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Racing to Kickstart VR: Tammeka Dev Diary #3

It’s been a bit of a rollercoaster ride for Tammeka Games of late. A public demo helped make consumers aware of their upcoming Radial-G videogame, the launch of a Kickstarter campaign attracted audiences with the promise of a multi-format release and a public outing at Develop Brighton resulted in an agreement with Sony Computer Entertainment Europe (SCEE) to deliver a Project Morpheus development kit to the studio. What more could a small independent studio ask for?

Of course, this success hasn’t happened overnight. It’s been a long, slow burn for Tammeka Games to get to this point and, in truth, a large amount of the commendation has to be levelled at the fact that they have developed a prototype of a videogame that is perfect for virtual reality (VR). Radial-G is designed first-and-foremost to be experienced in VR, and this week’s development diary, courtesy of Tammeka Games’ Sam Watts, explains just how the team accomplished this.

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Sam Watts, Tammeka Games: VR Design

We designed Radial-G from the start to be a VR game, supporting Oculus Rift (& hopefully Sony Morpheus too in the future) since nothing appealed to us more than a futuristic, arcade racer that was fully immersive. We’ve grown up on F-Zero, wipeout, Quantum Redshift, Extreme-G and other futuristic racers and really felt that VR was the only viable next direction for these games; leading edge technology married to sci-fi makes perfect sense!

However, through our experience of creating serious simulators and working with military-grade VR, we’ve seen the issues arise around simulator sickness when content is not designed first-and-foremost for VR. Like films shot in 2D and converted to 3D for release, the effect is always less convincing than films shot in 3D and directed to take full advantage.

With a high-speed, fast-paced arcade racer, we had to therefore take specific consideration into the design to ensure that we provided a worthwhile, fun and immersive experience without making players immediately reach for a sickbag.

The main aspects of design we factored into the design to reduce can be detailed as below:

  • Place the player in a sitting position so they are stable and steady as possible to begin with.
  • Place the player in the cockpit, to position them in a situation they would expect to be in.
  • Use futuristic, non-real-world environment to help the brain determine the difference between the game and real world.
  • The pipe track asset provided a natural, stable element within the game world players could focus on.
  • Limited rapid changes in acceleration; despite the inclusion of speed boosts and slow-down gates, the overall difference in the sensation of speed experienced by the player wasn’t huge.
  • Being in a ship attached to a pipe meant there was a natural limit to player [camera] movement within the game world.
  • Carry out extensive playtest sessions with as many different types of user as possible to measure responses, ability, ease-of-use and any sensations of sickness brought on through play.

So far there have been a couple of other factors in reducing simulator sickness that we haven’t been able to cover, which are detailed below. But out of nearly 1,000, we only witnessed a handful of players showing any signs of ill-effects as a result of playing. However, for the full release, we will be able to include these features within the setup and configuration options since each gamer will have their own PC and Oculus Rift headset, and time to do so.

  • Allow configuration for each individual user IPD, lenses
  • Ambient temperature of the play space
  • Varying age & health status of the player, since it was a public event

The last couple of points will have to covered in the EULA or health and safety information that everyone skips past and agrees to without reading but it will be there!

But we’re looking beyond Oculus Rift VR, something I will cover in the next blog post; Other Platforms and discuss where else we see the game being available to play.