Brain Blinks Bulletin - Clearing off my workbench

What's up in my virtual studio:

New version of the Sky is Falling level is much more interesting

Finishing up another update for Crashed Lander. Taking longer than I expected (as usual) as I bounce around between a few projects. New camera system is working well and most of the other small improvements are in place. One of these days I'm gonna have to stop tinkering with this game. :) 

Crashed Lander is part of the Steam Summer Sale - only $2.49. A bargain at twice the price!

Fata Morgana frame #8449

New 360 video is nearly done. After about 1300 hours and 500 billion pixels of rendering my next fractal video is nearly ready for viewing in VR. I need to decide on the music that's going to accompany the visuals. I think I'd like to make a new song for it, though it's been a while since I put on my musician hat. If I can't come up with something I like I'll probably hunt around for a suitable, Creative Commons licensed clip.

One of my other VR vids was recently featured during the Samsung keynote speech at the SVVR conference. It was nice to be showcased as an innovative new use of the medium. VR videos is poised to explode in a big way and could be a driving force in mass adoption of the tech.

New materials for the NuPrim Spheres. Download a simple demo of this scene for your Rift.

Updating my Unity Asset Store goodies. I have several packages on the Asset Store that need updating for Unity 5. My UniTrees are good to go. Currently working on adding new PBR materials to the NuPrim Spheres objects. I'll be updating Fractal Flora in the same way. I'd like to make some new stuff for the store, too. My 3d modelling skills have improved and it's nice to have that little bit of extra income every month.

I spent a couple of days getting used to the GI Lighting and Standard Shader in Unity 5 and I'm starting to get a feel for it now. They combine to make some very solid feeling, subtly shaded scenes. 

What's next? Still not quite sure. :) I want to start work on another big project, but none of my current prototypes are really doin' it for me. I need something that is designed specifically for VR.

I keep thinking about some of my current favorite VR experiences - stuff like Blaze Rush and Shufflepuck Cantina. These are very comfortable, compelling games that avoid a lot of the VR pitfalls. The fixed viewpoint makes for a very solid feel while the headtracking makes the spaces feel real.

XenoFarm is an idea that excites me but my current tests are built around the standard first person/monitor style controls. I'm tinkering with something similar that is more of a top down, terrarium style view. Leaning in to look at small things in VR is very satisfying. I'm also tossing around  ideas for arcade-style games with a VR twist. This type of game fits well with my coding skills and I've always enjoyed a simple, well crafted arcade game. 

Whatever I decide on I'm excited to get going. I'd really like to have a full-on VR game ready for the launch of the Rift in 2016, and maybe even the Vive if I can get my hands on a dev kit.

Brain Blinks Bulletin - You shall not pass

Today I found out why it's nice to have an open publishing system as opposed to a curated store - at least from the development side of things. My first Gear VR app was rejected for inclusion in the Oculus Home store.  The reviewers were basically confused by the app and felt like it was more of tech demo than a finished experience. 

Gravitas is a little odd, and I think they basically just didn't grok the idea. It's just a fun little toy and not intended to be educational - more of a curiosity. They didn't have any suggestions for changing the app to fit their expectations which gives me very little to go on if I wanted to make changes. I really don't want to make changes. I worked hard on the app and it functions and feels exactly as I intended.

I'll make a Rift compatible version and move on to my next idea. It'll be a fairly easy port. I'll just need to swap out the SDK and make a few adjustments to the control system. Not sure if I want to try another Gear VR app, though. This has dulled my enthusiasm for the Gear. I'll be very disappointed if Oculus locks down the consumer version of the Rift in a similar manner. 

Brain Blinks Bulletin - Fail flavored jam

Bad News: My Mobile VR Jam entry is Fail. I had too many other projects going and not enough inspiration to go around. I feel kind of dumb for not clearing up my workload in preparation for the jam - a lot of money and attention up for grabs.

I'm not really cut out for game jams. I've kind of spoiled myself over the years by following my whims and letting my creative energies take me where they will. Not a great for on-demand productivity, but very good for the soul. I may be the slowest game developer on the planet, but I have very little stress. :)

Good News:  Gravitas for the Gear VR is done and I'm submitting to Oculus tomorrow. Just finishing up the screenshots and other submission materials tonight. Another great learning experience! I Really have a good handle on what the Gear is capable of and a better understanding of how to limit and execute my ideas to fit within the confines of mobile development. 

Space...in your face!

Space...in your face!

Still trying to decide if I want to port Crashed Lander to the Gear VR. It would be a ton of work. Enough work that I might be better off just making a new (maybe similar) game.  Hmmm... 

