VRMT v0.3: Walls, Leap, and New Art!

VRMT v0.3 is up, adding wall-building tools, Leap support, a beautiful new artpack, and many little fixes and improvements! Here’s the viddy overview:

Walls are what I’m most excited about in this version. They’ve been a long time coming, are the first feature to get beyond simple prop layout tools, and are the first step into full architecture tools I’ve been dreaming of and promising all along. As you might notice in playing around with them, there’s room for improvement in the actual placement and manipulation, not to mention features for variable height, multiple floors, windows, and so on. This first approach to wall-building revealed a few technical challenges, and the next iteration will be a pretty major redesign in order to allow for the kind of flexibility and functionality everybody wants out of building tools. But, what’s there now works pretty well, opens up some new possibilities in layout, and we and players so far have been really into building walls, so here they ship. More to come on that front!

Perceptive readers might’ve noticed a leapfrogging of v0.2 — that version was Leap support, and with that, lots of under-the-hood improvements to make the input system much more flexible, supporting not just different kinds of physical motion controllers (Hydra, STEM, Vive-hands, etc), but also radically different kinds of input, like Leap and other optical tracking. These improvements have also paved the way for gamepad and keyboard+mouse support, which are in progress and will be part of v0.4, if not v0.3.x.  Developing an app like this for the Leap is an interesting design and technical challenge. Design-wise, building any sort of interface to be used without any physical buttons or joysticks is very hard, especially coming from the amazingness of the Hydra.  How do you move or rotate yourself without any joysticks? How do you ‘click’? Even if the Leap worked perfectly, this would be really hard. To tackle these questions with a device that’s often finicky… well, there were dark moments in development. I tried three major prototypes of Leap ‘clicking’, and ended up shipping them all, and will be really curious to hear which people end up using. While pointing with the left hand palm for each, the click options are: make a fist with your right hand (default), push your left (pointing) hand forward into a button floating ahead of it, or hit (with your right hand) a button floating next to your left hand.  Words suck, here’s a video:

Each mode has its pros and cons. The push-button is nice since it’s one-handed, but I find it hard to keep my aim steady while also pushing the button. The hand-button has the biggest drawbacks in my opinion, since you have to keep your right hand inside the button to do a drag, like moving an object or making a wall. The default make-a-fist is the winner to me (hence default), since it doesn’t have the aim problem of the push-button or the hold problem of the hand-button. But it is more likely to misfire than the others, especially since the Leap will sometimes register a false fist when the hands are at extreme angles from the sensor (like when lowering your hand). I made it that the fist has to be within 40 degrees of the Leap’s (and your head’s) direction, to try to avoid this issue, but that’s imperfect too. So it is.  As for movement, you can teleport to where you’re looking, as marked by the white crosshair, by making a fist on your left hand, and you can snap-rotate with the curved arrows on either side of your vision. I feel that all of this is passable but imperfect, and eagerly look forward to future breakthroughs in interaction design and sensor tech in optical tracking.

Finally, v0.3 sees a new artpack, this lovely forest. In this current build, I’ve disabled artpack switching, until a few questions are figured out.  For example, how does a tree in the forest artpack map to another artpack that doesn’t have any trees, or large assets at all?  I’ve got some ideas to try, and am excited to do a big upgrade on how artpacks work.

I should also mention, now that I’m writing a blog post, and am bad at doing that, that I went to GDC at the beginning of this month, towing a video and occasional actual demo of VRMT, and the reception was overwhelmingly positive and lead to some really interesting and exciting connections and opportunities.  For one thing, I had the chance to demo Valve/HTC’s Vive devkit, and can confirm that it’s as incredible as everyone has already reported.  Obviously I’m very excited about their controller, which is functionally very similar to the Hydra, and VRMT will be supporting the Vive as soon as I can get my hands on a devkit.

That’ll do it for now. v0.3.1 is well underway already, and hopefully we’ll release that next Monday or so. Behind that, and other incremental improvements, there’s some big news and exciting possibilities gurgling — look forward to it!

~ by Jono on March 30, 2015.

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