I'm really not sure what to make of this book, even after reading through it. The claim is that this book is about "Virtual World Design". From the title and description, I was envisioning a very academic approach to the topic. In other words, a long talk about Virtual Words at a very theoretical level. Lots of theory and discussion about different approaches, essential elements, things that make or break a successful virtual world, pitfalls, case studies, anecdotes, new technologies and research etc. That's really not what this book is though.
The book first gives a quick history of virtual worlds. With that completed, it then talks about 3 approaches: Open Sim (which I had never heard of), Second Life (the now ancient sandbox/mmo), and Unity (the very popular Game Engine for the "Indie" programming crowd).
The book then talks very briefly about a whole lot of topics: uploading and manipulating assets in Second Life and Opensim, Software Development principles and assembling and managing a development team, Terrain, 3-D modelling, textures, lighting, cameras, commerce, avatars, and a few other topics.
I like that people are making books talking about this stuff, because I've struggled with this too. But the scope of this book is way way way too ambitious, and it doesn't really do justice to any of the many many topics it covers very briefly. Going through this book you will learn something about Second Life (or Open sim) and the types of things that could be accomplished there, but you realistically won't have nearly what you'll need to make much headway there imo. I really think this book would have been much more successful if it had either focused on talking about design at a much higher, theortical level (which is what I had hoped for), or had just focused on, say, Second Life, and made the book about teaching you to make, for example, a small classroom there and called it a day. I dunno, it was a good try, but I think this book is going to fall pretty far short for most readers including myself.
Cudworth offers a detailed exposition on how to lay out a realistic virtual world. Yes, sounds oxymoronic at first. But there is a serious point about how to do this well. There are several 3d modelling packages that the book mentions. Like 3DS Max, Maya, Blender, Modo, Cinema 4D. Each has its fans of course. But I suspect that Maya or Blender might be the more popular choices.
More interesting, the book suggests using several modelling languages. One might be to do the early layout, while another can be for the detailed texturing (like 3DS max). There are tradeoffs in how detailed your models are. Photorealism is impressive but perhaps you can confine these to only a few objects or locations in your world.
One possible distinctive aspect of the book is the section on sound design. Many of you will focus on the visuals of your world, naturally. But by carefully fleshing out an audio landscape to accompany your 3d layout, you can greatly enhance the realism. The basic idea is to define sound emitters and where they are located in the world. The emitters can be omnidirectional, in which case the audio would simply fall off as 1/r squared, neglecting reflection or absorption from surfaces. But an emitter might have an explicit directionality. Doing this improves the immersive nature of your world.
The text also has extensive references to earlier works, that you may want to follow up.
VR Design starts right here. Break out with VWD by Cudworth.13 Jan. 2015
- Published on Amazon.com
Ann offers a book on virtual world design that is a must-have. I use it to teach with and reference when I want to add attention altering finesse to my own designs. Why? Because Ann provides fundamentals from the bigger design picture and provides easy to grasp examples of how to make it right the first time. I appreciate her using Second Life, Open Sim and Unity because these software are approachable and can result in immersive prototypes that can be client tested before big investment is required. Try building the same in Studio, Unreal or any big gaming engine - you won't get results like you do here as easily. In demanding software, you can't afford to get to all the content tricks - but here you can. And more people can do it. So there is a liberation here in the 3D design world.
Anything learned here can be extrapolated to other worlds. So these platforms - are inexpensive, easy to cut your teeth on and are integrative. So I am in support of her choices. What happens here moves to Oculus Rift and other immersive worlds easily.
Ann clearly understands design at a production level and provides the reader with the need-to-know content to generalize and expand their own ideas. This is professional work, not a drive-by. Ann provides formal structure. Her frameworks are comprehensive and experience based. This is not an academic book that states what research says is useful in building virtual worlds. This is a book about content and methodology that is usable. Ann provides very specific content. I am sure that she had to do a lot of editing and some very interesting work lies on her cutting floor. But, if I know authors like Ann, it will resurface in another book or immersive world.
