The multidisciplinary artist has supporters like Kanye West and Mowalola. Now, he’s collaborating with metaverse company Realm to launch his own virtual world
For some reptilian-adjacent tech bros (see: Mark Zuckerberg), the metaverse is going to be a digital world that we spend our lives in – going to work, shopping, and partying. They see it as a singular virtual space where people can strap on a pair of 3D goggles and click enter in much the same way as you’d go on Instagram or Twitter. But this is a wholly unchic idea, especially when you consider that the metaverse could be anything we want it to be. So, why would you want to don a plain tee and log into a work meeting on Meta when you could literally soar through the pixelated vistas of a magical kingdom with a pair of dragon wings?
The truth is, the metaverse isn’t one homogenous space, but a catch-all term for any immersive virtual world. This can be video games like Fortnite and Roblox, or cutesy platforms like VRChat. For Realm, a newly launched metaverse, it means building a decentralised platform where players can jump through portals and explore infinite realms built for and by the users themselves. You can craft their own worlds from scratch, creating stories and adding gamification layers such as event ticketing, live audio, 3D sound, flying and racing.
“All the different realms, or ‘microverses’, are interconnected with one another and are meant to coexist in an inclusive metaverse,” say the creators. Dubbed the “people’s metaverse”, Realm doesn’t charge players who want to build their own worlds. “We are innovating away from the wave of digital feudalism that other metaverses are founded on, where creators have to buy expensive land in order to create something,” they explain. Operating across VR, AR and mixed reality, the platform is also designed to work on smartphones, meaning that players don’t need to strap a (pricey) brick-sized headset to their face when getting started.
Realm officially launched to the public last month at NFT.NYC 2022 along with a collaboration with multidisciplinary artist Oseanworld. The 25-year-old is a prodigy among certain dedicated online circles, having caught the eye of Kanye West, Mowalola and Offset. He spent his early teenage years building online people on virtual platforms like IMVU, before launching his YouTube channel in 2014 with a selection of music, videos and an anime series. His in-game character Yameii, an anime vocaloid rapper, is an internet sensation, with hits like “Limewire Jutsu” and ”Yamei vs. The Worldgarnering up to 22 million streams on Spotify and nine million views on YouTube.
For his Realm collab, the Atlanta-based artist pulled inspiration from a 2021 mixtape, NU RADIO, that launched as part of a showcase for his array of Oseanworld artists, which also include IRL producer Deko and Lil Hard Drive, another vocaloid rapper created by Ocean and Deco. NU RADIO fully embodies Oseanworld with bespoke avatars and immersive experiences, like a multiplayer racing game that’s launching ahead of NU RADIO’s official launch in mid-July.
Below, we catch up with Osean at NFT.NTC to discuss his realm collab, the future of virtual raving, and digital drugs.
How did the collaboration with Realm come about?
Oceanworld: They hit me up and were like, ‘Your arts really cool, do you want to make a game?’ The cool thing about Realm is that they’re actual people. Usually you have to email 40 times and go through this whole process. But with Realm, I met Joban and it was like, ‘yo what’s up!’
What is the relationship between your IRL self and your avatars?
Oceanworld: They’re free trials for how I want to run my real life. It’s like going into a closet and wearing different types of clothes. At first, it started with me wanting to dye my hair, so I bleached it and did a bunch of colours. I did the same thing with my tattoos, like drawing the stars on my 3D hand and choosing which variation works.
How do you go about designing your characters?
Oceanworld: It’s really freeform for the most part. Last night, I stayed up until 4AM making songs and stories. After that, I go into 3D and start giving them personas and colours; I build an entire ethos around them, like what they stand for.
There’s a big anime influence on your characters, especially in their backstories. Where does that come from?
Oceanworld: One Piece is a big influence – and Naruto. It’s funny because they’re the most mainstream anime, but they’re mainstream for a reason. The filler (characters) have so much depth. They’ll go to some random island and there will be this one character with an entire backstory. It’s cool because the main character doesn’t have a main narrative; Their backstory is based on everyone else’s backstories.
