Blair Renaud of Technolust on RealSpace 3D Audio

Blair Renaud’s upcoming VR experience, Technolust, is among the most anticipated and promising titles currently in development for the Oculus Rift. Blair adopted RealSpace3D Audio for his demo last month, and we were captivated by the results. We know that many RealSpace3D users have asked for more guidance and suggestions implementing our Plugin, so we asked him to talk a little about his experience using our Unity plugin and how he handled technical decisions.

Technolust

RealSpace3d:

Everyone here at RealSpace enjoyed your Technolust demo, and we are really pleased with the way that you implemented our 3D sound! Downloading our Unity plugin is as easy as registering on our site, but actually using the plugin gets a bit more complicated. I would like to ask you a few questions about your process using our RealSpace plugin, but first I’d like to give you a chance to tell us a little bit about yourself and about Technolust.

 

Blair:

Thanks for that 🙂 Really glad people are enjoying it.

 

RealSpace3D:

You have been in the video game industry for a long time now, and have achieved recognition for your work with the Grand Theft Auto series, but we don’t know too much about your background in general. Please tell us a little about your background in gaming.

 

Blair:

I’ve actually been OUT of the video game industry for a long time now. I’ve always been interested in technology, from the first time I heard the eerie voice of my Speak and Spell as a child. I really didn’t do very well in school outside of art, science and computer classes. I left high school in grade 10 and began working at a small video game shop called Underground Entertainment at around age 17. The guys from Rockstar Toronto (then GameTek) used to frequent the shop and I would proceed to talk their ears off about games. Eventually, they offered me a job as a tester on a game called RoadWarrior (the sequel to to Quarantine). After the game shipped and my contract was up, I went into the bosses office and told him I wasn’t leaving. I would go for coffee, clean the toilets or whatever was required, so that I could stay on and learn. From there I quickly moved up the ladder. From sound design to level design and beyond. I loved my job. Eventually (sometime after Rockstar bought the company) I fell out of love with it though. The long (seemly endless) hours and stress was a lot for a 23 year old to handle. I had to move on.

From there I moved on to running a web design company (mostly Flash), then Motion Graphics and VFX, I was even a Mascot and a Security Guard briefly. I still enjoyed gaming though, and did some contract work in between (most notably, level design for N+ on the PSP). Fast forward to December 2013, when I got my DK1… and I’m back.

RealSpace3D:

There have always been interesting creative professionals, including game developers, in Toronto. Is there anything about your experience working there that strikes you as unique to Toronto; perhaps something that you believe informs your own work or that of your colleagues?

 

Blair:

Hmm.. that’s interesting. I haven’t really thought too much about it. Maybe being stuck inside for 6 to 9 months out of the year lets the mind wander. 😛 Aside from that, I’m not too sure. Probably a combination of things. We have pretty well funded arts programs, a very liberal attitude and fairly lax drug laws. 😛

 

RealSpace3D:

I see from your Kickstarter page that you are a seasoned industry professional. Working with Rockstar must have been a really interesting experience. Was there anything you remember about Rockstar that sticks out in your mind? Any good stories?


Blair:

When I first started there, it was a small office of 12 people. We didn’t even have a network set up. Someone had a ton of old toy train tracks, so we set it up to run through the entire office. When someone needed a file from someone else, we would put it on a 3.5″ floppy, call their extension on the phone and tell them to keep an eye out for the floppy-train.

 

RealSpace3D:

Just judging from your demo, there is a huge amount of vintage technology hanging around. Do you collect vintage computing equipment? If so, is there a focus to your collection?

 

Blair:

I already mentioned the Speak and Spell. I have one right beside me that I let my daughter Quinn play with. I also have it’s Speak and Math counterpart. I wish I could afford a collection of vintage gear. I think it’s really more a product of being old and having these things etched into my memory.

 

RealSpace3D:

There was a website called Technolust, written by Chris Magaret, dedicated to the IRIS Indigo workstation made by Silicon Graphics in the 1990’s. It seems like a little too much of a coincidence that your company is named IRIS, and your game is called Technolust. Are you a huge Silicone Graphics fan?

 

Blair:

haha, Wow! I hate to have to tell you this.. but it is actually a coincidence. IRIS was a name I came up with for a post-production studio a few years ago. I really wanted to make a logo similar to Aperature Science from the Portal games. The name Technolust was really just a working title that grew on me. The first time I remember hearing it was in the movie Hackers. There is a shot near the end of the movie with a yellow sign on a phone booth that had the words “Trust Your Technolust” on it. That phrase has always stuck with me.

