Oculus first impressions

Nikolas getting almost the first go in Oculus VR
Nikolas getting almost the first go in Oculus VR

So my long awaited Oculus Rift arrived over the summer. I had to wait a bit to get it going cos I didn’t have a good enough computer, but finally succumbed to a PC with latest GeForce 1070 graphics card, and was all set.

After a pretty simple and flaw free set-up I finally got into the Rift and… wow!
Although I have tried many Rift set-ups at Meet-ups in Oslo recently and also the Vive with its slightly improved location tracking features, I was not really prepared for actually HOW immersive it is. The field of view basically covering your vision completely and the indistinguishable head tracking means that looking around in a room, is quite a surreal experience. I immediately downloaded all that was free from the Oculus Store. Almost the best example is in fact the “Luckys Tale” kids game, I was expecting the best experiences from 1st person things, but in Luckys tale you play a little fox as a 3rd person character. There was no sickness feeling as you maneuvered him around the jumping and fighting platform game, and the look is extremely realistic, if a cartoon can be considered realistic. Its almost as if you are “playing” with plastic or wooden things.
Many of the free games are very short, very beautiful, and trying to be emotional. A few criticisms were the Abe VR… gory and grotesque.. removed it immediately…  going for shock value, and Eve… Felt sick within seconds, and cannot really stay in that one for longer than 5 minutes before feeling very queasy… OK.. in that one you can bank and dive your spaceship in all directions and of course, that probably IS pretty queasy. But then I noticed… there’s NOTHING (free) on the store with simple walking around in an environment. Almost all examples are static, with “head-look”… and that works very well…

So what of movement?

With relatively little hassle I got a version of my The Window project working, originally for Google cardboard, with Gaze look controls for walking and interacting. Theres some work to do there, I had to look a little obliquely at buttons to get them to fire, but Ill probably sort that out. Again, headlook works great.. BUT.. as soon as I move around… quease… nausea… sick!

I was quite disappointed by this. It can be that movement needs to be VERY carefully tweaked, with some easing in and out of movement.. my basic Unity player controller with VR enabled does not have this, its stop start.. and quite brutal movement. I generally DON’T like easing on normal 1st person games, they feel laggy, but I think it might be needed in VR. This needs some reading up.

I am very excited about what I will do in VR, I have many plans and experiments to do… Im generally NOT impressed by architectural walkthroughs, which appears to be the only genuine “monetization” ideas anyone seems to have… as the actor playing Mark Zuckerberg says in “The Social Network”… “We don’t even know WHAT this is yet!!!”
If the nausea is a default with VR, and not fixable, it’s NOT going to take over and be “Virtual Reality” as the Matrix or Cyberpunk authors would have us believe, maybe 360 degree movies, ARE the way ahead after all? Do we NEED to be able to physically “walk around, in the room, like Vive offers?

I don’t think so…

Sitting as I am at home, I generally do NOT want to leap out of my chair and stand as some of the demos suggest I do… let alone walk about in a virtual space at home, (although this is probably very interesting as gallery/museum installations) and I DON’T want to have to crane my head around behind me to follow the “action” in a  360 degree, but fixed position piece, no… I want to be able to “walk, while sat, staring roughly straight ahead, looking about of course, but move.. through an environment, through rooms, down roads. However I DO like the body positioning the oculus sensor affords. That I could sit down on the floor and examine the carpet, or stand up and peer over things was nice.

I’m looking forward to my The Valley piece in VR, where the idea is that movement around the environment will allow you to explore, but sitting (maybe even lying) still will encourage wildlife to come out and approach you, but movement will scare them off.
(S0 its time to go off and trawl the Unity app store for VR ready player characters with easing and controller support… making your own is so time consuming and tiresome…)

All in all, I’m excited where this will go, especially as I can already appreciate some of the challenges that VR will pose, especially in extended use. I am far from being experienced in this yet, but i do feel that the future I envisioned in 1989 on the Southsea Fairground flying game (a cumbersome helmet with blocky and laggy graphics) is finally here… and its up to artists and storytellers to grasp this new medium before the big boys (to paraphrase Marisa Tomei in “My Cousin Vinnie”) “… fuck it up!”

