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Sony’s ‘Putting Lipstick on the Venus de Milo’ Live Blog

Sony Computer Entertainment Europe’s David Ranyard, London Studios Director, will shortly be giving a keynote presentation at Evolve, Brighton. Specifically addressing Project Morpheus and it’s development ethos, the talk will be live blogged right here at VRFocus.The talk is set to begin at 4pm and VRFocus‘ live blog will be presented below.

The keynote is about to begin. Presented by David Ranyard of SCEE, the talk will be introduced by Will Freeman, an experienced freelance who has written for Intent Media as editor of Develop Magazine and numerous other widely respected publications.

Ranyard and Freeman have taken to the stage.

The question posed is ‘Is VR a Disruptive Technology?’.

Technical difficulties prevent a cued video from being played and instead Freeman kicks off by asking Ranyard about London Studios’ involvement in Project Morpheus.

The Getaway, Singstar, EyeToy Play, Wonderbook: all cited as stepping stones towards the development of Project Morpheus.

“When we saw Project Morpheus we were really excited,” states Ranyard.

He suggests that the jump to VR is similar to the jump from 2D to 3D; new cameras, new control systems etc.

Ranyard states that London Studio is keen to have Project Morpheus as a social experience, having experimented largely with multiplayer design.

Ranyard suggests that the push for VR is a technical initiative for videogames comparable to the change in the movie industry when speech was added.

“It is very different; when you play a normal videogame you’re looking through a window onto a world… whereas now you put on Morpheus and you’re right in the middle of it.” States Ranyard. “We’ve got to design games in a different way for Morpheus and VR.”

Freeman next asks about the type of studio that has the advantages for VR development; AAA or indie?

Ranyard suggests that a AAA studio may have huge investments in franchises that can take a long time to change, whereas smaller studios may be more agile.

Freeman suggests there might be a transitional period from traditional videogames to VR, to which Ranyard responds with acknowledgement that the pace of the technology is not yet known but that he is confident VR is ‘here to stay’.

Ranyard namedrops Bossa Studios and Surgeon Simulator, as well as another demo about objects moving in a room when the lights go out.

“The thing about VR is you get an actual genuine emotional reaction,” states Ranyard. “Because it’s you in VR… it’s an absolute physical experience.”

After the earlier technical hiccup, the video plays showing Ranyard’s mother experiencing The Deep for the first time.

“It’s a genuine emotional response from her,” States Ranyard about his mother.

The Deep is billed as ‘experiential’ while Street Luge is more ‘gamey’.

Asked about what is the biggest change for the consumer, Ranyard states that it’s simply immersion. “It’s a fundamental gear change of how much you’re going to get into the experience.”

“It’s not just about playing a game,” states Ranyard. “You could do things you just wouldn’t be able to do in real life.”

Ranyard suggests that VR might level the playing field in a similar fashion to the boom period for mobile videogame development. Then further compared to punk music; allowing anyone to pick up a guitar.

“It’s not about porting existing experiences,” states Ranyard when questioned about the lessons that have been learnt for ‘respectful’ VR development. “It’s about finding out what works and what doesn’t work… It’s like starting again.”

Ranyard suggests that using assets from existing videogames may not be a perfect transition.

Freeman suggests that there was a lot of resistance to sound coming to movies and asks Ranyard if he’s felt this. Ranyard coyly states that there has been some unexpected pressure, but that wave will pass as things evolve.

“I think it will be around to stay,” states Ranyard, keen to enthuse that screens aren’t going anywhere. “The other things haven’t disappeared. It’s just kind of changed.”

“VR will become a significant way of consuming content.” Concludes Ranyard.

The next question revolves around what is need to push VR into the mainstream, with which Ranyard replies ‘quality’ without hesitation.

The talk now gets opened to questions from the floor, with the first question addressing the expected sales within the first year. Ranyard refuses to answer.

The next question addresses the need for a still avatar within the virtual world. Ranyard says this isn’t necessarily the case.

How long can players use Project Morpheus comfortably? Ranyard states that there haven’t conducted any research, but his development team do not have any real issues.

Mike Bithell is next to ask a question; asks about the ability to sell to a mainstream audience. Ranyard offers the example of his mum as someone who’s excited for VR, but suggests that the route to market is still being researched.

Freeman then asks Ranyard about control systems, for which The Deep is used as an example of playing with a DualShock 4, Street Luge is Project Morpheus only, The Castle Demo uses PlayStation Move, and finally there’s companion apps played on a touch screen.

Ranyard reveals that a haunted house demo was also created to make the most out of the companion apps. One player could scare the other player, though no further details were revealed.

The final question revolves around educating young developers, for which Ranyard states that they have an intern currently that has developed an Oculus Rift prototype as his final degree project.

Freeman brings the talk to a close.