‘Developing for Virtual Reality’ Evolve Conference Live Blog

nDreams’ Patrick O’Luanaigh is set to give a presentation at the Evolve Conference, Brighton. Entitled ‘Developing for Virtual Reality’, the talk is likely to cover a number of interesting topics including insight into the UK develop studio’s forthcoming virtual reality (VR) exclusive title, The Assembly. VRFocus is here ready to live blog the entire talk.O’Luanaigh begins by talking about his experience in the industry; 17 years across various development studios working on a number of big titles.

He talks about his introduction to VR with the first Oculus Rift development kit (aka DK1) and an early prototype of the PlayStation 4’s Project Morpheus.

The next stage was to develop a project. SkyDIEving originally came into being as part of a Gamehack and later tidied up and made publicly available.

nDreams have invested heavily in R&D; over 40 different experiments have been conducted into the effects that VR can offer and the likelihood of them causing simulator sickness.

The Bunker was a prototype design for the recently announced The Assembly, for which O’Luanaigh shows a short video demonstration.

Cites The Bunker as ‘a great learning experience’ before launching into a talk concentrating on The Assembly.

‘VR is perfect for an adventure game,’ states O’Luanaigh, talking about the reasons why they chose this genre for The Assembly.

nDreams are “currently developing five VR projects and designing for multiple headsets.”

“Presence is the feeling of actually being there.” States O’Luanaigh boldly, as he moves on to the reasons nDreams have chosen to pursue VR so wholeheartedly.

O’Luanaigh cites Alien: Isolation as a fantastic example of VR ‘presence’.

“Real presence scales emotion by 10x” suggests O’Luanaigh’s next slide.

“VR isn’t about gaming, it’s about experiencing,” states O’Luanaigh, suggesting that developers need to work on the principle that users are ‘experiencing’ their world rather than simply playing through it.

O’Luanaigh moves on to discuss the effects of the ‘uncanny valley’ in VR, suggesting that anything that ‘doesn’t quite feel right’ can be quite jarring.

Walking and running need to ‘feel real’ states O’Luanaigh, offering research on the average walking, jogging and sprinting speeds and comparing this to the Call of Duty run speed. The latter is much greater, which would not work well in VR.

He then offers the same comparison for turning, which again suggests that the turn rate of a videogame such as Call of Duty would not work well. “You need to treat your player like a real person: what would they be comfortable doing?”

O’Luanaigh then offers suggestion of a number of ‘bad things’ to do, including: cut-scenes with switching cameras, 2D GUI, keyboard controls, the game taking control of the camera and camera bob.

He also suggests that allowing players the opportunity to explore before throwing them into the action is key.

Moving on, O’Luanaigh begins discussing the ‘good things’ to do. He suggests that having a player body is not as essential as Sony and Oculus have previously stated.

Movement has to be smooth, O’Luanaigh suggests, and 3D items in the scene can be used as a natural user interface. Even 3D text would be better than a 2D GUI.

O’Luanaigh also suggests that third-person cameras can work really well, which VRFocus does agree with through experiencing many such videogames.

Lucky’s Tale is also cited as a good example of playing with a third-person camera, as it a recent student experiment in which a designer has created a third-person camera of himself.

O’Luanaigh suggests that position tracking is fantastic, reducing simulator sickness is a significant bonus, however it does come with issues.

He suggests that creating a bubble around the player (an ellipse of about 15x30cm) wherein no boundaries can be broken (wall clipping, etc.) is a clever solution to a fundamental problem that nDreams has discovered.

Moving on, O’Luanaigh states that ‘snackable’ mobile games, second screen gameplay, 2D games, puzzle videogames and fast-paced action videogames may not work well in VR.

Good for VR, O’Luanaigh suggests, are adventure videogames, realistic paced shooters, survival horror – “Horror is amazing in VR” – stealth, RPGs (suggesting The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim would be perfect for VR) and driving or flying videogames. He also states that nDreams have ‘come up with a nice idea for how strategy games could be done in VR.’

‘New categories’ will be created for VR, states O’Luanaigh, including 360 degree video, museums, tours, architecture, education and more. He also hints that nDreams are working in this field but refuses to give away any further details.

O’Luanaigh discusses simulator sickness in detail, as well as the need to deliver 1080p and 60fps. Furthermore, audio is ‘hugely important.’

O’Luanaigh says that both devices, Oculus Rift SK2 and Project Morpheus, are ‘fantastic’ hardware. He states that both devices are in different stages in development, but the PlayStation 4 is ahead currently as it has a predefined control systems.

He further states that he believes that cameras mounted upon a HMD would work better for finger-detection than VR gloves.

The Virtuix Omni is stated as “very cool”, but nDreams will be designing videogames that can be played by anybody.

For the future, O’Luanaigh suggests there will be many HMDs on the market. Wireless HMDs is key, as are smaller and lighter HMDs with better software, control and social VR experiences.

O’Luanaigh also states that ‘adult entertainment’ will come to VR, but hastens to add that none of nDreams’ projects are related to it.

He ends his talk with a look at Alien Makeout Simulator, recently released via the Oculus Share beta website.