while
BS: So you want to do oral sex (in the current system), you click on the person to invite for sex, you pop on to a bed, your sizes have adjusted so that you are compatible for our animation system and you get a side menu. You click on oral and boom! You snap to a new position. You click on doggie, you instantly snap to a new position. In Curio you will be able to do things like walk to the bed, choose to make out and even if you are on different sides of the room, your avatars can walk to each other, grab each other, start making out and you can blend multiple animations. So I can say grab her butt, that doesn’t mean I stop making out, you can continue to make out and grab her butt. I say take off bra. Her bra doesn’t pop off, the avatar reaches around, undoes the bra. You see the bra come off in a fluid motion, it is not just a rigid thing. So being able to blend animations together, being able to have whole sequences that aren’t these snap shots but actually are custom and deal with the situation. These are things that are not instantly all going to be there when we move Red Light Centre over. When we move Red Light Centre over we will move all of the animations and all the avatar systems but then as we start to iterate on it we can add in these trigger points, key frames to the animation and all of these neat new systems become available. So the sex is going to become much more engaging and much more lifelike and realistic. The ability to strip, the ability to take off a piece of clothing and wave it around and throw it or grab a pole and meld animation so everybody won’t have the same dance moves. Everybody will be able to do these custom neat things and all of this promises a whole new wonderland and it is really one of the reasons why we have been so excited about it. It is taking forever to develop but this was always the objective, to get a system where all of these things could happen and we needed to learn how things happen in the real world. So we have had this platform out and it has been a huge learning experience for us for years and years and of course we have been working on Curio now for many years so it promises to be an enormous break through. Very excited you know January 2nd where we are actually going to have live users coming in on a full time basis. Hopefully like I say not too many months later we will actually move things over and it will all start to work.
SGR: What’s is the status of online dating in Red Light Center? Is this a potential start to hooking up in real life?
BS: We see it all the time. We do more than a thousand virtual weddings a year. So that’s a number that we are really proud of. Lots of those turn into real world relationships and some of them turn into real world marriages. So we have had an enormous amount of success in dating in Red Light Centre. We actually have more women users than men and that’s something really unique to the virtual world environment and particularly an adult virtual world environment. The women are much more confident to be able to come in and interact because it’s so much less threatening than on a dating service where the point is to hook up in the real world. That’s a lot of pressure. In the virtual world environment the point is just to have fun, to explore and get to know somebody and there is no expectation of meeting in the real world. Ironically that leads to more meeting up in the real world because they know that this isn’t all about that so they’re more comfortable getting to know somebody and sort of letting their guard down and the guys are too. They are able to be more comfortable. You meet her, you meet her friends, she meets your friends, you know if they are a creep and if they are not a creep you know they are not just trying to get laid in the real world. It’s much less threatening trying to get laid in the virtual world. If he is cool about that and giving you space and giving you time that’s probably how he behaves in the real world, I don’t know I think that is part of the magic. It adds this additional layer of safety and security where it’s much less pressure and it’s in real-time so you know it is not all scripted and it is not trying to read through the – ok what’s really going on here? Is he too polished? Is he a player? You’re meeting him, you’re meeting his friends and you see how he behaves and it has been very successful.
SGR: Who would perform the ceremony?
BS: You know we have justices of the peace. The wedding industry is an enormous industry. We talked about the working girls and people getting paid for that. We have justices of the peace that make a living organising weddings and putting the DJ together and the wedding venue together and the drafts and the whole thing. There’s a photographer and videographer industry where they video the wedding, but we license justices of the peace to perform ceremonies and then you are officially married in Utherverse or Red Light Centre so yah it is really cool. And there is virtual divorce in case things don’t work out.
SGR: how I can make money with my virtual world?
BS:Well there are really all kind of ways, you have the capability of charging a cover charge. So we have a world currency obviously which is rays it is how users conduct their business and you could do things like what we’re doing. We have a DJ concert series where you get a DJ in. You have a club, users come in and they can pay you a cover charge to attend the shows, so it’s essentially selling tickets. Users make money doing things like decorating other users spaces as an interior designer. We have clothing designers and those users make money from their virtual world by having shopping malls. They will put together their clothing designs and put them on mannequins and put them on sales people. People come in to shop and that is quite a business. Performing virtual services like offering psychic readings or psychological counselling or somebody to talk to. But if you are just talking about making money from a virtual world, you can have events that you can sell tickets to. You can make money through our affiliate program. So you have a virtual world and post events. Events may be free, but you are contacting people on your Instagram and your Facebook and saying “come on in, we are doing these events, we have a bondage club”. The user downloads your virtual world software, our software but branded for you, and then if the user becomes a paying member you get a royalty on that. We have just re-launched our affiliate program, so that obviously how most people make money on their virtual worlds. They get up to sixty percent recurring revenue split. So they attract users into the world and they get paid for it.
SGR: Where do you see Red Light Centre in another three years?
BS:It is going to take off in a very user driven way. Rather than being controlled where we have to build all the animations and we have to build all the scripts and we have to build all the content Red Light Centre is basically going to be opened up so that if users are interested in content there will become a marketplace where either they can build that content themselves or are if there is enough user demand third parties will come in and build the content. I anticipate in three years that the kind of interactions that users can have on Red Light Centre will essentially be unlimited except to the extent that it is limited by legality and that it is not malicious. Right now we get all kinds of demands from all kinds of market segments. We have been working on transgender three-way animation, “well why have you left out the gay furry?” Because we can’t work on everything all the time! There are limits. Here we won’t be producing the content really at all, it will be user driven and if there is a market for trans gender furry , gay, three-ways then that is going to get built and it will be built with all kinds of detail and modified. We have really developed market incentive programs which we are going to be releasing over the next couple of years that are going to allow people to capitalise on creating all this content. We have blow job animations right now but there are a million ways to give a blow job and we have got a couple in there. So users are dissatisfied, come from the adult entertainment area and they say “geez this actress won blow job of the year. That should be an animation! I should be able to copy that.” Well great. Somebody will build that and market it under the brand of the starlet who won. Say “give head like her with this animation. It is going to cost you a nickel”.
SGR: So is it completely open like will I be able to build models? Do animations? Some kind of scripting?
BS: Yes, and in three years that will all have been in place for some time. It is not coming out on January 2 completely open. We have the infrastructure, the foundation for that in place but it is going to iterated over the next couple of years and that’s all part of the plan. So yes, you will able to do all those things scripting animations custom models, custom meshes, custom animations and all the particle effects and so liquids and reflection and all of these things that you can’t do now and physics so they behave like they do in the real world.
SGR: That’s awesome
BS: Mesh deformations are also exciting. So you can press on somebody’s lips and they will push in or press on other parts and they will fold or wrap or whatever they do.