May 182022
 

By now most of you have heard that I closed my Virtual Reality Arcade due to the pandemic. RIP CTRL V Howell, 2017-2021. We had a good run. However buying this franchise turned out to be one of the worst mistakes I’ve made in my entire life. Even so, thank you for everyone that helped me get this far, especially my wonderful staff of VR Specialists. You guys are the best, and I’ll miss you.

I spent the beginning of 2022 working with the Chess Wizards after school program. I taught the Game of Kings to kids in 7 different primary and middle schools in Staten Island and Middlesex County. This job was very rewarding, plus I got to wear wizard robes and a hat to work! However the compensation was not adequate to the amount of effort I was putting into it, so I joined the great resignation and quit.

As for what I’m doing now? Well…. that’s for the next post!

 Posted by at 2:34 pm
Apr 112020
 

Extra life is not limited to just game day! For the last two years, we have been going out with our mobile VR station on the Friday before game day, bringing VR to other Extra Life Events within our local Children’s Miracle Network of Hospitals and Outpatient facilities.

Only hospital staff were allowed to take photographs – some of the kids we were playing with were sensitive about having their photos taken, since many of them have very rare and serious medical conditions. But Children’s Miracle Network did their own writeup of one of the events, held at their 80 bed facility in New Brunswick, NJ for Extra Life 2018. Check it out:

It was quite a fun time with every genre of game represented, lots of board and card games, some console gaming, but wouldn’t you know, VR stole the show. We all have seen what kids are like when they have their first VR experience, and the delight and surprise we brought to to the table were well worth the effort. Nobody was happy about being stuck in the hospital for Halloween, but getting to try VR for the first time really made their day.

This was a great event for all of us for a few reasons! First, it was Halloween, so I got to cosplay as Rick Sanchez. Second, we provided very first VR experiences to a lot of kids who are stuck in the hospital and can’t just go out to an arcade due to their health conditions. Third, we got to mix and mingle with a ton of other Extra Life streamers. Finally, it didn’t cost us anything, just my own time and effort. As a bonus, one of the streamers I met that day ended up coming to play at the Arcade, and I managed to convince her to join the team as a VR Specialist. Lindsay turned out to be one of our most talented employees, and no small part of that was her dedication to helping kids through Extra Life. Anything for the kids.

All the Extra Lifers!
Dec 212016
 

New high score!  27150!

Some tweaks to my play area fixed some problems.  First, I re mapped it so the back of the room is now the “front” direction for Steam VR.  This necessitated recalibrating the camera, but that process goes a lot faster after you’ve done it 20 or so times!  The camera is also repositioned to capture more of the action… there’s still a lot going on you can’t see, I need additional green screens and higher ceilings to fix that.  For some reason the “floor” in steam VR is off, it thinks the world ends at my ankles.  shrug.  It’s not worth remapping to fix though.  The work continues!

 Posted by at 9:12 pm
Dec 212016
 

Well, we have MVP.  I made a mixed reality trailer of my favorite game, Space Pirate Trainer!

 

 

Some problems with it.  It defaulted to flac, not mp4, so I can’t edit it with the software I know.  The capture card for some reason is sending up very choppy images, so it looks like I’m moving around in some kind of weird time bubble.  I have no idea why.  The chroma key detecting the screen is pretty sloppy, which is probably due to the lighting, which needs improvement.  I only have one green screen, so you can only see one vector instead of a whole bunch.  The camera angle is lousy, and too close, it needs to be set farther back and up more.  This will mean re calibrating it but I’ve kind of got the process down from doing it 30 times today.  What else.  There’s probably a scaling issue between the two cameras, I don’t think they’re mapped perfectly, I was kind of guessing at the resolutions, but until I get the image less choppy there’s no way to know for sure!  Other than that… well, see for yourself.  I dodge lasers like a pro, and got a new high score, 14900!

There’s more than one way to do mixed reality, and my approach was a kind of hodge podge of other techniques pioneered by my colleagues.  The point is, there’s an unlimited number of correct ways to do MR, and a hundred ways for me to improve my process.  This is just a first step and it was lots of fun taking it!

