Valve’s VR chief jumps ship to join Oculus

Michael Abrash, the virtual reality chief of Vave Software, has quite the Steam OS maker and joined Oculus as the chief VR scientist. Michael Abrash is one of the most notable personalities in the VR world and had been working on Valve’s take on VR, solving problems like low persistence, excellent tracking, and a well-calibrated and well-tuned system enabled presence. Abrash had joined Valve back in 2011 having worked as a developer at Microsoft, working on Windows NT and then at Id Software, working on Quake. He has been instrumental in resurrecting “VR from the trash heap of technologies-that-never-were and make it the most exciting technology around.” So when such a big shot in the technology that holds the promise to be the next big step in the computing world does something unthinkable, makes head turn.

While Oculus fans are upset with Oculus’ purcahse, Abrash believes that Facebook acquiring Oculus is actually in VR’s interest. He says that although the community has been instrumental in getting the Kickstarter off the ground, the amount of capital and the time or effort needed to truly make VR reach that potential that is expected of VR cannot be provided by crowd funding. What it truly needed was a longer runway in terms of funding, hard engineering and effort that only a big company can provide.

“The final piece of the puzzle fell into place on Tuesday. A lot of what it will take to make VR great is well understood at this point, so it’s engineering, not research; hard engineering, to be sure, but clearly within reach. For example, there are half a dozen things that could be done to display panels that would make them better for VR, none of them pie in the sky. However, it’s expensive engineering. And, of course, there’s also a huge amount of research to do once we reach the limits of current technology, and that’s not only expensive, it also requires time and patience – fully tapping the potential of VR will take decades. That’s why I’ve written before that VR wouldn’t become truly great until some company stepped up and invested the considerable capital to build the right hardware – and that it wouldn’t be clear that it made sense to spend that capital until VR was truly great. I was afraid that that Catch-22 would cause VR to fail to achieve liftoff.

“That worry is now gone. Facebook’s acquisition of Oculus means that VR is going to happen in all its glory. The resources and long-term commitment that Facebook brings gives Oculus the runway it needs to solve the hard problems of VR – and some of them are hard indeed. I now fully expect to spend the rest of my career pushing VR as far ahead as I can.” Abrash was found as saying.

According to Abrash, VR is not just the next platform, but rather it is The Platform that will End All Platforms. So it is imperative that VR isn’t restricted in any sort and is allowed to expand fully.

While the anger of the backers on Kickstarter does seem justifiable, so does Abrash’s arguments. But out of the two who truly is correct can only be told with time. Until then it is too early to pick a side. But whatever happens, be sure to keep an eye out here as we cover the latest development in the VR field as and when they come out.

Source: Oculus Blog

Move on Oculus Rift, True Player Gear is the new kid on the Block

A new player has just entered the Virtual Reality market named True Player Gear. True Player Gear is a tech startup based in Montreal Canada by five individuals. The five passionate gamers have been working on this technology for nine full years. So far they had kept the entire project hush-hush and under wraps. But with the news of a big sale to a corporation, they thought that it is high time that such a piece of hardware that is made by passionate gamers for passionate gamers is revealed to the world.

They had dropped just a tiny bit of hint about their existence back at the VR Mixer at Game Developer’s Conference. Now they have fully revealed their product to the world, complete with a Kickstarter Project too. They hope this to be a viable alternative to the currently available VR sets, but with much more flexibility than what is being offered by others. They are currently on the final stretch of developing a 5th Generation prototype of their VR technology dubbed the Totem that they are aiming to present on Kickstarter as a dev kit.

The Totem has some really good features going for it, like hardware acceleration where most VR processing is offloaded to hardware integrated on in the device. In addition, each of the lenses can be adjusted to vision correction so that people with spectacles don’t have to wear contact lenses nor have their spectacles squashed between their face and the VR headset. In addition, the Totem features an integrated camera that allows the user to interact with the real world without having to take off the VR headset. This feature also allows positional tracking without the need of a fixed camera staring at you. Along with this they also intend to bring in Augmented Reality, thus completing the entire immersion experience. The Totem also features expansion ports that allow users or developers to add more sensors to add to the already impressive feature set. The Totem is said to support Linux as mentioned in this Reddit comment, “We will support Linux of course, we are also fans of SteamOS and OpenVR!”

