At the end of the last academic year I decided to go out and buy myself a HTC Vive, this has been both great fun and very insightful. I have yet to try many of the creative applications that are out there but have had a lot of fun in the entertainment mediums. T the simpler games much more appealing to play, somewhat akin to bowling or darts, though fun, in the context of videogames would be deemed quite simple. VR really bridges the gap between traditional hobbies and gaming. One of my personal favourites is BeatSaber.
I’ve always been curious about VR but now that I have my own setup I am even more interested in creating for the platform. I want to explore the use of VR from either an interactive or passive experience. I use passive in the sense that the player would only spectate and not interact, it would still be quite active with 360 degree vision.
When I heard about Arnold GPU support I was excited, but with the announcement of consumer branded Turing cards I saw it as a no brainer to finally update my GPU. My GTX680 is barely managing simple VR games and with this new card not only will I have the chance to explore real time ray-tracing and take a load off on rendering times in Arnold I’ll also be able to explore more intensive VR applications.
Where’s this going?
It may be ambitious and a lot of work, but with such a strong foundation of new technology, I really want to explore the boundaries and create something utilizing those technologies. With the new seamless multi-user workflow that the latest Unreal engine has in store, it may be a great opportunity to explore in an animation pipeline.
I clearly want to push some of my technical understandings of these new technologies in my projects but I am also very interested in brushing up a lot of my other skills. In order of priority:
- Character/Creature Pipeline – Concept, Sculpting, Rigging (Especially want to push facial rigging)
- Animation – This was my interest before starting university and I still consider it to be a skill I am most attune to and want to push.
- Texturing – Learning different maps and what they do. (disp, spec, diff, normal etc.)
- Look Dev & Lighting
- Environment & Culture concepts
Skills I am not so interested in, but I feel need improving:
- Environment Modelling/Sculpting
- Kitbashing & Photobashing integrated into workflow
- Compositing & Render passes
- Storytelling & Visual Narrative
Amongst all these I will of course be pushing my figure drawing, gesture, composition and shape language. I am not aiming for any hyper realism but I do aim to utilize physical attributes in my stylized work. Although there are a lot of technical skills I wish to push, I am trying to push myself in skills that are not software reliant, i.e. pushing Sculpting not Zbrush.
Idea001 – I’ll do it tomorrow
I was initially struggling with getting started on the project. So I got to a point where I decided I would use that as a premise for a story. Based on my own personal experience of university and how I feel I have changed over the past couple of years I came up with the idea of ‘I’ll do it Tomorrow’.
The premise is that we are introduced to a successful person, who is both ambitious, hardworking and efficient. They’re enjoying life and work simultaneously and balancing their life well. This all takes a turn, caused by no immediately apparent means, perhaps a short break or vacation and the character starts getting reluctant and distracted, tasks begin to take longer than usual and the character starts to take a little extra time at work in the evenings. Soon after this has escalated, the characters home life begins to fall out of control with many chores and tasks being put on an invisible ‘tomorrow’ list. Things begin to darken, a once enjoyable lifestyle spirals into stress and tasks pile up, both at work and at home. Though completing a few a day, it is still accumulating. They begin taking over time to keep on top of work, declining invitations to see friends and meet up with colleagues with the reason of ‘I’m too busy’ or ‘I’ve got too much to do’. The resolution involves the character making the decision to put work down and finally go social and relax. Little did he know, this was all he needed to start getting back on track.
The overall moral I want to convey is somewhat attune to the elements of balance and ying and yang. In the sense of light has a small amount of darkness and vice versa, sometimes the means to achieve a goal is to do a bit of the opposite.
Idea002 – Telephone in the mountains
Based in the mountains, fairly distant from other civilization there are these houses. Each one linked via long cables that provide limited communication between them, stretching from one mountain house to another, sometimes on different mountain sides. A conversation begins to happen between two of the houses, two people, so far apart in such rough terrain that they have little to know knowledge of each other except the sound of their voice and what they’re told. It is possible to see a small glimpse into the distance but not able to make out exactly what is over there. Our characters begin to make an attachment, daily conversation. Until one day, something seems off. Leading to a tragedy, perhaps it’s an unusual quietness on the radio or something more severe such as seeing the distant house taken by a rock slide. With the connection the two characters have made, a rescue mission ensues.
I’ve not quite developed this to a point where I am sure what may happen but I had a couple of ideas regarding a loop. The last message from the radio is a cry for help, followed by an immediate reaction of asking not to help as the rock slide hits the house. After the character finally traverses the terrain to the destroyed house, it is in perfect condition, except for there being a rumbling, the character cries for help when immediately realising, he is caught in what he tried to save himself from and to try and save himself, requests the listener not to come.
Idea003 – Stories of the city
This idea will be using VR to tell multiple stories within a single scene. The player will remain in a single environment location which could be for example outdoor seating at a New York coffee shop on a busy intersection. I have this idea that I could tell passive stories through environment leaving the active viewer to explore visually and look around at the different elements going on. Varying amounts of events will happen around the player whilst they are sat at the coffee shop, as you look around you’ll see people walking, staff waiting on tables, people placing orders, generally all the usual oddities of being at a coffee shop, but the elements I want to focus on and bring together is that, over the course of time, such a mundane location can lead to many extraordinary changes. You may see small events such as people exchanging contact, positive, negative, arguments and yelling. Perhaps you’ll see construction workers move in and start work, setting up temporary streetlights while working on the intersection. Perhaps a sudden car speeds down the road, with the off chance they’re being chased by police. Maybe a road closes and causes traffic. A regular day can become panic during unexpected rain as people take cover, or perhaps during a day of expected downpour everyone is prepared with waterproof gear and umbrellas. The location remains the same, but time around it creates stories. Perhaps during one element the shop is bought out by a new company and rebranding takes place.
This piece is ambitious, and to work well would require elements of procedural generation and seamless integration of different events, but in the end creates a relaxing and interesting experience. VR does not have to be about action or utilizing tools, it can be about spectating and experiencing. The first time I used a VR headset I had a sword in either hand and was surrounded by self-inflating balloons, sounds simple, boring even, but something about popping those balloons with swords was fun. Simplicity in VR is just as important as complexity, though battling enemies with guns is fun and exciting, sometimes it’s nice to sit down and relax, without having the leave VR.
On a different note, I one day want to create a VR game that is played from sitting on the floor. Harkening back to the days of just playing with toys and Lego, except with a new level of interact ability and dynamic events.
This concept is still very rough and undeveloped but I thought I’d add some of the development anyway. Inspired by Song of the Sea and Journey.
I’m pretty sure at least one of these ideas is far too ambitious and I’m very much lacking in regards to research, mood boards and some small elements of personal exploration but now that I have outlined some rough concepts I feel I can start focusing and refining them in my mind and I’ll come back to these later with some extra development.