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.
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.
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.
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.
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 🙂