Back when we first went into lockdown here in the UK, there wasn’t a whole lot you could do outside of your home, and people (or at least I) went to TV and radio, video calls and online games, music and books etc. (ie the wonderful arts) for entertainment. Early on, I envisioned a ‘virtual music venue’, that would use modern-day VR to situate people in a virtual environment which originally, was pictured as a music festival, with a big stage, some stools for interactive activities, and not much else – easy to design, right?
The artists themselves would be in a physical real-world socially distanced studio, broadcasting live to this virtual crowd. I figured with your typical music recording space, you would have some kind of mixing console to live mix, all you’d need is a simple outboard rack consisting of a Shoutcast (or icecast) server for audio transmission to the virtual environment, a high-quality audio interface, and perhaps an effects rack for reverb (to give a simulation of an authentic festival).
Anyway, this was just an idea – it wasn’t until a couple of months later I figured out this may actually be a whole lot more possible than I thought…
Demo 3: The Virtual Music Venue
Introducing – ‘Demo 3’ (working title), a virtual music venue, nightclub and meeting place. Designed with Google Cardboard VR in mind (the £7/approx VR headset you put your phone into.)
I’d like to give a shoutout to Welton King, who has done an absolutely fantastic job at teaching people how to make things within Unity – This project would probably not of gotten anywhere near as good in as little time without his youtube course on making a multiplayer FPS in Unity.
Within two to three weeks, I had managed to create the ‘map’ using a couple of asset packs and texture resources available from the Unity Asset Store, created all the menus and loading screens needed for basic operation, and successfully got the project up and running on a real-world server so that other people could connect in, see each other moving, hear the music and even communicate via a built-in VoIP (voice over IP) server. This is what it looked like –
At the time of writing, the venue is made up of two floors, and one outdoor balcony style space. The above picture is one of many ‘booths’ players can sit in at the back of the live area. In future updates, I would like to add abilities to get virtual food and drinks, little token items etc. Pictured below is the upper balcony, overlooking the stage and dancefloor. Currently, there are several couches and some arcade games.
Please note these are in-development renders – they probably will not be the final texture quality!
The projects made in Unity, C# and PHP. My goal is to eventually port this to Google Cardboard using Google’s VR API so that people can join the world using their smartphones and VR headsets, which, did I mention can be purchased for as little as around £7?😱 If I were to make this public as well, I would ensure it can be accessed in a standered 3D environment (like a normal game) on Windows and preferably Mac platforms as well.
The music is sourced in real-time from a DJ style show in collaboration with Brayford Radio, and is streamed directly from a dedicated Icecast address on one of Brayford Radio’s servers. By utilising Unity’s 3D Audio Engine, which can automatically pan, level the volume and even add a Doppler effect depending on your location within the virtual world, a very immersive audio environment can be created.
Multiplayer is achieved through the ‘Photon Engine’ (specifically using Photon PUN and PUN VOICE 2) and the VR Game/app itself runs within the Unity Engine. (the same engine ‘Life of Strange’ and ‘The Forest’ uses, to my knowledge.)
For now, this is just a concept project – and since lockdowns now easing, I wouldn’t expect it to go too far, however, if you’re interested and think this is a good idea please let me know! I’m also open to any feature suggestions/ideas as per all my posts 🙂 If you’re a student, you can also fill out this very short form to get updates and access if/when it opens. Sign up here
Things that work (I guess you could call these features?)
- Multiplayer movement (trickier than it sounds when you’ve never used Unity before!)
- Hotkeys to equip items (drinks/musical instruments/props etc.)
- Online multiplayer
- Online Voice Chat
- Live Radio Streaming (MP3 128kbps – may be heightened!)
- Tested working on Windows 10 platforms
Things that need work
- Character designs (with abilities to choose and change characters)
- Hidden arcade games (like snake) – playable from interacting with the arcade machines present within the virtual venue.
- Text-based chat and menu for toggling press to talk/voice activity (currently not present)
- HDR Graphics – some textures need rendering in higher definition.
I think it’d be pretty cool to get some people together and get some live music on – I’ve spoken to a band and they have said yes…