Thursday, September 11, 2014

Bungie's Destiny

I bought Destiny several days ago and started playing it last night.

Having built a game I have a whole new appreciation for just how much work went into making this thing. Cloth, detailed characters, gigantic maps, rpg style leveling, multi-player. There is a lot of stuff in this game. Of course, for half a billion dollars it better be good.

I chose to play an awoken hunter who specializes in precision distance shots.

I like the vibe of the game. It feels like an MMO Mass Effect RPG.

The map where you select missions looks a lot like the animated cartesian map from the animated Sinbad movie:
Destiny map

Sinbad's book of peace

I'm not sure how much time I will have to play it in the evenings but it will definitely become my morning treadmill workout game.

UPDATE - 09/30/2014

I've been exclusively playing Destiny since it came out. Hit a wall at 27. I've been there for about a week. I need an extremely rare material called Ascendant Shards to level up. I have 3 exotic weapons and are working on a bounty to get a 4th.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

123D Catch

123D Catch by Autodesk

I just installed this application on my Nexus 4 phone. It allows you to take multiple photos and turn them into a 3D object. I'm going to try this out this week and report back how well it works.

You can download it here from the Autodesk store:

Monday, August 25, 2014

XBMC + Steam + DK2 + wireless XBOX Controller

The first thing I need to do as a VR enthusiast is get everything set up correctly in my living room. I can use the DK2 on my gaming rig but I want to try it out in a more casual setting.

After a bit of thought I have decided to build my own windows 8 steam box. I love the idea of Steam OS but not everything plays on it and I want a Steam console in my living room today, not several years from now.

Eventually Valve will release their steam controller which should complete the picture but this is a step in the right direction.

I have ordered the parts for the machine and will put it together in a few weeks. I went with part selections (mostly) from this website:

Some of the parts were out-dated but I like his picks. The idea is to have as silent a set up as possible. My current HTPC is not quiet and it is annoying.

When I start assembly I will update this page with photos and any snags I run into.


Update #1: 8/26/2014

I wanted to buy a simple, reliable RF remote with keyboard. I found the PERFECT remote:
The Boxee Box Remote for PC

Unfortunately, it is no longer available. wtf? This thing looks amazing, it has just what you need and it was RF. I haven't seen anything come close to it:

 I can not find this thing anywhere... and I looked a lot...

Monday, August 18, 2014

Switching to Enthusiast

VR development was taking up a large portion of my non-work time.

I produced a game in June (The Stacks) and it was taxing for myself and my family. Having to switch from UDK3 to UE4 was a huge relearning process and almost nothing I did carried over into the new engine. To rebuild the stacks, or any variant of it, would require tons of time and from what I've seen, IE4 is noticeably slower than UDK3. I just don't have the energy for it right now

I am going to switch to being an enthusiast for a while. I have set up the DK2 downstairs by the couch to see how well it works as a true consumer device.

As it stands, the DK2 has several issues:

1. Requiring a camera for the DK2's kinda sucks
I never thought about it until I set it up in the living room where my consoles are. Then it became obvious that it is worse to set up than the wii sensor bar or the kinect.

My consoles are to my right when I am sitting on the couch which is the best spot, but for most people, their consoles are probably across the room. This means you need to drag the camera and the Oculus cable across the living room to where you sit. Maybe the camera has a long range but I'm guessing it needs to be closer to you than your tv/screen.

The camera currently has 2 wires coming into it. This made for 3 wires coming from the computer. I tried to streamline the wires for the camera by twisty-tying them together but it is still a bit of a mess.

I think most consumers have had their fill of kinect and wii sensor peripherals and the DK2 camera falls into that category. At some point VR headsets will need to dispense with external head tracking.

2. Lack of major game developers porting games for VR is a big problem
In the beginning they had Valve. Team Fortress 2 and Half Life 2 for DK1 were great. Since then several of Valve's key VR folks left for Oculus. This seemed like great news at the time but now we don't have those people working for Valve to encourage game ports. The current DK2 port of Half Life 2 is not as good as the DK1 port. Darker areas look like 8 bit coloring. It looks rather nasty. Maybe if you'd never seen the DK1 version you'd love it but I'm not impressed.

3. The DK2's integration into windows is not pleasant
On both of the windows 7 computers I installed it on, the DK2 came up rotated in the wrong direction and I had to fight with it for 5 minutes on each one to get it to work properly. Multi-monitor support has never been simple but they need to address this problem in the final consumer product.

4. The DK2's colors are bad
I'm not sure what is going on but most things have a blue/red border around them. I find this to be worse than the screen door effect because it ruins immersion.

I would also like to see a headphone jack on the headset.

Using the DK2 reminds me of running a game on Windows 3.1. You have to fight with stuff a lot to make things go. I know it is a development kit so I expect issues but... the DK2 feels like a huge step backwards from the DK1 in terms of ease-of-use.

I think today's consumers expect it to just work when you plug it in. If Oculus can't figure that out and have a solid library of games available during their initial launch, it is going to be very rough start for them.

VR is the future but we are probably 5 years out from a product that works well in the home with a large library of games.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Stacks Hub Building Construction : Part II

Today I cut out the windows with the boolean feature of blender.

