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Racing to Kickstart VR: Tammeka Dev Diary #2

One week into the Kickstarter campaign for Radial-G we’re here with developer Tammeka to talk about their progress thus far. Rolling straight into this second instalment of their on-going development diary here at VRFocus, Tammeka are pumped for the next phase of their Kickstarter journey thanks to a successful outing at the Develop Conference 2014, and new bridges being built with Sony Computer Entertainment.

This second edition of the Tammeka development diary, delivered below verbatim from the studio’s very own Sam Watts, talks about the public playtesting of Radial-G and the single-player demo that the team has released. More importantly though, it reveals the lessons learned in doing so. VRFocus will keep you updated with all the latest details on Radial-G and other developments at Tammeka.

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Sam Watts, Tammeka Games:  Developing the single-player demo

Through our research into Kickstarter, that I covered in the previous dev blog, we knew we had to provide some tangible evidence that we have the ability to see our proposed plans through development to release, and to help build confidence in the Radial-G game and campaign.

Therefore we started developing the single player demo to give gamers a chance to try out the game and see the level of quality we wanted to achieve as a minimum, as well as build excitement and interest in the title and Kickstarter campaign.

We are a small team with little budget and tight timescales, so in order to release the game to an audience keen to get their hands on polished VR experiences, we had to move quickly and efficiently to build the demo in time for our launch.

We’ve been holding gameplay sessions at a few events and so far have had over 1,000 people try out the single player Radial-G demo and provide invaluable feedback so we can tweak and hone the experience. Gathering feedback is difficult with Oculus Rift titles since for most people, it is their first experience of the hardware so you have to be able to distinguish between the wow factor of VR and genuine feedback on the game itself.

One thing we quickly realised is that, as a single player experience, it’s great racing around the track, improving your lap time and chaining more boosts together to go faster and faster, but ultimately you’re only ever trying to beat yourself. Therefore we developed the web-based global leaderboard feature for the single player demo to give players that immediate feedback in-game to their performance and provide encouragement to keep going and better their lap times. We saw an immediate increase in competitiveness and players were soon trying hard to best themselves and improve their ranking. We wanted to be able to add a ghost feature so that you were racing against the top 10 fastest lap times but ran out of time and budget for development. It’s definitely a feature we will be adding to the main game though once we remember who owns the patent, Atari or SEGA.

The other aspect that we realised during gameplay testing was that not everyone was keen on VR (!?), nor had the necessary hardware to experience it. So we implemented the “2D NOculus Mode” in order to widen the audience and allow more gamers to be able to try and play the demo. This also helped widen the potential audience since it meant that the game demo would run on lower specified PCs, meaning that we could widen the target audience even further still. However our primary aim for the game is for it to operate at a rock solid 60 frames per second, which we have successfully achieved across a variety of hardware, based upon our initial tests. This does cause us some headaches however as capturing high quality 1080p/60fps video takes up a lot of room and takes effort to manipulate plus YouTube hasn’t rolled out full 60fps video support yet.

Now that the demo is released, we are working on updates for it to add support for Mac, Linux and Oculus Rift DK2 headsets, as these should begin to start arriving in the laps of pre-orderers this month. We had to move ahead with DK2 support to make sure everyone had a great game to try out with the new hardware and solve some issues we were having with the Mac client.

In the next blog post, I’ll look at the specifics of designing and developing the game for Oculus Rift & VR from the ground-up, to ensure we make the most compelling, immersive and yet playable game possible!