Real & Virtual Worlds — Week 8 (Viewing / Reviewing)

This week’s readings were spread over two weeks due to a bank holiday, which was an interesting change of pace.

For this week (Week starting May 3rd 2021), we were assigned to read from one sources, and three more episodes of the Voices of VR Podcast (#905, #883, #566).

The source we were tasked with reading this week was a small selection of pages from “Augmented Reality: Where we will all live”. The section we were tasked with reading covers the different types of augmented reality systems, and how they can be separated into two main categories: wearable and non wearable.

This rest of it is relatively self explanatory to anyone who has had the chance to mess with augmented reality tech will know what most of these are. Personally Smart-glasses appeal the most to me, as they appear to have the most potential as something that’s applicable for more day to day usage. It’s a shame previous experiments such as the google glass were met with commercial failure.

Voices of VR

The first podcast source from this week was #905 of the voices of VR podcast, and he interviewed two of the co-founders of VR chat. This podcast I loved listening to, as recently I spent some time in virtual spaces like these (Specifically Rec Room mainly) to find out more about what they’re like, and it was awesome to hear from these people who are so ingrained in the development of these platforms about their thoughts on it.

The best part of this to me was them talking about how because of the way they used Unity, it allowed them to make the player characters extremely customisable, which lead to a lot of creativity in their communities. While it’s not particularly applicable to my current work, this massive customisability leads to players presenting themselves in their own unique ways, or taking on a personality that reflects their avatar, which is something I’d love to play with in future projects — the idea of identity experimentation in VR is one that’s a lot of fun to mess with in general.

The second podcast (#883) (amusingly enough following my previous comment) is about Rec room. To a degree, this podcast and the previous one do make me worry about potential games I could make in fields such as VR, as they tend to focus a lot on how important it was to their success that they were some of the first big competitors in their genre — Does this mean there’s no space for alternatives now, given that these games function on a service model and are continuously being worked on? It’s certainly possible — For years other games in other genres have remained dominant for decades (World of warcraft in the MMO genre comes to mind).

In regards to this episode’s content specifically, he talks less about customisation in the way that the VRChat developers do, and focuses more on how his platform is more of a tool for creators to make their own places for people to explore. It always amuses me to see developers experiencing this — In a lot of genres of games, it seems really common to see players of games wanting to modify the gameplay or create new games from within the engine that developers have provided, and fostering this kind of behaviour I imagine is a great way to keep communities engaged in your product.

I also wasn’t aware that Rec room was also on mobile devices as well as virtual reality devices — The ability to reach such a broad range of devices is bonkers, and It’s something I’d love to have the chance to apply to my future projects should I make something multiplayer in the near future, and Unity is definitely designed with multi-platform concepts in mind.

The last podcast I listened to for this week (#566) covered some similar topics, but focused far more on the experiences that he had in virtual reality.

I feel that he’s right about some interactions in immersion help form and maintain relationships in the same way that real-life meetings would, and I’m not entirely sure how to fully explain this outside of saying to people to experience it themselves.

It feels far more personal than just talking over the phone, and while it’s not perfect, I could easily see virtual experiences with friends and family being treated almost like vacations or trips out, once the technology becomes advanced enough. Fostering group-meetups like this guy has is amazing, and honestly is something I wish I could do more often — I’ve always loved the group atmosphere in places like VR Chat or Rec room (outside of some certain undesirable people, but those can be found in many walks of life).

Project Work

Much of my time this week was taken up by working on my game design document for the Audiences & Experiences unit, due to a formative feedback session on Friday, and as such not a lot changed here regarding my project, but in Tuesday’s session I managed to get some basic controls working inside unity using the windows MR plugin for unity (As I am using a HP Reverb as opposed to oculus/valve hardware). The one downside here is that for whatever reason the most recent version of unity appears to have broken some of the shaders provided by this plugin (Primarily for the control effects such as grabbing), so I will need to look into ways to remedy this, hopefully without removing the effect altogether (because honestly, it looks and feels really smooth otherwise, it’s just very pink right now!).