 Posted by at 5:02 pm
Dec 162016
 

(Cross Posted from G+)

In Xi’An, you can take the subway to any of the four city gates (each something of a large citadel), climb up onto the city wall and… rent a bike.  The wall is well over sixty feet wide, and one of very few intact after China’s recent cultural revolution.  And it runs rectangular a total of 18 km – two walls of 6 km running east-west, and two more north-south running 3 km.  Making ancient Xi’An 18 square km rectangle.  The city has since sprawled well beyond these boundaries, but somehow the walls here have survived, when the walls in almost every other city are almost completely erased.  I visited over 10 cities in China, and while they all had walls at one point – only two remained.  This one, and the one in Hangzhou.

With many interesting “portally” things along the way – and even more plainly visible on both sides of the wall.  The inside teems with commerce and culture, the brilliant progress of a city that is nearly three thousand years old, and the outside more of the same, but growing less focused as the city sprawls away off into the grey, misty, filthy air, off into the distance, as only a Chinese capital city can.  Those hazy construction cranes in the background smog are an omni-present symbol in modern China.

 Posted by at 2:52 pm
Dec 152016
 

So, I have most of what I need to shoot mixed reality videos!  It took some time to set up, especially moving things around, given my stamina is not back to 100%.  Here’s what it looks like:


Not too bad right!  Not picture is the video capture card I installed into Baby after lugging her across the room.  And I still need to mount my third Vive wand onto the camera.  However once that’s done, it should work.  Biggest problem will probably be the lighting.  I got a pretty nice kit, but it’s a bit underpowered, and doesn’t seem to penetrate all the way to the green screen.

I broke one of my own rules and tried a new game out.  Usually I send someone else in but for some reason I’m short on volunteers at the moment.  I played Arizona Sunshine.  Holy shit, friends.  This game is amazing.  It makes my games look like a pile of crap.  I can’t believe how well done everything is.  They do things right that I couldn’t believe.  The protagonist has an internal monologue.  This is so often abused, but man the actor they got to read this story was damn good!  The story itself, is also damn good!  The gameplay is amazing, and fits with the story perfectly.  Sound and graphics excellent, play control excellent, inventory excellent.  No UI to speak of, which is excellent!  Movement by teleport, best implementation I’ve seen lately.  This is one of the best games I’ve ever played, and really fun and engaging.  Only got stuck twice, and was able to pick up in the next session.  I can’t believe I’ve only lost 4 hours of my life to this according to Steam. It feels like I lived half a life in there already.  That kind of time dialation can only come from the adrenaline packed gameplay, where your fear response slows down time in your mind.  Amazing.  

I’m humbled and once more disheartened.  How can I possibly complete with this!  Hah, well, I can’t, on my own.  This is the collective work of over thirty people focusing more energy and time than I have.  It’s just another example of teamwork making the dreamwork.

 Posted by at 10:46 am
Dec 122016
 

… Only some want to fly.  Isn’t that crazy?


Yes, the Commander Chair is the latest visible addition to my gaming armada.  It’s been through some rigorous testing, and performed great.  Needs some cable management improvement, but otherwise… Moving my HOTAS to my oculus setup has freed up my Vive for… Well, you’ll see.  I’m still rigging the green screen and lighting over in my room scale setup.  Pics of that will come when it’s nearer completion.  In the mean time I’m moving subsystems one by one out of the big room and into the office.  Leap Motion, webcam and DCS probably will be next.

I’ve had some great experiences and honestly I think Elite Dangerous looks a whole lot better through the Rift.  I’ve had some fantastic play sessions, but as twitch streaming and webcam haven’t been set up here there’s no record.  funny because all the times I HAVE recorded have been embarrassing failures.  But, I joined one of the best player groups in the game: East India Company.  And I’ve been helping my new friends take shit over.  I’ve been flying my Anaconda in conflict zones and making tons of money and rank in the process.  Now I’m hunting bounties, since the last war was won in short order.  

