Another big update with new gameplay added.

I've been a bit silent lately thinking about the direction of Community Garden. Getting a large scale persistent world working in VR was no easy task. While this was a first for VR and cool, it’s not very fun. Now that I have a platform to build on, my goal is to create a fun experience for players.

Survival Gameplay

In order to provide more gameplay elements to Community Garden, I’ve added survival gameplay. Players must eat to stay alive. You're health will degrade over time. You will know how hungry you are by your field of view and the sound of your stomach. If you fail to eat, you will die and return to your apartment.

Food is scattered around the world but is found in greater density in certain places. 

New Controls

You can now choose between blink teleport and instant teleport. This should improve some players immersion in the game. You can choose this by pressing the menu button on your controller and selecting the movement button.

Server

After some struggle, I'm now able to run Community Garden on a much larger server configuration. I'm hoping this means less timeouts for players.

World

I've expanded the world to about 12 sq miles or 31 sq kilometers.

Performance

I’ve made some tweaks to help with performance on lower end PC’s.

Big Update!

Community Garden's latest update is big. How big you ask? 8.5 square miles of city to explore kind of big. In addition to the increase in world size, many new features have been added like the much needed avatar system and a wrist watch menu system. Download the update and see for yourself what the future of VR looks like.

What's New

  • Explore a 8.5 square mile city
  • Relax in the park and toss a stone or two into the pond
  • Visit a gym and shoot some hoops
  • Find the edge of the world and gaze out into the unknown
  • Toss a gnome or two around
  • Customize your avatar

 

Community Garden goes massive open world

I’ve been working hard pushing the boundaries of what’s possible with SpatialOS and Virtual Reality. The next update takes Community Garden to the next level: A Massive VR MMO Simulation. Players will be able to go anywhere and explore this vast world.

 Own a piece of the metaverse

Own a piece of the metaverse

Players will also have access to their own personal home in the metaverse. You will be able to customize your home and buy additional property in the world. This is your own space to get away from the city streets and relax.

 So much to see in this massive world

So much to see in this massive world

Players will also be able to customize their avatars. Have a more personal experience when interacting with other players. Options for customization will be limited in the first release but more options will be available in the future.

 Take a break in the park and throw some rocks in the lake with a friend

Take a break in the park and throw some rocks in the lake with a friend

This release is just the beginning. There is still so much to simulate. Join me and become a part of the virtual reality revolution.

Windows Mixed Reality Support and improved physics

Community Garden now supports Windows Mixed Reality. To play Community Garden on you Mixed Reality HMD just download Windows Mixed Reality for SteamVR and launch Community Garden. Also, I fixed the physics lag issue reported by users. Throwing and catching objects is smooth and accurate. Make sure to let me know if you have any issues and thanks for playing.

The first month running a persistent VR world on SpatialOS

Thank you to everyone that tried out Community Garden. My main goal with this release to Steam Early Access wasn't to release a final product but to get something real in front of players right now. SpatialOS has not been easy to work so gathering real world data is important. The result, I felt was very positive. So many people have downloaded and tried out Community Garden. There has been some good discussion on the Steam Discussion Forums. I even had a chance to meet people in world and discuss the future of Community Garden. I was able to fix a number of bugs as well. The following is the top feedback I received.

Top Feedback

  • Add community goals for all players to work towards.
  • Fix physic lag issue when throwing items.
  • Make the world bigger.
  • Handle player bad behavior issues.

The lag issue when throwing is definitely an issue that will need to be addressed. It breaks immersion and can be frustrating. Bad player behavior also has a potential to be a big problem. Right now players can spam seed box creation and throw items outside the reach of other players. This will take some thought to fix but right now it's not a priority because the world needs to grow and become more interesting before worrying about what players will do with it.

The next steps for Community Garden is to add community goals and to scale the world using procedural generation. This will give players more to do and keep them in world longer. I will post some more on this later.

Community Garden is out on Steam Early Access

The first persistent VR world built on Improbable's SpatialOS is here. Community Garden is available to any one with a HTC Vive or Oculus Rift. Just download on Steam and playing. Be sure to check out the Steam discussion boards and leave a review to tell me what you think. This is just the beginning so stay tuned for more updates.

