OSVR, and Why I Love Working With Half Finished Platforms

Making a decision on what platform to start building a VR project with in 2017 is pretty tough.  As a software developer we often get spoiled by these fantastic libraries that already have written classes for everything you want built in.  How can you not love drag and drop templates to build whatever you want nice and easy.  We have all seen them before.  In the VR world there is nothing even close.  But I think that is a good thing.

For better or worse, I decided to go with OSVR.   And the first thing I see in the setup notes is:  ” Current compatible versions for template: Latest (Template is not kept to as many compatible versions as the plugin itself).” 

OK cool so I just set this up, and it won’t be compatible with older versions of the Game Engine.  My project is on an older version, so I need to update all of the work I have already done to make it compatible with this.  So I thought to myself; I guess it is no big deal, and how fast does this change and I will be incompatible again?  …… Fast.  I took a look at the SVN logs, and thought,  “Oh wow, they are working on it right now.”

So I download it, Build it in Visual Studio, test it out in the editor, and then make a test executable.  Just to see it all works properly.  And now I want to use it…….. but guess what……. there is already a new version out today.

Oculus and Vive are going to be updating their drivers as I am going along, UE4 will be updating and making things incompatible.  It is not just that I don’t have a toolset with an easy button, and I don’t even have a toolset that I know will work and build and be compatible by the time I am done.  I can’t just freeze time and my environment and build it on this stuff.  I am going to have to be updating everything all throughout which adds a headwind to the project.

Well at least it builds today.

But I think all of this is great, and here is why.  I remember in 1995 when HTML code was considered cutting edge, and a Database Driven site in PERL was considered total Black Magic Voodoo.  All of the tools and platforms available then remind of VR today.   This was one of the best times to be coding on the internet.  The opportunities were the biggest.

By 1999, when the market started to really heat up there were already a bunch of for dummy tools like Front Page and Cold Fusion.  If you got in in 1999 it was pretty much the worst time.

And I saw the same with smart phones in 2008 and it even lasted until about 2010.  Back then developing things for smart phones was really hard, and all the platforms were shifting.  But the opportunities at that time were huge. I know a guy who made millions with a simple flashlight app.  Candy Crush, and Clash of Clans became Multi – Billion Dollar Products in Record time.  Now In 2017 making mobile apps is pretty easy.  If you know what you are doing, you can literally choose from 100 different builder tools and put out an app in an afternoon.  And guess what the window of opportunity is closed.  Not that there is no money left, but it is much harder and more competitive.

While easy buttons are nice, they typically mean the opportunity isn’t there anymore.  For me, I love a half finished platform, that is crashing all the time and I have to hope that they will improve as I improve.