Today I say goodbye to my PlayStation 4 and PSVR.


  I sold it on Craigslist for a little more than what I paid for it.  It’s a wonderful product, however the games are too few and too expensive.  And developing for this platform is a pipe dream.  They open their doors for larger established studios only, and I’m the opposite of that.  The headset is great, but still a cut below my PC headsets.  Same is true for the camera and controllers.  Honestly, I don’t spend any time playing it.  Even when I was basically crippled lying on a recliner in my living room, I didn’t want to play it!  I’m not a console player, never was, it’s always been PC for me, and no single product will likely change that.  I’m going to push through the last bunch of free demos and hand this off to a family that will appreciate it much more than I did.  And I, in turn, will appreciate their cash in hand.  I will miss Robot Rescue though, that game helped show me what console VR could be at its best.  The tank demo, battle zone is awesome too.  Hopefully these games will be able to sneak back into my library on either oculus or vive. ( I know I have Gary the gull on pretty much every platform)

My favorite VR experience right now after E:D is Accounting.  If you are anywhere near someone with a Vive, go to them, and tell them to “put me into accounting”. You will not regret it!

Amazon tells me my Oculus Touch controllers will appear at my door tomorrow.  I got to try them out at VRDC and I liked them a lot.  Will I grow my oculus setup to full room scale?  Not sure.  We’ll try standing room only first.

Today I hope to get my first MR green screen video shot, and maybe another video of flying in ED added to my twitch channel.  Last one had issues with centering the view, I’ll try to fix this time.  My twitch link:

twitch.tv/outliervr 

Ok my thumbs are tired since for some reason I’m updating with my phone.  Oh yeah to share pictures.  CMDR out

 Posted by at 11:40 am
Oct 182016
 

VOICE ACTORS WANTED

for Escape From Zellman Orbital

an “Escape-The-Room” Style
Sci-Fi / Horror Themed
Virtual Reality Experience
by Outlier Studios

Set in the Distant Future,
Around a Large Red Sun About 300 Light Years from Earth,
Liberally drawing Inspiration Direct from the Mythos of Lovecraft
This 23 minute long “Escape The Space Station” Virtual Reality Simulation

Will Literally DRIVE YOU INSANE!

OUTLIER STUDIOS is looking for actors to voice the following seven roles: (All Roles open to All Genders)

DR CALEB GLASSNER – Lead Scientist of project Wassergass. You were a talented student of astrophysics. Good, but not great. Your studies focused almost entirely on theoretical conjectures on the behavior of dark matter – a poorly understood and, until lately, never observed phemonemon. It exists perfectly well on paper, but until now, nobody has ever actually observed any up close… until now. With the discovery of the Dark Matter Orb near Alpha Vulpecula, you were the only choice to lead up the mission, and it is under your leadership that everyone on the station is marching headlong into madness. (This role calls for a wide range, from sterile reporting, to excited babbling, to ranting lunacy. )

KAY ALDEBERAN – Graduate student at the University of Sirius. You have only one purpose in life – to get your PhD, and you need Dr. Glassner to do it. So you followed him here, to the edge of nowhere to study this highly dangerous physical anomaly in a bizarre station that looks like it was cobbled together by a lunatic. You wish you were still aboard the Andromeda. This is a nice place to visit, but living here is fraying your nerves.

THE STATION COMPUTER – Your designation is OZiE – Orbital Zellman Intelligence Entity. You are a standard shipboard AI, adopted to a station role. You are responsible for carrying out the stations core functions to the best of your ability. (For Casting purposes, we’re looking for a gentle, relaxed, female tone to calmly convey messages both informative, banal, and downright chilling)

CAPTAIN BARRY ANGERS – You used to serve in the Interstellar Officer Corps as an operations officer. You thought that if you worked hard enough, you know, distinguished yourself as an officer, well then you might be able to have the job that every kid growing up on Mars dreams of: Captain of an OIC Cruiser. Instead, you got stuck here. Yes, it’s a command position, but you still view this station as a coffin for your career.

