Last night I had the wonderful opportunity of attending the TechCrunch Virtual Reality Meetup at the Mondrian Hotel Skybar in West Hollywood. It was a great mixture of gamers, entrepreneurs, models, and fashionistas all playing a variety of early stage VR games and multimedia experiences.
I wandered around talking to VR fans and developers, played some cool games, and saw some neat video applications. Andrea Hawksley of the San Francisco based eleVR showed me a stop-motion video animation that looped every 5 or so seconds. The catch was that you could seamlessly look around 360 degrees on all axes, and if you looked up you saw a flying monkey resemblant of Zoboomafoo. Check out their work at elevr.com.
A dodgy photo I took of someone playing Darkfield VR
I also had the opportunity to meet a disciplined and talented programmer from Germany named Mark Schramm. I had a long conversation with Mark about the production process behind his soon to be Kickstarted game: DarkfieldVR (@DarkfieldVR follow Mark on twitter, you will not regret it). Playing the demo of Darkfield I quickly realized I was experiencing perhaps the most polished, best game I have played on VR to date. You get into a cockpit in a spaceship and can see a 3D model of a helmet on your head. You then fly around a Star Wars like space battle blasting away at enemies, using your head rotation to help aim your weapons. Mark has been working on his game for a year and a half with a 3 man team (college friends) and hiring other personnel on a small contract/need basis. They develop in Unity 3D and utilize the 3D asset store extensively, “though we heavily retexture and modify the assets we use to fit the style of our game.” says Mark. Mark also said that he is not looking to expand his team just yet, and prefers to finish Darkfield with his friends to allow for efficient collaboration and focused creative vision. Mark is doing it right. Darkfield looks like a AAA title, and the fact that it is made by a 3 man team shows that if you can utilize the power of platforms like Unity 3D and the 3D asset store, now is time to start making the games you want to make without waiting for the approval and endorsement of a higher power.
Before I move on, I must add that Mark is also programming an advanced Neural Net AI for the full version of DarkfieldVR which will be a cooperative online game like Left4Dead. When they launch their Kickstarter in a week I highly encourage anyone remotely interested in game development to check it out and contribute:
A Darkfield VR Screen Cap
Now on to the brief technical update on Unity Mobile Performance with the game Ancient Aliens: Severed Skies that I am developing with ZeroPoint Studios. We have been running early stage iPhone tests and have not run into any performance issues thus far. After talking with Andrew Goldstein of Otherworld Interactive last night, I learned that the biggest performance draw in Unity mobile games is by far and large poly counts. I played one of Andrew’s first person 3D interactive iPhone VR games which had incredible binaural sound design. I asked him if the complex audio had any sort of effect on the performance. He noted that they did all of their audio in Unity and the performance draw was negligible in comparison to poly counts. I will take this into account as we move forward implementing sound design in Ancient Aliens: Severed Skies.
Testing VFX in Ancient Aliens with Unity3D
Using an Object Pool in the Inspector
Because Ancient Aliens: Severed Skies has a lot of bullets, explosions, blood, and particles, we are using a technique called Object Pooling to help with performance. In Unity you store a pooled object as a prefab in the deactivated state – this is because instead of destroying/instantiating pooled objects (which can be a costly in high concentration) you simply deactivate/activate them later in a new position. At the beginning of each level you spawn a bunch of pooled objects so that all the heavy lifting is over with and you can easily summon large volumes of objects for the rest of the level at a low cost.
That is all for now. Do not forget to follow @ZeroPointLA on twitter and stay updated with our progress on Ancient Aliens: Severed Skies.