Thursday, April 14, 2016

Vive Game Punch List

Initial Game Punch List

Whenever I start a project, I need a to-do list. I've built a game before using Blender and UDK so I am somewhat familiar with what I need to do. Because I am switching tool sets, I will need to invest time into learning those. Attempting to run forward without footing in these would be foolhardy.

As I learn more, I will adjust the list, but this is my first go at it:

[ ] install unity
    [ ] learn unity basics - digital tutors (62 hours)
        [ ] Quick Start (3 hours)
        [ ] Indie Game Development Pipeline (29 hours)
        [ ] How to get started in Unity (21 hours)
        [ ] Programming in Unity (9 hours)
[ ] Get Vive working in Unity
    [ ] Setting HMD and controllers
    [ ] Vive VR Tutorial
        [ ] (VR Dev School)
    [ ] Install Seam VR
        Version: 1.0.8 (Mar 07, 2016) Size: 3.8 MB!/content/32647

3D Studio Max
[ ] start 1 month trial (about $185/mo after that)
[ ] learn basics - digital tutors (17 hours)
[ ] Creating game art in 3DS Max: (105 hours)
Maya (not using this)
The alternative to 3DS Max is Maya. It appears to be more powerful but more difficult to use. Since many games are made with 3DS Max, I'm going that route. If I went the Maya Route, it would look similar to 3DS Max:
[ ] start 1 month trial (about $185/mo after that)
[ ] learn basics - digital tutors (55 hours)

[ ] Study "The Lab" Teleport
[ ] Implement Teleport
    [ ] show (X) at teleport spot
    [ ] move position at press of button
[ ] Polish Teleport
    [ ] fade into new spot
    [ ] create arch to new teleport spot
    [ ] show current place space outline at teleport
    [ ] make arch into a 'tube'
    [ ] define a teleport boundary (X cannot go outside of it)
    [ ] define a teleport distance limit (arch cannot go beyond this from you)
    [ ] add sound to teleport

Flying Platform
[ ] circular platform
[ ] land below (approximately 10,000 feet)
    [ ] land should be grids that can be randomly put together
    [ ] land should slowly move under platform
    [ ] new grids added ahead and old grids delete behind
    [ ] each grid has different components
        [ ] farmland
        [ ] buildings
        [ ] roads
        [ ] rivers
        [ ] trees
    [ ] each grid should connect correctly with the neighbouring ones
[ ] clouds
    [ ] clouds move slowly
    [ ] clouds are fog volumes
    [ ] clouds have a shadow on ground
    [ ] platform has a shadow on the ground
    [ ] clouds below, at eye level, and above
    [ ] clouds obscure ground so add/remove of grids cannot be seen
[ ] day/night cycle
    [ ] afternoon/evening/night/sunrise/morning
    [ ] moon
    [ ] stars
    [ ] sun

[ ] Birds should fly by
[ ] Birds fly in a group
[ ] Birds land on and leave platform

[ ] put sound at a spot in space and hear it correctly
[ ] wind outside

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

HTC Vive Development

I got the HTC Vive last week.

I must say, it is everything they hyped it to be. Very immersive and there is no substitute for room-scale experiences in VR. Oculus has made a huge blunder not understanding this and designing for it from the get-go.


There are some cool experiences in the Steam store but I want more.

I am going to shift gears and use a different toolset for development. I would have loved to learn Source 2 but that is still not available. Valve has used Unity and has been happy with it so I am going to learn Unity.

I also experienced a lot of challenges with Blender in the past. It is a great tool but it requires a bit more effort for game development than 3DS Max.

I am going to spend this summer learning those two tools. 3DS Max comes with a hefty month fee (around $200/month). I am going to watch some videos on it first before forking out that kind of money.

I already have a game in mind. I've been thinking about it for a year or so. I want the hub of the game to be a flying house with a trophy room. My first goal will to be to build something like this:

That is what I want to experience in VR, so I'm going to build it. Not Howl's Flying Castle per-se, but something in this vein where you have a house on a flying platform with trees and grass on the patio.

I want to have clouds flying past and birds perching on the platform. I want to look over the railing and see a landscape slowly passing by below.

These images all capture the feel I am going for:

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Windows 10 Start Menu

Windows 10 is everything I thought it could be:
a bit fat waste of my morning

You had ONE job to do with the start menu:
let me drop stuff onto it

When I drag stuff onto the start menu it says it will pin it. Does it pin it? Nope. This is my start menu:

Why? Why do you have to be like this?

Here is a quote from a forum on Windows 10:

wtf man?

Their best start menu was from windows 95:

Those were the days. You could control the size and contents and have cascaded menus.

Now it is full of crap "live icons" you have to get rid of and all you are left with is nothing. Nothing.

This is a perfect example of politics messing with my user experience. They want their crap on there and god forbid I can put my own stuff there.

I ended up downloading classic shell to replace it (again)


Oh ... and the other windows 7 machine that crashed 2 weeks ago and I had to replace the graphics card... the windows 10 upgrade is gone and won't come back. Whatever...

Microsoft: you suck balls.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015


SteamVR is coming

Today Valve announced it will be scheduling demos of its upcoming SteamVR dev kit at GDC.

Here is a screen capture of the site in case it changes over time:

What does this mean? How does this stack up against Oculus? Is this important?

This is potentially game changing. Here is why

1. VR Development

Valve has been doing VR research and development for years. Long before Palmer's Rift, Valve was secretly working on VR and determining its feasibility.