DAVE RODGERS – You’re the facilities manager. A technician with a fancy title. You inspect systems, clean and replace components, run diagnostics, keep the cleaning bots in working order, and try not to step on anyone elses’ toes. That last part is the hardest. Still, the pay for taking this job in the back o beyond is truly stellar. You look forward to your early retirement. (looking for a generally provincial tone or light accent)

THE VIPER PILOT – You are a tough-as-nails single-seat space fighter pilot. You take your life into your hands every single day running escort, courier and survey missions on the edge of the bubble of colonized systems. You routinely expose yourself to ridiculous amounts of danger in exchange for ridiculous sums of credits. Of the situation you have stumbled into, all you can say for certain is you are not being paid enough for this.

THE SCRIPT CONSISTS OF:

A SINGLE SCENE with 5 characters interacting together. (In future releases, we plan to graft this onto some character animation.)

ABOUT 22 SHORT MONOLOGUES, consisting of a variety of Radio Transmissions, Research Log Entries, Personal Log Entries, Station Log Entries, Letters To And From Home, Recordings of Research Findings, Research Journal Articles

A COLLECTION OF SHORT STATEMENTS – This is mostly the Station Computer, delivering a wide variety of simple messages – “Yes”, “No”, “Affirmative”, “Station Shutdown Imminent”, “Nine Minutes until Impact”. … and so forth. The AI character has a lot of them, so be prepared. We’ll run through them as quickly as possible. They’re short so just one take for each.

YOU WILL GET:

* TO PLAY IN VR! * A $5 DUNKIN DONUTS CARD * $50 CASH *
* A CREDIT IN THE GAME’S LAUNCH SCREEN! *
* A FREE STEAM DOWNLOAD OF THE GAME! * UNLIMITED PLAY TESTING! *
*A NEAT LITTLE THROWAWAY PROJECT WITH WHICH YOU MAY LEGITIMATELY PAD YOUR RESUME!*

AUDITIONS STARTING NOW, RECORDING WILL TAKE PLACE IN A SINGLE SESSION AT OUR STUDIOS IN LONG BRANCH, NJ
YOU CAN READ FOR YOUR PART OVER THE PHONE OR ON SKYPE, IT’S COOL

Voice Acting for VR Game
Call Ken at (732) 861-9293
or Email krichlin@gmail.com

 Posted by at 1:06 pm
Oct 162016
 

Outlier VR,is an LLC I founded solo in October of 2016 to self-publish and market my own VR experiences, code snippets, and original art. It also represents the Lab and Studio space I am building in order to create this work – we are one part Game Studio, one part Virtual Reality Arcade, one part Innovation Lab, and one part Tech Startup, and one part… well, we will probably start introducing influences of a Media Lab or get involved with some consulting work focused on deploying Arcade Style VR experiences, like the ones that are all over China but for some reason hard to find here in the States. The company is also safe harbor in which I may stay safely anchored while waiting for a larger, established development house to pluck me from ship and provide me with what I REALLY want: full-time software development, and business development work in the VR space.

In terms of products, our flagship product will be a Sci-Fi themed Escape Room, “Escape from Zellman Orbital”. We are currently targeting a release date of October 25, 2016. But I can assure you we will almost certainly extend that target to October 26. At OutlierVR, we are dedicated to quality in both story-based and game-driven VR experiences. But only those two genres, so if you have other ideas, like fun things with 360 degree video or cinema-style short films, I’d be interested to learn about those projects, but hesitant to embark on one myself. My company is me, myself, and I, and together we three Titans will conquer the VR world! (However we welcome collaboration)

Additional Projects that are also in Early phases of Development:
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Pokemon No (or, as my lawyers advise me, Super Ball Pit Mania)
Unnamed Glyph-Magic Game (using the Magic Leap Motion Controller)
Saitek X55 Control Schemes For Ships, Planes, Cars and Tanks (Unity Store product)
Simone (a clone of Simon)
Battle Bridge
Super Skee Ball

more info on my blog here: http://kenrichlin.me

 Posted by at 1:08 pm