Unofficial OVRLipSync Plugin for UE4

After messing with PocketSphinx’s phoneme recognition and not getting the results I wanted, I looked back into porting Oculus’ LipSync plugin for Unity over to UE4, since the Unity plugin is just a wrapper for a DLL and some examples of how to use it.
I’m happy to report that I’ve got a basic version of the OVRLipSync plugin working in UE4, and it’s ready for people to use. I’ve gone ahead and made an example project to show how to use the UE4 version of the plugin (quite straightforward, see example images below). The project has an example mesh to see it in action, and should work out of the box:

Example Project + Plugin Repo:
https://github.com/ChairGraveyard/ovrlipsync-example

Plugin Only Repo:
https://github.com/ChairGraveyard/ovrlipsync-ue4

For those that just want a quick rundown on how to use it without downloading the example project, here are some screenshots of the VisemeGenerationActor derived blueprint class.

VisemeGeneratActor event graph setup:

SetMorphTargets function:

MorphIdxToNames array:

As long as the mesh has the appropriate morphs as listed above, it will work decently well. I’m sure there are things I’m doing wrong, and bug reports are welcome!

Floating Hands: Good Riddance

I never liked the idea of floating hands, and now that I’m no longer trying to get a dev kit from HTC/Valve (they expressed interest in mini-games with low replay value and minimal content, the opposite of what Dungeon Survival is aiming for), I’m doing away with them entirely in favor of the true-first-person I always intended to provide, and was going to end up being an option if floating-hands had stayed.

With an inverse kinematic solution that’s more robust than the generic CCD/tw0-bone IK provided out of the box by most engines, and which also features constraints, the “elbow problem” which prompted Oculus and Valve to so vehemently recommend against true-first-person avatar bodies simply doesn’t exist, so the argument for floating hands crumbles.

For fans of floating hands rather than a tracked, full body avatar (why!?), they may come back as an option post release.

Work in progress Automatic Lip Sync

This is a quick test of the first hackish pass at doing automatic lip sync based on phoneme recognition from PocketSphinx.

I had reluctantly set the idea aside due to poor results reported by UE4 forum user ShaneC, who wrote a nice wrapper for PocketSphinx as a plugin. After some fiddling around and much searching of usergroups about Sphinx, I was able to determine that passing in a blank option for the phoneme recognition file makes it work pretty reliably for some reason.
Playback of the visemes is a bit choppy right now for a number of reasons, mostly to do with just because it hasn’t had a pass to make it look nice, and because I’m not passing through the information about how long each phoneme lasts.

Needless to say this is completely pre-alpha and doesn’t represent the final result, just an extremely early first test.

Demonstrating Dynamic Pickup Objects in Dungeon Survival (Quick Video)

Hey guys, this is a quick video I did to demonstrate how the physics objects and picking them up will work in Dungeon Survival, which also plays into combat.

I’ve been working with physics engines, including implementing them from scratch into commercial game engines and doing complex physics implementations for about 7 years now. One thing I, like every other VR enthusiast, realized, is that without the haptic feedback of a real sword you’d need to do something special, and specifically different than the kinematic attachment you normally see, e.g., it’s bolted onto your hand or whatnot, and has essentially infinite mass – can move anything, regardless of how heavy, in order to get that feeling of weight.

To that end I wanted to test a method of letting the objects you pick up, including weapons, still be dynamic (e.g., can be moved by other physics objects in the simulation, and can’t move infinite mass).

Without further adieu, here’s the video:

 

YouTube version: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mYw-e0qTJkA

Please note this is pre-alpha footage, and does not represent the final state of anything featured!

Notice that when I hit small objects with low mass, like the mug and basket, they are easily moved with the sword, which is of a similar mass.

The table, by contrast, blocks the sword and moves it as I swing (as hard as I reasonably can).

