Solar Explorer: Crazy moons and Virtual Reality?
I’ve just released an update of Solar Explorer that addresses a couple of issues. For the last update I flipped the solar system model over. Unfortunately, I forgot to check the direction that the moons were orbiting after being flipped, which is now backwards. The second problem is an intermittent bug that caused Uranus to have no tilt. This bug was really frustrating because I’ve actually fixed it several times now and Uranus always finds a way to flatten itself out again. It’s a very devious planet.
Besides these bugs, I’ve had to remove the original code that saves app options. This means that when the app starts after the update, you should be asked to choose a language again. I’d originally used a Unity plugin (that I’d purchased) to handle saving options. Being new to Unity two years ago, I didn’t realise that the plugin was going to encrypt the user options in a way that made it impossible to update if the developer changed the way the encryption worked. I’ve fixed that now.
Speaking of Unity, the company has been forced to unlock the Unity 4 Pro features for users of the free version of Unity 5. This is great for me since Unity Pro costs $1,500 + an additional fee for platform that I wanted to compile for. In our modern era we are witnessing a “race to the bottom” as many digital and online goods and services become cheaper to compete with each. The reason that Unity has gone free is competition from Unreal Engine which was also made free on March 3nd. In order for Unity to keep up, they have do their best to match features and price, so that meant free with everything unlocked.
Of course, it sucks for everyone who pre-ordered the pro version of Unity 5. I got caught out when the indie version of Unity 4 went free. I’d purchased the Android compiler for $400 about a month before, and happened to click buy on the iOS version (also $400) mere hours before the announcement. Luckily they caved in and gave me back my money on the iOS version. I heard that others had only been given store credit for purchasing Unity plugins.
The new features that are available in Unity 5 will be very useful. The primary one is the performance monitor which should hopefully allow me to make the app to run faster. Most of the other features will slightly improve the graphics. It is going to be some months before I can put it to use though because there are compatibility issues with Unity 4 code mean that the app won’t compile yet. I’m going to have to wait for Unity and the developers of the plugins I use to figure out all the issues.
Who wants to experience Solar Explorer in Virtual Reality?
In the near future I’m considering working on a mode (based on Free Flight) for use with the low cost VR headsets that can be used with a phone. I acquired a Google Cardboard in December last year and recently upgraded to a more robust plastic version, the Phenomec VRSmartView. The main issues with doing a VR version were related to the free version of Unity. I think it might be possible with Unity 5. My concerns are about how to control the experience since the magnetic slider on Google Cardboard doesn’t work with many phones. The plastic headsets often don’t have a slider at all. I’ve rigged up an Ouya controller to use with my headset, but I’d like something a bit simpler for people who don’t have the time to set that up.
I’ll need to think about it how to proceed. As I said, it will be a few months before Unity 5 is stable enough to produce something.
Suggestions are welcome.
I’ve just released the Google Play update and if everything goes well, I’ll submit the same update to Amazon over the weekend. If that works, I’ll be releasing the Exoplanet Explorer update with the same changes next week.