My digital water’s like a swamp, full of bugs

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Oh hi, I’m still working away on v r 3 at the times when I can do that, and it’s been quite the ride of highs and lows. Sometimes I’m really, really pleased with the overall idea and how I think it will look and feel when it’s done (and yes, I know this feeling may be limited to me and like two other people), and other times I’m feeling really, really down.

Because it turns out to be inanely difficult to put water in a bunch of plinths in a virtual gallery. It sounds easy, but it ain’t. As I’ve said before, a lot of it is fairly easy in terms of the basic physics of putting objects in a virtual space etc., in ways that would be hard to do in regular old reality. But it’s the weird technicalities that are proving remarkably resistant to my “vision”.

As I work with Unity’s free “professional water” more and more I’m getting considerably deeper into thinking about what it is and how it works, because I just keep running into incredibly frustrating mistakes and, perhaps, bugs. It’s really interesting to me that there’s this process of needing to understand what’s going on at lower and lower levels of this piece of technology (and, of course, that the water is a technology in the first place). It’s not enough to just grab a “prefab” (a pre-build example of water that comes with the software) and drop it into the gallery, because I have a bunch of constraints. The chief of which is needing multiple instances of water in my environment, rather than just the usual single body of water (like a lake or whatever), and importantly that those multiple instances explicitly need to have different parameters set on them (reflective, refractive, or not, etc.).

Because of my requirements, which make total sense to me, I’m having a lot of difficulty. It turns out, at least to this point of my knowledge of Unity’s water, that the water doesn’t seem to “want” to exist in multiple configurations in the same space. So if I make some water that’s only reflective, and some other water that’s both reflective and refractive, they will enter into some sort of weird “possible universes” situation where, depending on how you look at one of them, it will flip between being reflective or refractive and back again. Not the ideal behaviour for water. I’ve now reached the point of going all the way down to reading the underlying code that defines the water itself to try to figure this out, without too much luck as yet.

A weird addition to all this is that of course I could at some point choose to exhibit these weird behaviours as part of this “show” of water, or even a separate show of things that don’t work the way they’re meant to? On and on it goes…

6 February 2017
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