Soundboxing - ericflo
Player Bugfixes
Many people have reported issues with the player over the past few days, and I heard you. Some things changed recently on the target site and now it's not working well at all. Fortunately, since the last patch I've been digging in and trying to find every single bug that causes the player to get stuck or loop. After extensive testing and a lot of code rewriting, we have a new player! If you notice anything acting worse than before, please let me know and I'll fix it up ASAP.

Drum-style Keyboard
If you haven't tried out a drum-style keyboard in another VR game, it's a fun and intuitive way of typing in VR. If you're using the Oculus Rift, or are having issues with the SteamVR keyboard, there's now a drum-style keyboard sitting there in the search screen. Thanks to NormalVR for their fantastic CutieKeys project that was a great starting point. Head over to search to check it out!

Unity and Shader Upgrades
In this patch the game has been upgraded to use Unity 2018.1.0f2, which also led to replacing a bunch of objects that were using old legacy shaders and deprecated functionality. This upgrade also made it necessary to regenerate the lighting information for the game (you may notice a larger patch delta this time as a result.) Not much has changed, but you may notice some minor visual differences here and there, and for some video hardware, a performance improvement.

That's it - this is mostly a quality of life and bugfix update. Hope everyone has fun playing!
Soundboxing - ericflo
New update for Soundboxing out today!

LIV Mixed Reality Support!
LIV is a fantastic set of tools for doing mixed reality VR streaming. Mixed reality lets those outside of VR see what you're doing inside the game, and right now it's the best way to introduce people to VR. We're thrilled to launch first-class LIV integration today. Now go do some awesome Twitch and Youtube streams!

Controller Pause Button
I play this game a lot myself, and I know how frustrating it can be if you need to pause quickly and you can't aim at that stupid little button. As of today, hitting A or B on Oculus or the pad or menu button on Vive while in play mode, will easily and immediately pause or play the game. This should have been done long ago, sorry about that, but you can thank Job Stauffer for prodding me to fix this :)

HD Videos!
Video content has been upgraded to 720p by default, compared to the SD resolution that was being shown before in-game. When VR headsets were all low resolution, it made little sense to render HD video. But now as the resolution of these headsets gets better and better, let's take advantage!

Speech Search Fixed
Due to some changes in the speech recognition APIs we were using (Watson) it had stopped working. We've upgraded to the latest and now it should be working again.

General Upgrades
  • Upgraded to use Unity 2017.4.1f1
  • Fixed duplicated network requests and message boxes
  • Updated to latest browser engine, postprocessing stack, VR libraries, Steam auth library
  • Beam to game much faster

New Website
If you haven't checked it out yet - you really should visit the new website at https://www.soundboxing.co. It makes it easy to find new challenges and beam them to the VR game, share challenges and playlists, find new players to follow, and - I think you'll be surprised how good the new WebVR demo is. You can send a challenge to a friend and if they have a WebVR-compatible browser, they can play it in VR (with interactive gloves and everything) right from their browser. Thanks to Megumi Tanaka again for her fantastic work on the redesign, after the inspired work on the logo last year.

What's next
I have to apologize for the long amount of time between updates. There are some good reasons but it doesn't matter - the important thing to know is that I'm still committed to improving this game. Check out all the work done on rebuilding the website and the WebVR demo, the smaller but numerous fixes to the full game, and trust that there are some larger Soundboxing efforts going on in the background that are taking longer than I'd hoped.

Soundboxing will continue to improve for quite a long time - I see it as a decade-long endeavor. For now join me in-game, check out some challenges, and enjoy the ride!
Soundboxing - ericflo
Quick update today based on feedback from last week's patch. Here's what's new:

  • Always return back to where you were in a list! This has been a major point of feedback, and the game is better for it - thanks for speaking up!
  • Fixed bug where explosions would not show up in replay mode.
  • Fixed issue with images quickly switching between two backgrounds.
  • Upgraded to latest Oculus libraries.
  • Potential crash fix.

