• Review: Witching Tower A well-balanced fantasy adventure.
  • Epic Games CEO Criticises Closed Oculus Platform With questions being raised about third-party applications on the Oculus quest, Tim Sweeney comes out in favour of openness.
  • Vive Studios Boss: ‘We Need To Get Better At Marketing’ Content
    Vive Studios Boss: ‘We Need To Get Better At Marketing’ Content

    HTC’s Vive Studios division acknowledges that it needs to ramp up its work in marketing, especially with more challenging non-gaming apps.

    Vive Studios was announced back in 2016 and is similar, though certainly not identical, to the Oculus Studios division at Facebook. The team pledged to do everything from publishing content made with partners to internally developing and releasing its own projects, going beyond gaming and looking at professional and experiential applications too. But, whilst Oculus Studios has launched big projects like Lone Echo and Marvel: Powers United over the past few years, it’s harder to keep track of Vive’s work.

    There have been some notable releases, the biggest of which is undoubtedly the Ready Player One: Oasis beta, a virtual hub of sorts that connects you to a handful of minigames. But, broadly speaking, it’s harder to find Studios’ fingerprints across the current VR ecosystem.

    To that end, some Vive Studios releases on Steam haven’t even gathered enough user reviews to get aggregate rankings, though many are also sold across platforms like Viveport and Oculus Home. Even Studios Head Joel Breton admits that games like the Vive Studios-published and Square Enix-developed Million Arthur VR didn’t “sell out of the gates”. Speaking to UploadVR, though, Breton said that it’s his first priority to keep VR developers safe regardless of sales.

    “So the first thing I want to do with my partners is derisk the project for them and let them try to innovate and create something awesome that will help the market and then obviously help their business too,” Breton reasoned. “So certainly we need to get better at marketing. I’m very proud of the content we make. Everything that we’re making is very highly rated, it’s very well received and certainly we can do a much better job of marketing content and that’s something that I’m very happy to be working on.”

    Breton admits that much of the challenge comes from knowing who to market to, especially in the non-gaming scene. “For instance, the TrueScale design application is fantastic for anybody that’s doing design of an interior space like a store or a gymnasium or a fitness center. So it’s amazing for those people but they just don’t know about it. They don’t know that it’s there they don’t know that they can go into VR and then in like 30 minutes do what might take them a couple of hours or at least a day to do on a flat screen.”

    One approach Breton says its taken recently is to give some of its apps more of a soft launch, quietly releasing early builds and then updating them with the help of the community to the point that it can market them more confidently. Studios also sees its most recent project, an episodic VR movie retelling Bible stories named 7 Miracles, as an example of an app that it knows directly who to market to.

    “But finding the audiences for these non-gaming VR content? That is certainly a challenge right now that’s something that we’re

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  • PlayStation VR Bundles Discounted For Black Friday Target are offering deep discounts for PlayStation VR bundles for Black Friday.
  • Futuristic VR Playground Coming To Toronto VRulez VR Arcade will be first in North America to use KatWalk treadmill system.
  • Facebook Predicts 40 – 50% Increase In Spending In 2019 Due To VR/AR And More
    Facebook Predicts 40 – 50% Increase In Spending In 2019 Due To VR/AR And More

    Facebook expects to keep spending heavily on VR and AR in 2019.

    During its Q3 2018 earnings call earlier this week the company announced that it expects a 40 – 50% increase in spending in 2019 compared to 2018, taking full-year capital expenditure to around $18 billion to $20 billion. CEO Mark Zuckerberg rounded off his opening notes by stating that the company was “heavily investing in AR and VR”, making specific mention of next year’s launch of the Oculus Quest all-in-one VR headset.

    Chief Financial Officer Dave Wehner later explained that the company expects to total $14 billion to $14.5 billion in capital expenditure in 2018. “As Mark said, we continue to invest aggressively across the business, and expect that full-year 2019 total expenses will grow 40 – 50% compared to full-year 2018,” he said, putting full-year capital expenditures at “$18 to $20 billion.”

    When later asked if this spending would be in the same areas that the company has previously said it will be investing in, Wehner replied: “A lot of that is consistent with what we’ve been talking about as our big investment areas.” He specifically noted that investment in VR and AR was one such area as well as other factors like increased headcount and investment in safety and security technologies.

