A Brief Update, and Notes on VR

It's been a while since the last update. Life has been busy, and progress on Firefighter VR has been slow. Let me assure you that this project is far from dead. We'll get there, even if it takes a while.

Some feedback has been received, and it's not all positive. Some have commented that it looks like a cheap asset flip, I respond that it's meant to be a parody of an asset flip. And it's also a sociopolitical satire, and a parody of "Simulator" games... and I've started to lose focus of what the game is supposed to be. That shows: a lot of people play and wonder what the hell I'm getting at here.

So I've been doing a lot of thinking on that, and there's a few things I'm going to go back and change. I'm rewriting the script a bit, reworking the gameplay slightly and going forward with a much clearer direction. This is a parody of the junk games out there, and it needs to show it. I'm confident that it'll be a much more coherent experience after the changes.

And now I'm going to completely change topics. I've been putting this off for a while, and it's just about time to talk about what's been one of the biggest challenges of the project: VR.

Despite the name, VR is not really central to Firefighter VR. There's a reason most VR games aren't first-person action games, and the concept is ill-suited to VR from its inception. The game started off simply as Firefighter Simulator 2018 and VR was added almost as a joke. However, now that it's a banner feature, I do want to deliver a VR experience that is reasonably playable and works on a wide variety of hardware.

Ironically enough, Google VR has actually been quite an obstacle to overcome. Unity has built-in VR support, but it still interacts with the Google APIs and requires an additional library for many features to work. Firefighter VR starts in non-VR mode and only switches into VR mode once the player has selected a platform and started a game (a VR menu will come later). This is doable, but I get the impression Google would strongly prefer you to build a strictly-Daydream or strictly-Cardboard game. It complains on every build, and mode switching didn't work at first.

Another VR-related challenge is controls. I started with Daydream, and the Daydream controller isn't really designed for a fully interactive game. With only a single button and clickable trackpad, my options are limited for a game with any but the most basic controls. To deal with this, I've implemented one gesture and hope to implement more, but the whole thing still isn't very intuitive. It's probably better to play with a controller. There's also the whole issue of head/body movement and which control should move what, and the orientation hack I had to do, but that's a story for another day.

Bottom line, it works now,  but it was a struggle. VR support is 90% out of the way and I can focus on the game now.

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