Thanks for playing!
Soundboxing - ericflo
In the past month or so, we've been focused on one thing: overall game polish. This meant lots of playtesting, lots of bug squashing and performance improvements, and in the end - a major rewrite of most of the game code.

Here's what we're most excited about:

A fantastic new logo!
Thanks to Megumi Tanaka for her inspired work on our new logo, meant to look both like an approaching orb or like one of the robot's eyes.



New Menus
There's no guesswork with the new menu system. You'll always find what you need, in a consistent place and with a unified panel interface.




Infinite scroll
If you were worried about your content being lost forever, you can rest easy. Now everything is available forever - just keep scrolling and Soundboxing will fetch more content from the network, on every list.




Network code rewrite
It wasn't just the menu system that got an upgrade this patch. The entire networking system was rewritten and made more efficient - so downloads and uploads happen faster, and importantly, bandwidth used is reduced by an order of magnitude. Better still, now you can continue to play the game more freely while things are down- or uploading.



Bug squashing and performance tuning
An inordinate amount of effort has gone into playtesting, fixing a lot of little bugs that cropped up, and performance issues that had crept up in recent patches. If you find more annoyances or bugs, please let us know - we continue to squash them with high priority!

Wrapping up
Overall, not much of the game has changed, but a lot of the code has changed. Now that the foundation of the game has been improved so dramatically, look forward to some rapid feature development.

Speaking of which, who wants playlists? 😉
Soundboxing - ericflo
Let's cut to the chase: Soundboxing graphics used to suck. People have been having a blast, and over time the polish has improved, but this update today is the first to include a big noticeable graphics upgrade. I think you're going to like it!

Four brand new, high quality environments, with real lighting! Until today, Soundboxing was using flat shading, which was simple and fast but it did not look impressive. With this update, Soundboxing takes advantage of Unity's modern global illumination graphics pipeline to render in much higher quality.

Also hopefully fixed in this patch is the dreaded "Player Loading" bug which has plagued some users on startup. There may be another cause for that message besides what has been fixed this patch, so if it continues to be an issue, please let me know.







Soundboxing - ericflo
Excited to announce a new update - this time with good stuff both for Vive and Oculus players!
  • Adjustable orb height
  • Oculus Rift+Touch native support
  • Leaderboards that show more than just the top 10!
  • Bugs fixed
Adjustable orb height
If someone makes a challenge and isn't the same height as you, it's frustrating to reach some of the orbs. Ditto if the ceiling is low or the tracking area is narrow. No more! Now you can move and scale to choose where the orbs will hit.


Oculus Rift+Touch native support
You asked, and I'm here with good news: Oculus native support! For anyone who's had problems with the OpenVR-based Rift+Touch support, give this a shot. Note that the build that is bundled with Steam still uses Steam to log you in. Simply choose the Oculus launch option when launching the game.

Improved leaderboards
Tired of only being able to see the top 10 scores? Now you can see all of them! Nothing fancy about the buttons, but now you can see your score even if you didn't beat the best.


Bugs fixed
There were numerous small bugs fixed in this update - some counts appeared wrong because they ran out of room for digits, etc.

Since the last big patch, I've been so happy to see the variety of different types of challenges people are creating! Keep on keeping it weird.

Enjoy and dance on!
Soundboxing - ericflo
Minor patch today - some people have reported performance issues since the last patch, so I spent some time improving performance across the board. There's always more room to work on performance, but I wanted to get these improvements into your hands today!

What's new this patch:
  • Orbs now render faster and use less memory
  • Lists now start loaded at the correct distance
  • The game communicates much more efficiently with the video player
  • Loading times are improved for both punches and dancers
  • Upgraded to Unity 5.6 for a variety of performance improvements
  • Usernames and avatars now update every time you play the game
Soundboxing - ericflo
We’re back with a new patch, lots of updates! But first, thank you to everyone for contributing your creativity and talent to this big party - these challenges seem to get more fun and inventive every day. Between everyone in the community, we’ve created 10,960 challenges so far, with 194,273 scores submitted on 7,709 distinct songs as of this posting - wow! And with the changes in 1.1, we hope to up the ante even more. Here’s what’s new:

Overhauled and improved record mode (with editing)
We know how frustrating it can be when you’re finishing up recording a challenge and you make one mistake. Now you can go back, make any changes you need, and get the challenge just right before you submit!


