Gravity sucks in Homebound

In VR, no-one can hear you scream. Actually, everyone around you probably can. Bear that in mind when experiencing Homebound, an intense VR app that takes you from orbit to ground-level… probably a little faster than you might be comfortable with.

Our wannabe astronaut is Wiktor Öhman, who led us through re-entry.

Homebound

Hello Wiktor! What’s your day job, and what did you do on Homebound?

My name is Wiktor Öhman and I’m a 3D artist, currently working as an Art Lead at Quixel. On Homebound I was generally the sole developer, taking on all development areas myself, with help from friends and colleagues at Quixel. If you want to stay up to date with my endeavours you can follow me on Twitter on @Disting.

How would you describe Homebound?

Homebound is a short and intense sci-fi survival VR experience set in a near future aboard a space station orbiting Earth. As disaster strikes you are forced to abandon the station and try and get back home to Earth. It’s a sensory feast and features some of the most realistic graphics in VR to date.

What was the initial conception for Homebound – was it VR, the idea of exploring in a zero-G environment, or something else?

The initial conception of Homebound was to showcase Quixel Megascans materials, allowing users to inspect the real-world scanned data up-close in VR. As we were exploring the space station in VR we quickly started dreaming up gameplay scenarios one by one and suddenly it was shaping up to be a truly exhilarating experience.

Homebound

Homebound was developed using Unreal 4. Why did you choose the Unreal Engine for development?

Seeing as I, as pretty much the sole developer, didn’t have any scripting or programming experience prior to developing Homebound, Unreal Engine 4 felt like a given choice considering its Blueprint system, allowing you to create gameplay and systems with a visual, node-based system.

You’re simulating weightlessness here; for the non-developers amongst us, how easy is that to do? Is it just a checkbox to say ‘weightless’ or is it more complicated?

Trust me, I hoped it would be a checkbox. The reality is that there are so many variables to keep in mind to make it an enjoyable experience. Acceleration, deceleration, top speed, easing and so on. This was the area that was tweaked until the very end of development, based on the feedback from the testers.

Being weightless can cause people to feel motion sick in VR. Any advice for anyone who might get motion sick, or who is worried about it?

Motion sickness is and was the main challenge when developing Homebound. Me, personally, never felt a hint of it, nor did the internal testers. Once we started alpha tests it quickly became apparent we needed to focus hard on it. The number of reports have decreased, but there seems to be a baseline that’s hard to break. If you are worried about motion sickness I would say, take it easy and take short breaks here and there. Each experience has its own kind of motion sickness so, according to my own experience, you can’t really get VR legs as many claim.

You’ve included a few Easter Eggs in Homebound – or homages, if you like. Want to share any, and why they were included?

One of the Easter Eggs we included has quickly become popular among the players – the “Simpsons Crisps”. This was added pretty late in the development, but is something we joked about quite a few times during the development. And if you look closely around the station you can see some photos of parts of the Quixel team.

In your view, is what happens in Homebound the worst thing that could happen to an astronaut? Or have you thought of other, more terrible fates?

Oh, I’ve thought of many terrible ways to die in space – the worst probably being simply drifting off into the vast nothingness just waiting to die. That seems pretty terrible.

What’s next for you in VR – what are you developing next?

Glad you had another question, so we get a chance to end on a more positive note! We’re in pre-production on our upcoming full-length VR game which will have the same focus on highly realistic visuals.

Thanks for talking to us Wiktor… and good luck getting home!


Homebound is available on Viveport.

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America’s Mayors Gather to Experience The Future of City Planning Through VR

During SXSW 2017, mayors from all over America gathered at Civic I/O to discuss how VR will impact the future of city planning.  We partnered with Salesforce to showcase how city planners could use VR to design, plan, and operationalize city management and to analyze what is happening within their communities.

Check out the video below to see the impression that Vive and Salesforce’s Connected Cities had on the mayors of America’s leading cities.

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Get creative on the (mini) golf course

Normal, everyday mini golf courses are so… dull. Why not play in the clouds? With Cloudlands: VR Minigolf you can do just that (and don’t have to worry about the rain, either). With the latest update debuting on Viveport, we talked to Justin Liebregts, co-founder of Futuretown, about the latest developments.

Cloudlands: VR Minigolf

Hello! Let’s start with the origins of your development studio, Futuretown and Cloudlands: VR Minigolf.

Myself and a colleague from college founded Futuretown several years back and had the opportunity to participate in the initial launch of the Vive and what we consider the dawn of commercial VR back in 2016. When we first got our hands on an early HTC Vive prototype, I coded about a dozen different test game mechanics in Unity to see what would be fun to make into an actual game. One of those early prototypes was a golf driving range simulator, which ended up morphing into Cloudlands: VR Minigolf.

And the rest is history! For anyone who hasn’t experienced it, can you tell us a bit more about Cloudlands: VR Minigolf?

We’re positioning Cloudlands: VR Minigolf as the premiere mini golf experience for virtual reality. It’s a really family friendly game, built from the ground up for motion controls. You putt the ball through fantastical levels as you would in real life – there’s no swing meter or power bars. My favorite part of the game is the 1,000-plus user created courses. Our team built one of the first VR level editors and you can build courses as you would build something out of LEGO pieces.

The most exciting part about our latest addition is that now, all platforms can create and share courses. Prior to this update, players were locked onto the Steam Workshop platform which was only accessible for Steam buyers. Now, all our players can create and share their amazing courses with one another.

Cloudlands: VR Minigolf

While mini golf isn’t quite as demanding as golf, it’s still a real-world simulation. How did you try to simulate a golf club swing?

I’m a golfer in real life and as I mentioned earlier, we had started with a driving range simulator. It was super satisfying but we found several technical and user related challenges in the mechanic of swinging in VR. Players would often swing under, over, or through the ball. Game engines can have difficulty detecting collision between two small objects moving fast and there were challenges getting ball hit detection to work well with high velocity swings. There was also the issue of having no weight or being able to “feel” where the end of your club was. Many early play tests left players frustrated. These issues weren’t too difficult to resolve, but as a VR launch title, we felt that mini golf made more sense because the courses would be easier for us to build as a team, and probably be more entertaining while also being more accessible for all ages and skill levels to play. Not everyone plays full on golf, but almost everyone can play mini golf.

In your opinion… do you prefer mini golf or ‘real’ golf? (Virtual or real world…)

Haha. I’ll probably always prefer real world golf, but I recently went golfing for the first time this season and I realized that all of my putting practice for the winter season came from Cloudlands. Swinging a virtual putter vs a real putter still has its differences and it took me a few holes to re-calibrate to a putter that has weight to it.

Cloudlands: VR Minigolf

Did you research actual mini golf courses for inspiration, or did everything come from your imagination?

As a team we went to Castle Fun Park, a mini golf / kids entertainment centre in the Fraser Valley, close to Vancouver. We were looking for things like how the ball hits off of the wall, or bounces over elevation changes, and how a course as a whole feels like a cohesive package. The first few holes we designed were heavily influenced by our real life mini golf experience and searching online. However, once we became comfortable prototyping we let our imaginations run free and this is where you get some of the more non-traditional hole designs.

Tell us a little more about the level editor. Is it easy to put together a course? How much control does a user have over course design?

It’s super easy to put together a course. We have several hundred “pieces” that we’ve organized into categories such as floor pieces, hole pieces, props, landscape etc. The pieces have snap points and you can snap pieces together intuitively using the motion controls – watch this video for reference:

If you don’t want to conform to the snap points, we also have a free-mode where you can just place pieces anywhere without any constraints.

Have you considered integrating Vive Trackers into Cloudlands?

This is a tough one. We love what the Vive Trackers are enabling developers to do. As a company, we’re hesitant on building any types of third party peripherals. We also feel that for golf specifically, you could essentially have the same functionality but with some kind of putter-to-Vive controller adapter, without the need for the tracker since there’s a 1:1 relationship with the controller to the putter already.

Good point! We’ll make our own solution. Finally, an important question… who has the best ‘par’ in Minigolf at Futuretown?

Haha, I’d say our producer Adrian Ng is the best at the game. When we were creating the first holes and testing the multiplayer, he’d always be a few strokes ahead of me and I haven’t really managed to beat him yet, even with all the user created content.

Thanks for talking to us, Justin!


Cloudlands: VR Minigolf is available now on Viveport, and also in Viveport Subscription – including the new level editor.

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Vive is Building a Premium Standalone Headset for the Daydream Platform

At VIVE, we believe Virtual Reality has the power to change lives. From storytellers and manufacturers to doctors and teachers, VR is impacting every part of society and sparking imagination like never before. Vive represents the best in VR experiences with our industry-leading PC-based solution, and we’re only at the very beginning of the journey.

Today at Google I/O, Google announced that the Daydream platform is expanding to support a new category of VR devices, standalone headsets. They don’t need a phone or PC to power them, and they’re easy to use, comfortable, and immersive. Everything you need for the best portable VR is built right into the headset.

