Here you are. You are welcome!
These people at Gamescom in Germany made lots of people laugh:)
Here you are. You are welcome!
These people at Gamescom in Germany made lots of people laugh:)
So VR is here, and this time it will not be like like the 80s, or so we are told:) Actually, it is kinda true, since the technology was just not there during that time and the results was for VR to die out fairly soon back then. It was not only that the display technology made people wear something like a CRT TV on their faces:
but also the sensor, 3D graphics and algorithm research did not allow us to pass the threshold that actually fools the brain in a convincing way. This time around, all the pieces seem to finally fall into place so using the Oculus Rift or Vive of today actually accomplishes this goal with today’s technology, which means that if upon launch the technology is already here, there is a bright future for the platform.
There is a but there. The technology is one thing, the adoption of the new platform is another completely. At the moment of writing this, you need a fairly expensive gaming rig to meet the minimum requirements for VR gaming on top of the actual headset cost. This means that this is a pretty expensive platform to get into and to make things worse there just aren’t any “must play” games out there that would justify the high cost of admission. Most of the software is actually bite-sized “experiences” and the deeper games could actually be played on a normal monitor like always.
Like any new platform, there is the circular problem of user base and software availability. Game devs will make games, if there are customers to play them and the customers will get on board if there are games to play. This is why at the point there is a high-risk gold rush happening, with developers that believe in the medium to want to be there when mass adoption finally occurs. Another path some studios are taking is creating special versions, or simple updates to existing games to support VR. This works well on only a few titles, and namely titles that assume players are sitting on the same spot in the virtual world anyway (such as driving, space or flying simulators) since VR game design differs significantly from other platforms when it comes to handling motion. Best practices of VR game design dictates that the user must not move much and have full control of the camera view using head tracking in order to avoid nausea and dizziness due to view-movement differences. It is still work-in-progress and some games are trying alternative approaches to movement, such as teleporting to new fixed spots or fast-dashing to fixed spots (like Doom seems to be doing) with more or less success.
Like I said, it’s still uncharted territory and very interesting from an experimenting point but since things settle down, risky from a market point.
I personally believe that products that will make VR mainstream in the end will not be the Rift or Vive but rather Playstation VR or Project Scorpio VR. The reason is not technical, I am pretty sure that PS VR and … errr… PS VR (damn, Project Scorpio is also PS), will have lower specs than a good gaming rig (they always do) but they will also provide an affordable entry barrier for a larger amount of people to actually experience VR games. And this is important, since it will break the circle I described before and make more game devs make decent VR games. Of course, if the VR hype does not die down (and the consoles VR will help there) VR on the PC will also become affordable in time (a GTX 970 for example, which is now the minimum spec for both the Vive and the Rift, has already become VERY affordable due to the introduction of the 1060, 1070 and 1080 from Nvidia) which will eventually make VR gaming on the PC a no-brainer.
So in conclusion, I personally believe there is a future in VR gaming, but it will take a few more years. The wow factor is definitely there, I’ve never seen anyone try a VR headset and not come out impressed by the experience, but the market is very limited. I chose here to to focus on VR gaming and not VR applications which is a whole other discussion altogether. So if you feel lucky, go on and make your VR game, there are lots of incentives from stakeholders to do so and some investors are actually actively betting on the success of VR. But if you want to play it safe, just wait a bit longer so that you actually have an audience for your game.
And I am already amazed by the general direction Microsoft is taking with Windows. I just finished watching the keynote and one thing is absolutely clear to me: Microsoft is pushing hard and in every direction to make the new platform (Windows 10) the dominant and unquestionable leader in worldwide computing. Let’s count the way it’s doing that:
-Making it a free upgrade to Windows 7 and Windows 8 users. That’s a first of course and it makes perfect sense. Take everyone on the same page and a potentional user for universal apps (more on that later). By the way, MS keeps mentioning that W10 is a free upgrade for the first year, and they still haven’t clarified this in a big way but I am pretty convinced that this means that if you upgrade during the first year it’s free for ever and not that it’s free only for that year. That wouldn’t make any sense.
-Getting people with Android and iOS development skills on board by allowing the reuse of the same codebase they already use (Java and C++ for Android and Objective-C on iOS) to create Windows apps. By the way, we will have to get used to saying Windows apps from now on since from the looks of it, Windows is one platform and it just happens to run on different devices, small, big, with or even without screens.
-Making writing universal apps actually worthwhile for developers. They are actually trying to make apps more visible (although i get the feeling that they need to try harder on that front), but being able to run the same app on every conceivable screen (or even as a hologram ffs) is huge. And on top,of that, I was really impressed with the idea that the phone is just a PC trapped in a small form factor is awesome. This is of course, a more clever iteration of the Windows RT fiasco, but it makes sense this time around, since nobody expects running desktop apps on your phone, but running the same universal apps on a bigger screen using the phone is just brilliant, so well done there.
-The wow factor called HoloLens. Although I had seen the previous demo about 3 months, I could not believe my eyes with what they demoed today. The though that kept going through my head was “they cannot really have pulled this off and be so casual about it”. But they did. And they were! And universal apps are still part of it as is Windows 10.
So overall what impressed me today most was that the vision was, for once, coherent and focused. They want everyone to use Windows 10 in all of their devices and universal apps will be what people run on that. Everything else was there to support this vision and I loved this. Win32 apps running in isolated space as universal apps? check. Universal apps using every web technology, iOS and Android codebases? check and check.