Challenge search
Now you can search within already-created challenges, so you never have to create a challenge if you don’t want to. You’ll be amazed how much is already mapped out in the system.


Hand adjustment
Everyone seems to hold their controllers differently, and everyone wants to punch differently. Instead of trying to come up with a one-size-fits-all solution, we’ve made it easy to slide and adjust how your hands are situated. Once you get it set up just right, it makes a surprising difference!


Voice search
Typing on a keyboard is a lot easier than typing in VR with motion controllers, so we wanted to make it easier. Now you have the option to just say out loud “Search [SONGNAME]” or “Search [BANDNAME]” while you’re in the search section, and Soundboxing will convert your speech to text and run the search like magic.

New Environments!
Getting bored of the same old space scene background that Soundboxing launched with? Now you have 8 space scenes to choose from! 😂 Seriously though, if people use this a lot, we can add more and even open it up to the wider community if there’s enough demand.


Handicap fix
In the past, if two orbs hit at almost the same time, we gave you a pass if you hit one with the wrong hand. Now there’s an additional condition: the orbs have to be close together as well. This will make it so that when people cross-cross their arms you actually have to mind which hand you’re hitting with.

“Start over” option
If you want to start over, you no longer have to go back and re-enter the challenge. Both in play and record mode, you can choose “START OVER” and start from the beginning.

Distinctive wall effects
Had a hard time determining where the wall is, or where you’re supposed to hit? Now there are a lot more visual cues to help out, especially in record mode.

Upgraded engine
Upgraded the game engine to Unity 5.5 and SteamVR to its latest as well.

Bug fixes
Tired of the orbs appearing right near your eyes? They shouldn’t do that any more. Remember seeing incorrect challenges listed when paging through different types of search results? That’s fixed too. Oculus users using Oculus Touch through SteamVR should notice fewer bugs scrolling through lists.

Thanks again for all the awesome, creative, inspiring challenges. For our part, we’ll continue to improve every part of this game piece by piece - so please continue to spread the word about this community! Next up on the list is finishing up native Oculus support, then a system for height/room adjustments.

Enjoy and rock on!
Soundboxing

Usually when I speak with Job Stauffer, Telltale’s head of creative communications, it’s to ask questions about the Telltale games he creatively communicates about. This time, however, I got Stauffer on the phone for a totally unrelated reason: to ask him how he lost 50 pounds by punching music.

A few weeks ago, Stauffer triumphantly tweeted, "Today I've OFFICIALLY lost over 50lbs in 5 months using VR," setting off a wave of congratulations and questions and messages from excited VR companies, surely interested in the marketing angle. The eternal struggle to get in shape, and enjoy getting in shape, had a new hope.

There is no magic solution to weight loss, however much miracle systems are sold to us. Stauffer notes that his success also included limiting his calorie intake and drinking more water, but he does credit Soundboxing—an HTC Vive game that’s also in beta for the Oculus Rift—with the majority of his accomplishment. “It genuinely saved my life,” says Stauffer.

In Soundboxing, players load up YouTube music videos, then hit colored orbs to the beat with their hands, some high and some low, so there’s full body movement. The routines—when and where to punch—are created by users and stored in an ever expanding library. I’ve played it, starting with the obvious choice of song, Eye of the Tiger, and I can confirm that it’s a genuine workout. Once I got into it, I was doing a full-body ‘dance’ that probably looked dumb as hell but moved me as well as any Jazzercise routine might have.

It’s obviously a privilege to own a VR system. The HTC Vive is $800, not including the PC you need to run VR games. At that price there can be no VR fitness revolution. But on a personal level, Stauffer’s story is inspiring. He’s healthier today than he was six months ago, when he weighed over 300 pounds and his doctor gave him a disastrous outlook. "Look, you need to get in shape or you’re gonna die," Stauffer recalls. 

