S&box is an in-development sandbox game/engine designed as a sequel to the legendary Garry’s Mod (2006), a game that turned Valve’s Source Engine into a multiplayer playground and content creation tool which has spawned games, memes, and machinima. In the latest s&box development update the studio revealed the latest additions to the software’s VR support.

In the latest development update for s&box the team offered a glimpse of several VR improvements that have been in the works.

The first is a foundation for a fully VR-compatible interface. Developer Matt Stevens shared the latest work on adapting the game’s interface to be compatible with VR controllers. The result is that the game’s main menu is now fully controllable in VR without any other changes.

While this is essentially just emulating mouse control with a laser pointer, Stevens says it’s the result of using the engine’s VROverlayPanel API, which allows interface elements to be drawn on top of the underlying scene. These panels can be optionally mounted to a player’s controllers and are also interactive with a laser pointer to simulate mouse input for interactive elements.

Stevens says the VR Overlays are “ideal for HUDs or menus that should be local to the player’s VR space.” Developers can use the same underlying system for building their own game-specific VR-compatible interface with s&box.

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While not exactly VR specific, developer Laylad says they’ve ported the glass shattering tech from Half-Life: Alyx—which most of us in VR land have enjoyed punching and pistol whipping—into s&box.

This was one form of destruction alongside another where the developer experimented with a voxel-based destruction system that is fully networked which means it could potentially be part of gameplay.

“This could be extended in the future to support glass, wood, bricks etc,” says Laylad. Exactly what physics-destruction features the engine ends up with seems yet to be finalized, but these are promising experiments. Physics is especially fun with the hands-on nature of VR, so it’s great news to see that they are thinking along these lines.

Of course beyond the VR and VR-ish stuff above, the team detailed a bunch of other work done to s&box over the last month which is an interesting read if you’re into game/engine development or modding.

The prior update, which covers fully-body tracking in s&box, continues below. Beyond that, the original article details the background of s&box and initial VR support added back in June.

In the latest development update for s&box the team highlighted the latest VR developments being built into the engine.

The team has added VR controller and tracker tracking allowing basic hand tracking and full body tracking via additional tracking pucks. Tracking can be used to animate characters inside the game, as demonstrated by developer @gvarados, who has also added early support for VRChat avatars inside of s&box.

The addition of VR controller tracking includes support for finger tracking from Valve Index controllers.

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The studio says VR input in s&box is currently built around the input paradigm of Rift, Quest, and Index controllers (as they share a similar button/stick/grip layout), though both SteamVR and OpenXR have clearly identified the need to abstract the input layer so that developers don’t need to create custom bindings for every VR controller out there. S&box might ultimately need to do something similar down the road.

The original article, which details the background of s&box and initial VR support added back in June, continues below.

Original Article (July 28th, 2021): Released way back in 2006, Garry’s Mod is still a massively popular multiplayer sandbox game that allows players to create and share content built with a combination of in-game tools and modding extensibility. Conceptually it’s similar to something like Roblox or Rec Room, where players have significant flexibility in building their own universe of fun things to do together. The game still finds itself regularly among the 100 most popular games on Steam.

The Garry’s Mod development studio, Facepunch, is also behind a little-known game called Rust (2018), which has become a phenomenon in its own right.

Creator Garry Newman has been pondering a sequel to Garry’s Mod since at least as far back as 2015. And while development has been on-and-off over the years, things have picked up considerably since 2020, with Newman and other developers at the studio posting detailed updates on the game’s development, now called s&box. The Facepunch team says its goal is to “create a worthy Garry’s Mod sequel.”

In the latest s&box development update released earlier this month, developer Sam Pavlovic says he worked to ensure that the game’s rendering would handle VR correctly.

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“I fixed VR rendering, since starting the project we had worked a lot on improving some rendering flexibilities for Source 2 and adapting it to work for what we want but never validated for VR until now. Getting VR in a good state has always been a concern for us and I’m glad now that I’ve tackled the initial work to have it supported,” he wrote.

Pavlovic admits that proper rendering for VR is only the first step in truly adding ‘VR support’ to the game. For now that means it’s pretty much a ‘see-only’ experience, but going forward he notes that the work “opens the door for us to experiment with [VR] and build something that everyone could enjoy and build upon.”

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  • kontis

    It looks like it’s the only company in the world with a license to the most advanced VR engine ever made (Source 2).

    That makes the VR support so much more interesting.

    • Jonathan Winters III

      +1

    • wheeler

      It’s promising but I’d really like to know what sort of plans they actually have for their VR mode. Are they going to reimplement the HLA stuff? (AFAIK they cut most of it out) Do they have a good understanding of what a worthwhile VR mode entails and why e.g. Valve spent months just sorting out how to make opening doors feel good in VR? Or do they have the typical flat developer’s understanding of VR where they mostly just see it as a wrapper over top abstract flat game interactions?

      • Ad

        Alyx’s mechanics would be pretty bad if they just carried them over. Especially movement and gun play.

      • kontis

        They have huge plans when it comes to extensibility and moddability by the community. GMod was already impressive in that regard ant they want to makes it much better.

        So I hope users can implement some cool VR mechanics even if the native support is only minimal.

        • Евгений

          In UE4-UE5, you can change the rendering system in just 5 clicks. Of course, this will somewhat limit the possibilities of shading, and limit the use of lumen. Otherwise, I see no problem using forward rendering.

    • Ad

      Is it the most advanced VR engine? It seems like Valve designed it for what they needed, and who knows if Garry’s is keeping its optimization system (which doesn’t perform at the same godlike level in custom content).

    • Denny Unger

      The engine is only as good as the people optimizing and building systems for said engine.

  • Ad

    I’m not that optimistic. I wish they would take the VR mod for Garry’s Mod and incorporate it into the base game, so people could get some experience with it by whenever this is ready. It would also add some momentum because I don’t get the sense that VR is going to be a priority for Sandbox.

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    • Wild Dog

      That’d be nice. I know the guy who made it.

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      • You can tell that guy to get ready to port it incase the devs screw up :3

        • Wild Dog

          Well, with some issues coming from maintaining the current version, he’s decided to just let S&Box handle the rest.

          But I’ll let him know you liked it. x)

  • Wild Dog

    Well, this is good news. Finally, roadtovr gets it right.

  • Wild Dog

    Now here’s good news.

  • Ad

    Pretty basic but I hope they double down on the Overlay functionality. Would be cool if you could use one overlay package/game across other scenes and games.