Testing Reality

v r 2 horse

I now have v r 2 in its relatively final stages, which means mostly doing battle with WebGL (most recently working with the vagaries of the webcam), making sure it runs on different systems, adding small niceties like instructions, etc.. But one of the weirdest tests I have had to run repeatedly concerns the “reality” of the elements inside the cubes.

The basic test has been to levitate the full collection of objects two meters upward so that I can compile the game for the various systems and walk around inspecting them to make sure they’re… there. Like the model of a horse above, which I am coyly showing to you here. And of course, some of the elements aren’t visible anyway (sounds, for example, or odd parts of Unity like “reflection probes”), so I have to kind of take it on faith that they’re there, hanging in the air with the rest of them. This has gone well – pretty much all the visible stuff has been visible barring the webcam problems and some issues with video rendering in WebGL.

But there’s this other weird layer of the project which is the question of what happens when I put everything back in the cubes. Like, what’s their ontological status at that point? Because of the fact I explicitly “grab” them and move them down into the cubes I know that they’re “really there” in terms of what I see in Unity’s editor view. I can even “see” them in the sidebar that lists everything present in the current scene, including the fact they have a specific location. If I look at these information panels while the game is running in the editor, I can even see elements of some of them changing, such as the rotation value of a particular spinning object. Though even at that point many of them are a mystery. What kind of representation does a force of zero in all directions applied to an invisible and formless game object have when it’s hidden inside a cube?

And it becomes even more mysterious when I compile the game for a specific platform, like for a mac or a PC. When it compiles the game, does Unity just discard elements from the scene that can’t be seen or experienced by the player? Even if it keeps them there in some form of existence, do they ever actually do anything in the cubes? Clearly Unity doesn’t actually render the objects in terms of visuals, because they’re not visible to the player, but for example does even Unity bother to make a cylinder rotate when it cannot be seen?  I’m guessing that it would, but I’m only guessing.

And on it goes. The webcam is on, are you being rendered, frame by frame, onto a plane inside a cube? Or do you only exist when you can be seen… by yourself? Are you there?

Am I?