Epic’s Tim Sweeney thinks that, in 20 years, your average smartphone will produce convincing virtual reality worlds. Absent some other revolution in the way we work and live, VR's unexpected fitness angle could become one of its primary purposes in the future.

I spoke to Stauffer last week about how he discovered his VR workout, the challenge of exercising when overweight, and why virtual reality worked for him. Read our chat below, which has been edited for length.

PC Gamer: What didn’t work for you about previous fitness games?

I didn t like the way I looked when I was doing workout videos.

Job Stauffer: I liken that to the idea of workout videos. I was raised by four older sisters, and I remember back in the ‘80s seeing them working out to VHS tapes of Richard Simmons Sweatin’ to the Oldies, and just seeing all the workout fads come and go. And it was always this idea that you’re going to put something on TV and you’re going to watch it and you’re going to mimic it. All you have to do is do what they do, and it’s so simple! The reality is, you’re standing in front of your TV, you’re watching someone working out, and you’re trying your best to keep up, but your brain is trying to focus on the screen, but you’re almost too aware of your body, and I was always very self-conscious. I didn’t like the way I looked when I was doing workout videos. I didn’t like the fact that no matter what I did the video kept going and I didn’t have an exact frame of reference of where to move my body, because my body is different from the bodies I’m seeing on screen. 

And that idea kind of translated to a lot of the workout games we’ve seen over the years. Wii Fit in particular was nice for breathing exercises and weighing in every other day, but I never really used it for anything beyond that, because it felt like I was kind of fighting the technology, fighting the Wiimote to get all the movements right, and feeling like everything I was doing with my body wasn’t even being registered, and feeling like some of the moves were being missed. And I’m also standing in our living room, looking at our TV, distracted by everything else going on, distracted by the self-consciousness of what I might look like as I’m doing this thing in front of a TV.

So VR helped you get over that self-consciousness?

The great thing is, when you have the visor on and you re in a space, just even the grid space where Soundboxing takes place, there's no one else around you.

Yeah, once I realized that—I mean, we’ve seen our friends and families using VR, and I think we all agree sometimes we look a little silly, but we always tell our friends, ‘Don’t worry about it. Don’t worry, of course you’re gonna look a little silly, because you’re wearing a virtual reality helmet and shooting things that aren’t there in my living room. It’s fine.’

As a VR enthusiast, kind of helping other people tear down their wall of anxiety and self-consciousness and just say, ‘No, no, no, just put it on and have fun’—I felt like I was able to do that with myself. ‘Just put on the visor, stop worrying about how silly you look, and just come to terms with the fact that it is now 2017 and you have a virtual reality system in your living room that lets you visit far off distant lands and also workout to any music video you’ve ever wanted to. It’s OK, let go of your self-consciousness.’

The great thing is, when you have the visor on and you’re in a space, just even the grid space where Soundboxing takes place, there's no one else around you. Even if there’s someone at the kitchen table next to you on the phone or eating dinner or whatever and you’re in this space, it lets you mentally separate. And just let that self-consciousness of what you look like kind of fade away.

And you can’t see your own body either in VR. There’s a self-consciousness even when you’re alone. 

I completely agree, and I’ve found that in particular with Kinect games and PlayStation Move games over the years, as I’m watching the screen you glance in the mirror in the living room and see how silly you might look, or even you might look down at your stomach and see your gut sticking out, and it’s just, ‘Aw man, this is gonna take forever, what am I doing?’ But once you’re in VR and your body mentally is kind of not—visually isn’t there, but physically it’s there. It kind of reduces the idea of exercise just to the physicality of it in your own head, at least in my own head. And it really helped me focus just on movement, and breathing, and my heart rate, and music. Having the body fade away, at the same time there was a technology that was engaging the body fully, felt like this magic combination that games and exercise have been waiting for for over 30 years.

So after losing 50 pounds-

It’s about 55 now, actually. 55 plus.

