Virtual Reality is taking hold. Where headsets like the Oculus Rift have long been a popular source of intrigue, they have not really enjoyed mass sales. However, the launch of mobile headset devices, like the unbelievably inexpensive Google Cardboard Viewer and the higher quality but more expensive HTC Vive have helped to propel the technology forward.
The Rise Of VR
The planned launch of VR headsets by console manufacturers Sony and Microsoft has only served to further pique the interest of gamers. We are entering a golden era in Virtual Reality gaming, and developers that get in on the action early are those that are most likely to enjoy the best levels of success. If you’re a designer or programmer, then learning how to use software like Unity 3D could provide you with a means of getting into this burgeoning marketplace while there are still relatively few qualified and experienced developers to compete with in the employment marketplace.
Mobile App Development
For your first foray into VR development, you would likely benefit from starting in mobile VR development. There are benefits and pitfalls to this; mobile worlds and mobile realities are not as immersive as PC VR worlds. However, they are more accessible to consumers, requiring little more than a mobile handset and a mobile viewer, such as the Google Cardboard Viewer or the Samsung Gear VR.
The development also takes a lot less time, requires less investment, and there is a definite marketplace for businesses and other groups that are looking for mobile VR apps, so if you have an aptitude for this style of development, then you will have potential clients and potential employment opportunities too. Use your first development projects as your portfolio, especially if you want to learn as you develop, rather than take an official course or qualification.
Courses do exist, but standards are not yet fully agreed. This means that while some organisations might accept the qualification that you aim for, others may look for a different qualification. There are recognised courses in 3D model design, in video production, and in the other elements that are needed in order to create an overall reality experience.
Choose Your Platform
Choose your development platform. Currently, the most popular platform is Google Cardboard, while Samsung Gear is also proving popular thanks to the launch of the Gear VR mobile headset. You should also choose the development platform that you use. Unity and Unreal are by far the most popular, and they are both accessible.
The samples provided by both Unreal and Unity can essentially be used as templates because the full source code is provided. You can start with one of the samples, alter it to look and react how you need it and launch your prototype. What’s more, there are courses for both of these engines, and there are numerous wiki and YouTube videos, as well as other free training resources, readily available on the Internet.
Audio And Visual Assets
In order to create the most immersive VR world, you will need a number of components, including good quality audio and visual files. Both can be created from the ground up, if you have the necessary skills, or they can be bought online. Asset stores exist for both engines, while sites like Best3DModel.com sell unique 3D models. You can buy models that are designed specifically for use with the engine that you are developing on, and by doing so you can greatly reduce the time it takes to get a working prototype ready.
Creating A Full VR Experience
Once you have the visuals and audio, you will need to put them together into a full VR experience. It is important that you get this right. If you don’t master movement properly, then your users can end up feeling sick, get headaches, and will quickly leave your app. Get it right, and you could create a viral app that drives business, that shows your skills, and that could open doors to new VR programming opportunities.
Stepping Up To PC VR Development
Once you are confident creating VR apps for mobile, you can make the step up to PC VR development. It is a more complicated and complex procedure to create PC worlds, because they tend to be larger, need to be even more immersive, and the graphics and audio quality need to be exceptional. The same engines, Unity and Unreal, can both be used to create realities for PC as well as for mobile so starting out creating a mobile app in your chosen engine will have given you the best possible start.
When you are buying, acquiring, or creating assets for use in PC development, remember that they need to be higher quality. Check that you are not buying mobile assets, otherwise the quality will be blocky once you have created the visuals and the graphics. Similarly with audio, poor quality sound files will potentially ruin the experience for your users so don’t be afraid to spend a little more on acquiring or creating the best possible assets for your VR production. The effort or investment will be worth it in the long run.
Virtual Reality Development
One of the joys of Virtual Reality is that VR worlds can be used to create or portray anything. From alien worlds to apocalyptic futures, the only thing that is really holding back development is imagination.
With that said, if this is your first dip into VR development, then you would be better placed to stick to something a little simpler first time around. Don’t aim too big, and consider sticking to something that you have a good working knowledge of. Draw from your own knowledge and your own likes in order to create the best possible experience, experiment with your first developments, and don’t be afraid to put out a prototype VR world in order to determine its efficacy and value.