null

South Park VR

A Tool Digital Experiment

Project

In a few short weeks in June of 2014, a small group of superfans at Tool came together and created a unique rendition of South Park. Using Oculus rift technology, users are able to step into the shoes of a citizen taking a stroll around the city.

Process

The idea for the project came in late May. We started with three goals in mind for the experiment. One, from a tech point of view, to sharpen our Unity and Oculus Rift development skills—two, from a creative point of view, to reimagine a well known story by allowing the user to experience it in the first person and—three, to finish the project in time to share with our friends at the Cannes Lions Advertising Festival.

The core piece that we wanted to create would make use of the Oculus Rift in all of its glory. We needed a free world experience with a bit of an edge and a beautiful simplicity. So naturally we landed on the world of South Park, which was a perfect blend of everything, in addition, we were huge fans of the iconic show.

Taking inspiration from other renditions of the city of South Park, such as the most recent video game “Stick of Truth” and the season 17 show intro, we felt that a combination of flat cutout characters and more dimensional paper-textured buildings was the way to go. We began work modeling the buildings of the city in Cinema 4D and laying out a rough version with placeholders in Unity.

Quite a bit of layering was done in order to achieve our desired look. We wanted to give the ground and streets some dimensionality beyond a 2d texture, so we created road plates at the base level and stacked sidewalk plates above these so as to create physical seams and imperfections. Utilizing Unity’s terrain feature, which would accept shadows and have more dimensionality, we painted up the snow through the streets and sidewalk layers. Working in tandem, the buildings were modeled and UV mapped in C4D, textured in Photoshop, exported as FBX files and added to the scene as they were completed. Additional elements were modeled and textured directly in Unity, such as fences, trees, and basketball goals. We also added the gang’s School Bus and Officer Barbrady’s police car on a set loop. Finally the rest of the 2d sprite characters were added.

As an exciting Easter egg for the experience and another way to push the limits of the Oculus Rift, we created an additional scene in Unity and allowed users to “fall” to their doom by walking through the South Park church doors and into a tunnel to hell. (Hint: Find Saddam Hussein next to Satan, bump into him and he’ll take you back to South Park).

Tech

We used very low-level tech components with Unity as we wanted to keep focused on building out the entire city of South Park. While we have a large dev team, the group who worked on this is made up of designers and motion, so we took advantage of many of the out of the box features of Unity, which is a testament to the extreme “do a little, get a lot” usability of the program. Some of these features included:

Sprite Sheets- we wrote a script for Photoshop that would quickly take a png and set up a 4x4 grid PSD ready to add animation frames. Once placed in the scene, these animations were given a modified camera facing billboard script which turned the characters towards the camera on the Y-axis at all times.

3D Sound- we sourced the sounds and were able to quickly attach them to character sprites and interactions with the first person controller, creating a 3D sound experience out of the box.

Oculus Rift Player Controller- we used this right out of the box, modifying only the height of the character to be somewhat in between the height of the child and adult sprites.

Technologies Used:

Unity

is a cross-platform game engine with a built-in IDE developed by UnityTechnologies.

Oculus

is an upcoming virtual reality head-mounted display, being developed by Oculus VR


We loved this doodle of an experiment. Every aspect of the project gave us amusement: Recalling and reminiscing on favorite moments in the show’s history, going through our long forgotten DVD sets (yes some of us still have optical drives) to research these moments, modeling the buildings, setting the environment, and creating our own avatars. Our hope is that you enjoy exploring and rediscovering your love for this amazing show as much as we did creating.

-Tool

Chris K.

Producer

Matt G.

CD

Clay W.

ACD

Josh J.

Sr. Designer

Seth B.

Motion

Joy K.

HODP