Take the time to build the content in-world as she suggests and demonstrate to yourself why the design recommendations are solid state. I've been through a tour where this book is IN a virtual world. And it delivers even better. Why? Because this world Ann is talking about is the world of interactivity. A book is basically a stand-alone and provides the juice. Get in-world and use the book as a guide on the side. You can't hire the expert all the time, so bring the expert to you.
Ann delivers a road map with all the tour sites fully researched. Pick this book up and follow it, you will move from the word on a page, to an action in a virtual world, and you will experience the transformation to where we are headed in the next medium - virtual reality. This is the break out year, that's my prediction at least. Thanks Ann. I really needed this book to come out on the market. How timely.
I'm an old hand at 3D modeling and texture mapping - even have taught both 3D CAD and 3D animation classes. But I've never really got into participating in the Second Life world experience. That's mainly due to the bandwidth issues I have where I live (kind of hard to do things when you're limited to the speed of dial-up). I recently watched the independent film Life 2.0, which chronicles the lives and experiences of several people who spend a lot of time in the virtual reality world that is Second Life. One of those people was someone who actually custom designed houses and character accessories and had a retail shop where she marketed her creations in Second Life. The idea of learning to do something like that appealed to me. What I needed was a good textbook on doing that. So when I was offered to try out this new book by Ann Latham Cudworth I readily accepted it.
Like I mentioned I have a lot of 3D & 2D experience, but mainly using 3D packages such as 3D Studio Max, Poser, DAZ Studio, Carrara Pro, Bryce, and E-on's Vue Esprit. About the only interactive 3D work that I've attempted has been with packages such as the CryEngine Sandbox 2 level editor for the Far Cry video game series and maybe the NoLimits roller coaster simulator. I did some experimentation back in the day with VRML X3D using a design package called Flux. But that has been awhile.
I found this new book to be mostly a project based textbook, and as such it's more than a comprehensive text on the subject. I recommend either downloading the Kindle sample or opening the Look Inside feature and examining the Table of Contents - which covers 11 ½ pages and seeing just how far this book drills down. I'm finding it a wealth of information on both the OpenSim package and Second Life itself, and not only for the mechanics of the creation of content - but also for how this 3D environment can be used. Everything from building classrooms to games is explored.
I mentioned that this book is project based - there are about a dozen projects that you can work on to build understanding of the key concepts. To do some of these projects, you need to download some content from the author's website. It's not hard to find - you can either find information on the site in the book, or just Google the title. One thing I will note - the Zip file for Chapter Six seems to be empty of content. That chapter is a basic primer on 3D primitives and texture mapping, so I'm not sure that whatever was suppose to be in that project folder is really needed.
And as an additional note - there is a lot of reference in the book on the SketchUp CAD package. The book covers some basics but you might want to get a good tutorial book for that software too (I know I need one, I know AutoCAD - but not SketchUp).
I'm still slowly working my way through the book and doing the projects (have about 20+ days invested so far), I would imagine that to cover this content would take at least the length of a semester or so. I think this is an excellent textbook for the subject.
Thorough and Well Organized - Great Illustrations7 Nov. 2014
Having read and reviewed a number of computer books dealing with step by step instruction of complex processes I have come to appreciate the desire for thoroughness each seek to deliver. Usually any question you have can be answered with great accuracy. The biggest challenges authors of these books seem to face is how to organize all the information. No matter how you do it, the book is going to be a dense tome.
This book is organized into an outline form. For example Chapter 8 deals with Lighting and Virtual Environments. The chapter is then divided into subgroups like 8.1 and 8.2, each keying in on major points. Some of these points are further subdivided into smaller groups, 8.2.1 which provide even greater detail. The book is written in a narrative style which is easy to read for anyone fundamentally familiar with the material. There are abundant illustrations which are efficiently connected to the text.
There is an incredible amount of information here covering nearly every aspect of Virtual World creation from production design, workflow and budgeting right through all aspects of technical and creative design. I found the early chapters on the history and production of virtual reality to be extremely fascinating and applicable to many other disciplines. While many sections are compelling there is nothing about which would encourage the average reader to use it in anyway other than a picked through reference book.
I am just starting to work in 3D environments, although I am a long way from creating virtual worlds. If I find myself heading in that direction I would find this book to be an excellent roadmap.