In Dungeon Survival, you’ll need to be aware of your surroundings, as your weapon may be caught in obstructions, blocked/moved away by an opponent, or knocked out of your hand outright!

dragon_interior

Belated Screenshot Saturday – Dungeon Survival

dungeonsurvival_interiorcabin_overworld

About Dungeon Survival

Features Overview

  • Made from the ground up for VR, with unique features to support motion controls
  • Next-gen VR features today: Voice-input commands, NPC facial morphs and more.
  • Co-op multiplayer (at least 2-4 players, maybe more unofficially supported)
  • Streaming, no-load-screens transitions between levels of the dungeon
  • True First Person (you can see the character’s body, including animations)
  • Deep Item System – Fire burns things, water douses them, etc. – generalized gameplay that layers up to produce complex interactions
  • Real-time Physics Interactions and Combat – Items are physics based as in games like Skyrim, combat is based on physical collisions – if you see a hit – you hit!
  • Environment Interaction Over Hack ‘n’ Slash – Use your wits to overcome the dungeon’s deadly foes and traps! Ingenuity is rewarded over blunt force.
  • A Customizable Experience – Want hardcore roguelike style gameplay with permadeath? Or would you rather have a more Skyrim-style experience? You choose!
  • Modding Support – Via both configuration file editing (recombine base gameplay of items/monsters with new looks and combinations of behaviors) and advanced modding through the UE4 engine. Modding means for a replayable experience you can keep coming back to for years to come.


About The (VR) Dungeon Survival Project

The (VR) Dungeon Survival Project is a game built out of my desire to make something that captures the magic of deep item and environment interaction gameplay of roguelikes, on top of a foundation of survival and real time gameplay.

In addition, the game is my experiment into VR and supporting novel input devices for more interactive, fine-grained gameplay. What this means is that ultimately Dungeon Survival will support setups that allow the player to play with natural input, such as grasping and manipulating objects with the HTC Vive controllers.

Mod support is also very important to me, as I fully understand that mods are the key to longevity of games of this sort. Most things will be able to be tweaked or added to without any tools other than a text editor, but advanced functionality will require downloading a mod pack with source files for the game, and getting access to Unreal Engine 4.

Left 4 Dead 2 Style Wound System Complete (Mostly)

Great news!

The Left 4 Dead 2 style wound and dismemberment system mentioned previously, which will be powering the gruesome world of Dungeon Survival, has now been completed (save for a couple of odds and ends, and art assets).

Previous screenshots were taken using a hacky method of transforming the hit location into mesh-relative coordinates, whereas the proper way of doing it, and really the only way that truly works, is to use the “pre-skin” vertex positions.

For non-developers this essentially means getting at the points that make up the character mesh before they’re transformed by the animation rig.

The effect of this is that the opacity-mask sphere which creates the “hole” in the character mesh so that the wound geometry shows through will follow along with any animation properly.

This meant diving into the guts of Unreal Engine 4’s material system, right down into the proto-shader files that underlie familiar visual node-based materials. Luckily this ended up being quite painless!

Remaining work to be done on the wound system itself is to use a blood mask to dirty-up the edges of the character mesh where it’s hidden by the wound-ellipse.

Other than that, all that remains is to create wound meshes for the characters and hook up and tune the system.

As an aside, I decided to work on this today because work on motion controller IK has stopped for the moment while the new full-body IK with limits plugin is debugged a bit by its author for my use case.

I can’t wait to show off some of the gameplay with the new full body IK and motion controls, as it’s something you don’t often see outside of triple-A games that use software like Havok Behavior or Autodesk HumanIK, and is perfectly suited to VR avatareneering..

Update: Left4Dead2 Style Wounds for Unreal Engine 4

Quick update to my L4D2 style wound implementation for Unreal Engine 4 – I’ve managed to get the wound hit point to follow the animation properly for characters. This was the main thing holding me up from continuing work on this system (namely, extending it to use a capsule instead of a sphere).

An example download is available here: https://forums.unrealengine.com/showthread.php?90474-WIP-Dynamic-Left-4-Dead-2-Style-Wounds-Dismemberment

For those that want to incorporate the new changes I’ve made, here are two screenshots showing the main pieces of code you need to implement (and the modified code for determining the sphere location).