Here is  a review of someone trying out their demo last year:

 They showed an updated version here (and yea, that is bulky):

2. Oculus and Valve

Here is a quick recap of Oculus's origins by Brendan Iribe

A little later he talks about how instrumental Valve was in their success:

The Oculus Rift was a major accomplishment but it lacked presence. After Oculus's success with its kickstarter Valve invited them to visit their R&D center. It was at that point that Oculus understood the true power of VR. Valve's headset created a true sense of presence. Valve shared their secrets on what made a VR headset work.

Oculus went back to their offices and improved the Rift based on what they learned from Valve.

Later enters Facebook and their acquisition. This isn't a bad thing but I don't think it rubbed Valve the right way:

Here is the quote in case it vaporizes:

It would be sad if there's bitterness between the two companies right now:
I'm pretty sure that there IS bitterness between the two companies.
Valve helps Oculus by giving them research, and Oculus turns around and sells out to Facebook.
It's well known that Valve does possess advanced VR HMDs that they've formerly used for internal research.
It's pretty likely that they're pushing out their own consumer HMD.

To further elaborate: I went on a tour of Valve this past summer and asked them about their VR plans.
The tour guide mentioned that originally, they weren't planning to release their own VR hardware,
but that they had changed their minds after Facebook bought Oculus.

3. The Steam Machine

In 2012 rumors began to emerge about Valve offering a hardware platform for Steam.
In 2013 at CES a prototype of a Steam Machine was shown. Later that year they announced Steam Machines.

In 2014 they held a developer conference primarily targeted at helping developers port their games to Linux.

After that Valve went silent. They delayed the Steam Machine and continued to iterate on the Steam Controller. They left all of the hardware partners hanging and the steam machine and controller were declared dead by most media outlets:

Then earlier this year (2015) they announced they would be showcasing the Steam Machine.

I've been monitoring news of the event carefully and there has been no hint of what they would be showing... until now.

4. Open Software Platform

Facebook did not buy Oculus to just further VR development. They funded it to make money.
Hardware is a competitive space. Any advances they make will soon be caught by rival companies.
To me it seems like the best bet is to create a source of ongoing revenue which would likely come from an app store similar to Apple's app store. This means a closed software ecosystem.

Compare that to Steam. I love Steam. If I can buy a game on multiple platforms and it is on Steam I always choose Steam. This is because I can run the game on any laptop or PC I own. My hardware can continue to improve and my games can just be installed on the fastest rig I have.

With Steam, Valve has an open an instant delivery mechanism for software for the VR headset.

5. Game Development Experience

Oculus has some great minds working for them. No question there. Carmack and Abrash are the VR dream team. I have no doubt they will deliver great hardware. Here is Carmack talking about GearVR. He is clearly pushing the envelop of mobile displays:

The problem is that Oculus is not a game development shop. They hired Jason Rubin to head game development:

But... is that enough? Time will tell.

Other large game companies are waiting in the wings on VR. They are not willing to invest in a game for VR. Valve isn't waiting. I don't know what they have in store for us next week at GDC but it could be great. If anyone is going to make a AAA game that works well with VR it is going to be Valve.

6. Cash Reserves

Facebook acquired Oculus for 2 billion dollars. That is a lot of money but that isn't the same as their cash flow. That was acquision money. That is what Facebook valued Oculus at.

Valve, on the other hand, is sitting on mounds of cash. In 2012 they were valued at 3 billion dollars. I imagine that figure is even higher now:

7. High End Developers

Both Oculus and Valve have high end developers. Oculus's does have 2 things going for them:
1. Their primary focus as a company is VR
2. They have Carmack and Abrash

Valve's hiring and org structure are very unique. Gabe has spoken about it several times:

Here is Valve's employee handbook:

Final Thoughts

What does this all add up to? I thought I'd make a grid of who has what:

This is by no means a complete picture of the VR landscape but illustrates some of the dynamics between the 3 main contenders. I haven't included GearVR because I wanted to focus on a high-end VR solution.

If Valve can deliver a high-end VR headset with the Steam Machine and a great AAA title it could be a the perfect sweet spot between functionality and game play.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Diablo 3: Monk: Gungdo Build

Someone just beat Great Rift 52 on PS4 with the Monk's Gungdo Build.

I run an exploding palm Monk in the season and thought I'd put the build into a succinct image so I can refer to it on the ipad as I build my gear.

Reddit Article:


Monday, December 22, 2014

Video Game Photography

As games continue to become more realistic, there is a new niche for video game "photography".

This is where you take a screen shot as if you were shooting with a camera. I apply the rule of thirds, make sure everything important is in frame, make sure the image tells a story and evokes an emotional response.

Here are some sample shots from games I've played recently:

 Bioshock Infinite

 Half Life 2

 Remember Me

Vanishing of Ethan Carter

I may play around with taking them into Photoshop and applying some of my tricks.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Our Christmas Movie Schedule

I went searching on google for the best Christmas movies. Hugely disappointing and annoying lists were returned. So instead of relying on google for help...

I've put together a Christmas movie playlist from tonight through to the 24th.

Some of these I haven't seen before and some are family favorites. The Grinch is always the last thing we watch before Christmas.

December 19th:

Santa Claus is Coming to Town

The Santa Clause


December 20th:

Frosty the Snowman

Miracle on 34th Street


December 21st:

Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer

It's a Wonderful Life


December 22nd:

A Charlie Brown Christmas

A Muppet's Christmas Carol


December 23rd:


Buddy's Christmas Musical


December 24th:

Polar Express

How the Grinch Stole Christmas