 

 

Tech Notes

Just a post where Im going to leave notes to myself incase I forget stuff!

For a Google Cardboard Unity build

1 export build from Unity (disable symlink libraries)
2 open in Xcode
3 add security framework
4 disable bitcode

Upload to App-store

First Product/ArchiveThen upload from Xcode organizer  fails so export a version for the App Store and then I uploaded it using the Application Loader (It’s available on the Xcode menu, under “Open Developer Tool”).

VRoom 06 The City

Just thought Id make a corner of a block in a big US city. Maybe a cross-section. not too big, but deal with AI in the cars that are stopping and turning… people hanging about, maybe overhear conversations if you are close.
tempted to make this a 3 minutes before 9:11 game.. It ends as a plane goes over… but thats seems a bit morbid, and do I really wanna be political? Well maybe? lets face it.. that moment is a bit of a BEFORE and AFTER moment for the 21st century.
possible conversations:
so and so is getting married to the wrong guy
I hope I get that job
the girl at the copy shop is cute.. wonder if i could ask her out
I love the city, but its hard to find a decent apartment.
problems?
How to restrict the area..?
I only want to be able to stand on this street corner… Maybe NOT let the user do the walking, they can look around, but we  just walk them, maybe also as part of the car AI.. when it’s safe to cross etc. that way they only get snippets of the conversations…
wonder if I can GET conversations for free somewhere…
rather not have lip-synch… maybe just bone move…

VRoom 05 The dark room

Experimenting with audio.

Screen shot... Lovely huh?
Screen shot… Lovely huh?

VR glasses on, but totally black. A voice is heard in the distance.
“Hello! Over here.. turn this way… come to me…”
When we are facing the voice it changes
” Yes thats right now come over here”
and the voice becomes nearer, as we additionally hear footsteps from below ourselves.

If we veer off, or turn our heads, the footsteps cease and the voice goes
“no, come back, not that way!”
Eventually we get close to the voice and the footsteps stop. The voice says, “Oh.. you know what, there was a light switch back where you came from all the time…”

You turn around, and theres a small light illuminating a switch. A small amount of the room is seen…

We walk over to the switch, just before arrival it fizzes and fails, the voice shouts..
“Oh shit.. well ok.. to your left then… “
and a light comes on, again illuminating a light switch, if we try to look away (at the speaking voice for example, the light fails, and it happens again.)

Application for funding

I made an application to http://www.kulturradet.no/ for support to complete The Great Work, the trilogy I started 30 years ago. And as a bonus, some money to have Strawberry Wasp converted to a more modern format than, “fragile hand manipulated, with holes punching in it and inserted bits of film and hair”. like… i dunno 4k quicktime or something?

EDIT: Didn’t geddit.

T.R.U.T.H.

3 years in the making, this game is a big sprawling mess. It may even be broken.

My concept for Truth (aka “The road up to Hell“) was originally to make a multiplayer game, where the 4 individual players played different roles, had very little to do apart from some repetitive and boring quest, and that after a while they would decide to break the rules and go off on their own. Other quests would emerge if they met up, and the final ending would only happen if all four had met.
The game area and graphics are now finished, however, became very slow as I learned how to optimize, multiplayer became a problem, and now I wonder if the whole game can be re-thought out if you play character one at a time, in a single player game, then discovering Adventure Creator as a tool for the game design, which however seems to rule out multiplayer… completely.. or maybe not…
I won’t do “spoilers” here, just in case I get it working again, but, after upgrading to Unity 5 (big no no) it will not open, and I seem to have killed it completely… I know some things to try, but simply don’t hav…
no wait… its working again… hmm…

Story in one sentence (SPOILER)

You arrive as a character in the rainy, snowy evening to a Norwegian Valley. You may choose between 4 characters. A Priest, a Nurse, an American businessman or a Scientist. Depending on who you choose you start in a different place. (Multi player version, each player chooses a player and they are all played at once) If you die you character lies on the ground, and you may choose another, when you arrive at the previous characters body, you may loot and get back what you achieved in your previous incarnation. (multiplayer version if you die you are “out” and other can collect your findings) The valley has a secret, that you must discover, and then game over! HURRAH! You have to play all 4 characters to find the secret, so yes, 3 characters MUST die!

