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Working With Virtual Worlds: nDreams Dev Diary #2

As just about everyone either in or following the videogame industry knows, E3 is fast approaching. The annual event is the highlight of many a fan’s calender, with all the latest surprise reveals,  polished trailers and in-depth previews arriving in the space of a tight 3 day schedule. This year’s event , running from June 10th – 12th, is set to be no different, with virtual reality (VR) positioned to make a huge impact. Few know this better than VR devoted developer nDreams, which is currently busy constructing and polishing its E3 demo.

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Senior Designer Jackie Tetley talks about how that precious showcase is coming along in this week’s Working With Virtual Worlds developer diary, which debuted on VRFocus last week. As we already know, nDreams is planning to reveal its new Project Morpheus and Oculus Rift title at this year’s show. Read on now as Jackie brings us up to speed with how the build up to the event is going.

Jackie Tetley, nDreams: This week has been all about a milestone for the E3 demo: Feature Complete. Basically everything in bar the polish.

The definition of “feature” does leave a little wiggle room, and as such, a few things are sneaking in next week (proper voice recordings, some animations) but we are essentially there.

Of course there is a degree of frantic scrambling as elements get dropped into the game and don’t always work as envisaged. A few strange bugs have also emerged and the code department has been on the case. Bugs are either swiftly quashed, or one senses a presence looming over one’s desk as a coder comes to outline the problem (aka – you’ve done something wrong!).

It’s hard to accurately convey the difference between walking around a plain white-boxed level with no textures and then exploring the same space when beautiful mesh, intricate textures, scores of objects and a stunning lighting setup have been added.

For non-VR projects, it’s great, but in VR, it’s mind-blowing! Every detail becomes a fascinating distraction as you move around, head turning, looking up, down, left and right. You find yourself admiring the floor or staring thoughtfully at the ceiling in a way that just doesn’t happen when you are viewing things on a monitor or TV screen (spoiler alert – there are floors and ceilings in the game).

Audio has also now been added in, and the environment is coming alive with a blend of ambient and triggered sounds. Design-wise, I’ve been setting up events and adding in more scripting as new elements arrive.  I’ve also been “robustifying” things, to try and minimise the possibility of wily players breaking the demo, though I’m resigned to the fact that someone will undoubtedly find a way!

Next week we have the dialogue recording session, and I’m disproportionately excited at the prospect of the inclusion of professional vocals. I don’t want to insult the acting prowess of our development team, but let’s just say the results are “interesting”.

And finally, we’ve found that if you stick googly eyes to the front of a VR headset it adds a layer of amusement when watching others play!