In the last post, I covered the creation of the monarch butterfly avatar that players will embody in this VR game/simulation. In this post, I’ll be discussing the development of our avatar’s flight capabilities, using the Nvidia PhysX engine in Unity. As a starting point, it’s important to first understand the basics of how real monarchs — and other butterflies — actually fly.

Butterfly Flight Mechanics, a very brief and simplified primer

Slow-motion monarch butterfly in flight

Prior to researching this topic, my intuitive sense of how monarchs fly was simple: it’s all about the downstroke. That is, the lift (upward force) and propulsive thrust (forward force) that keep…

Part I: The Body

Butterfly player avatar mockup

This month’s NatureSims post is focused on the creation of the monarch butterfly player avatar, or the butterfly body players will occupy when they enter the game. This will be a fairly high-level overview of this process, so don’t expect lots of code snippets or details about various Unity settings. (That said, if you have specific questions about any of these things, feel free to ask!)

The traditional way to handle this sort of thing would be to do it in the third person, like having a camera floating over the body of the monarch butterfly…

With Frogworld, the first public NatureSims™ VR prototype, now available on Oculus and Steam, I am turning back to the project that first inspired me to start along this path. The primary goals of NatureSims™ have always been to allow players to experience the world as other animals do through gamified, first-person VR simulations, and to build empathy for these animals and greater understanding of the issues they face through those experiences. All in the hope that this will inspire players to be more thoughtful caretakers of our shared planet.

As an educator and lover of nature, I see this…

At long last Frogworld is available for early release on Steam. As the first NatureSims™ volume, Frogworld represents the beginning of what I hope will be a long series dedicated to bringing users closer to nature by experiencing the lives of some of our most intriguing animal cousins in an immersive, first-person format that is only possible through virtual reality (VR).

In its current state (v. 0.8.9), Frogworld, presents players with a fully playable game featuring three levels, each filled with unique obstacles and natural predators. The game takes around 45–60 minutes to complete.

You can get a sense of…


Indie XR studio. Home of NatureSims, a series of first-person nature simulations designed for VR.

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