The hyped Oculus Rift is set to make immersive virtual reality (VR) a game-changing reality of the 21st century.
Palmer Luckey’s VR headset device is expected to be released in late 2014 for the consumer market, but it’s possible to get a developer kit today and try a 720p taster of how it will feel when the consumer module is available (which is believed to have a 1080p display).
The Oculus Rift headset displays a split screen image through two lenses. The lenses are adjustable and allow for a horizontal view of 90 degrees and a vertical view of 110 degrees in stereoscopic 3D. It also features head tracking, adding to the illusion that the user is in the game (while doubling as a way to control games depending on how they are designed). In short, the device really tries to fool you into thinking you are somewhere else. Apparently the brain has no trouble accepting this, if videos of people falling over while trying a virtual roller coaster demo are anything to go by.
Apart from playing games with the device, experiencing virtual worlds and sets are among some of the other applications which are favored by Rifters, a nickname given to gamers who use and advocate the Oculus Rift headset.
So what if you want to develop your own virtual 3D environment?
Unity seems like a solid option for 3D development, however certain technologies required to allow for Oculus Rift compatibility are only available in the professional edition of the software. This would set you back $1500 USD at current rates.
For the hobbyist on a tighter budget, GameMaker Studio may prove to be a viable alternative. Although not typically associated with development of 3D environments, GameMaker Studio does offer a platform for developing these games.
Thanks to the efforts of Chris Legasse and Rob Quist, the Oculus Rift is finding unofficial support with GameMaker Studio in the form of an extension: GMOculus.
The package includes a custom Oculus Rift DLL, documentation, a playable demo, and support for low-latency movement and stereoscopic view, as you’d expect. A demonstration video is available on YouTube.
The developers say the GameMaker extension shouldn’t be used for commercial games at this stage, as it is only in “early beta” and requires work. However, for those who are looking for a cheap and friendly way to develop their own VR environments and games, GMOculus makes GameMaker Studio a compelling alternative that just might cut it for hobbyists.
GMOculus is open source and available on GitHub.
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