 Community Garden running on Improbable's SpatialOS

Community Garden running on Improbable's SpatialOS

Community Garden Approved for Steam Early Access

Community Garden was approved for Early Access on Steam yesterday. This is an important step to making VR with SpatialOS a real thing. Of course you can always sign up for the Community Garden's newsletter and get access right now.

Steam: http://store.steampowered.com/app/692530/Community_Garden/

Discussion: http://steamcommunity.com/app/692530/discussions/

 

Alpha Release Update

Community Garden is ready to take a big step and go live to the public via an alpha preview build. This build isn't a representation of the final vision of Community but first step to get it in front of players and provide me a way to gather feedback. The build is not without bugs but the main concept and tech is present. Players should be able to get an understanding of what is possible with SpatialOS and what the future holds for Community Garden. 

Struggles

It's been a year and a half since I starting using SpatialOS. Being the first person to use SpatialOS with VR and being one of the first developers using the platform was challenging. Life with SpatialOS though didn't start with Community Garden. Before Community Garden, I was creating the code that would become MetaWorld but limitations with SpatialOS in regards to VR made MetaWorld's future dark and not promising. I decided to changed course and set out on my own to create something that could become the building blocks for something much bigger. During this time I've identified two key areas that were problematic for me during this time.

Testing

The first problem I ran into was testing. Due to the limitation with VR development and SpatialOS development, testing a new feature requires me to build my code and upload my build to the cloud servers hosted by Improbable. This can take 5-10 minutes (sometimes it has taken as long as 1 hour) depending on my internet connection speeds. Trying to rapidly prototype new ideas becomes impossible. Each change requires a lot of upfront design work and coding before testing. This resulted in ideas that required a lot of effort to be thrown out. In addition, I've been building Community Garden by myself so testing requires me to find people willing to donate their time. I would rather test new ideas constantly but instead I have to create many new systems at once so I could maximize my testing time.

Unstable Technology

SpatialOS provides the ability for developers to dream big. It's not without its problems. Version management has been a big issue for me. There have been 8 major releases and many point releases during that time. Some versions required me to perform complete rewrites using limited documentation. I'm currently running Community Garden on a version of SpatialOS that is 2 versions behind the current. The risk to upgrade is too great based on previous upgrade attempts that have introduce too many new bugs that crippled the project.

What's Done

There are two main systems that are working with Community Garden. The first is the Player Rigs that allow players to interact with the world and with other players. The second is the world simulation that currently manages how the plants in the world grown and mature.

Player Rigs

  • Players are able to pick up and throw certain objects in the world.
  • Players can use the hose in their right hand by squeezing the trigger.
  • Players can see other players hands and head.
  • Players can communicate using spatialized VOIP.
  • Player can see other players eyes blink and their facial expressions change when they talk.
  • Players can see other players mouths move using custom code based on Oculus's lipsync library
  • Interactions with objects are visible by other players.
  • Moving objects in the world is persisted no matter if you log off.
  • Of course there are cowboy hats, basketball and garden gnomes.

Simulation

  • Plants are created by getting seeds, placing them on soil and watering them.
  • Plants grow using time scaled real world clock. Growth is based on real world data.
  • Plants use water based on time scaled real world clock. Players must water plants through out the day.
  • Plants growth slows based on water levels.
  • Plants growth slows based on weeds and proximity to other plants.
  • Weeds can be pulled by players
  • Plants indicate when they can be harvested by showing a green check mark.
  • If plants aren't harvested in time they will eventually die. After this they must be pulled and discarded.
  • Harvested plants can be harvested by picking them and throwing them in the plant harvest stand nest to the seed vending machine.

Future Releases

There are a number of known issues with interactions and physics that must be addressed. Additional features to improve the experience of the garden are planned. The next steps are focused around immersion plus additional things for players to do.

  • Day/night/weather cycles
  • Additional plant simulation factors like disease and weather
  • Better facial expressions
  • Simple mini games like chess and checkers
  • Better Oculus Rift support