Independent games development
for virtual reality platforms by Ben Librojo
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Latest News/Blog Entries/Philosophical Musings/Incoherent Ramblings about Virtual Reality development from Ben Librojo :

November, 2015 : Razer OSVR Headset
I have just received an OSVR HDK 1.3 (VR head mounted display), which Razer have generously sent to me for free, to experiment with and develop for. A very big 'thank you' to the good people at Razer and OSVR for this. Looking forward to working with your hardware, and seeing how the OSVR project evolves over the coming months.

September, 2015 : Oculus Conect VR developer conference 2015
I have once again returned from the Oculus Connect 2 Conference 2015, feeling exhilerated and inspired! As expected, the main highlights of the event for me, were, first and foremost, the chance to meet up with old and new friends alike from within the international VR developer community, the chance to experience the new Oculus Touch controllers and indeed the upcoming Oculus CV1 headset, and generally basking in the enthusiasm, inpsiration, and knowledge that was shared between everyone present. Click here to view my full diary/blog/video/photos from Oculus Connect 2.

September 16th, 2015 : Getting Ready for Connect 2
I am packing my suitcase, getting ready to fly off to California for the Oculus Connect 2 conference! Really looking forward to catching up with friends made last year, meeting new people, and just generally being inspired by all the cool stuff Oculus and indeed all the other devs have been up to in the last year. I am particularly looking forward to trying out the new Oculus Touch controllers, and possibly trying out (and maybe even testing my own projects) with the final (or at least current version) Oculus Rift consumer hardware.

August 30th, 2015 : Release 'Flying Aces VR demo
Finally released a demo for my side project 'Flying Aces VR'. This playable demo has been built for Oculus runtime 0.6 and/or 0.7, it is available here. Update : in it's first week of release 'Flying Aces VR' reached number 3 in the WEARVR Top 10, and in it's second week, it reached number 2 :)

August 7th, 2015 : Oculus Connect 2
My application to attend Oculus Connect 2 was approved! Yay! What a relief (very limited places available this year, even more so than last year apparently). I really can't wait. Furthermore, I was accepted as an indie developer, which means a huge discount on the price (saving about 500 US dollars over last year's fee). Thanks to Oculus for accepting my application, and also for offering the option of an indie developer pass this year!

December 20th, 2014 : Interview for EnterVR
I was recently interviewed by Cris Miranda from EnterVR. The podcast, entitled : 'Becoming a Combat Helicopter pilot and discussing the paradox of VR with Ben Librojo' can be listened to
here. Many thanks to Cris for taking an interest in my work and sharing it with his listeners, and for the enjoyable and interesting exchange of ideas during the interview.

September 18th - 21st, 2014 : Oculus Conect VR developer conference 2014
Because of the amount of info to write about, as well as the sheer impact the conference had on me, I have made a separate blog/diary page to document my experiences before, during, and after Oculus Connect 2014. Click here to read.

September 16th, 2014
In just a few hours, I will be on my way to the Oculus Connect conference in Hollywood California. I am exhausted, having spent all day organizing for my trip, not to mention spending more hours than I probably should have, doing some last minute coding/tweaking/bug fixing work on my demo. However, once I had compiled my final build, a huge weight was lifted from my shoulders, and at this late hour, the excitement of where I was going, and what I was going to see and do, hit me in a big way. I dont think I have looked forward to anything so much in my life. Comparably, I have attended E3 , Glastonbury Festival, and Reading Festival, a few times, several years ago, and don't get me wrong, those were indeed great experiences. But this is something different. I have been obsessed with the idea of VR since I was a kid, and I have been working with VR for over a year now, the idea of being in a room with over a thousand developers/researchers/builders/makers/hackers/enthusiasts from all over the world, who all presumably share a passion and enthusiasm for VR equal to or greater than mine, blows my mind. I can't help but feel extremely grateful and fortunate that I was actually invited, and relieved that the waiting (and indeed preparation work) are over. Oculus Connect, here I come!

