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Make Virtual Worlds For The Oculus Rift Using GameMaker Studio

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.

What do you think?

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  1. Hi guys,

    Well, you can say that Unity3D is much better for high quality.. But since GM supports shaders, a whole new world opened up.

    The barrel-distortion you see in the video is done using shaders. You could add all those cool next-gen 3D effects using shaders – think about blur, depth-of-field, 3D bones and animations, normal mapping, those realistic-looking waves and water, volumetric lights, per-pixel lighting and all kinds of cool effects. If you don’t use shaders games end up looking like this in the video. If you’d take Battlefield 4 and rip out the shaders, it would look a lot like Battlefield 1942 (except for more bushes, desctructable terrain and high-res textures of course).

    In the end if you’re making a huge 3D game its better to stick to existing projects (UDK, Unity, Source engine etc.), but if you’re looking to create a proof-of-concept or a small demo, this is perfect. Even for small games this would work great.

    I’m also working on a GM:Modular application, so you can use GM projects as modules, and update them without touching your own project. Using this i will setup a very solid 3D engine for Game Maker, which of course has Oculus and Hydra support.

  2. Considering how much easier Unity3D is at doing high quality 3D games than GM:S, I think it makes a great deal more sense to develop a 3D game in Unity, even though GM:S is much cheaper.

    If you have a successful enough game to justify building in support for Oculus Rift, you should be able to afford the $1500 Pro license. Develop it using Unity Free if you can’t afford the Pro license, and if it’s not successful enough, then it’s not like supporting Oculus Rift will push it over the edge and make it a successful commercial title — there aren’t enough users yet.

    Oculus Rift is a really neat technology with a lot of promise to it, but the installed base of consumers isn’t large enough to make it compelling must-support technology yet — game devs who want to play with Oculus now will be in a great position to capitalize on its popularity if/when it becomes a widely adopted interface for gamers, though.

    • It isn’t really a question of Unity being better at 3D. That doesn’t even need to be said.
      The point is that GameMaker is increasingly capable at handling 3D game development, and if you want to create a simple virtual world, GameMaker isn’t a bad choice.
      Unity is totally unaccessible to the Rift unless you have a grand to spare. Creating content for the Rift is currently favourable with hobbyists, and not game companies. It isn’t even about having a game that justifies commercial investment.

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