Google Tilt Brush For Level Design

Last week, Google released Tilt Brush for Oculus Rift (available through the Oculus Store). In addition, the Tilt Brush Toolkit (including SDK for Unity) has been available for a few months. We decided now was finally a good time to test things out and see if Tilt Brush should become part of our indie game development toolset.

What is Tilt Brush?

Fire, fire

Fire, fire

Tilt Brush, by Google, is a Virtual Reality-based drawing tool. You select brushes, colors, even animations - and paint in 3D space. Motion controllers are required which meant the HTC Vive, until very recently (while previously technically usable on the Rift, several features weren't adapted to its specific controls). But that changed last week, when Oculus specific support was announced and Tilt Brush for Oculus went on sale.

While Tilt Brush is a fun app, for sure (and a great demonstration on the potential of VR), it's rapidly becoming something else entirely. It's becoming a game development tool.

Tilt Brush for Game Assets

I'm the man in the box

I'm the man in the box

I won't pretend to know everything about Tilt Brush. This isn't a review. This is only a testimonial from a new user, as to its potential. Full disclosure: I wrote off 3D modeling years ago. In The Distraction Lab, my roles are lead developer and game designer. I can pull out Blender when I need to and make basic shapes but that's about it. Sometimes I have a brilliant idea (or at least I think so...) and I need art: immediately. My more 3D inclined teammates don't always have time to help out, so I've been looking for a basic modeling tool for years. It turns out I was looking in the wrong place. I just need for VR to step up to the plate.

Tilt Brush + Unity

You spin me round, right round...

You spin me round, right round...

Google's Tilt Brush Toolkit has allowed me to take my ideas, get them on the screen, test them, and then present them to the team. We're all creative individuals but sometimes me saying "the red box is the enemy, and he's hiding behind the green box - which is a tree..." does nothing to help my case. My designs are sold short by my lack of 3D skills.

By default, Tilt Brush will let you export your sketches as FBX files - which import nicely into Unity. When a sketch is dropped in, the first thing you may notice is they're all grey - and your color data is missing. That's where Tilt Brush Toolkit comes in: besides templates, scenes, and examples, it includes a variety of custom Unity shaders which will give you one click access to your original colors. You may need to re-scale and re-orient your anchor point, but those are quick fixes.

Speed Building

World of Drawcraft

World of Drawcraft

Again, I'm new to Tilt Brush, but upon my first test of it, I was able to sketch basic assets, bring them into Unity, add some lights and character controls - all in 30 minutes or less (which I realize sounds like an ad for pizza) I'm sure I'll find things I don't like, or things I'd like added - but for what I need, this is looking pretty good. The Toolkit SDK also supports animations, which is something I haven't even approached yet. (maybe for an upcoming review)

So while it may be far off, I dream of a future where Unity's native VR editor support has gone live, Tilt Brush is built in, and I'm tearing through prototype levels without ever taking the headset off.