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This third and final week for the tribal rainforest prototype went VERY differently than expected! Last week, I mentioned that housemate decided to build a new PC and very generously is letting me use it until I build my own dream VR PC rig. Since we ended up using some of my old parts/case, my old development PC was out of commission for a few days. So, other than a few minor tweaks to the scene, the rainforest prototype is roughly the same as it was last week. I might circle back later to finish it off as intended, but for now I’m going to call this one done, as I’m very eager to move onto prototyping new ideas!

PC Build
For those who are curious, here are my new (temp) PC specs!

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CPU: i5-6600
GPU: EVGA GeForce GTX 980 TI (VR Edition) – I’ll end up taking this graphics card with me when I build my dream rig.
Mother Board: ASRock Z170 Pro4S
RAM: 16gb G.Skill Ripjaws V (2x 8gb)
System drive: 120gb Kingston SSD
OS: Windows 10

I’m also using my old Coolermaster case, old HDD drives for data and 750W PSU. Here are some build pics!

 

 

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Hello old PC! All these components are 7-8 years old…

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Got the new MOBO in and about to install the CPU

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Everything is installed… time to test!

Hooray! Booted into the BIOS successfully on the first try.

Hooray! After getting everything installed properly, it was time to run some tests…

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Wooooooooooo! EXCITED  (╯°□°)╯︵ ┻━┻

What a relief to actually be able to properly develop for VR now! With the little amount of time I had left in my last week for this experience, it was time to hop back into Unity and make a few tweaks.

Final Tweaks
As I mentioned above, I unfortunately didn’t have time to create or implement some of the bigger 3rd week/polish tasks I wanted to get done. I wanted to implement some night time music, get some additional gameplay mechanics in, and code in a proper end game sequence where the stars light up bright and then everything fades to black. All of this is a lesson learned in time/project management and scope! Fortunately moving forward I shouldn’t have to worry about tech/hardware holding me back from the start of my prototype cycle.

I was able to do a few tweaks though to prepare the scene for VR use though. In my ‘normal’ build, walking up the steps into a hut would be fine. But once I enabled the VR first person controller, the height of the prefab was different which resulted in the player getting stuck on the steps. So, I modified the geometry of the collision boxes for the huts and the problem was easily solved!

I ran into a different issue, which I wasn’t able to solve this time. It’s nothing that was a showstopper, but it was very strange. Take a look at this animated gif to see:

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It might be a little hard to tell, but basically what’s happening is as I’m moving around my Oculus DK2 headset, the trees off in the background distance are moving with me. This is a strange billboarding issue that I discovered and poked at fixing but didn’t have enough time to fully fix. Hooray for finding weird VR bugs! 😀

Vive Pre
*drumroll* In addition to the excitement that is my new PC, I am beyond excited to announce that I was accepted to receive a Vive Pre dev kit! This is really going to change the way I will do my future prototypes. I have so many ideas, some music-related, that I want to develop that require controllers. I am going to spend the next few weeks focusing on small, *very* simple experiments (e.g. a scene where literally the only thing you can do is pick up cubes) just so I can get my bearings using the controllers and spatial tracking.

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It’s beautiful. :’)

SO STOKED.

Postmortem
I’m going to start doing a postmortem at the end of every prototype I create. I think this will be a good way for me/you lovely readers to look back and track progress over time across my various prototypes!

What Went Right
– Initial passion and enthusiasm! I was SUPER ready to rock and roll when I started a few weeks ago, even though I wasn’t working under the ideal development settings. I am really happy with how much I got done in the first week, and that’s largely due to that initial spark of passion and inspiration.
– Art: I really liked the art pack I was able to use and felt that helped inform the design decisions for the scene moving forward. This is an asset bundle I definitely want to reuse in the future too, so I am glad I invested in it.
– Good level of experimentation: I felt that this prototype was one that got my feet more wet and eased me back into the flow of the overall development process, and the level of work I set out to accomplish was reasonable and went really well. Having achieved what I did for this prototype, I now have a better sense of my own capacity and can scope my future projects accordingly.

Areas for Improvement
– Tech issues: Of course, starting out without the ability to test on a VR headset was a setback. Then building the new PC this past week took me out of commission for a few days. Fortunately I don’t have to worry about that as much anymore moving forward!
– Planning my days for different types of work: I realized during this process that it was very difficult and slow for me to switch from programmer/developer mode to composer/sound designer mode. Rather than take a day in the middle of the week, I might experiment in the future with having the end of the week be solely dedicated to audio. That way I can start the week developing and know what audio needs to be created, and then create the audio and break for the weekend.

Misc Thoughts
I’ve been thinking a lot and talking with a handful of VR dev/audio friends lately about all things VR. One thing that really excites me about VR right now is that I feel VR development demands that everyone bring their A-game. Every single component of a game experience in VR is crucially important – if one thing is out of place or inconsistent, then that can severely break immersion and presence for the player. All of the elements of the game are woven together in a much more intricate way, which means that development teams need to give it their all when creating and to communicate with one another as effectively as possible.

If you are a VR developer, please get in touch as I would love to pick your brain about some of your team’s communication strategies!

Rainforest – Final Release
I’m happy with what I achieved in this first prototype, even though I didn’t hit 100% of the tasks in my given time frame. That being said, it’s still a playable experience, so if you’d like to play the final version of this tribal rainforest scene, you can download it here:
Download Rainforest – Release (PC) – VR (Oculus) version
Download Rainforest – Release (Mac) – VR (Oculus) version

Thank you very much for reading!

– Jacob