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A New Beginning

The day has finally come. This Tuesday I released traVRsal publicly, after more than five months of intense development including three months of private betas in my wonderful Discord community to get constant feedback and find as many issues as possible.

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Succeeding and actually replacing Out Or Dead, it brings a tremendous wealth of new features to the table, on various levels. Let’s start from the most visible and work our way down to the engine room.

End-User Features

If you are familiar with Out Or Dead, you will recognize three worlds by name immediately. Pyramid, PacMan and AI Take-Over are still there. They changed a lot though. All of them got much prettier, with added scenery, skies, enhanced models and textures. But they also got new content. Especially the Pyramid world has transformed a lot with the addition of deadly traps.

The second big change inside these worlds is how they are generated. Previously the order of zones was always the same and the maze parts were a rather easy to see through ping-pong between the north and south side. traVRsal now brings true procedural creation of the worlds, taking all available zones and mixing them up in a meaningful random manner, creating truly unique play-throughs each time. And the portal and maze technology got so many improvements, that players cannot predict the direction of the exit anymore, making it a real discovery adventure now.

Besides these dramatic changes, a completely new world was added: VR Gallery. It is the worlds with virtual gallery that you can actually walk through. It will be a hub for many different sources of images, starting with the wonderful photos of Unsplash initially. Make sure to give it a try. It shows many of the new procedural tricks traVRsal has up its sleeves.

While Out Or Dead made for great excitement walking through the worlds, it missed purpose and intention and didn’t invite itself to repeated play-throughs. This has now changed. Introducing the brand new online capabilities, players can now compete with each other for the best place in the global leaderboard. If one player finished a world he can decide to post this run as a challenge to others so they can try to beat it. They will then get the exact same world and earn points if they finished better.

A big breakthrough is that I managed to reduce the size of the required play space. As the play space is divided into tiles, the minimum number of tiles dictates the required size. With Out Or Dead, I needed at least 4 tiles to create working worlds. With each tile being around 50cm to not feel claustrophobic this meant at minimum 2 by 2 meters were required. In traVRsal I could improve the world generation and reduce the minimum tile count to 3. This means, the smallest supported play space is now just 1.44 by 1.44 meters. This will allow many more people to play the game.

Finally, everything is much more polished. From the menus to the interactions, flows, ambient music and sounds and especially the hands and physics everything got a big upgrade. Interactive objects now show they can be interacted with and can also be remotely grabbed.

A Platform For Creators

A bit hidden under the surface the potentially biggest feature of this update is the can be found: the traVRsal editor. It is a Unity plugin and a PC companion app which allow to easily create impossible spaces worlds just like the ones developed by me and share them with the community. There are tools for manual and procedural modelling, many logic scripts, sound support, interactions and much more. Also there are multiple ways to quickly test worlds locally and to upload them free of charge to my servers for global distribution. Check out my introduction blog as well as the SDK and Getting Started video. And if interested, join the Discord to discuss details and exchange ideas.

Technical Foundation

While the changes above the surface are numerous, even more happened internally. Nearly no stone is left unturned. I also nearly gave up multiple times. But it all resolved itself beautifully in the end 🙂 All worlds have been split of into separate self-contained chunks and packaged as Unity Addressables. This allows to load them remotely, reducing the initial app size but also updating the worlds without having to update the app. Due to many optimizations, worlds now also load twice as fast than before.

In order to manage all that, I set up a server infrastructure consisting of multiple providers, for file storage, for the website, for the API, the wiki and for the automatically created documentation.

I also exchanged the interaction framework, moving from VRTK to VRIF. This was one the one hand important to be able to move to a newer Unity version (XR plugin architecture) but also to have a more feature rich environment.

Having switched to VRIF finally allowed me also to upgrade Unity and modernize all related components, also with the option to switch to Vulkan in the future. From now on I want to stay on the latest version that reliably works, which is 2020.1 for now.

For even more details, check out the release notes for the game and the release notes for the SDK!

Outlook

So where do I go from here? Is traVRsal finished? Is a game ever finished? Surely not. I’ll continue to add features, fix bugs and see what players like, love and hate about it. I have a huge backlog of ideas stuffed with amazing things that could potentially be awesome to experience in VR. I’ll select some of these soon and try to bring them to life.

But for now, have fun playing the game! I’d love to hear your impressions and feedback. And beat your challenges 🙂

8 thoughts on “A New Beginning

  1. Played them all today. Very neat! I fell down trying to avoid a ghost in the packman. Did not finish the pyramid because i got to a door with levers. Above the door was 4 pictures matching the levers. I pulled them but the last one always reset and i got stuck and gave up. Felt funny knowing i was really just walking around in circles in my living room. Haha. Nice little walk. Glad ya kept at it. VR has a ton of work to go and needs pioneers!

    1. Thanks for the feedback! Glad you liked it 🙂 Regarding the Pyramid riddle room, you need to pull the levers in the order the images show them. Then the door will open. Alternatively, you can simply walk through the door right now so that you can at least experience other parts of the world.

  2. Thanks for putting this out, it was my first real roomscale experience.

    One question, will this work with the guardian disabled? I had room for a 3×4, but the guardian graphics were constantly coming up.

    1. Yes and I actually recommend that! I personally don’t fully deactivate the guardian but set it on lowest sensitivity (advanced settings in the Oculus settings).

  3. Thanks a lot Robert for your great work! You gave birth to my so loved ubisoft style VR MAZE games (https://www.ubisoft.com/fr-fr/game/vr-maze/) but with a commercial quest headset at 299$, at home with endless possibilities!

    The first time I tried these “procedural generation” games with Virtual Rabbids (https://youtu.be/lOKjTj87A8A), I knew it was the future of entertainment!

    If you have other ideas, we will be there (and even ready to pay for! )

    Here are some exemples, maybe one or two will give you ideas:

    – The Minotaur Maze
    – Prison escape
    – The Crypt
    – A Hauted Mansion! Oh yeahh ^^
    – A Space station, Doom3 like
    – The mirrors gallery of a fun fair (with clowns..)
    – and why not an embeded mini editor whith a switchable choice of textures, weather cycles, enemies to combine ^^

    Thanks again Robert, bravo and good continuation!

    Best regards,

    Emmanuel

  4. Thanks for this awesome game to show just how cool VR can be to make roomscale feel much bigger.

    I was playing through the pyramid and got to a part with 2 anubis statues and nowhere else to go,not sure if it was the end or bugged but they were near the guardian edge so I couldnt walk past them. Love the game!

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