September 13th, 2014
Making preparations for the upcoming Oculus Connect conference, I have been in self imposed "crunch mode" preparing one of my projects to demonstrate to unsuspecting attendees in Hollywood California next week. I have decided to demonstrate "Combat Helcicopter VR", partially because it is the more ambitous of my two current main development projects, and partially because I demoed my other "offroad racing game VR" project in London recently. At this point I occasionally feel some excitement about my upcoming trip, but this is usually very quickly tempered by the realization of how much work I want to do in preparation for demoing there.

September 4th, 2014

Just arrived from a very interesting and productive week-long trip to London. I was given the opportunity to speak about my VR work, and then demo my off-road racing game at the Virtual Reality developers meeting hosted by Inition.co.uk. I got some encouraging feedback, and it was a pleasure to meet some fellow VR developers and enthusiasts face to face for the first time.

August 26th, 2014
I will being demoing some of my work at a VR developers meeting in London this week. Hopefully this will be a great opportunity to get some feedback for one of my current projects, before I release a public demo in September.

August 8th, 2014
I just received my invitation for the Oculus Connect Conference, and I am really (1) honoured to be among the chosen few invited to attend, (2) excited to see what Oculus have been cooking up behind the scenes, (3) looking forward to meeting with other VR developers, and (4) cautiously optimistic about demoing my own work :)

August 4th, 2014
I have just recieved my Oculus Rift Development Kit 2. My initial reactions : a huge step up from Development Kit 1, the hardware is incredible, and for the first time since receiving my DK1 last year, I have once again witnessed the future. On a more sober note, the drivers and runtime software need a bit more work...

June 8th, 2014
Virtual Reality Reviewer has reviewed my VR Game Jam 2013 entry, 'Retro Invaders VR'. Their reviews are always well written and produced, insightful and entertaining, so I am very flattered that they took the time and effort to make a video review of my game. Some memorable quotes from them : "presents itself as Space Invaders for the Rift but it is also a smartly experimental piece of entertainment with some fun post-modernist twists", " it explores some of the challenges and options of the medium, as well as managing to pose some classic VR Sci-Fi questions to the player about ‘what is real?’ Show it to your friends without comment and it’ll definitely put a smile on their face as it modestly blows their minds.". You can watch the review here.

September 27th, 2014
I discovered a game reviewer called Qelric has done a 3 part video playthrough of my game 'Retro Invaders 3D'. To quote : "This game is amazing. It starts off as Space Invaders, then becomes something EPIC!". It is amazing for me to see and hear the genuine surprise and amazement during the unexpected twist and surprising game change that happens during gameplay. This is exactly the type of reaction I had envisioned when I designed the experience, and it was great to see it here recorded on video.You can watch all three parts here : part 1 , part 2 , part 3 .

April 5th, 2014
I have never been scared by horror movies,games, or books etc.., at least not since I was about 10 years old, simply because I always find it easy to detach myself whenever the film director/author tries to put me in an uncomfortable mindset. No matter how disturbing the material presented might be, I have always been able to remind myself that it is not real, thus drastically reducing it's impact on me. Well, I recently tried a couple of horror demo's for the Oculus Rift, and without trying to sound overly hyperbolic, I cannot even begin to describe how genuinely terrifying the experiences were. My blood ran cold, I seemed to gasp for air, and I literally had to rip the Rift off my face in order to prematurely end both demos. I can't even imagine what would have happened to me, had the authors used cheap 'jump scare' tactics, neither did, it was more a sense of vulernerability, helplessness, and genuine dread, enhanced by the total immersion of VR. Note to self (1) be cautious about trying VR horror demos/games in the future :) (2) as a VR developer, one should remain aware that the emotional/psychological impact of any experience you give to a user in VR, appears to be significantly amplified (to put it mildly) when compared to a similar experience on a flat screen.

March 2nd, 2014
Despite having a million ideas, and at least half a dozen VR game design experminents on the go, I have decided to focus on two main VR game projects. A difficult choice to make, as there are many avenues I would like to explore, but I want to concentrate on bringing these projects to completion, in time for the first consumer version of the Oculus Rift. The two projects are 'seated' arcade style VR games, specifically an offroad-racing game and a helicopter combat game.

