Building a Basic VR Theme

Getting Started

We are going to build a basic VR Theme which you can use with your IdeaSpaceVR installation. As an example we use the Starter Theme. You can download the theme here.

This theme shows some text which is animated and the text is managed by IdeaSpaceVR. For the theme development you can use a local IdeaSpaceVR installation (on your PC, using MAMP) and a text editor. Download the latest IdeaSpaceVR release here.

After installing IdeaSpaceVR, extract and copy the Starter Theme files into your /themes directory. It should look like that: /themes/starter-theme.

Directory Structure of the Starter Theme

  • starter-theme/config.php

    This is the central configuration file for your theme. It contains all meta information about the theme (name, description, etc.) as well as the definition of the content types and field types. These determine the composition of the content. For example a content type called "blog post" would consist of - let's say two fields: a title and a text field. The fields would have the type textfield and textarea respectively.

  • starter-theme/css/style.css

    The CSS file contains styles for the 2D elements of a VR Theme: for example an introduction box explaining how to navigate the theme in virtual reality.

  • starter-theme/functions.php

    This file contains all event listeners for your theme: for example an event listener can be set up in order to generate a preview image with lower resolution. To keep things simple there are no event listeners for the Starter Theme.

  • starter-theme/js/aframe.min.js

    The A-Frame JavaScript library for WebVR. In general you are free to use any WebVR JavaScript library, for example: React VR.

  • starter-theme/js/aframe-layout-component.min.js

    An A-Frame JavaScript layout component for extending the base A-Frame library. This component is used for positioning the text messages in the Starter Theme.

  • starter-theme/screenshot.png

    This image is a screenshot taken from the theme. It is shown along with the theme description when installing a theme.

  • starter-theme/views/index.blade.php

    This is the main view template file. It loads all JavaScript WebVR libraries. IdeaSpaceVR uses Laravel's Blade templates.

  • starter-theme/views/scene.blade.php

    This is the scene template file. It contains all theme-specific JavaScript WebVR code as well as Blade template code.

  • starter-theme/views/assets.blade.php

    This is the assets template file. Load assets like images, videos, etc. which are referenced in your scene template file. The Starter Theme does not load any assets.

Theme Configuration (config.php)

    return [

      '#theme-name' => 'Starter Theme',
      '#theme-key' => 'starter-theme',
      '#theme-version' => '1.0',
      '#ideaspace-version' => '>=1.0.0',
      '#theme-description' => 'Getting Started with VR Theme development.',
      '#theme-author-name' => 'IdeaSpaceVR',
      '#theme-author-email' => '[email protected]',
      '#theme-homepage' => 'https://www.ideaspacevr.org/themes',
      '#theme-keywords' => 'starter theme, simple',
      '#theme-view' => 'scene',

      '#content-types' => [

        'messages' => [
          '#label' => 'Messages',
          '#description' => 'Write some messages and view them in VR.',
          '#max-values' => 'infinite',
          '#fields' => [

            'message-text' => [
              '#label' => 'Message',
              '#description' => 'Enter some text.',
              '#help' => '',
              '#type' => 'textfield',
              '#maxlength' => 200,
              '#contentformat' => 'text',
              '#required' => true,
            ],

          ], /* fields */

        ], /* messages */

      ], /* content types */

    ];

The config.php file consists of two parts:

  • General information about the theme (name, description, etc.)

    Most of these parameters should be self-explanatory. IMPORTANT: the #theme-key must not contain spaces or any special characters! For separation of words simply use -, for example starter-theme. Additionally give your theme a version number (#theme-version) as well as specify the minimum IdeaSpaceVR version which your theme needs to run on (#ideaspace-version).

  • Content type configuration

    This part of the file defines which content the user can enter, upload or configure when a new space is created or edited.

    IdeaSpaceVR - Building Basic VR Theme

    The Edit Space page shows a Message area with an Add Message button as well as a list with existing messages. This area is a content type as defined in the config.php file. The following Add Message screenshot shows two text fields. The first text field is a default text field and defined by IdeaSpaceVR. The second Message text field is defined in the config.php file.

    IdeaSpaceVR - Building Basic VR Theme

    The theme configuration file (config.php) can define one or many content types. And each content type can define one or many fields. Each field is described by a #type and other parameters. Take a look at Content Types and Field Types which lists all available fields and types.

    Looking at our Starter Theme, the content type messages has #label, #description, #max-values (set to infinite: we want to allow an infinite number of messages) and #fields.

