Adventures (And Mishaps) In Virtual Reality Design

Adventures (And Mishaps) In Virtual Reality Design
October 22, 2016

Like many of my classmates, my first foray into virtual reality is a tale of “everything was fine…until it was not.”  I launched Unity 3D as demonstrated in the tutorial we were provided, signed up for a Unity ID, and got to work building my scene.  I established a ‘terrain’ in the middle of the ambiguous land/sky setup provided, and then tried to paint grass or sand onto it.
Uh oh.  That was my first problem.  Try as I might, the program would not let me add a texture as shown in the tutorial.  Instead, my “Add Texture” screen kept giving me an error message: “Texture Wrap Mode must be set to repeat.”
Google to the rescue!  This thread on the Unity forums was semi-helpful in showing me how to set wrap mode to repeat.  Once selected, however, I still was not able to add the grass texture to my actual terrain on the screen.  It would show up selected in the Inspector panel, my settings (brush size, opacity, target strength) were all set to the same as was shown in the tutorial), but selecting a texture would not allow me to put it on the terrain.
Here’s a glimpse at my Inspector panel.  Let me know if you can figure it out what I was doing wrong, because neither I nor Dr. Google could!

Sand, by the way, was also a no-go.  I decided to move on from the grass and sand to see if I could do ANYTHING else with my scene as described in the tutorial.  Textures would just have to wait.
Next on the list was adding mountains.  I was able to do this just as shown in the instructions, including both raising and smoothing out the heights, but without any texture on it, it was a bit difficult to see.  Here, I’ve made my brush size 100 and moused over some of the mountains to illustrate what I did.  It’s not ideal, but until we can solve the terrain issue, this is the best way I know how to show you my work.

Time to move on!  The next step was adding a sky to my scene.  I had high hopes that this would go better than my terrain mishap.  I first had to download the sky itself from the Asset store…no problem, except that the setup of the windows wouldn’t allow me to scroll down to accept the download terms, leaving me panicking a bit.  It wouldn’t let me resize and of the windows, either – trust me, that was the first thing I tried.

Finally, however, I outsmarted it, by dragging the Asset store window over to replace the Inspector window (and thus not be cut off by the Project window). Voila! Sky downloaded.

Now that the sky was downloaded, it was time to try applying it – no small feat, because after all, I’d been able to obtain the terrains, just not paint them.  But it turned out not to be a problem this time, and up went the sky!

Okay.  That’s pretty cool.
I imagine it would be even cooler if I had terrain to match.
Important interjection: TERRAIN!  THERE’S TERRAIN!  This blog post, as you can probably tell, is being written while I wrestle with Unity, and over an hour after following the terrain texture steps to the letter and scratching my head over why it wouldn’t apply to my scene, it randomly applied out of nowhere.  (Side note: that took an HOUR to process?  Computer, keep up!)  Oh, well, not going to question it, just happy to have a complete scene (finally) playing out in front of me

Moving on…
The next task was to add lighting. That went smoothly, point lights and all.  Then I added the crowning achievement, a sofa (bear with me, this is not a journalistic scene).

Lit by a point light, in front of some textured mountains, under a wispy skyb0x…I consider it a Unity masterpiece.  Or, at least, a start!
I wasn’t able to screencast the scene via FTP because I didn’t have the password, but I hope you can get a good perspective on my scene from this post and the screenshots shared here.
The bottom line?  There’s TONS of room for improvement, but based on the experiences of this week alone, I’m probably not going to be a game/VR designer any time soon!  But it was a fun – if exasperating – experience, and one that I’d like to repeat to get better with the software.  Like many, I think there’s a huge future for virtual reality in journalism, and if this is where the field is going, I want to make sure I’ve mastered important tools like Unity.

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