55 plus! So are you still playing Soundboxing every day?

Any day that I’m home. I actually remember I had gotten back last Thursday after like a 13 hour flight ... and I should’ve just gone to bed and taken a nap. I actually had something to do that night, but instead of taking a nap beforehand, I got home and threw on Soundboxing, because it had been a week. And I was like, ‘Aw man, I’ve got to get back to this!’ And I did it for an hour and a half. Instead of napping to get reenergized, I’m now in the mode where I need to exercise to get energy, and exercising does give you energy.

Is an hour and a half a typical length of a session? Did you start slower?

I definitely started slow. Initially when I loaded up Soundboxing it was a song, two songs, next session was like two or three. And I started to run 15 to 20 minutes, and that become 30 to 35, eventually that became 45 or an hour. And an hour is about what I typically do in a morning, before heading on into work, but if I have more time or I’m doing it later at night, I can go as long as 90 or more. It’s nice, because it starts to feel like high intensity interval training. Because you’ll put on a really fast song, and it’s like maybe three minutes 50 seconds or four minutes 15 seconds and it’s really fast paced, lots of notes to hit, lots of movements. And then you have this stoppage where, ‘OK, stop, breathe, take a drink of water, load up the next song.’ It doesn’t happen continuously for 90 minutes … Doing that repeatedly for 30 minutes, 60 minutes, an hour and a half, anything you can do, day or night, to just get your body moving, get your heart rate up and just feel better—it just, it works, and it works for me, and it continues to work. I absolutely love it.

Does sweat become a problem with a big headset on your face?

Anyone setting out to seriously work out in VR should first and foremost, before anything, make sure that they look into a VR cover replacement. The inserts that come with Oculus or Vive or anything really, they’re fabric, and they’re kind of this base fabric that you really don’t want to get a lot of sweat on. I don’t remember the name of the company, but I think it was $30 on Amazon, and it was called ‘VR Cover’ [probably this one] and it was kind of a more gym equipment-like pleatherish covering on it, that just makes it nice where you can sweat on it, it doesn’t bleed into the material. It doesn’t bleed into the visor either, there’s no condensation, no leaking, it gives you a nice seal around your eyebrows and your nose. And when you’re done you pull the thing off and obviously it’s going to be covered in sweat, just keep some Lysol wipes or antibacterial disposable wipes handy, and just wipe it down after every use just like gym equipment.

Did you make any other modifications to your setup for working out?

I bought one pound weighted gloves, so that’s an extra pound added to each hand. I’m actually looking at going up to two, maybe even more.

It’s like you’re getting into Muay Thai speed training now.

It’s a lot like—the more I was doing it, I remembered in the ‘90s, seeing all the infomercials for Tae Bo, and just seeing like, ‘OK, you’re just kind of standing and moving your arms and punching and working out to this music.’ But like, ‘I’m not really a big Billy Blanks fan, or I like my own music, and my own speed and my own pace.’ So something like that, where I’m kind of standing, kind of dancing, kind of rocking out, and it’s kind of punching—it is punching, but all that matters is, it’s moving, it’s fun, and it’s getting your heart rate up and it’s getting you to sweat. And that’s all I needed.

So now that you are where you are, 55 pounds lighter, are you adding other things to your workout, more traditional things? Do you feel like you have more freedom?

It s like, Well, I can t do that because the weight limit on the exercise bike is 260, and I m 300, wow, this sucks.

I do, and I’ll say this to anyone else in a similar position to myself, where you feel like you’re at a starting point that is so high you really can’t do a traditional workout. A lot of people forget you can’t just—’OK, well, you’re over 300 pounds and you’re gonna just start doing this.’ It’s like, ‘Well, I can’t do that because the weight limit on the exercise bike is 260, and I’m 300, wow, this sucks.’

That’s the sad truth for a lot of people who are overweight. There are things that you think someone should just be doing, but they’re so heavy they can’t even do that exercise.