Specifications:

  • Screen – 1080p OLED
  • Field of view – 90 degrees
  • Connectivity – HDMI input, USB output (tracker)
  • Sensors – 2x cameras 1080p, 3 axis 1kHz gyro, 3 axis 4kHz accel, 3 axis magnetometer
  • Audio – 5.1 over stereo
  • Emulated controls – USB mouse, Playstation controller, Xbox controller
  • Non-game controls – Up, Down, Select/Real World
  • Supported engines – Unreal, Unity, Havok, CryEngine
  • Platforms – PC, Playstation 3 & 4, Xbox One & 360, Linux, SteamOS
  • Supported media – All 3D formats, SBS preferred
  • Size – 6.6″ x 4.4″ x 5.4″

Source: Reddit & True Player Gear

Fuse allows custom user 3D models to be exported into Steam games

Fuse, the character creation tool on Steam, now allows the user to import custom assets in to the editor to create custom 3D models ready to be exported into compatible games.

The latest addition to the character creation tool from Mixamo adds the supports for importing user generated content in to Fuse and use it to create accurate character models by the users. This allows people with an artistic streak to create custom clothing, body parts and even “texturing substances” to create that accurate 3D virtual representation of the person that you always wanted to create. After the creation, Fuse allows seamless uploading to Mixamo with just a click on the “Animate” button that allows the user then to Rig and Animate the custom model. After that is done, the model can be easily imported in to any of the supported Source Engine games that include Gary’s Mod and Source Filmmaker. The character creator is currently available on Steam for $100.

The user generated content, once ready can be imported by opening Fuse and then going to the File dropdown menu followed by the sub-menu import. Under Import, the type of file you would like to add to your Fuse database (Substance, Character, or Clothing) can be selected.

Allegorithmic Substance SBSAR files can be directly imported into the Fuse substance tray. This means that you can use any of Allegorithmic’s pre-made substance files from their website, or use Substance Designer to create completely custom substances for use within Fuse.

In addition, Character, Clothing and Hair can also be imported with various options included for each of them. Fuse also allows the user to edit the custom user database, where all the custom user imported resources are stored. This can be accessed by opening the File menu in Fuse and select Browse Imported Files. This will open the folder that holds your custom content.

Fuse is a data-driven 3D character creator. It was developed in collaboration between Mixamo and Vladlen Koltun’s research group at Stanford University, with Siddhartha Chaudhuri as chief architect and programmer. It integrates Allegorithmic’s Substance technology for a complete character modeling solution.

Source: Mixamo

Halo: Spartan Assault Heading to Steam

Halo: Spartan Assault, the game that bridges the gap between the stories of Halo 3 and Halo 4, is slated to arrive on Steam come this April 4th. Spartan Assault provides a context for the Spartan Ops feature that can be found prominently featured in Halo 4.

The twin stick shooter game will arrive on Steam and will feature all the bells and whistle Steam has to offer for its games. These include Steam achievements to show off your bragging rights along with full controller support. So, if you aren’t really comfortable with controlling the game with just the keyboard or mouse, you don’t have anything to worry about.

Halo: Spartan Assault is a top down shooter that was developed with mainly casual gamers on mind. As such the game is an action shooter than can be picked up and played by both the casual gamers as well as Halo series’ veterans. The game is set after the events of Halo 3 and goes up to the events that leads to the settings of Halo 4. The game delves deeper into the back story of the Human Covenant wars and examines the first missions of the Spartan Ops Program. You are given a choice of either playing as Commander Sarah Palmer or Spartan Davis stationed aboard the UNSC Infinity while they fight battles against the Covenant. The game contains 25 unique missions along with a Weekly challenge system that allows you to compete against your friends in order to fight for your position on the leaderboards.

Source: IGN

Latest SteamOS update brings many fixes, improvements

A new update for the SteamOS has just been released. The update, dubbed the update 96, is now integrated in the alchemist repository. The content is the same as the alchemist_beta that was made available last Monday.

This new update brings a lot of fixes. One of the major changes is the inclusion of fully unattended installation. Thanks to this update, the SteamOS can now be installed without having to login multiple times in to Steam or the desktop and then having to run scripts manually to complete the install. All of that are now taken care of automatically thanks to the unattended installation.