Brain Blinks Bulletin - Stuck in a Jam

Over a week into the Oculus Mobile VR Jam and I am struggling. Seems like my creative Muse has gone on vacation. o.O This is not unusual for me, I tend to make creative progress in frantic bursts but this is bad timing. Very frustrating.

Part of the problem might be the projects I'm interrupting to join the Jam. I'm feeling like I should just finish what I have on my plate before digging into something new. I'm going to take a few days this week and see if I can finish up one of my other projects. It's time I should be spending on the Jam, but maybe it'll clear my head and allow me to make better progress. 

Working a bit on Crashed Lander today. I have a few problems to fix and feature requests from players that I need to work on. It sure looks nice in my new DK2. :) I'm also working on a new camera script that should make it a more comfortable VR experience. The new camera eases in and out of turns more gradually which seems to make a big difference.  Updating to the newest Oculus SDK, too. 

Gravitas VR is all but done. Just need to finish up a few odds and ends then get it submitted to Samsung. Not really looking forward to the submission process - I'd much prefer an open store like Google Play. I don't really like the idea of getting permission to distribute my app.

I'm very happy with the app, though. It's even more 'up close and personal' than the regular Android version, it performs well, and Iooks good. Learned a lot about working with the Gear VR, too. 

Brain Blinks Bulletin - Jam On!

The Oculus VR Jam starts today. Wo0t! I've been looking forward to this ever since it was first announced. Spent the last month getting used to my Gear VR and I'm rarin' to go.

I've been planning my entry all month, but suddenly I want to go an entirely different direction. I was thinking of an interactive garden experience where the player would plant and tend their own little garden. Not really a game, just a fun sandbox style experience. Now I'm struck with an idea to create something a little more on the eye candy/artsy side of things. 

I've been tossing around ideas for a sort of virtual art gallery for a while. Not a bunch of rooms full of RL artwork, but something that takes advantage of the virtual, interactive nature of VR. Flashy particle effects, moody settings, interactive experiences. It'd be a great chance to experiment. It would also fit well with the time-limited Jam. I could lay in the foundations and then add sections and experiences as time permits. 

I'm going to try and post a few developer diary videos as jam progresses so watch this space (or my Twitter feed) for more updates.


Brain Blinks Bulletin - Gearing Up

I've gotten out of the habit of posting updates on my blog. I'm active on Twitter and G+ but it's also nice to have some extra space to talk about what I'm currently working on and planning for the future. I'm going to make an effort to post here more often for anyone who's interested in what's going on behind the scenes in my studio. 

My main project right now is a VR version of my gravity simulation, Gravitas. I thought this project would be a great way to get used to developing for the Gear VR and it's working well. It's been a lot of fun re-working the sim for VR. It feels good to fly around inside the simulation rather than watching from the outside.  The Gear VR is a fantastic HMD. I'm getting good performance and it's a joy to play in VR without any cables. 

The gravitas control panel - "look to select" 

The gravitas control panel - "look to select" 

I'm nearly done, actually - I just need to finish adding the sound effects, touch up some of the UI and add some simple help screens. After that it'll be ready to submit to Samsung for inclusion in the Gear VR store. I'll also be releasing a version for the Oculus Rift. 

Speaking of the Rift -  I finally ordered a DK2! (^_^) I think it'll be here later this week. I've been too broke to afford one until now. I raised the money by hosting a sale on Crashed Lander over at itch.io. They have a feature that lets you set a goal for sales and I think it encourages people to be a bit more generous when deciding how much to pay. It certainly worked this time around - some crazy/awesome person payed $250 for the game. o.O That pushed me over the top and I ordered the DK2 straight away. Thank you random amazing Internet person!

My next big project will be the Oculus Mobile VR Jam that starts on April 13th. Pretty exciting competition with a million dollars in prize money. With that much on the line I'm sure there will be some stiff competition, but I'm optimistic about my chances of landing in one of the prize spots. I have some solid VR design experience and I'm feeling comfortable working with the Gear VR. 

After the Jam I have several other projects to work on. I always have more ideas than I have time. :)  I want to make one more big update for Crashed Lander. I have a great idea for a new game mode and I also need to update the Rift support to use the newest Oculus SDK. I'm also tempted to prot Crashed Lander to the Gear VR. I've sone some quick tests of the idea and it would definitely be possible with a lot of work and some careful use of game assets.  XenoFarm got pushed to the back burner and I'd love to bring that back up to a simmer. I'll actually be using some of the ideas from that project for my VR Jam entry, so maybe those two will end up merging together at some point. 

I guess that's all the current happenings in my virtual studio. Follow me on Twitter: @KitchenDon for miscellaneous postings and bits of news, @BrainBlinks for game and product announcements.