That must be really discouraging. When people are telling you it’s easy, just do this, but actually-

'Actually, yeah, I’m too big to ride the exercise bike, sorry.' That is discouraging. I think when you’re in that kind of position you really kind of need to get in shape to get in shape. And that’s kind of how I feel now. Now that I’ve gotten so far with VR, I’m not only going to continue and keep doing it and probably do more of it, and push myself harder in VR, but it’s also gotten me to the place where other things I like doing, like cycling outside, and rowing in my garage, or swimming more often—it’s so much more appealing. Now that VR has gotten me addicted to exercise and energized by exercise, I’m excited about other forms of exercise I can now actually do myself, because VR has gotten me to a point where I can.

What’s your favorite song to play in Soundboxing?

...I think my favorite track that I will always be doing every morning is It's the End of the World as We Know It. That’s a good just, wake up, get your body moving, get your arms up and down and everywhere in the room.

I’ll try that one next.

Just have fun, hit the beats, don t worry if you miss a beat, just keep going. Keep sweating.

That’s my standout track. And just, when you’re in there and the visor’s on, and you have your headphones on, and you’re moving and sweating and having fun, just keep having fun. Don’t worry about what you look like, don’t worry if you’re getting it perfectly. Just have fun, hit the beats, don’t worry if you miss a beat, just keep going. Keep sweating. And I’m living proof, and I promise you, if you keep at it—and obviously yes, drink lots of water and control your calories a little, that’s also something that’s important we don’t leave out, it wasn’t just VR that did it. I stayed a little lower carb, and watched my calories to less than 2,000 a day.

So I’ll have to cut back on beer.

Yeah, luckily I managed to do that, and a lot of water, a lot of green tea. I cut out coffee, and I did less than 2,000 calories a day.

It’s good to bring this up to close out, that it’s a whole lifestyle change, there’s no one magic solution.

Yeah, this wasn’t the magic thing and this was all I did, but I will say, and aside from the water and the discipline, you know, just mental focus and staying the course, it really was primarily 90 percent Soundboxing that did it. Obviously I do a lot of walking, a lot of running around, a lot of travel, I do hike from time to time. I’d like to be doing more, but really Soundboxing on Vive—it genuinely saved my life. And people keep asking about this, and I’m happy to keep telling this story and encouraging other people to try it out.

Soundboxing - ericflo
Here's what's new in the latest update:

  • Oculus Touch support in beta
  • Loading fixes for the video player
  • Improved score replays
  • Add more information about the user and challenge
  • Lots of small bugs fixed

Oculus Touch support

Since the last patch, the game has been ported over to Oculus Touch, now in private beta. Are you interested in helping to beta test our Oculus port? Send us your Oculus username via Twitter to @SoundboxingVR or e-mail support@soundboxing.co with the subject "Oculus Beta". This is only good for about a week - if you're interested, hurry up and reach out!

Video loading fixes

Games are way more fun when they work properly. In Soundboxing, the most important thing is to be able to load and play challenges, so when the video player bugs out, it's a showstopper. In the past two weeks the video code has been fully rewritten from the ground up, this time with the aim of improving reliability. It wasn't the goal of the work, but incidentally, videos should load slightly faster now.

Improved score replay mode

If you click on a high score in the leaderboards, now it brings you to a real replay, where you can see the score and streak info as it unfolds. Also you'll be able to see the explosions as they happened. Try it out - it's a lot more fun now!

More user and challenge info cards in the game

Sometimes it can be hard to find good challenges, but the best way is to follow great users. And you find users to follow by seeing their info attached to the content you like best. Now there is more user info shown in various places, like on the new score replay mode, or in play mode!

Many small bugs fixed

After porting the game to Oculus Touch, a lot of work went into going around and fixing up the little bugs that had cropped up - many of which had nothing to do with porting the game. You should notice a bit more polish all around.

Thanks!

Thank you for all your support this year - I've had a blast building Soundboxing. I hope to be able to continue building it next year, too! If you enjoy the game, the best gift you can get me this Christmas is to tell someone about my game, or better yet - buy it for them :) Merry Christmas, and happy holidays to everyone!
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