Creating Environments

Creating an environment in Ygdrasil mostly involves modelling, in Maya, 3dsMax, Lightwave, Blender, etc. In this chapter we'll look at some design issues and ideas for common types of environments, and also at the YG Environment node, which is used to set the background color and create fog.

One of the primary uses - in fact, almost the definition - of virtual reality is the simulation of space. This can involve the simulation of existing physical spaces, simulation of potential spaces, abstract spaces, or the representation of data sets through spatial relationships; the fundamental purpose is to create the illusion of presence in some form of simulated space. When creating virtual spaces, one immediately apparent discovery is that space itself, and our perception of it, is defined by the objects within it. This shouldn't be too surprising; it's a fundamental part of any sort of pictorial representation. But, in the real world, we tend to take the presence of objects for granted, and when creating virtual spaces, often forget that everything must be created from scratch.

To illustrate this point, create a YG scene with nothing in it. It will be a yawning, black, empty void. However, this black empty void, even when viewed in a six-sided CAVE, does not inspire disorientation, awe, existential terror. It just looks like the screen is turned off. Nothingness isn't anything unless there is something to compare it to. Look at the first living room scene examples again; the empty black void is much more impressive when it has a few pieces of furniture in it. Note, however, that if you turn around and walk away from the furniture, the void loses its presence; there is no longer any sense of depth or emptiness, just a flat black screen.

What this should make clear from the beginning is that the illusion is very fragile. Stereoscopic projection, head-tracking, advanced 3D graphics - all of this technology has literally no effect without concentrated effort by the artist.

(c) Ben Chang