The great news is that Vive will be building one of the first standalone headsets for the Daydream platform, to come later this year!

We have been working closely with developers and consumers to define the best VR experiences over the past few years, and we are perfectly positioned to deliver the most premium standalone headset and user experience.  Vive’s standalone VR headset will provide a deeper and more immersive portable VR experience than ever before.

More information on Vive’s standalone VR headset will be made available soon, but rest assured it will be simple, easy-to-use and with no cables to connect. Just pick it up, put it on and be fully immersed in your new reality.

If you’re a developer looking to get involved with Vive’s standalone headset, or want the latest invites and updates on developer events, please register at developer.viveport.com/standalonevr.

Stay tuned to this space for more details.

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Sculpting virtually in Kodon

 Between apps like MakeVR and Tilt Brush, 3D creation is advancing rapidly in VR. One of the pioneers in the field is Kodon, a room-scale virtual sculpting app that lets anyone shape their own creation… no messy potter’s wheel or sculpting clay required. With their latest update now live, we talked with Gustav Tresselt, lead developer at TenkLabs about what’s new.

Kodon

How long have you been working on Kodon? What initially inspired you?

We’ve been working on Kodon for about a year now! The initial inspiration was basically playing around in 3D as an indie dev – I needed 3D models. So I decided to make a program to make them myself – in VR!

Your latest major update is v0.50 – you’ve called it ‘50% complete’. What does that mean in terms of current features? What’s been added since your last major update?

v0.50 is the product of tight cooperation between me and my sculpting expert, Emil. This version tries to meet experienced sculptors with features like move, inflate, crease and similarly which really speeds up the workflow. We’ve also added some awesome environments that add new lighting and reflection details.

Kodon

If v0.50 is 50% complete – what’s your final vision for the 1.0 version? Are there major features still to be implemented, in your mind?

At v1.0, experienced sculptors will prefer Kodon to the established tools, and casual users will get an intuitive understanding of 3D sculpting. And yes, the 50% complete refers to the feature set as well as bugfixing. Some examples: re-meshing feature, surface and voxel tool improvements, major optimizations, and last but not least: geometric sculpting will be back.

Who do you see as the primary user of Kodon? Professional 3D artists, hobbyists, or someone else?

Kodon has a semi-professional focus. We are trying to reach both long-time professional 3D artists as well as people who have no clue about 3D sculpting, such as myself.

Did you draw inspiration from any traditional 3D modeling programs?

I had no idea about 3D modeling programs when I started making Kodon. After Emil came into the picture, we’ve focused more on ZBrush.

Can you import existing 3D models, then export them again? Any restrictions?

Absolutely! Via the PLY and OBJ formats you can easily do this. There are some restrictions on size, and some special form of OBJ files (like ZBrush’s vertex color format) are not supported. The program also does not respect quads at this point.

Kodon

Finally, Kodon has been out for a while – what’s the most impressive project you’ve seen created using it?

KodonEmil (and other professional sculptors) have made some amazing stuff already, this is the first thing he made (pictured left).

Adham Faramawy earlier this year made an exciting abstract sculpture setup for Royal Academy of Arts “Virtually Real” exhibition. His object was 3D printed to a giant sculpture weighing literally tons! (Click here to see some video of Adham’s creation.)

 

 

 

Finally, this 3D printed flower pot from an early version of Kodon will always hold a special place in my heart (below).

Kodon


Kodon is available now on Viveport.

Read more on 3D creation:

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Buy Vive for only £35 a month – financing now available in the UK!

Hello UK friends!

Over 24 months, we now offer 9.9% financing for a total monthly cost of £34.84 (plus shipping). The application process is simple – just select “Financing” from the billing page upon check out, the whole process takes a few minutes. What’s more, there’s no deposit required. For more information, please visit vive.com/uk/financing.

Every purchase comes with two great pieces of content, Richie’s Plank Experience and Everest VR. Don’t forget, you’ll also get 1 month’s free access to Viveport Subscription, where you can pick five monthly selections from a specially curated collection of VR titles.

Additional European countries are due to follow soon, stay tuned to the Vive blog for updates.

The Vive Team

 

Finance is provided by Shawbrook Bank Limited who is authorised by the Prudential Regulation Authority and Regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulatory Authority. Shawbrook Bank Limited will treat any Loan Agreement made through our introduction as being regulated by the Consumer Credit Act 1974 and as giving you the protections provided in respect of agreements which are regulated by that Act. For more information, please visit: www.shawbrook.co.uk. For more information, please visit: www.shawbrook.co.uk.

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