First is in the character blueprint – this is showing the new way to transform the socket location into skeletal-mesh-relative-coordinate-space (that’s a mouthful):

Next up is the material itself. First set your Material domain to Masked, then replicate the part that plugs into Opacity Mask:

 

 

Grass Bending Test

Note: The following video is pre-alpha test footage, and in no way represents the quality of the final game.

It’s hard to see due to the video framerate and compression, but there are volumes for affecting the grass parented to the player’s feet.

Credit for the effect goes to Daniel Wenograd.

To add this to your own Unreal Engine 4 project, check out Daniel Wenograd’s post on the UE4 forums.

Porting up to Unreal Engine 4.3 – Setbacks Caused by Boneheadedness

Click image for source! (Credit goes to the artist! Not affiliated with the project - used for blog enhancement purposes)

Facepalm – Whiterun Guard

 

Progress has been swift but not without setbacks, as with the problems I encountered moving my project from UE4 4.2.1 to 4.3 preview.

I decided to port up to it because it offers some particular functionality I required, namely the On Actor Fracture event.

I use this to figure out when the destructible oil barrel has cracked open, to spawn the oil spill (which as described previously (under Other Stuff That’s Done) – can be lit by throwing a torch onto it, or other on-fire item). There are some other improvements I wanted access to, but that was the reason for switching now.

Unfortunately I made a bonehead move and converted a copy of the project, started working immediately on adding new stuff (torch throwing, barrel breaking spawn oil spill etc.) without actually checking to make sure that everything worked properly otherwise.

It did not.

The plan for last night had been to take a short video of how the gameplay with the oil barrels and throwing torches was shaping up, but instead…

I spent last night debugging the things that were wrong I had missed, mostly related to the item pickup/drop functionality over the network. My plan for today is to finish up going through the 4.2.1 source blueprints and make sure everything is intact and correct.

What seems to have happened is that the conversion didn’t actually get all the blueprint nodes and variables, and in some cases changed the options of other nodes (raycast was set up to show debug, despite debug being off in the 4.2.1 project).

Once everything is back to normal in the 4.3 project, I’ll be working on overhauling the inventory system.

Here’s the Trello task for that:

Inventory Overhaul Task on Trello

Inventory Overhaul Task on Trello

Once that’s all finished, it’s on to setting up the rat enemy and then the AI for it.

Rats! And You, In Dungeon Survival

Rat Swarm by Jay Odjick

Rat Swarm by Jay Odjick – (Not affiliated with the game – just for looks! All credit goes to the artist!)

Rats are usually boring enemies in fantasy and medieval games, used to introduce new players to combat, and hardly intended to inspire terror. The exception is usually some sort of giant rat, but that too has limited scare factor when the players are used to fighting giant-everything (spiders, wasps, bats, etc.) any of which is more creepy than a giant rat.

In Dungeon Survival, I want rats to be the first enemy players encounter, not because they will be pushovers, but because they will have some interesting mechanics that will heighten their fear factor and hopefully, do justice to how creepy a bunch of rats in a dungeon would be.

In this post I’ll be going over two aspects of rats in the game, though the first will be about the player.

The Kick Attack

Your character will feature a few basic unarmed attacks. I’ll be going over the kick attack now.

* Physics based – It will work by having a physics volume follow the animation of the kick on the character.
* When the volume connects, it will impart damage on the hit actor, as well as an impulse. Any object that responds to physics will fly out.
* Enemies that take enough of an impact on this stage will go into ragdoll mode.

Rat Behavior

One thing that almost anyone instinctively fears is disease, and in the case of rats, that means them crawling onto you.

* Rats will be able to crawl up the character.
* Using hand motion controls (or a contextual punch attack – more on that in another post) the player can slap the rats off, but it has to be done with enough (in game) force to actually move them.
* Similar to the kick attack, a strong enough hit will make the rats ragdoll.

In addition to that, rats and other enemies will take impact damage – so a good kick off a ledge can be a one hit kill if done properly.