    Obviously Facebook isn’t going to be spending $20 billion on VR and AR next year but with news that the company’s immersive R&D division, Reality Lab, is getting a big new site at the Redmond campus, coupled with the work Michael Abrash showcased at OC5 this year, it’s clear that it’s not going to slow down its spending any time soon. The big question is if Oculus Quest, which launches in spring 2019 for $399, will mark the start of Facebook recouping some of those investments.

    Tagged with: facebook, mark zuckerberg

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  • More Patent Reveals With News of Google Eye-Tracking Patent Google patent will use eye-tracking to give VR avatars accurate facial expressions.
  • Escape With Me: How A Mobile Phone Game Led To The Creation Of Beat Saber
    Escape With Me: How A Mobile Phone Game Led To The Creation Of Beat Saber

    XRDC is a very tiny event. It takes place near the end of the year in San Francisco (formerly it was called VRDC, but the industry is expanding and they wanted it all under one roof) and a few dozen industry executives, developers, luminaries, and press all gather together to network, try out a few demos, and attend talks. Mostly it’s for networking and talks though. The “show floor” had maybe six or seven booths total.

    As a result, the best part of XRDC for me this year was the Beat Saber talk hosted by Beat Games CEO and co-founder, Jaroslav Beck. He discussed the project’s origins, where the concept came from, how they’ve found so much success, and what’s next for the studio.

    Humble Beginnings

    Beck began his talk by explaining that Beat Saber owes a lot of its creation to a critically acclaimed and massively popular mobile phone game named Chameleon Run by Hyperbolic Magnetism. It’s a simple little game in which you control a small character that is constantly running at high speeds while you make him jump and change colors to match platforms. That’s about it.

    Now if you extrapolate on that idea of color switching and contact, it makes sense that the premise could lead to what we now know as Beat Saber. Albeit just a way cooler, more polished, and impressive version. Beck mentioned that the neon aesthetic inspiration comes from Tron, which should come as no surprise at all.

    Photo Credit: Ben Lang

    In the image above, you can see the first initial prototype for Beat Saber (compared to the final version of the Early Access release pictured below). Beck said the initial prototype with all of the core designs and gameplay mechanics was completed in just a single week.

    “We worked for the next year and a half just on polishing the last 10% of the game, which made all the difference,” Beck said.

    Prior to working on Beat Saber, Beck mostly contributed his musical talents to AAA game studios for properties such as Overwatch, World of Warcraft, Star Wars, Call of Duty, Starcraft, and more.

    “We agreed I’d make a soundtrack of 10 songs to be included and customized for the game,” Beck said. And $100 Bills, one of the most popular tracks in the game today, was that first test. Beck and developer Jan Ilavsky collaborated back and forth between crafting new tracks and mapping the beats, iterating and polishing along the way.

    Organic Viral

    According to Beck, the team at Hyperbolic Magnetism and Beat Games did not spend a single dollar on marketing. Instead, they got lucky. By partnering up with LIV, a mixed reality capture and software studio, they crafted videos like the one you see above to not only sell people on Beat Saber, but to sell people on VR in general. And it worked.

    “Suddenly we thought, ‘What are we going to do about this?'” Beck said. “The game isn’t even finished yet! But there is a chance that this could help the industry as a whole become

    The post Escape With Me: How A Mobile Phone Game Led To The Creation Of Beat Saber appeared first on UploadVR.

  • Epic CEO Tim Sweeney: Closed Oculus Platform Would Mean ‘Less Income For Developers’
    Tim Sweeney Epic Games

    Some major questions remain unanswered by Facebook’s Oculus team regarding how open and accessible its Oculus Quest hardware will be to buyers. With some prompting this weekend, one of the gaming industry’s thought leaders commented with some strong language on the situation.

    Critically, it is unclear how easy it will be for the average Oculus Quest buyer in 2019 to become developers so they could load up software that runs on the headset without going through Facebook’s Oculus Store. That’s the way it is done today with the standalone Oculus Go headset.

    Signs are there that Oculus Quest will have a dev mode for sideloading apps. How accessible will that developer mode be to all buyers? Can a company like @epicgames get a hypothetical Fortnite VR installed this way? What about an alternate store? @TimSweeneyEpic @ID_AA_Carmack

    — Ian Hamilton (@hmltn) October 27, 2018

    While it is important for developers to get full access to all the computation and graphics power in a standalone headset, certain services might kept active and beyond user or developer control for safety, security or privacy reasons. For example, we know Quest includes a visible external light that is wired directly to the power rail of the headset, and we expect its operation not to be changeable by apps or the end user.