What I like about anime is that you can grow up with the character as if they’re an actual person. With One Piecefor example, you see Luffy grow up from a baby to becoming the king of the pirates.
What is the relationship between your visuals and music?
Oceanworld: Music has always pretty much-driven everything that I do. When I was doing Oceanworld season one, I had made a bunch of soundtracks beforehand. But when I met Deko, I had the idea of Yameii beforehand, but I had her singing and shit. He was like, do you want to make her rap? And I was like, yeah. I can kind of figure out what I want to do for art sometimes, but with music, I just doodle bop on the keyboard for two seconds and I’ve already got like 40 ideas, so it’s cool.
Obviously, during the pandemic, virtual parties hit the mainstream. But they’ve simmered back down again as everything’s reopened. Do you see metaverse parties becoming a thing? How do you think it will unfold?
Oceanworld: On VRChat, there’s this whole underground scene that throws these crazy raves. The cool thing about online versus real life is that you have the free reign to sandbox anything. So, in real life, you have to pick a venue, pay for the, or whatever. But in 3D you don’t have to pay for shit. You just need to have the ability to create the thing.
When you’re in VR, you have the goggles with the mirror lenses and headphones on. It’s complete sensory overload and it feels like you’re actually inside of the club. The thing I like about VRChat is it’s about the people creating the environment versus the people who actually work in VR. Now all these kids have built all these cool clubs with crazy-ass dolphins and there’s a DJ in the middle surrounded by holograms and cascading waterfalls and petals flying everywhere. They’re playing this crazy-ass music with dancing bears and Kermit the Frog dancing next to you.
“All these old people don’t give a fuck about decentralisation. And, even if they did, they wouldn’t know how to go about it” – Oseanworld
What’s your experience of building clubs on VRChat?
Oceanworld: We started building clubs in there probably four of five years ago, just playing some crazy techno. It created this cool underground scene where people would come in their hundreds or thousands to come party and hang out. They’d be in VR for eight hours, taking VR drugs and the like.
Wait, what are VR drugs?
Oceanworld: They change your perception so it makes your brain look weird. It’ll play with how auditory and sensory your actual headset is and program it so that it warps your entire perception so that it literally feels like you’re walking upwards or downwards or something like that.
I think that some people are hesitant towards the metaverse because of how it’s been sold to us through people like Mark Zuckerberg. The aesthetic is so unsexy too, like why are the avatars dressed in plain clothes?
Oceanworld: Mark Zuckerberg is trying to pitch it to older people. He’s wearing all those lame ass clothes, because that’s what normal people will wear. But the people that are actually going to push this shit forwards are the people that aren’t going to wear that. If you want to be cool, why aren’t you using the technology that’s trying to push it forward in the first place?
That’s the thing, the metaverse has been around since Second Life and Habbo Hotel. Those are all things we grew up playing.
Oceanworld: We played it but our parents skipped all of that. They went from not having a phone to basically having VR and AR.
It feels like Web2’s last effort to remain relevant when all the young people want is decentralisation.
Oceanworld: All these old people don’t give a fuck about decentralisation. And, even if they did, they wouldn’t know how to go about it. So, I understand where Zuckerberg’s coming from because people want to be told what to do. The reason Apple is so successful is that it gives you a lane of things to do. Like, I’ll show you how to make friends, how to talk with people online. But we don’t need that shit. We want to take life into our own hands.
How do you see it playing out?
Oceanworld: I think it’ll end up being two sides of the same apartment where there will be both a decentralised and centralized version. There will be all the kids building their own shit, but Facebook will be there to cater to the old people. Like, you’re not going to see your grandma hit Discord.
We have all these crazy technologies that go beyond Meta and we’re going to make wh we think the actual metaverse should be – and that archipelago is going to be way crazier.
NU RADIO will be released on Realm in the coming weeks. Find out more here