(Those readers interested in VR will note that the rat climbing behavior outlined above will be particularly creepy in VR. This is by design.)

Might look something like this.

Swarm of Shadow Rats by Christopher Burdett (again - not affiliated with the project, this is just to illustrate what I mean!)

Swarm of Shadow Rats by Christopher Burdett (again – not affiliated with the project, this is just to illustrate what I mean!)

Plans for Early Access, Modding and the Future

In this post I’m going to cover some of the longer term plans for development of the game and also how I’m going to be making it available for players.

First about the demo/early access situation.

In my own game-playing experience, I find that there are quite a few indie games that are either released or in an early access state that are great but don’t offer enough real meat to the experience. To be expected from alpha/early access games, but it is a lamentable situation.

Especially with co-op games, it’s hard to get friends on board to ultimately run out of content and things to do.

One game that I think did a great job handling early access was TaleWorlds’ Mount & Blade (a game I am particularly fond of).

The initial beta release had enough gameplay to keep folks interested and to grow a vibrant community.

However, M&B didn’t really explode past the initial word-of-mouth popularity until that same passionate community figured out how to mod the game by reverse engineering how various aspects of it worked.

A frenzy of activity was spurred by the first modders, and eventually tools to mod the game more heavily were developed by the community. Finally, some months later TaleWorlds released a more feature complete way of modding the game via the module kit.

To this day M&B has a strong modding community and an active player base.

Moving off of the segue…. What does this mean for Dungeon Survival?

As with many indies, the plan for Dungeon Survival is to ultimately launch a Kickstarter to fund the game’s development out through release. Unfortunately though, that doesn’t jive with my desire to get the game into the hands of players as soon as its fun.

Right now development is focused on building out a 3-level dungeon demo which will show off gameplay in a specific way:

* Basic survival gameplay – eating, drinking, using the environment to kill or avoid enemies. This will be on the first level of the dungeon, primarily (and through the 2nd and 3rd, of course, but the 1st level will be focused on those aspects).

* More advanced inventory and environmental interaction, as well as crafting.

* Finally, the third level will focus most heavily on challenges and puzzles that require the player to use the environment to overcome them, as well as a finale boss fight to get to the exit from the third dungeon level to the fourth (which will be the end of the demo).

This demo is what will be shown as part of the Kickstarter campaign, as well as for promotion in general (screenshots, trailer etc.). The game’s art and assets will not be final, and gameplay will not be totally complete. But (hopefully) it will demonstrate what the game is about and be fun.

To that end, my plan is to get:

* Enemies and more environmental gameplay in the game.
* The first dungeon level.
* Some traps.
* More items and gameplay related to items.
* A basic save/load system.

Into the game as rapidly as possible (check out my previous post for info on the current status of the game’s features).

Once those aspects are implemented, I will be getting the first alpha of the demo out to early beta testers for feedback and bug reports.

After a thorough round of testing, the demo will be released for public beta testing. Iteration will continue on that demo, fixing bugs, adding gameplay, and building out the second and third levels of the game.

Once all three levels are in and it’s fun enough to replay for a couple of hours at a time, I’ll be starting up the Kickstarter campaign, and releasing a public demo of all three dungeon levels.

Shorter term I’ll be setting up a page on Indie DB, as well as otherwise promoting the development progress in places that makes sense (Reddit, Unreal forums etc.).

Soon to come in the next few days are video of the current gameplay and some of the first little bit of dungeon level, a sneak-peek of the dungeon level layouts and more.

A Word About Modding

I strongly believe that mods can make or break a game’s success long term, and to that end I plan on supporting both a ton of customization of the game by default, as well as mod support.

Unfortunately, this presents some interesting challenges. Namely, Unreal Engine 4.

As you can imagine, the best way to mod an Unreal Engine 4 game would be to have the engine itself, and the .uassets that make up the game. Unfortunately, there are some legality and practical issues that come into the equation because of this.

For one, as part of the Unreal Engine 4 license agreement, I am unable to ship UE4 editor tools along with my game for modders to use. Nothing unusual about that – after all, they don’t want people using mod tools from a UE4 game to make their own stuff without buying the engine.

Secondly, distributing the game’s assets. There are some issues with this, which I’m not really qualified to speak to. Suffice it to say that there are some restrictions on what can be done.

How do I plan to work around this and support mods for my game?

To start, whereever possible I am going to make the game use plain old data for configuration of items and things like that. So modders will absolutely be able to go in and change values/add new items that utilize the existing gameplay functionality that items will provide.

Most modders should be able to use that to get what they want. It’s when that isn’t enough that things become tricky.

So for those brave modding souls that want to add new interactions and gameplay that are not in the game and supported by the item system already, you’ll need to do essentially 2 things:

* Get an Unreal Engine 4 license – it’s $20, you can get it once and cancel the subscription immediately.

* Download the stuff that makes up Dungeon Survival, or at least, pieces of that stuff.

I don’t think this is too bad, but it’s also not totally ideal. I’d prefer modding tools to be free if possible. Right now I don’t think it’s possible.

However, as mentioned I will support as much modding out of the box as possible, both through in-game options as well as tweaking/adding data through the game files.

The Dungeon Of Death! (and gameplay)

In Dungeon Survival, we must provide a counterpoint at all times to the mundane aspects of survival, maintaining one’s health in an environment of slimy subterranean walls, and avoiding the denizens of such places (or dispatching them with one’s ingenuity).

I am speaking of course of the all encompassing dread reaper: Death!

In other words, the Dungeon Survival project now features death and respawn.

In addition to this, since the last update (which was somewhat out of date) the game has:

Inventory System

This is sort of the basis for much of the game, as most of the objects will be “smart” – with some gameplay associated with how they work or interact with the environment/other objects in an intuitive way. I’ll follow up with a good example of this in a minute.

Items when on the ground are physics objects, much like in the Elder Scrolls series. When picked up, the object is attached to the player’s hand.

Currently, only one item can be carried at a time, not counting the “utility” slot (the right hand – which is at the moment occupied by the torch and isn’t completely hooked into the inventory system). In future, the player will be able to craft pouches which attach to the player and will be able to carry certain amounts of items of their own, depending on size/type.

As with the rest of the game, all of these things are networked for multiplayer – including kicking around physics objects (this may change depending on if it presents problems later) and having it sync to everyone.

When picked up, the item is not destroyed – it is taken into the character’s inventory, and attached directly to the hand (or will be “stored” in pouches if available). This is important because the item system in the game will also be persistent – a half-eaten apple will stay half-eaten even when dropped (and as that example implies, the player does not eat food all-at-once). Items will have persistent state.

The above behavior is for the default item type. All specialized item types derive from this type of item and include its behavior (though in special cases they may override it).

As of yet there is only one specialized type – the food item. Which brings us to…

Hunger and Thirst

First, some rationality for even including what some might consider a micro-management gameplay feature.

I’ll always remember my first few forays into the realm of Nethack, that character-based dungeon crawler with timeless charm and a rich set of gameplay.

In particular was when I first made it to level 3 (this was probably not Nethack itself but a derivative, so forgive inconsistencies, those Nethack aficionados in the audience). I had no food. I was dying of hunger, and a dwarf attacked me.

I dispatched the little fellow with little health left to spare, crawled around a corner and took the only option that remained to me. I ate the dwarf.

I ate his corpse and promptly died from dwarf-poisoning.

For those that don’t know – Nethack and its like feature “permadeath”, meaning you must start over if you die. Instead of being (justifiably, since the 3rd level of the dungeon was the farthest I’d ever progressed) irritated, I was cracking up with laughter.

I loved the fact that I was able to improvise in that way and eat the body of a dwarf I’d slain. And even more that it distinguished poison from normal food.

That’s why I wanted to make the Dungeon Survival project in the first place – to capture the magic of the “emergent gameplay” that roguelikes provide, but with a focus on natural interaction with the environment, and on survival gameplay (with, of course, VR heavily supported).

What’s done:

* Hunger ticks town every 5 seconds (numbers here are subject to change with testing).
* When hunger runs out, the starvation meter kicks in. It ticks down ever 5s as well, but at a different rate (you have more starvation meter than hunger meter, but it depletes in larger chunks).
* When your starvation meter runs out, you start to take damage to your health.
* As mentioned before, food items exist and can replenish your food meter.

Thirst and dehyration work in a similar way, but are not hooked up at the moment to aid in testing (and because I haven’t hooked up any drink items, though that doesn’t take much time).

To come:

* Cooking, and uncooked food causing sickness.
* Starvation and eating too quickly after having starved for a while will also cause sickness.
* Poisoned/contaminated food.
* Dehydration and drinking too much water when dehydrated causing sickness.

Other Stuff That Works Now

In addition to all that, I’ve added:

* A proper blend for the torch hold animation, so that you can right click to sheathe/unsheathe the torch. The character’s arm will smoothly blend up and down.

* An oil slick blueprint, which includes an oil decal, trigger volume and fire effects.
* Code so that if the player walks over an oil slick with his torch out, it will light on fire (and does damage).
* A destructible barrel – damage accumulates over time, so that if thrown/hit against stuff enough it will shatter.
* An oil barrel version that spawns an oil slick when it breaks.
* A torch physics item using the inventory system, and the ability to throw the torch via clicking without anything in held in the left hand inventory slot.

This is the sort of “smart object” gameplay I referred to before. Eventually things like the barrel spawning an oil slick, the slick being flammable, and items that have fire lighting the slick up will be generalized so that items will simply be able to specify what types of smart gameplay they use (by both deriving from special item types and settings in those types).

The basis for this system is already in place, and is how the food items work – but currently the torch and barrel do not use the system (that will change).

To come in the short term:

* Thrown torches will light oil slicks on fire.
* Throwing your torch will remove it from your hand,
* Being able to pick up the torch to re-equip it to the utility/right hand slot.
* A two-hand pickup system for picking up things like the barrel (luckily though I’m no animator, I’ve figured out how to build an animation for that and make it work myself).
* Being able to throw two-hand pickup items.
* Kicking/punching physics objects, like the barrel.

After that, I’ll be adding the first enemies to the game (rats!) and building out the first level of the demo dungeon.

Soon I’ll be taking some screenshots and video of the oil barrel gameplay.

The Dungeon Lives

(This progress report is actually several days old, and represents where the project was at then. There has been additional work since then, which I’ll detail in another post.)

Since I started working on The Dungeon Survival Project in Unreal Engine 4, I have put in:

* Gathering assets I can use to prototype, mostly free with some packs like the Beggar and the fantasy props thrown in, and some dungeon piece packs.

* Basic inventory (networked), customized to drop the item from your hand, including system for showing the item in your hand when it’s picked up (update: this is now fully working, item is picked up and dropped from/to hand, ). Using the items, especially food, to recover the ever-ticking down hunger, also done!

* Basic hunger system, with framework for WIP thirst system. Hunger has a meter, then goes into starvation. After starvation hits 0 it starts ticking damage on the player. (Lots of plans for additional gameplay for this, still WIP).

* True first person

* Beggar character model with animations (I exported the animations, clipped some to create new ones, and learned the animation system in the process) to replace the default guy 

* Torch with fire effects and light source (with life-size-ish flame)

* My own animation (I’m not an artist) that makes it so the character holds the torch out, which blends with the walk/jump/idle etc, and ensures the fire effect doesn’t block the player view.

* Preliminary IK setup (needs to have a PHaT asset created for the character to work well), brushed up on PHaT a little bit.

* Imported about 100 of the props from a pack I have into the engine and hooked up materials for them

* Early physics door (bump into it to make it swing open) with a neat little door asset.

* Been working on hooking up the dungeon rooms and hallways I’m going to use, hooked up materials and collision for many of these.