Valve this week releases a free virtual reality content creation package that will allow anyone to create and share "destinations" on Steam.
Destinations will be available tomorrow in Early Access.
The software enables the creation of, among other things, virtual reality game levels and explorable VR worlds designed with photogrammetry.
"We've seen all of the awesome things the community can do with user-generated content, not only in our own games, but also in the 400 plus other games utilizing the Steam Workshop," said Valve programmer Tom Bui in an email interview with Polygon. "So it seemed a natural extension to enable creators to make cool new VR experiences that they could share with others."
Destinations comes with documentation and sample worlds, plus access to the Source 2 technology and developer Wiki.
There is also a dedicated Destinations Workshop where creators can distribute user-generated "destinations."
Destinations has the same system requirements as Valve's VR game The Lab and supports any VR headset with motion controls or a gamepad through OpenVR. The software also supports the Steam controller.
An early build of Destinations gave me a chance to visit Mars and an English church. Loading the software on Steam and popping on a Vive headset dropped me into an open space facing a giant screen. From there I had the option of loading up any of the destinations already on my system or visiting the Workshop to browse through and download other free creations.
During my visit, only the English church and Mars were available to check out.
The Mars scene was created using photogrammetry, stitched together from the photos taken by the Curiosity Rover on Mars. I was able to walk around inside the shallow crater where the Rover remains parked, checking out the landscape of the planet and the Curiosity itself. To move further than my real-world room would allow, I simply had to point with a controller and pull the trigger to teleport to that area. When aiming my teleport, the entire scene showed where I was able to move.
While the original photos taken by the Curiosity are in black and white, the scene was colored using a variety of tools. The creator of this destination also stitched those images together, created a sky and eye-balled how to throw up a backdrop of distant martian mountains.
The English church was a much more informative visit. The entire scene is loaded with placards explaining the process of first photographing the scene properly and then putting it together. At one location, as I teleported my way around a paved path that wraps around one side of the church, there's an option to see where the camera was located for each photo, giving me a sense of just how methodical and time consuming taking these photos for a photogrammetry scene can be.
While up close examination of the scenes sometimes exposed odd crops, like bits of air captured around the leaves of trees, or unnaturally flat grass, taken as a whole, the immersive scene was impressive.
The launch content will also include a basic example map that users can copy and modify, which shows some of the things creators can do with Source 2 tools to add interactivity to their destinations.
There is also a sizable Wiki created to help explain a lot of the process.
"The Destinations Workshop Tools are the same Source 2 tools we use internally at Valve and that the Dota 2 community uses to create custom games," Bui said. "Creating a basic destination is pretty simple, but it can be a bit more involved to build a photogrammetry scene.
"We’ll have some tutorials to help people get started and that goes over some of the best practices we’ve discovered while building our own content. Actually publishing the destination to the Steam Workshop when a content creator is ready is only a few button clicks."
Bui added that the user-created destinations will be subject to the same guidelines as any other application on Steam.
Currently, the creations cannot be sold.
"Initially, users will be able to share their creations for free on the Workshop," Bui said. "We'll take a 'wait and see' approach before we go beyond that."
Update 2: You can find it here.
Update: Valve contacted us to know that they misspoke. Destinations launches Thursday at 1 p.m. ET.