My STEP Creative project entailed diving deep into one of the most up and coming technological advancements, in not only the gaming industry but in almost every industry in the world, Virtual Reality. I wanted to focus on two aspects: first, the programming side of VR, and second, 3D Modeling and 3D environmental design as a whole. Throughout the process, I used what I learned to create a digital re-creation of a disc golf course that my friends and I would play all the time while growing up until it was, unfortunately, torn down for more housing land.
There were a few realizations/changes that I came across throughout my project that revolve around a common theme: Don’t Underestimate. The first change came soon after I began learning 3D Digital Design. I soon realized that design is much more complex than I had ever even considered. The second, came as I got more and more intrigued in VR as a whole and got deeper into researching its uses in every sector. I discovered that although Virtual Reality gets much of its media coverage from its presence in Video Games, gaming is actually one of the smaller uses for Virtual Reality in our society. The last, came slowly to me over the past 6 months after I had gotten a good grasp on Virtual Reality as a developer. This realization was that I was much more capable of learning more far-fetched development skills when I actually put the time in to break it down piece by piece.
After purchasing a few online courses in 3D Modeling and 3D environmental design, I was ready to come out the other side a design genius. My hopes were quickly squashed while the course instructor broke down each and every component/detail that goes into, not only making an environment feel real but even just a simple object look realistic. There’s making of the model (which entails working with singular vertices, sculpting, and modifiers), breaking its UV’s down, creating a normal map, height map, and detail map, creating shaders (how light interacts with it), and painting/designing an entire texture for the model. This is all without even going into the complexities that are involved with an entire scene and lighting. I was able to get a very solid understanding and some serious practice into modeling, UV’s and minimal texturing with some normal/height maps but I barely scratched the surface. Since then, I genuinely haven’t been able to watch an animated film or play a single game without admiring the years of hard work and dedication that gets put into those sorts of high scale projects.
When Virtual Reality was first being developed, many became skeptical of it, given how quick game developers were to adopt it as a unique gaming source. However, under the cover, lies thousands of companies, universities, and organizations using VR to improve/research a multitude of areas anywhere from architect prototyping, to the treatment of PTSD. Recently, I’ve had the opportunity to learn about some work going on at the University of Cincinnati, where Physical Therapists are taking advantage of Virtual Reality to make Physical Therapy more enjoyable and simpler for children. Given that my Internship at the moment is Web Development related to Athletic Training and Physical Therapy, I was immediately intrigued. This has resulted in me actually attempting to establish a similar system here in Columbus. While this is still in the process, it gives an excellent example of both what VR is truly capable of when you explore the edge cases, as well as something that I have been able to pursue due to what I’ve learned through this project and STEP’s resources.
Ever since starting programming at 10 years old, I’ve always been an independent learner. For the past 8 years, I’ve been constantly either taking another online course or learning some new programming language or skill. I’ve always taken smaller steps away from my ‘comfort zone’ when tackling another skill but VR has been the biggest step to date. I spent a large chunk of the beginning of this project breaking down complex code line by line with some scripts being hundreds of lines long. While this sounds mind-numbingly boring, it was a lot of hard work with an excellent payoff. And, without getting too philosophical, that’s the simplest lesson that has stood through this whole project and I believe anyone could benefit from. Sitting down to do the work is the most straightforward way to accomplish so many things but many people just don’t do that. Whether it was practicing my 3D Modeling or spending 2 hours breaking down a single method to learn how it worked, the only thing that got me through the project was sitting down to do the work.
I would guess that the lesson ‘Don’t Underestimate’ is something that most people believe to be beneficial in life. Don’t underestimate the amount of detail that goes into many things that we take for granted. Don’t underestimate the applications and power that some things have when used in a different context. Don’t underestimate your ability to accomplish/learn something seemingly out of reach when you haven’t put in the time.
Check out a video of the project posted on my portfolio website: http://www.jaredkneedler.com
Some Renders of some practice 3D Models: