Oculus, Facebook and the Oasis

Like many people, I am disappointed with the Facebook acquisition of Oculus. I think I would have deleted my account a while back if it weren’t such a useful means of organising events and sport fixtures. I felt a strong connection to Oculus, a feeling that stemmed from backing the Kickstarter drive. I felt like I was helping the fledgling company get off the ground. In hindsight this was pretty (very) naive.

Notch’s blog resonates strongly.

And I did not chip in ten grand to seed a first investment round to build value for a Facebook acquisition. – Notch

As an aside, the Oculus founders sold some of their stake to VCs in late 2013 for $75 million. I should have been equally disappointed at that deal, had I known about it. It would be one thing if the Oculus founders had benefited massively from the sale to Facebook, but it was probably just the VCs that made out like bandits.

This recent video sheds some light on the motivations for the acquisition. Facebook can certainly bring their expertise to bear on the “one million user MMO” problem.

The idea of creating a global virtual environment enabled by the social graph of Facebook is compelling. The novel “Ready Player One” and its concept of the “Oasis” is often spoken of as the goal for pervasive VR. Facebook would surely have some role in enabling such a creation.

It leaves me wondering how best I could get ready for a future “Oasis”-like product. What skills would be necessary? I guess that a product from Facebook would not use either of the two most common current VR-enabled engines, Unity or UE4. I think it would be more likely to use a new engine developed in-house by Carmack and Abrash. The focus of the new engine would have to be very high framerates, very low latency and zero tolerance for visual artifacts.

It is interesting to note how closely some of the ideas of the Oasis resemble the original plans for Quake. Quake was sketched out as a kind of multiplayer RPG, with persistent worlds hosted on permanent servers and a system of interconnects that would allow players to teleport from server to server dynamically. Once id realised the scale of the task, they pared back the multiplayer side of things and created the king of FPSs.

I think there is a big future in the virtual environment content creation industry. Everyone is going to want their own unique home in the Oasis. How do we create this content? I guess just hit Blender, Max or Maya as usual and wait for a tool chain.

During (and after) my time at UWA there was an effort to replicate the UWA campus in Second Life. At the time I thought this wasn’t very interesting. Perhaps they were just far ahead of the game.

Random Acts of Culture

Beautiful Video

HDR Trial

I’ve been experimenting with High Dynamic Range images using photos taken on my recent trip. These images are the result of post-processing three photos that were taken using Automatic Exposure Bracketing (+/-2eV) on my Canon 400D. The first image is the result of the default presets in Luminance HDR, the second uses the defaults in Photomatix Pro. That the results are so different is evidence that I need to do some more research.



Born to Synthesize

Global Game Jam 2013

Last weekend I took part in the Global Game Jam 2013, a 48-hour game development event. The Perth jam was organised by Lets Make Games and held at ECU Mt. Lawley. This year’s theme was an MP3 file of a series of heartbeats.

I teamed up with Minh and Nick to build a game called “O Deer”. The player takes the role of a deer in a forest. The title screen is disturbed by a gun shot and the deer begins to run. The player then controls the deer by either running further or coming to a stop. While the seer is running, its heart rate increases and it is in danger of exhaustion, while the deer is stationary it can observe more of the surroundings but is in danger of being shot by hunters.

Here are a few thoughts:

Good bits:
- I love working on stuff with Nick and Minh, they are fun to be around.
- We decided to develop the game in HTML5/Javascript and use the Three.js 3D library.
- We used git on bitbucket for version control, which went very well.
- We were less hard-core about finishing the game on Sunday, which made for a less stressful day.
- Presentations were great as always.

Less good bits:
- I barely got a chance to go around and meet people or check out the progress on games.
- We started a Trello board, but didn’t use it much.
- Nick was unwell with a cough and wasn’t at full strength for much of the jam. Minh was the organiser of the Perth jam and was very busy leading up to and during the event. I had some family commitments on Sunday too, so we were pretty short of time.
- We fell short with some of the features. The main mechanics of the game were not complete.
- Late Sunday when we should have been getting the game ready to submit, we were all busy, so we didn’t get a game submitted.
- Three.js is easy to use and it impressed me enough to want to use it again in the future. We had two problems however: Our initial attempts to use the scene exporter from blender resulted in file format version mismatches, which were frustrating. I’m not sure how we solved this in the end. Secondly, when it came time to export the animation from blender into the three.js format, it produced very large files that wouldn’t load in three.js.
- It has been a while since I have done 3D programming, I’m getting rusty with those concepts, which is very sad.

It was a great event though, I’m always happy to help out with the game jam in a few small ways. I can’t wait for next year.


The original, updated

Toyota TS030 at Le Mans 24hr 2012

What a wonderful sound

Great linear downpitched whine from the electric motors throughout the breaking zone. Near-silent whoosh from the diesel at high speed. Tractor-y chug and rumble at low revs. Near-instant hiss from the turbo under acceleration. It is wonderful to hear all these technologies working together in one machine. What an amazing piece of kit.