How We Used Today's Technologies to Build Tomorrow's VR Experience

Posted By Dane Johnston on November 18, 2016 07:52 am | Permalink

If you're a Creative Pro who played VR Funhouse - NVIDIA's free, virtual reality game - at this year's Adobe MAX conference, here's your (and everyone else's) takeaway: You can create in VR, too

The story behind the story: VR Funhouse started last year as a technology demo. We wanted to showcase what our GameWorks and VRWorks could do for VR - build unmatched immersive experiences that cannot be recreated on a flat screen. There was no better way to show that other than create a VR game where players bop, pop, and shoot their way through a carnival using their senses of sight, sound, and touch.

The team behind VR Funhouse was a small one - just an environmental artist, two designers, and a visual effects artist - and we had a tight deadline. We created this game in just six months, working on a trio of older generation GPUs that barely maintained the 90 frames per second frame rate needed for VR, something a single Pascal card can do now.

But fortunately, we had some great tools that helped us move fast. We used Adobe Photoshop CC for texture synthesis and Adobe Illustrator CC for logos, banners, and lettering. These are tools every designer works with  - and they let us revise our work countless times to work in the new medium of VR.

That revision was critical. As we moved from working in 2D to creating something for a VR environment, we had to re-learn what type of fonts and lettering to use in VR, as opposed to the traditional flat panel experience due to aliasing and lack of resolution. Adobe Illustrator was key here: its vector based graphics allowed us to quickly adjust our assets so they looked their best in VR, without losing any of our work as we moved along.

In addition to Illustrator and Photoshop, we relied on Autodesk 3ds Max and 3DCoat for modeling and Autodesk Maya for animation. Then we exported it all to Unreal Engine 4, a game engine that enables an interactive experience without even needing to tap a coder on the shoulder.

We also put our GameWorks and VRWorks libraries of developer tools to a good use. Not only did they help us optimize the game's visuals for today's head-mounted displays, but also gave us tools  to build immersive experience that incorporated sight, sound, touch, and environmental simulation.

That led to a Eureka moment for us early this year when we used our GameWorks particle effects tools to create a mini-game that lets you pop balloons that explode in a shower of confetti. This was an experience that you just can't recreate on a flat screen, and we wanted everyone to experience it. So we decided to turn our demo - originally scheduled for release in March - into a game that would highlight our new Pascal GPU architecture's capabilities.

After VR Funhouse release earlier this year, we've launched a complete lineup of Pascal GPUs that can support these new VR games. We've also released source code of the game itself, giving developers, equipped with familiar tools like Photoshop, Illustrator, and UE4, an opportunity to take our work and use it to build their own virtual worlds.

VR Funhouse is a product of a handful of people working at NVIDIA with tools that every professional game developer knows well - including Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Illustrator - and technology we're making available to every game developer. If you are a Creative Pro attending Adobe MAX in San Diego this week, be sure to experience VR Funhouse - and after immersing yourself in its carnival atmosphere, start thinking about how you can create your own virtual worlds.