Other changes include fixes for Gigabyte Brix systems that also offer better stability and performances along with the addition of the Bluetooth driver, which was previously missing for these systems. All firmware packages are now pre-installed so it makes life easier for a user. Another significant inclusion is the updated AMD graphics drivers, so people with AMD systems can utilize the features unlocked by the updated drivers.

This release also improved support for multiple languages, all these languages are now pre-installed thus enabling a localized SteamOS desktop environment. A critical bug has also been fixed that used to delete packages during updates. Along with these, other minor bugs have been fixed that improve the stability, performance and compatibility of this release of the SteamOS.

The updated installer ISO and ZIPs can be found here for download.

The full change log of update 96 follows:

  • Fixed performance and stability issues with wireless on the Gigabyte Brix systems
  • Added Bluetooth driver support for the Gigabyte Brix box.
  • upstream updates to tzdata
  • Added dynamic passthrough mode support in PulseAudio, you can now change in and out of passthrough mode using tools like XBMC while Steam is running
  • Fixed a critical APT bug resulting in packages sometimes being erroneously erased during updates (many thanks to Michael Vogt and Simon McVittie)
  • Added support for detecting hybrid configurations and using the driver corresponding to the primary VGA output by default
  • Fixed a bug where “Preparing hardware drivers…” would be erroneously printed during startup
  • Preinstalled all the languages that are supported by Steam client to enable a localized SteamOS desktop
  • Fixed lightdm so the desktop Region and Languages control panel can change the per-user language
  • Fixed “Metro: Last Light” on Intel graphics by backporting GLX support for ARB_create_context from newer X servers
  • Added Thai and CJK fonts
  • Fixed steamcompmgr to properly focus “CID the Dummy”
  • Updated AMD graphics driver to 1:14.1~beta1.3-1 from Debian jessie
  • Updated gnutls26, file, xserver-xorg-video-intel packages,udisks, python2.7 and iceweasel to incorporate upstream Debian fixes

Source: Steam Community

Steam Beta now with Virtual Reality Support

Between Oculus Rift gradually nearing the commercial launch window and company like Sony and Valve entering the Virtual Reality market, Virtual Reality sure has gathered a lot of momentum. The latest update from Valve to their game distribution platform Steam reflects the same. The recently released Beta of Steam now comes with Virtual Reality support for the lucky users who have access to a supported Virtual Reality or Head Mounted Display device.

The announcement came on a community posting detailing the improvements made in the new versions of the client. Curiously, along with the standard entries this update had, for the first time, a new subsection, called the Virtual Reality Mode. The said section listed the following on the post:

Virtual Reality Mode

  • Added “Virtual Reality mode” to the View menu and removed the –vr command line option. This will only appear if SteamVR is installed and if a supported HMD is detected.
  • Added support for switching from desktop mode to VR, then back to desktop and into Big Picture.
  • Added support for detecting when an HMD has been plugged in after Steam has started.

This announcement and implementation from Valve seems to point to the fact that Steam is pretty much ready to launch their VR headset to the market perhaps. The coming time is surely going to be full of some interesting scene for innovations in immersive entertainment.

Last February, Valve had announced that they were working on VR technology of their own and according to a lucky reporter who was shown 15 demos of the technology; it was “light years ahead of what Oculus had with their Oculus Rift.”

Source: Steam Community

Unreal Engine 4 supports Linux and Valve’s Steam Box efforts from Day 1

Epic Games, the epic company behind hit first person shooters like the Unreal Tournament series have released today, their new engine Unreal Engine 4. After a long successful run of the very popular Unreal Engine 3, the wraps have been taken off of their new engine the Unreal Engine 4. The new engine comes with a lot of improvements over its famous predecessor not only in the software segment, but also in the way it is available for users.

The Unreal Engine 3 is an engine that has been used in many famous games like Gears of War, Mass Effect and even on mobile games like Infinity Blade. The engine was originally designed for first person shooters but the engine was quite flexible and it ended up being used in diverse genre of games like stealth, MMORPGs & RPGs. Unreal Engine 4 builds on its predecessor and adds to the feature set. The entire C++ source code of the engine is available for subscribers.