Man I hate that thing but sometimes it is the lesser of 2 evils. It made a total mess out of the mesh. It took me over an hour to fix faces and vertexes. Here is the result:

Added some window detail.

I added the chimney, ridges along the roof and headers to some of the windows:

I slid the chimney down to be along the the right exterior wall, removed the circular window from the right exterior wall, added a floor and interior wall for the top floor and welded the chimney onto the roof. I hid a few faces so you could see the interior.

I spent a few hours improving the arched windows to extend properly into the room. These arched windows are a total pain in the a$$.

I found this reference image for how to deal with them on the inside:

Here is the result:

Ignore the crappy texture mapping. That was me trying to figure out how to show inverted normals. It turns out there is a "backface culling" check box I somehow unchecked.

I fixed the fireplace interior, added a door to the right side for the second patio and added more detail to the lower windows.

I added a railing and window panes this morning

I added the upper windows, the lower "garden level" window and door headers. The interior of the first floor was messed up so I had to fix that too...

It's starting to feel like a real building. Still lots to add...

I improved the right entrance and added hand rails to the left entrance:

I started work on the right balcony. It is lower than the left one so I added a few step down onto it. Since I'm also working on a "perfect" version of the building I opted for wood planks versus haphazard sections of wood for the railing.

I added more to the right balcony.

I worked on the awning a bit this afternoon. It looks a bit weird because normal back-sides are not being rendered.

I added the table and barrels and took it into UE4:

Objects on table complete. Getting close...

I decided to enhance the detail of the light to make it a paper lantern:

Saturday, July 26, 2014

"The Stacks" new hub building construction

Humble beginnings but you gotta start somewhere...

I've extended the walls up and are preparing to join the vertexes above the doors.
The cube on the right is the doorway size. I need it to be consistent.

This will need to be exported to UE4 and viewed in the Rift constantly. The proportions of the building are tight. This will likely need to be deeper like a lego modular building. The original cg artist's primary goal was to replicate the look of the building. Heights of the doors were inconsistent among other things.

I wanted my steps to be realistic so I read up on how to build real stairs and created a spreadsheet calculator to build them. I realize there must be a plugin for this but it was a good exercise to understand how it is done.

Here are the finished entry steps:

With the spreadsheet it took about 2 minutes to build the top 2 steps.

I finished the steps, added an interior wall and floor for the left entrance. Now to add collision and bring it into UE4 for scale assessment.

Here is the collision. 13 collision meshes so far...

Well, getting this bugger into UE4 was a total suck fest. I learned a few things:
1. You need to create a UV map. I think you also need a light map. I did both at the same time. If you don't the object is black.
2. The new fbx binary export does not support multiple collision meshes. Totally annoying. You have to use "fbx 6.1 ascii".

I've got to figure out a better workflow. There seems to be a dozen new hurdles getting meshes from blender into UE4.

So, here is the building with collision in UE4:

I added it to the sample map and added a door. I like the proportion of the door but it is too short. I scaled it to fit the door opening and then scale the building along the X axis until the opening matched the door:

I now know the correct scaling for the openings is 1.140137 (they need to be that much wider).

Ignore the crappy look of the material. I have not properly UV mapped the mesh. I just wanted to get a sense of scale.

Here is what it looks like in the rift:

UE4 does not do a good job with a lot of things when you view it in stereo. Normals looks weird, reflections are bad, anti-aliasing is nasty, lens flare is annoying. I had to turn that stuff off and find a material with minimal reflections so it looked good.


I've decided the left portion of the building is a staircase. I've built 1 flight of stairs. I fought with the scale until it felt right. The doors are way too big but the space and the stairs feels good.

I wasn't happy with the building. It was just too tall.
1. I shortened the height
2. I removed a step from the staircase and shrunk the height of all steps.
3. I made the stair landings equal size

Once I'm happy with it I will add the rails. Something like this:

I figured out how to drop the height by 2 more steps. I added 2 more stories of steps to visualize the total building height. The height will be driven by the stairs.
first flight = 14 steps + 3 outside
second & third flights = 16 steps

Designing objects for VR is very hard because it has to have the perfect proportions inside the rift. In real life, 8 steps comes to eye level. I've got it doing the exact same thing in the rift so the steps are perfect. At the same time I have to make the building look like the artwork as much as possible. The building was never designed to be used so it is quite challenging.

Just having a little fun before I add the windows and top floors...

Add added the second floor and some windows. I tried my best to pick the best window proportions that matched the art and would work with the interior. I had to move the first floor window close to the door to work with the staircase. I flipped the staircase along the x axis to allow a window to work along the side.

Third floor basics in place:

I added the balcony, floors, stairwell walls and doorways for the 2nd and 3rd floors. That actually took a while...

I added the roof and created an arched window cut out. The cut out is positioned to cut the first window from the roof.

View from within UE4:

View from within Rift:

That's enough for tonight.

Friday, July 25, 2014


I'm going to do a bit of work on the UE4 Stacks this weekend.

I browsed the crap out of Pintrest and put together some images that inspire me. Every image I look at I ask the question: How cool would this be in the rift?

I think these 6 images would make great Rift experiences: