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: