Wednesday, October 25, 2017

The State of VR

The State of VR

Oculus Rift is clearly experiencing trouble selling their headset. In May they had to shut down their Film Studio and they've slashed the price of their headset several times.

Is this a clear sign that VR is a failure?
I don't think so.

I am bullish on VR. It is not an if but a when. It is the when that is the issue.

Processing Power Limitations
I think the problem is we don't have the processing power or appropriate pricing of that hardware for VR to become mainstream. To render each eye at 90 frames per second and deliver a AAA game experience is impossible with today's hardware. I have struggled with this a lot in my game design. I have taken the route of allowing the game to automatically adjust scene complexity based on frame rate. The result is little to no stutter but the visuals can't come close to approaching Destiny.

Similarities to Tablets
When Tablets first hit the scene, the size of the screen was small, the interface was clunky and the processing power was not up to the task. Now everyone has a tablet. Technology and Software have arrived to allow us to have a powerful touch computer in our hands. VR is in a similar state. The hardware just isn't there and it is probably 10 years down the road before cheap fast hardware is available.

Saturated Market
VR at this point is pretty saturated for what it can deliver. Because of hardware limitations it feels less like a gaming platform and more like a gimmick like the wii. Once you become accustomed to it, you find most experiences shallow and don't stack up to AAA titles.

In the next few years we are likely going to see VR stagnate. This will continue until hardware becomes powerful enough

Standing vs Sitting
One of the other problems with VR you need to stand for an immersive experience. This has already been done 3 times: wii, xbox and playstation. I think people are tired of setting up sensor bars and getting off the couch. You need to have a very compelling reason to get people off the couch and current VR hardware and software are not cutting it.

All of this sounds pretty dire but I think this is good for VR developers who are in it for the long term. I do this as a hobby and don't have to worry about making money from VR. I can build the type of experience I want and know it will be unique because there is little competition in this space.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Game Design Observations

Game Design Observations

My game is going to be large and open for the player to go in whatever direction they want. I've been playing Destiny 2 pretty heavily the last week and thought I'd look at some popular games and make some observations.

Here are 5 games that I think are worth evaluating:




Pokemon Go:


What drives you to explore?
Destiny: Search for better loot.
Diablo: Search for better loot.
Zelda: Search for better loot & Story
Pokemon Go: Find rare Pokemon
Skyrim: Quests. Loot is mostly irrelevant.

How does your character level up?
Destiny: Items (Light Level)
Diablo: Experience & items
Zelda: Experience
Pokemon Go: Not relevant
Skyrim: Using the ability you want to level up

What keeps you playing?
Destiny: loot and friends playing together
Diablo: trying to reach highest greater rift
Zelda: end of story
Pokemon Go: Find rare pokemon and level up existing ones
Skyrim: Completing quests, finding new areas, raising character level

What sucks?
Destiny: Once you hit 260 light, it becomes a grind. You are often forced to use weapons you hate.
Diablo: Once you reach Torment 10 or so, it becomes a grind. Power level has gotten out of control.
Zelda: Weapons break.
Pokemon Go: It is hard to find rare Pokemon
Skyrim: Everything starts to look the same

What 1 improvement would I add?
Destiny: A wider range of improvements on the high end. Light level should keep going to 400+ with high level content available to dedicated players.
Diablo: Fix legendary gems. They are a storage nightmare.
Zelda: I didn't finish it. It really didn't like constantly breaking weapons. This felt like Halo.
Pokemon Go: Make the Pokemon locator work again... idiots.
Skyrim: Make loot more valuable

Reflections on how to design my game:
1. There needs to be something happening around you constantly.
2. Enemies need to be frequent, varied
3. Events should occur that you can find and complete
4. You can find items/enemies via a locator
5. Character level should be unlimited and driven off gear.
6. Gear can be upgraded without a great hassle.
7. There needs to be quests to complete with rewards.
8. Areas of the game get harder as you go further driving you to improve your gear.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Destiny 2 Graphics

Destiny 2 Graphics

I've played a lot of Destiny over the last few years. Yesterday I got the itch to play again so I picked up Destiny 2 ... and ... played it for most of the day.

Man... that game's graphics are amazing. I am officially intimidated by it.
But again... they have spent hundreds of millions of dollars on it so I expect it but still...

I think what they do is build the scene with a multi-texture material. When they are all done, anything that is static is converted into a single landscape mesh using that material. The result is stunning.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Working on Urban Layout

Working on Urban Layout

I've been working on an urban layout now that I know the scale I need to construct the world.

Here is a sample I put together yesterday:

You can teleport in all directions forever and it will continue to build a random city with no stutter. This is obviously very primitive but I was more concerned with performance and how things looked at this scale and whether it would continue to look vast (it does).

Next I am going add elevations for the urban layout and see what that looks like.

Just for a bit of fun, I adjusted the layout to not have a road :)

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Augmented vs Virtual Reality

Augmented vs Virtual Reality

I think there is a recent misconception that being able to walk around your house via inside-out tracking is the next big thing.

In my mind, augmented and pure virtual experiences are different beasts. I think both are valid applications but a pure virtual experience is not going to have you walking around your house. You are going to need to be in a space that allows some freedom of movement but you are going to need to teleport around the virtual world for it to be immense.

I am tired of virtual experiences that confine me to a space. I feel like I am on a stage and it breaks the immersion. The next generation of virtual reality experiences need to allow you to go in all directions indefinitely and not have crappy/low-res graphics.

Having a world that unfolds infinitely in all directions allowing unlimited freedom of movement is the primary design decision for my upcoming game. That is what I want from virtual reality and so that is what I am going to deliver.

It isn't easy. No it is not... but... my latest experiments show it is possible if you build a reality creation frameworks specifically for the needs of VR.

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Distance Resolved

I have basic elevation working and have resolved the distance rendering issue so that the world looks immense.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Elevation is Working

Elevation is Working

Elevation is hard. Really hard.

I got the basic framework for it working today. It works surprisingly well. I have a long way to go, but this is definitely a step in the right direction. I added an elevation that goes up and to the right indefinitely. I teleported around about 1/2 a mile up and it kept working like a champ.