    Likewise, Oculus uses what it calls a “Guardian” system which defines safe boundaries for play. Facebook uses the system on Rift today while Valve offers its own “Chaperone” system with adjustable settings on PC. Even Microsoft uses the concept of “Boundaries” on PC with its inside-out tracking system to define play areas that are clear from floor to ceiling. Google’s Daydream OS running on Lenovo’s standalone Mirage Solo automatically restricts head movement to a very small area, but that feature can be deactivated by developers for a dangerous testing session.

    Bleh, a closed platform attempt around VR.

    — Tim Sweeney (@TimSweeneyEpic) October 28, 2018

    The issue here is the same path used by developers to test their apps on computers is also often used by enthusiastic early adopters to become the first to test those apps. On the standalone Oculus Go headset, for instance, you can install stuff from a connected PC, but that’s not nearly as easy as, say, installing Fortnite on an Android phone and bypassing the Google Play Store to do it. The argument could be made that security, safety, and privacy of whomever is using a VR headset demands a more restrictive console-like platform similar to an Xbox, Nintendo or PS4.

    It certainly seems like Oculus is heading toward a console approach for Quest, but the company still hasn’t clarified its plan for some of these things. Company representatives, however, made it clear earlier this year that they are aware of the issues at stake when it comes to how they run current and future platforms.

    “It’s an existential crisis for us to make sure we get data handling right,” said Max Cohen, head of product for the Oculus Platform, during a phone interview

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  • Nothing Half-Baked About Zombie Donuts Update Canadian developer Virtro have announced an update for candy apocalypse shooter Zombie Donuts.
  • Disney Developing AR Costumes For Theme Park Visitors Disney Research are working on a way for theme park visitors to take the ultimate selfie.
  • ‘MARUI’ Plugins Bring VR Support To Popular 3D Tools Maya and Blender
    ‘MARUI’ Plugins Bring VR Support To Popular 3D Tools Maya and Blender

    Maya, the paid tool from Autodesk, and Blender, a free and open source alternative, are two of the most popular 3D creation tools in the industry. Maya is the tool used to create the 3D assets for countless films, TV shows, and video games. Blender is used by hobbyist projects, but is also used by large organisations such as NASA.

    Because neither Maya nor Blender support virtual reality, Japanese startup MARUI-PlugIn developed plugins for each application to add VR support; which they call ‘MARUI’ and ‘BlenderXR’. MARUI is a paid plugin ($50/month or $550 lifetime) for Maya, whereas BlenderXR, just like Blender itself, is free and open source with optional donations supporting it.

    MARUI supports Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, and all Windows MR headsets, while BlenderXR supports all these and the eye tracking PC VR headset ‘FOVE 0’ too.

    For many creators, being able to see and manipulate assets at real scale directly with your hands and to look around it by simply moving your head is a paradigm shift from current monitor-based workflows. The folks behind the MARUI-Plugin claim that VR can reduce the cost of 3D production by up to 50%. The plugins aren’t focused on the full range of features for Maya or Blender. Instead, the company is focusing on design and animation. Using your hands to directly manipulate parts of the model that should move can be far more intuitive than the current approach of trying to move and rotate elements in 3D space with a mouse & keyboard.

    At Oculus Connect 5, Oculus introduced a system for Rift called “Hybrid Apps”, which could be useful if the approach sees adoption by the likes of Blender or Maya in VR. That still hasn’t happened, so it looks like 3rd party plugins will be the go-to approach for now. For BlenderXR, the plug-in builders are embracing the community spirit of Blender by polling the community as to which features should come next. For MARUI, development will follow the priorities of its paying customers. Recently they added voice recognition and direct 3D sketching for Maya like Google’s Tilt Brush and Facebook’s Quill.

    It is not yet known how widely the Maya and Blender userbase will embrace VR. Perhaps headsets aren’t high resolution enough yet, or perhaps switching between tasks which are better on a monitor and tasks which are better in VR is not yet seamless. While MARUI and BlenderXR look like the first real steps toward bringing these tools into spatial computing, we expect to see many more efforts in the coming years.

    Tagged with: blender, marui, maya

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  • Skyfront VR Partners with Virtual Athletics League for Tournament Esports tournament featuring zero-G VR FPS Skyfront VR is launched by Virtual Athletics Tournament
  • Axis Studios Release New VR Short Film The Bond Escape to the magical world of LuKara in new VR short film.
  • Life In 360°: The Process Of Courting Fashion Koncept VR and GQ do some 360 degree filming with NBA star Joel Embiid.