The subscription model, unlike the previous iterations, is a monthly option with full access to the engine granted at $19 per month. The subscription includes, in addition to the entire access to the source code, official forum access, AnswerHub Q&A and access to their GitHub page too. There are a lot of readymade contents, samples and game templates that can be accessed through the Market place accessible through the Unreal Editor. And this brings us to another new feature of the engine. The Marketplace, which visually looks quite similar to the App Store is hoped to be a place where developers from around the world will share their creations, both free & paid, in order to create a collaborative eco-system.

In addition to the $19 monthly fee, Epic also mentions that they need to be paid 5% of any profit that the games made with the engine makes. They also go onto add that this decision on their part was made to ensure that the gaming world isn’t dominated just by big shot publishers, but rather into a system which is “no longer dominated by giant publishers and marketing campaigns, but by a simple and honest proposition: Gamers pay for great games, and anybody who can valuably contribute to building those games can succeed, from indie developers, to large triple-A teams, and to individual programmers and content creators, too.”

Unreal Engine 4 will support Oculus VR, Linux, Valve’s Steamworks and Steam Box efforts, and deployment of games to web browsers via HTML5 out of the box.

Source: Unreal Engine Blog

Valve working on next edition of Steam Controller

Valve is working on further improving its Steam Controller, based on the feedback they received from the community. The company gave few details of the changes that are being made to the next edition of the controller during the Steam Dev Days event.

AXIOM of Valve software says, “For those of you able to attend GDC next week, please drop by our booth, as there will be some demo stations set up with the latest prototypes for play testing and feedback gathering. For those of you not able to attend GDC, for now we wanted to at least share a photo of the latest design changes.”

The improved Steam Controller
The improved Steam Controller

The company will be disclosing more details on the controller in the coming days.

CryEngine native Linux support arrives before Steam Machines

During presentations and hands-on demos at Crytek’s GDC booth, attendees can see for the first time ever full native Linux support in the new CRYENGINE. That’s wonderful news for Linux gamers. Not only is another high profile game engine announcing support for Linux, but they’re actually going to allow people to play demo’s with the ported engine. It’s fairly remarkable that they’re demoing this tech at GDC, the annual Game Developer’s Conference. They must intend to show the industry the stability of their work so that more studio’s can have confidence in the cross-platform support for CRYENGINE.

In addition to the engine being demoed, some of the talks about the evolution of the engine (rendering, physics, lighting, etc) will include a look at Ryse. Ryse is an Xbox One launch game that initially wowed people with its’ technological prowess. The game itself received mixed reviews, but the tech behind it helped enable the developers to capture the attention of reviewers and early adopters.

Warface and The Collectables will be shown off at their booth as well. Warface is an online shooter that’s made accessible via a web browser. Despite running through a browser, it is very comparable to a locally installed title in performance and complexity. It’s free-to-play and doesn’t require beefy specs at all. It handles most of the heavy processing via online servers, it is a great showcase for the type of experience that CRYENGINE can help to provide.

cryteck_collectables

The Collectables is a tactics-based, top-down shooter for Android and iOS that will be released later this year. Yes, it’s running on the CRYENGINE also. Based upon how versatile the engine appears to be, it was only a matter of time before it was released for linux.

Source: Crytek via Phoronix

Partha Das also contributed to the story

Valve offers free subscription to Debian developers: paying it forward

Valve Software, the makers of Steam OS, is already winning praise from the larger free and open source community – mainly because of their pro-community approach. Now the company is ‘giving back’ to Debian by offering free subscription to Debian Developer. This subscription will offer full access to current and future games produced by Valve. Since Steam OS is based on Debian GNU/Linux (which is also the base of Ubuntu, which is not equally popular with the larger free software crowd), it’s a nice way of Valve to say ‘thank you’ to Debian developers.

Neil McGovern, who works for Collabora, posted on the Debian mailing list, “At $dayjob for Collabora, we’ve been working with Valve on SteamOS, which is based on Debian. Valve are keen to contribute back to the community, and I’m discussing a couple of ways that they may be able to do that.”

Debian developers can contact Jo Shields of Collabora to get redemption code for Steam. For more info, check the message.