Markus “Notch” Persson, the creator of Minecraft, has published an experimental virtual reality project that takes the form of a ray marching fractal renderer that runs in the web browser.
Known begrudgingly to this writer as ‘the guy who didn’t finish 0x10c‘, Notch has had an on and off relationship with Oculus. Having initially pledged $10,000 to Oculus’ 2012 Kickstarter, saying that his company’s games would likely support the Rift, he later had harsh words for Oculus after their $2 billion acquisition by Facebook in 2014.
Eventually he came to terms with the sale, saying he was “officially over it,” though the irony was not lost when he sold Mojang, the studio behind Minecraft, to Microsoft for a similar sum one month later.
Now departed from Mojang, Notch continues to experiment with small development projects. One of his latest is Unmandelboxing, a ray marching fractal renderer that runs in the browser with WebVR support (the name being a reference to the Mandelbox fractal). Notch made note of the project on Twitter over the weekend, with the WebVR version popping up just yesterday.
The source code of the non-VR version of Unmandelboxing seems to indicate that one goal of the project was to create something not only web-based but also incredibly small.
Output image is 426×240 pixels, using the RGBA332 palette. Everything is contained in this single 3524 byte document.
The fun part about working with fractals is that the infinite landscapes of chaotic but somehow ordered geometry is all derived from a fairly simple set of mathematical rules, allowing Unmandelboxing to be contained in just 3.5kb.
The WebVR version of Unmandelboxing doesn’t seem to work consistently across browsers as it should, but Notch says that it works for him using the Rift DK2 with Firefox Nightly properly installed and configured for WebVR. “WebVR is very fringe technology still,” he says. We’d recommend he give Mozilla’s A-Frame a try for his next stab at WebVR.
It’s great to see Notch experimenting with WebVR development, but it seems unlikely that much more will come from this particular project, as his self-described tendency to abandon projects is something of a self-fulfilling prophecy as this point.