Oliver Daids

02 Feb 2016

Loop by Stefan Wagner


Loop is a game created with Unity3D where the player interacts with the world’s code using a VR headset and Leap Motion sensor.  The code for objects displays in this 3d environment, allowing the user to grab and rearrange it.

I admire the creator’s attempt to recreate and appease the 80s-90s Hollywood view of how programming works where code is a tangible thing in cyberspace that programmers who dive in can manipulate and bend as if they were its gods.  It almost feels like a modern revisit of the idea, but with modern technology in a way that says how close we are to fulfilling that vision.  From another direction, there’s an aspect of immediacy and tangibility lacking in most programming, and it can often be discouraging.  I see Loop as an attempt to make programming all about the immediate possibility that a programming newcomer might unrealistically expect.  The focus on the nature theme helps here both in that it emphasizes the god theme and in that nature is a very good subject for exploring visual feedback during programming because of how easily a wide range of convincingly-natural to imaginatively-unnatural objects can be algorithmically generated.
For obvious technical reasons, Loop is limited in what the user can actually do.  It is essentially a modern depiction of an old concept rather than fulfillment of the concept itself.  What’s interesting, however, is that after seeing it in action, I think the text-based style of programming it uses is totally unsuitable for the kind of physical manipulation the Leap Motion control system invites.  In a system that tries to rely on tangibility, it’s weird to make the central object of manipulation something that is not rooted in anything inherently physical.  There are plenty of other styles of programming better suited to a visual, hand-based environment that the creator could have relied on.  There’s a huge body of research on visual and interactive programming that is open for application here.