BRCvr 2021 – Contribution World

I discovered from a burner friend of mine that Burning Man 2021 would be hosted for its second year in virtual reality in a place called AltspaceVR.

Attending Burning Man had always been on my list of things to do but I could never pull myself away from my passion of creating experiences in real life for my annual Halloween party. The promise of experiencing burning man virtually from the convenience of my home, plus the raging Covid-19 pandemic caused a shift in those priorities. I decided to take the leap into VR.

It’s amazing how easy it is to justify a VR headset when you’ve got a project to do (I use that excuse for any new tool I want to buy).

Up to this point in time, my Blender skills were primarily in the realm of simple activities like animating the rotation of a cube or following online tutorials for creating a donut.

I found my way into the appropriate discord server and saw a call out for volunteers to help model some kit items for others to use building their virtual worlds. I took a stab at a water tank and figured that would be a good project to get my feet wet.

Taking on a this relatively small project allowed me to get my head around many other associated things like:

  • Participating in a discord server. Not only was this my first time on a discord server but it was also my first time working in an all-volunteer organization.
  • Improving Blender modeling skills. For every vertex in my first model there must have been a dozen YouTube minutes of tutorials.
  • Joining and navigating Altspace. As a staunch introvert I found it ever so slightly easier to engage in conversation in virtual space. I’m still not the life of the party but now that’s because I’m off into the various corners of virtual worlds trying to dissect how things were done.
  • Building up virtual reality “sea legs” – it can be a bit nauseating if you don’t have things set up just so.
  • Creating a basic template and world in which to see my creations. This was certainly the most satisfying aspect – to see something digitally created on my laptop then standing next to it in virtual space.

With my watertank model complete and successfully placed into a virtual environment I definitely got the bug to do more. So I started trying my hand at vehicles.

After more blender tutorials and finally finding my stride I created:

A Car
Another Car
A Step Van
And an RV
… with Popouts

I did a few more really, really low res versions of vehicles too but those aren’t much more interesting than a cube.

If you visit the world you’ll also find a rotating cube (I knew that skill would come in handy) and a sphere with my first attempt at a custom shader that put a layer of digital dust on everything – for that I used the Amplify Shader Editor plugin for Unity.

Digital Dust Shader – click to enlarge

To learn more about shaders in general I picked up the book “Practical Shader Development” by Kyle Halladay.

Overall this was a great exercise in gaining confidence to build models in Blender and to create a world in which to view them. Go here to see the world in Altspace.