[collapse]

Some pics…

Outside Auntys Cabin
The thin girl, testing if she gets cold in the rain. She does.
The valley looks nice in the day. (Its never day, never looks nice)
Some disgruntled villagers.. approach carefully…
Auntys Cabin
Church Interior
The Church (based on Nesodden Church)
Research Center. 15th floor (down)
Nurse arrives on this bus. Only 1 bus a day…
The research Center above ground
The Mental Asylum, I mean local medical center… it USED to be a Mental Asylum, thats right…
Working on character movement…
During the shooter period, not sure there are weapons any more…
Thin girl again… good skin…
Thin girl in blender
Hospital Operating room, the local doctor has a harmless hobby…
Aunty has stories to tell, if she doesn’t shoot you first…
Church and Church yard from above (getting crows to fly off when you approach)
Crow programming…
AI chickens!
A Chicken… mostly harmless
Auntys Cabin and Hire car left carelessly with the lights on…
I hate Audis
A light!
The Cabin
Cabin Interior
Plotting bus routes
Snow!
Church interior
Also based on Nesodden Church…

 

Eden

EDEN_MENU FLY.unity - EDEN (1) - PC, Mac & Linux Standalone (Personal)-1

The experiment
What will happen on a lonely island where 2 players arrive firstly without knowing the other exists? and upon meeting, how do they communicate? We give them the ability to fight, or build a friendship. A few things to do, like explore, some small but ultimately non-lethal dangers to experience, and avoid, will these bring them together?

Solution

To make a small explorable area, add a simple developing story, using simple techniques, to engage the user and encourage the user to re-visit the experience many times, at the same time dissuading them from very extended periods of play.

Story Outline

Very loosely based on the biblical story of Adam and Eve, two players are at a beautiful tropical island. It is late afternoon, when the game starts, that is, when the first person arrives. Fairly shortly it becomes twilight and finally night.

The first player can choose which character (Adam or Eve) they wish to be, the second player to join the game will automatically be assigned the opposite character.

“Eve” arrives walking out of the water on the beach, as night falls, there can be seen a row of fire torches leading away from the beach, into the jungle. After a shot while she comes across a small but cosy hut, decorated with flowers, with chickens running feely about. There is a small vegetable patch and some wheat growing in a clearing.

“Adam” arrives walking out of the water of a small lake, that is surrounded on all sides by steep cliffs, over hanging vines and a picturesque water fall. Under one rocky outcrop is a small ramshackle but charming abode, with straw roof and adobe, mud walls, A pig wanders aimlessly within a small pen to one side, fish are drying on a rack. Inside is dimly lit with candles and is partly dug back into the walls of there rock, or is it formed over the mouth of a small cave?

These are your homes. We do hope you like them.

Elsewhere on the island are roaming animals, rabbits, spiders, some goats, and a pair of wolves. These will attack if you get too close, but are harmless otherwise.

VRoom 04 The Valley

Experiment: To make a really lovely place, where actually lying down is the only thing that has an effect. 

Fully AI wildlife and day night weather cycles

A small enclosed valley… there is no escape. on the one side a small lake with a waterfall, on the other a spooky cave that opens out to an underground cavern with stalactites. The valley has flowers and plants all over and is very lovely… Birds fly over head, small animals can be seen in the distance. IF you sit completely still, and only move your head very slowly, the animals will approach, any movement and they run off…the Valley_02.unity - VRoom_04_The Valley - PC, Mac & Linux Standalone (Personal) -1

the Valley_02.unity - VRoom_04_The Valley - PC, Mac & Linux Standalone (Personal) -3

the Valley_02.unity - VRoom_04_The Valley - PC, Mac & Linux Standalone (Personal) -2