Solar Power: Behind the Scenes of ‘Titans of Space PLUS’ with DrashVR
Originally released for Oculus Go, Titans of Space takes you on a ride through a miniature Solar System with over 40 celestial bodies. Indie developer DrashVR recently released a new and improved version, Titans of Space PLUS, for both Oculus Quest and the Rift Platform—adding new content and features to satisfy your interstellar curiosity.
What was the inspiration behind Titans of Space?
During the months that I was impatiently waiting for my Kickstarter Rift DK1 delivery, I drove my wife and her friends a long way up to Canada, and they were all conversing in a language that I don't know, so I had plenty of time to think about what I wanted to see in VR. One thing that I'd been enjoying were all the infographics being shared online comparing the sizes of planets and our Sun and the much larger stars, so I decided I would learn Unity in order to put together a VR version of that, and just roughly planned it out in my head as I was driving. Additionally, the pace of space exploration had been picking up, fresh maps of planets and moons were becoming available, amazing new things being discovered, and I just wanted to share my excitement with everyone.
How does Titans of Space PLUS differ from the original?
The PLUS version also includes a Zero-Gravity EVA mode that lets you get out of your cockpit using thrusters on your hands and float around the area—it’s a great way to see planets and moons from new angles or to explore the names of surface features. This version also brings a side-by-side comparison mode that lets you compare any two Solar System bodies to satisfy any size-related curiosity. And thanks to Quest’s processing power, the PLUS version has been overall polished and upgraded in nearly every way.
How long was Titans of Space PLUS in development? Any interesting anecdotes to share?
SD: Far too long! However, I’m proud of myself for staying on it, and I’m now fancying the idea of a career change because of it. The PLUS version started out as “2.0” for PC VR headsets and grew into what it is today as I gathered enormous piles of valuable feedback from multiple rounds of video playtesting and from consumers, parents, and educators.
Did you encounter any obstacles optimizing Titans of Space PLUS for a mobile chipset? If so, how did you overcome those challenges? SD: I was lucky enough to get my hands on an early Quest dev kit, and while testing out its capabilities, I had a serious a-ha moment when I realized that instead of porting my Oculus Go title to Quest, I should port the Rift version and use my experience with building for Go to make it run smoothly. However, the Tour Guide and all the newest things I had just built for the Rift version presented an issue of memory management, so I had to rewrite a few subsystems to smoothly support loading and unloading these things on-the-fly at each tour stop. Lots of work went into eliminating allocations and, combined with the above, this produced a very smooth experience.
What’s your favorite part of Titans of Space PLUS and why?
It's basically a mo-capped and voice-acted version of me, speaking off of scripts that I researched and wrote, and then I created subtitles for all two hours of it. This is my favorite part because all of that was a lot of work, involving lots of reading and condensing what I learned into interesting topics and a script that flows. The point wasn’t to be flowery and say a little, but to simply be myself and pass on what I learned.
What’s the best reaction you’ve seen while demoing the title?
SD: Upon trying the DK1 prototype, my mother said: “My baby finally made an app!” In the early days after first releasing Titans, the sentiment from those that tried it was a mix of wonder at the content itself and hope for the future of VR, and apparently lots of people would demo Titans in pubs, schools, and to their families. Multiple people have told me they changed careers (!) or started VR-related businesses (!) because of Titans.
These days, now that the future of VR is all but guaranteed, the reactions are more about the content and are still very positive.
Jan 29, 2020 at 11:53