Tag Archive | vr

Book Review: Designing Virtual Worlds

It has been over a year since my last review of a vintage virtual reality book. I’ve recently come across a good one that I’d like to share.

In 1978, Richard Bartle co-authored MUD, the very first virtual world. In 2003, he shared his twenty-five years of virtual world and MMORPG experience in the book Designing Virtual Worlds. Here are some excerpts from the preface:

Too much virtual world design is derivative. Designers take one or more existing systems as foundations on which to build, sparing little thought as to why these earlier worlds were constructed the way they were.

Are designers even aware that there are decisions they can unmake? Although a good deal of design is evolutionary, that does not mean designers can’t be revolutionary, too.

The key is in recognizing the face that what seems eminently logical to you from your usual perspective might turn out to be disastrous when viewed from another angle — and then realizing that the worlds you’re drawing inspiration from almost certainly contain elements designed by people who didn’t recognize that fact until it was too late.

Obviously, the preface resonated with me on the topic of metaverse design.

The book is an incredible seven hundred and fourty-one pages, filled with decades of experiences and observations in virtual worlds. According to Wikipedia, it has been called “the bible of MMORPG design”. Read More…

A Review of Portals in Virtual Worlds

BACKGROUND

A year ago, we started to look at how we might travel from one virtual world (anything from a simple program launcher to a more complex program like JanusVR) into a completely unrelated virtual environment.

As I searched for some consensus on how portal should look and operate, I wasn’t able to find any good guides which cover the topic. (The extensive use of the word portal by web-based companies has made it a particularly difficult topic to search.) This article is a (non-exhaustive) review of portals as a popular method used in virtual worlds today to transport the user to entirely different regions.

What are portals? Portals are typically objects or areas in the environment which advertise the ability for a user to approach and engage them in order to be teleported to a new location. Traditionally, they are placed vertically along a wall (and walked into), but they can be placed horizontally along the floor (and stepped onto). An additional action may be required, before or after moving an avatar into the aperture, to actually engage the portal.

Portals won’t be the exclusive means of long-distance travel within and between virtual worlds. What portals have going for them is that they’re already commonplace in virtual worlds, they can be visually integrated into many themes, and they’re easily understood by players.

In JanusVR, portals take center stage as the method used to connect otherwise unrelated virtual worlds.

In JanusVR, portals take center stage as the method used to connect otherwise unrelated virtual worlds.

Read More…

A Call for Shepherds in the Virtual Reality Community


This is the third and final article (in a series) on the issues that face the virtual reality community as it finally enters a period of rapid and sustained growth. If you need additional context, please begin with the first article in the series, “Before the Eternal September of Virtual Reality“.


Developers

You are a developer, right?

That’s the impression that many of you gave Oculus when you agreed that you were purchasing a product that was intended for developers. If that is actually not the case, we’d like for you to stick around.

Given the amount of time that the development kits have been available, and the introduction of other “innovator” products (like Cardboard and Gear VR), I think that it is a safe bet that software developers are already a small minority in the VR community.

This time around, nobody is holding your order hostage until you click the checkbox with the correct answer. Do you mind giving this unscientific poll a quick response?

 

Only a year ago, we were using the original Oculus Rift Developer’s Kit (DK1). The community could be an unfriendly place for non-developers. Do you know how we tended to respond to those who were having problems finding good games and getting them to work? Repeat the mantra from the caption below.

“The Oculus Rift is Intended for Developers Only”

The image above is clearly a fake, as is the quote, but the sentiment was (and to some degree, still is) true. Even today, the Oculus Rift is intended for developers, and it works well for Oculus not to be sandbagged with end-user support at this time. Read More…

A Review of Earlier Articles… and a Return to Metaverse Issues

Nine months ago, I wrote my last article on the Metaverse.

It was a short piece, mostly referencing an email from Fabian Giesen, a demoscene coder (and more) who was doing some VR work at Valve as a contractor. I’ll be honest, his message was a real downer for me, and I had my own Notch moment. Why was I working towards something that, if successful, would ultimately be used just to provide value to Facebook?

Over the past nine months, a surprising number of you have told me how those early Metaverse articles had actually been very helpful to you. A few of you said that you had a Metaverse effort going, but most of you were creating multiplayer virtual environments. Thank you all for your feedback and support!

I think the moment that it all crystallized and brought me back to Metaversing was seeing the return of Valve with the HTC Vive. Suddenly, it seemed like there were possibilities once again. Thanks, Gabe. I’m looking forward to learning more about your shared entertainment universe… perhaps a non-traditional Metaverse? Read More…

The Wolves of Virtual Reality’s Eternal September


This is the second article (in a series) on issues that face the virtual reality community as it enters a period of rapid and sustained growth. If you need additional context, please begin with the first article in the series, “Before the Eternal September of Virtual Reality“.


Image Source: Wolf Quest (3D wildlife simulation)

Image Source: Wolf Quest (3D wildlife simulation)

The Wolves

Along with a massive influx of new users, how much thought have we given to malicious actors entering the fold?

Griefers aren’t anything new to virtual worlds. In last year’s article, Griefing and the Metaverse, we explored some of the problems that persistent virtual worlds have faced. In recent history, our new virtual reality applications have had precious little exposure to malicious actors. We can expect our isolation to end as more people begin to own VR hardware.

Developers, are you validating inputs on the client side and the server side? Are you hardening your multiuser code against those who would intercept and change their own network packets in-flight, or modify variables inside of application memory? Are you even creating an audit trail of anomalous events? Probably not. Very quickly, we’re going to attract the sort of crowd which will exploit such opportunities. Read More…

Before the Eternal September of Virtual Reality

Image: Autumn Season Source: Hot Wallpapers HD

Image: Autumn Season, Source: Hot Wallpapers HD

I watched a worldwide community die. Not just one. Hundreds of them. Thousands of them. As the National Science Foundation Network transitioned into the public Internet, everything changed.

Up until the mid-1990s, Usenet Newsgroups were the place to go for lively conversations and well reasoned debate on any number of topics. Social issues, technology, cooking, auto repair, you name it. The topic was already there, and people were ready to talk about it.

What we may not have realized at the time was that there was a secret sauce which made it all come together. It wasn’t the servers or the NNTP protocol which transported the messages across the globe. First and foremost, it was the people: the informed participants who were passionate and well-informed about whatever topic they had come to discuss. Read More…

Valve’s Lighthouse as USB: Anything More than a Bunch of Spin?


This is the third article in a series on the Valve/HTC Vive Ecosystem. If you you need additional context, please begin with the first article in the series.


Quote from Gabe Newell's interview in The Nerdist Episode 306. Image source: unknown

Quote from Gabe Newell’s interview in The Nerdist Episode 306. Image source: unknown

Introduction

A famous quote from Gabe Newell is about a lesson that Valve learned early-on when dealing with the Internet. You can find it in Episode 306 of the Nerdist Podcast at 00:12:14.

Don’t ever, ever try to lie to the Internet because they will catch you. They will deconstruct your spin. The will remember everything you ever say for eternity. -Gabe Newell

At this year’s Game Developers Conference where Valve announced their Virtual Reality partnership with HTC, and at that time, Gabe made an incredible claim about the Lighthouse tracking technology:

So we’re gonna just give that away. What we want is for that to be like USB. It’s not some special secret sauce. It’s like everybody in the PC community will benefit if there’s this useful technology out there. -Gabe Newell (Valve)

The story which accompanies the interview describes Lighthouse as a way of providing infinite input solutions into Virtual Reality. “As long as tracking is there, anything can be brought into VR, like how USB ports enable you to plug (virtually) anything into your computer.”

What the Technology Brings

In the previous two articles, we’ve dug into the technology itself, and it supports what we’ve been told. Spend perhaps $100-150 for two of Valve’s Lighthouse units and mount them in opposite corners of the room. At that point, you can almost forget about them. But any enabled device that you bring into the room can take advantage of:

  • Rock-solid positional data with high precision and resolution
  • Rock-solid orientation data with high precision and resolution
  • Very low additional power use (passive sensors, undemanding electronics)

Read More…

Examining the Valve/HTC Vive Ecosystem: Basic Sensors and Processing


This is the second article in a series on the Valve/HTC Vive Ecosystem. If you have not already done so, please begin with the first article in the series.


Introduction

Today’s article will provide additional information on the Lighthouse units, explain the Lighthouse sensor system, and take a brief look at the sensor processing which is used to return the absolute position of a tracked device.

Strong Disclaimer

This particular article will try to tread carefully. There’s no way around it, folks. This article is going to contain facts, rumors, innuendos, and outright lies about the operation of Valve’s Lighthouse sensor system.

Why?

  • We’re working with publicly available information, which is scarce.
  • There is no documentation.
  • It is still in development and very subject to change.
  • There is no need for regular users to understand the underlying details.
  • Software developers can expect to be given an API that reports position without knowing any of the underlying hardware details.

Finally, for the time being, Valve employees are busy getting this stuff ready, and their time is better spent working on the product than answering all the outside questions. See page #9 of the Valve Handbook for New Employees for more details on how that process works.

We’ll have to assume that we’re on our own, for now.

Back to the Lighthouse for a Moment

I’m going to use the earlier research and development model for a reference.

An Early Lighthouse System. Image source: UploadVR

An earlier model of the Lighthouse. Image source: UploadVR

Towards the middle upper left of the enclosure is a panel that has been mounted with LEDs. The apparent purpose of these LEDs is to widely emit a flash of infrared light which could have something close to the same perspective and range as the laser beams. Read More…

Competitors with Different Goals: Valve versus Oculus

The recently announced HTC Vive looks to be a strong technology competitor against the highly anticipated consumer release from Oculus in the PC space. While Oculus has long-ago stated that they are working to deliver their consumer VR headset at a lower margin, possibly even at cost, HTC/Valve has announced their entry of a premium VR experience.

A Different Focus

What is overlooked by many is that while these two companies compete in VR hardware and software, their focus couldn’t be any more different. Read More…

A very cyberpunk future for tomorrow’s Metaverse?

Image Source: Unknown (multiple uses)

Image Source: Unknown (multiple uses)

In the Oculus Rift forum, I came across an interesting letter. It claimed to be written by someone who previously worked for Valve’s VR team. In it, he talks about the future of the Metaverse. It is unnerving how plausible his prediction plays out.

He believes that a combination of three things will take us in the wrong direction:

  • ┬áVirtual reality is a more engaging experience than other media types
  • The perception that “the pinnacle of VR is a gigantic shared MMORPG” (the Metaverse)
  • The ad-financed model that is pervasive in the online industry (because we want free services)

Is the Metaverse destined to be run by a companies that are trying to maximize your engagement and sell your attention to advertisers? Will they build a detailed profile personal based upon your every action (if only to enhance their ability to engage and advertise to you even better in the future)?

What would a Metaverse that is born out of today’s environment look like? You really need to read his perspective on the future of VR. Perhaps the Metaverse of tomorrow will be nothing but a treadmill to keep you hooked, advertised to, and recording/analyzing your responses to refine the process?