Monday Musings: Last Week, Today

Blog Posts ,Cardboard VR ,Events ,Programming ,Random Musings ,Unity ,Virtual Reality
March 21, 2016

Welcome to Monday Musings. You know the drill.

The past week was an incredible adventure of VR, games, and great company, starting with the VR Hackathon and going straight through GDC. I only had a chance to check out the Expo floor, but even without a full conference pass, I was kept busy from Friday-Friday.

VR Hackathon

I wrote a little bit about hackathons in general following the VR Hackathon last weekend, but I didn’t go into any detail about what I had a chance to work on! I was the onsite contact for Microsoft, so I decided to set a goal of getting a basic game going with Google Cardboard. I decided on something simple and straightforward, a basic target+shoot game. During the hackathon, there were a few specific tasks that I wanted to complete by the end of the weekend:

  • I wanted to have a fully functional game. I gave myself incredibly basic requirements, and decided on a game play mechanism that would work with the Google Cardboard’s built-in action mechanism
  • I wanted to create the textures myself to gear up for a deeper dive into the art side of VR development. I’ve been learning a little bit of Blender (more on that later) but for the weekend, I tasked myself with creating a texture, a normal map, and an emissive map for the floor tiling in my game
  • I wanted to have a stable targeting mechanism. In the past, I’ve had a lot of issues with raycasting and having elements interact as intended. Spoiler alert: I finished this, and I’ve already written about it here!

I’m going to go out of order here and talk a little bit about my second goal, since it was the first thing that I did during the hackathon. I generally don’t consider myself to be an artist-type, but I’ve really loved what you can do with different materials in various game engines and substance editors. I used Gimp to create the following textures for a custom material in Unity.

The finished textures, made in Gimp. Basic, but they do the trick!

The finished textures, made in Gimp. Basic, but they do the trick!

Once the textures were finished, I made a custom material in Unity and played with the shader values until I came up with something I liked. At the end of the hackathon, I had gotten all of the basic components working for the game (a point+shoot mechanic, a basic environment, keeping track of the score, audio effects, and resetting game play, with a load screen). If you follow me on Twitter, you might have seen the result:


The countdown timer in iteration 1 of the game

Post-VR Hackathon Hacking

I don’t know about you, but whenever I attend conferences, I get supremely motivated to work on my own projects. As a result, throughout the week of GDC/VRDC, I found myself stalking Twitter for announcements and heads down in continuing to build out my game from the VR Hackathon. I’m usually quite a fan of trying to plan things out in advance, but at the time, I wasn’t entirely sure what would come of the game, so I just let myself do whatever it was that I felt like. I found some free assets on the Asset Store and built out a new environment. I gave the game a little more of a theme, and created more defined “enemies”. I spent some time in the Animator panel to give life to the enemies, and made more textures to get effects in my environment that I wanted. I added the code for a local leaderboard system, but it’s pretty useless given that the output is debug-only right now. I’ll get there.

This is what the game looks like today

This is what the game looks like today


You can see it's changed a lot in the last week

You can see it’s changed a lot in the last week

The best part about all of this (and you can expect quite a few more blog posts that will be coming about this project, which is as-of-yet-unnamed) is that I’ve learned a lot more about Unity and started to piece together an actual story for how I want this to play out. I’ve started drafting a few ideas for what I want the final look and feel of the game to be like, so stay tuned. I’m so excited for it to get to a stage that I can share more.

Learning Blender

I’m teaching myself Blender. This is how I spent my weekend as I recovered from the post-GDC cold I came down with. I am still frustrated by rigging and as such, will refrain from writing more in depth here. Instead, you get another picture:

Meet CuteBot, v1

Meet CuteBot, v1

GDC! Games! Events! Oh My!

I was fortunate to be able to attend quite a few events surrounding GDC this week as they related to virtual reality, and I also had the privilege of hanging out on-air with Malia Probst of the Real Virtual Show – check out her podcast here to hear us talk virtual and augmented reality, the VR web, and why “Swiss Army Knife of VR” is the best way to describe what my developer evangelist role is!

As always, SVVR and SFVR threw an amazing event at Temple for their annual VR Mixer. It’s always incredible to see what people are working on and how much things have grown over the past few years, and catching up with people you talk to online all the time is always fun. I got to play the wonderful “Sweet Escape” game from Monster VR on the HTC Vive – a game that is best described as “candy land meets America Ninja Warrior” – and catch up with dev friends from around the world.

With Eva (@downtohoerth) and Kat (@katvharris) at the VR Mixer!

On Wednesday, we hosted an AR/VR Women meetup to host a couple of great speakers on creating virtual reality content. I especially loved hearing Erica Layton talk about how she got started with building an app for GearVR, and it inspired me to go work a little more at the modeling and styling side of the VR pipeline. As we progress through our first pilot academy series, we’ll have a few more lightning talk events – there’s some great stuff coming.

At GDC itself, there was one particular experience that was complete and utter hilarity – the Nexperience 4D ride that combined VR experiences with an amusement park styled seated rig for a more intense experience, but since words don’t describe it well – here’s a video of the whole thing:

In addition to some pretty crazy stuff like that, I also thoroughly enjoyed spending some time in the GDC Play section of the expo hall. It was great to see how many VR experiences were on the floor – I particularly enjoyed the premise of Carpe Lucem (Seize the light), a meditative puzzle game for virtual reality. I played with an Xbox controller, but as we get to launch time for the HTC Vive, I think the game will be even more compelling with the hand tracking capabilities and being able to move around the puzzle in multiple directions. It’s a title that I’m pretty psyched about – I can’t get enough of puzzle games.

And speaking of games – I finally (!) got a chance to try Eve Valkyrie at the Oculus GDC party, and I was HOOKED. I had no idea that shooting people in space was the kind of game that I’d be into, but I could not stop laughing and spinning and generally just feeling like a complete badass. It was like I was living in the Armada universe. It made me even more excited for my Rift – we’re getting SO CLOSE TO LAUNCH, PEOPLE!

*Deep breath*

Okay. That’s enough about last week. On to the next one.

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