 

 

“I love RealSpace 3D. It’s some next level shit and a necessity for VR. Light weight, easy to use, and mindblowingly beautiful.” –Blair Renaud

 

RealSpace3D:

What was the reason you choose to do Technolust?

Blair:

I was struck that there were no cyberpunk themed VR expereinces out there when I got my DK1. I think it was actually the very first post I wrote on the Oculus developer forums. “Where is the Cyberpunk?” Very odd considering the platform. I put together a couple of small demos (The Room and The City), and got some really great responses. It was obvious that the world wanted cyberpunk VR as much as I did. Orignally it was going to be a much smaller experience, more inline with the game Papers Please that took place in one room… but it’s taken on a life of it’s own.

 

RealSpace3D:

What tools are you using to build your game?


Blair:

You name it. I’m probably using it. Unity, the entire Adobe master collection, various 3D packages (I use Lightwave 3D personally), my photogrammetry team is using a whole other suit of programs. I mean it.. pretty much everything.

 

RealSpace3D:

How long have you been using Unity?

 

Blair:

Just a little under 1 year. I got my trial code with my DK1. First time I had even heard of it.

 

RealSpace3D:

How long have you been developing for the Oculus Rift?

 

Blair:

Same as above 🙂

 

RealSpace3D:

Why did you decide to use 3D positional audio in your game?

 

Blair:

After I learned it was a possibility, how could I decide not to? 3D positional audio adds so much to the experience. It’s funny, the same can be said about sound in general. People don’t realize it, but I believe that sound is at least 50% of any experience, be it film or games or whatever. 3D positional audio is so much more real feeling than what games have offered in the past. I’m excited that it’s finally happening.

 

RealSpace3D:

It is possible to set both the distance from a sound source at which the sound cuts off, and the distance at which sound sources cease to increase in amplitude when approaching the source. People generally always use the distance setting, but not necessarily the amplitude cut-off. Did you make use of both?

 

Blair:

I actually didn’t in this particular demo as it wasn’t really required in such a small space. I have done so in other areas though.

 

RealSpace3D:

One of the challenges developers face with 3D sound is just how to manage overlapping sound sources. Too many sounds in one place can create confusion over localization for the user or become downright overwhelming. When you placed sounds in Technolust, what did you do to manage the separation of sounds?

 

Blair:

I try to keep the number of sound sources to a minimum. Like the room I’m sitting in right now. There are maybe 4 or 5. My hands typing, the fans on my computer below me, my cat’s footsteps making the floor creak and the fridge compressor in the kitchen. It’s very subtle. In a crazy action scene you can still keep the number of sources to a minimum. It may be more like 10 – 20 sources, but that should still be manageable. If it begins to sound like noise, you can probably cut a few out. If it’s noise you’re going for, you can get rid of some more and just add one with noise.

 

RealSpace3D:

The room reflection adjustments allow developers to control softness and length of echoes. How did you make decisions on where to set the sliders?

 

Blair:

For the most part it was just a little bit of trail and error. Sometimes more error. I left the bounce off of a backwall too high when I first released the demo and people were happy to point out the mistake to me. In the end there wasn’t that much change to be done.

 

RealSpace3D:

Can you give me your honest opinion of RealSpace3D Audio?

 

Blair:

I love RealSpace 3D. It’s some next level shit and a necessity for VR. Light weight, easy to use, and mindblowingly beautiful.

 

RealSpace3D:

How difficult was the learning and use of the RS3D plugin?

 

Blair:

Not difficult at all once Rod fixed a few minor bugs. It pretty much mirrors Unity’s built in sound functions (Listener + Sources), but adds a bunch of awesome features.

 

RealSpace3D:

If you had a wish list of features to be added to RS3D what would they be?

 

Blair:

– Presets for generic environment types would be good.
– Would be interesting if every sound source could use one environment setting, SO I could for example just build the “environment setting” with boxes per area, and all of the local sound sources would adjust basd on the one layout. This would also be good if you had a source moving throughout the environment.
– More cowbell?

 

RealSpace3D:

Once Technolust is complete, do you have your eyes set on any new and interesting projects?

 

Blair:

Do I have to wait for Technolust to be complete? I’m currently working on 2 other announced titles. BODY/MIND/CHANGE (a David Cronenberg VR experience) with Occupied VR http://www.occupiedvr.com/
And Look and Loot Epic Pets for Gear VR:
http://irisproductions.ca/look-loot-epic-pets/

I’ve got a few other even more exciting things in the wings as well, but the announcments for those will have to wait 🙂