January 27th, 2014
I recently experienced a strange sensation of deja-vu, with regards to VR. For the past few weeks I have been developing a simple virtual reality flight simulator, and so I have been building simple terrain scenery using satelite imagery applied to real-world elevation heightmaps. Viewed within the Oculus Rift, the results were quite remarkable, and give quite a convincing sensation of flying over real world locations. Anyway, on a (real) flight during one of my frequent visits to London, as we started to descend in preparation to land, we flew over an area that started to feel increasingly familiar to me. Then it happened. We flew over an airfield (Biggin Hill Airport) that, by coincidence,I had been modeling in virtual reality. So, in VR, I had been flying in and out of this small, relatively obscure airfield just south of London, and here I was in a real aircraft flying over the exact same location. The interesting thing is, I felt that I had flown here before (ie piloted an aircraft in this area). I can only describe this as an overwhelming sensation of deja-vu, my experiences in VR seemed like memories of a real life experience, and when confronted with the 'real thing', there seemed to be very little difference in terms of how my brain might compare a 'VR' memory with a real experience. Trying to convery this to anyone, and indeed noting it down here, the whole thing seems somewhat trivial. However, to me at the time, and even now, the experience was inexplicably profound. I can't help but wonder, in the near future, as VR really takes off and becomes even more convincing, will our memories of real life experience become indistguishable from 'memories' of synthetic experiences?

August 26th, 2013
I finally submitted my VR Jam 2013 entry : 'Retro Invaders VR', with only a few hours to spare. I am quite pleased that it turned out as finished/polished as it did, given the project's strict time limit. But as always, if I had more time, I could have added so much more (I had another level which wasn't finished in time to include in this final build). My main nagging thought now is, that perhaps I made the main game/feature/surprise too well hidden. In other words, you have to wait for the first part of the game (the space invaders part) to say "Game Over", and then press any key, before the real (surprise) experience starts (and this second part is actually the main game, and so where most of the work went). This surprise twist, is what makes the expereience interesting, in my opinion, not knowing or expecting the change, greatly enhances the experience. However, I am thinking now, that most people will probably just (understandably) remove the rift/hmd when they see "Game Over", thereby missing the main feature. Oh well, too late to change it now I guess.

August 12th, 2013
I have been developing with the Oculus Rift Developers Kit for a few weeks now. I decided to register this domain and set up a simple web site, perhaps to demo/showcase my virtual reality projects as they grow. I must have a million ideas for things I want try in VR, there are so many possibilities, deciding on a single project to focus on will be a challenge.

August 5th, 2013
I can't even begin to describe how exciting it is to develop/design for virtual reality. Even the most trivial of your creations become a 'real' thing that can be experienced and explored in ways that convention media can not even approach. For example, one of my first experiments simply involved creating a simple scene with a ground plane, a couple of low-poly tree assets, a large untextured cube, and a single arbitrarily placed directional light. Quite literally 5 minutes work. Putting the Rift on, and viewing the scene I felt my jaw drop at how convincing it was to be 'inside' this newly (and hastingly) created world. Scale, depth, and immersion take on a whole new meaning in VR. I must have played around with that simple scene for over an hour just imagining the possibilities. Looking up at and around the giant cube, in this simple 'place', with my jaw wide open, must have been reminiscent of the scene at the beginning of Kubrick's '2001 ASpace Odyssey', where the primates discover the monolith :)

June 20th, 2013
I having been following the development of the Oculus Rift with a huge amount of interest (bordering on obsession), for many months. Previous to this, I had been experimenting with a triple-screen setup combined with free-track (IR real-time head tracking) to increase the immersion factor and FOV when exploring virtual worlds and designing games. To me, this worked pretty well, high field of view and head tracking adds so much to even the most basic interactive experience. During these experiments, it never occurred to me that the long neglected promise of virtual reality might be just around the corner. I had seen a few HMD's come and go, mostly overpriced and inneffective for a quality VR experience. Many people, myself included, no matter how enthusiastic about VR, had given up on the idea, believing that the technology was still out of reach. And then, almost out of nowhere, at least to me, a kickstarter appears for a device promising to change all that. Furthermore, it was being wholeheartedly and enthusiastically endorsed by such revered names in the industry : John Carmack, Gabe Newell, Cliff Bleszinski and Michael Abrash to name just a few. Shortly after, trying the Oculus Rift for the first time was an almost religious experience for me. Virtual reality is indeed finally here, and it is quite literally going to change everything.

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