There are no excuses now. When did Apple become the boring one?
You can watch the keynote here:
I’ve been using Unity 4 for a while now and I have released a few games with it on Windows Phone, iOS, Android and Windows 8. I love its approach to game design and its expandability. It is also a hugely supported platform and its asset store can really make a difference when you feel like you don’t want to reinvent the wheel but lack of a multi-disciplinary team to take care of things. Recently I was in Zurich for a presentation by Andy Touch of Unity who showed off a few really exciting things about the upcoming version of Unity, Unity 5. Boy I can’t wait for the final version!
Yesterday, Unity announced the availability of Unity 5 beta for pre-orders and subscribers. Since I already had Unity 4 Pro, preordering Unity 5 Pro came with a huge discount and the availability of the beta pushed me off the edge. I was going to get Unity 5 in the end, so better sooner than later:) So I got my hands on Unity 5 beta as a bonus and I’ve been playing around with it since yesterday.
At first, the environment seems to be more or less the same as before. That’s a good thing, since upgrading only to find that everything is different can really disrupt your daily work flow. I’ve made a copy of my latest project (this is STILL a beta, so no chances taken) and loaded it up on the new system. Unity 5 happily upgraded my project and scripts and loaded everything just fine. What I noticed immediately was how faster and more fluid the dev environment feels. Granted, I have 32GB of RAM on my system and the new editor is (finally) 64 bit so this plays a role I guess. My taskbar also has quite a few different Unity icons since I am doing some … things with different platforms and up until now each platform required a special build of Unity. Unity 5 seems to … unite the platforms since now I can see more or less everything in the Build menu. The licensing thing will get sorted out I get since my “normal” Pro license it not enabled with building to my other platforms (yet). But having a Unified Unity is a good step:)
I have not played with the One Shader yet (One Shader To Rule Them All – Unity 5 includes a nice physical based shader for all your shading needs that blew our mind at the demo) and I am dying to see the global illumination part, but one thing at a time. All the new 2D stuff is there of course (with some nice additions to the 2D physics engine) and I will definitely try out the new UI system. I’ve been using NGUI so far and I am fairly happy with it, but having something integrated in the system is a good thing, even as an option. The new sound system looks intimidating, since I am less than familiar with sound editing and engineering but again, it’s nice to know it’s there:)
Finally I would like to mention Unity cloud. I think they guys over there at Unity are definitely moving to the right direction, trying to provide a really complete package for game developers, especially indies, and that includes cloud services. This includes ads for all platforms, which might end up to be a big thing if they perform well, since it’s a pain to manage so many different ad sources on different platforms. I hope they go on implementing gaming services like leaderboards and achievements since in some platforms (I am looking at you Microsoft) an easily accessible framework does not exist.
Overall, Unity 5 will be a game changer:)
MonsterUp and MonsterUp Adventures were both built for Windows Phone first using pure XNA and C#. This made it a bit tough to port them to iOS and Android, but not impossible. I did port them to both eventually, using the excellent Xamarin technology and the open source framework MonoGame. On iOS, things are quite simple, since there are very specific devices I needed to test the final games on, and also very specific iOS versions, since the majority of people seem to be on the latest or second to latest version anyway. On Android, things are much more complicated than that.
In order to do the best I can for Android, I have thoroughly tested the game on a Nexus 4, a Samsung Galaxy S3 and a Samsung Galaxy S2. In my mind, most people use Samsung Android phones and these 2 seemed to cover a large percentage of the market, including the wildly popular 2.x version. Also, the Nexus made sure that at least the game runs on pure vanilla Android the way that it should. I released the games with this in mind, but I also released them for free, knowing that a percentage of people might still have issues with them. The reality proved much worse than I imagined. The games were downloaded more than 20’000 times on Android but people who had problems running the games are many many more than I expected. Even on the same devices I already had tested the game, people seem unable to open and play. And boy, they didn’t like it:) Even though it was a free game, many of them decided to leave 1 star reviews, with the result being the game to currently have a 3.7/5 and 3.24/5 average rating. Given that MonsterUp Adventures on Windows Phone has more than 4.5/5, I am not worried that this means something for the quality of the game, but rather the specific Android build just isn’t working as it should.
The complexities involved in porting such a game from XNA to Android are a lot, including a (rather expensive) middleware, such as Xamarin, which is pretty stable, an open source framework like MonoGame which can be pretty stable but can also have its ups and downs and unlimited different device configuration, custom roms, weird customizations etc. that just cannot be anticipated.
In conclusion, I have decided to pull the two games from the Play Store for the time being, until I find a way to make more stable builds, which is a bit unlikely in my current state, but I might try to do in the future. I am guessing people who already have and enjoy the game can continue to do so, but I am not sure if they will be able to get the games again if the delete them from their device. I hope I can come up with a solution for that in the future.
The iOS and Windows Phone versions work much better and will remain as is for now. These platforms are much more stable and predictable and as a developer, I like them much more for that :) It’s a pity that Android has dominated emerging market with their crappy cheap phones, and I would MUCH rather see people buying cheap Lumias like the 520, which offer a MUCH better user experience and a MUCH more stable platform for almost the same money.