    The content type messages defines just one field called message-text. This field has #label, #description, #help, #type, #maxlength, #contentformat and #required (which is set to true, so this field is mandatory to fill out before saving the message).

    To summarize we can say that the config.php file and its content type definitions are the backend part of a theme which stores content in the database. The next step is to get the content from the database into a virtual reality scene. And that's where Views Templates come into play.

View Templates

All view template files are located in the views directory. There are three files: index.blade.php, scene.blade.php and assets.blade.php. If you are more comfortable with Blade templates, you are free to organize your view template files as you wish. IdeaSpaceVR does not impose any restriction to template file organization. Larger VR Theme projects may find it convenient to split up different parts of the theme into different view template files.


index.blade.php

The main view template is index.blade.php. It loads all JavaScript WebVR libraries and it includes a section by using @yield('scene'). @yield is a Blade template engine directive which includes a section called scene. The section is defined in the template file scene.blade.php.

<!DOCTYPE html>
<html>
<head>
<title>@yield('title')</title>

<link rel="shortcut icon" type="image/png" href="{{ url('favicon.ico') }}"/>

<meta name="viewport" content="width=device-width, initial-scale=1, user-scalable=no">
<!-- Fullscreen Landscape on iOS -->
<meta name="apple-mobile-web-app-capable" content="yes">

<meta name="abstract" content="@yield('title')" />
<meta name="description" content="@yield('title')" />
<meta name="keywords" content="" />
<meta name="copyright" content="" />
<meta name="robots" content="follow, index" />

<meta http-equiv="origin-trial" data-feature="WebVR" data-expires="04/11/17" content="{{ $origin_trial_token }}">

<meta property="og:site_name" content="@yield('title')" />
<meta property="og:image:secure_url" content="{{ url($theme_dir . '/screenshot.png') }}"/>
<meta property="og:image" content="{{ url($theme_dir . '/screenshot.png') }}" />
<meta property="og:description" content="@yield('title')" />
<meta property="og:title" content="@yield('title')" />
<meta property="og:type" content="website" />
<meta property="og:url" content="{{ \Request::url() }}" />

<link rel="stylesheet" href="{{ url($theme_dir . '/css/style.css') }}">
<script src="{{ url($theme_dir . '/js/aframe.min.js') }}"></script>
<script src="{{ url($theme_dir . '/js/aframe-layout-component.min.js') }}"></script>
</head>
<body>

@yield('scene')

</body>
</html>


scene.blade.php

The scene.blade.php file contains the Blade template directives @extends and @section. @extends('theme::index') defines that it is extending the index view template. The HTML code between @section('scene') and @endsection contains the WebVR A-Frame code which renders the virtual reality scene.

@include('theme::assets') includes assets for A-Frame which are defined in a file called assets.blade.php. In our Starter Theme we do not use assets like images, videos or 3D models, therefore we can ignore this directive.

As you can see, we are looping through the $content['messages'] PHP array. messages is the name of our content type as defined in the config.php file.

IMPORTANT: any content type name defined in config.php is available as a PHP array in the theme variable $content within the view templates.

If you already entered some text messages in IdeaSpaceVR, you can loop through the PHP array $content['messages'] by using the Blade @foreach and @endforeach directives.

The text content can be retrieved by using this statement: {{ $message['message-text']['#value'] }}. The curly brackets are just a Blade template directive similar to <?php ?>.

By looping through the PHP array, we generate an a-text entity and assign the text value to the value parameter of the entity. How A-Frame works is not part of this guide. A-Frame offers an excellent documentation online.

@extends('theme::index')

  @section('title', $space_title)

  @section('scene')

  <a-scene>

    @include('theme::assets')

    <a-entity layout="type: line; margin: 1.4" position="-2.4 -1 0" rotation="-60 0 90">

    @foreach ($content['messages'] as $message)

        <a-text position="0 0 0" rotation="0 0 -90" color="#ffd536" value="{{ $message['message-text']['#value'] }}"></a-text>

    @endforeach

    <a-animation attribute="position" to="-2.4 50 -100" dur="700000" easing="linear">
    </a-animation>

    </a-entity>

    <a-sky color="#000000"></a-sky>

  </a-scene>

@endsection

These are the basic concepts of building a VR Theme. Preview the Starter Theme in fullscreen here.

Debugging

If you worked on your theme and you would like to install it in your IdeaSpaceVR installation, but it does not appear in the list of themes, you have most likely a wrong configuration parameter in your config.php file.

In order to locate the issue, go to your IdeaSpaceVR web root directory and open the log file /storage/logs/laravel.log. You will find useful information in the file which helps you debugging your config.php file.