When using either the Oculus Rift or Project Morpheus virtual reality (VR) head-mounted displays (HMD) a mirror image of what the user is seeing is displayed on a connected monitor or TV display. It’s a handy feature that helps others get a sense of what the player is experiencing and, in the case of Project Morpheus, opens up some new multiplayer opportunities. But when it comes to Samsung’s Gear VR smartphone-based HMD, there isn’t any secondary screen to connect to show these images. Smash Hit Plunder developer Triangular Pixels has its own solution to this issue.
The developer has recently revealed a new initiative that it calls the Map Screen, which serves as a companion screen for others to look at while someone is playing Smash Hit Plunder on Gear VR. An image of the system in use can be seen below. Using the Unity Engine’s built-in networking, the developer connects a Windows build of the title with its own scenes and menus to Gear VR using a local wifi access point that doesn’t detract from the gameplay itself. The Windows build then communicates with Gear VR to list information such as the player’s menu, score, remaining time and other events on a monitor that others can see.
Crucially, the Windows build also receives updates on the player’s position and orientation. Using this information the build loads the same map that the player is on, and simulates their movements using a proxy character. The developer reasons that the software doesn’t sync all moving objects in the experience so as not to give either build to much information to sync, thus not effecting the gameplay. Triangular Pixels hopes to add further information such as the battery charge in the Galaxy Note 4 smartphone being used with Gear VR as well as heatmaps and even player streaming.
The developer hasn’t yet decided if this is a feature it will include with the consumer launch of Smash Hit Plunder, though does note that it has been helpful at events such as GameCity, where it can get a sense of where players are in the title while trying to guide them. The developer strongly recommends that others working with Gear VR build their own version of this system. It’s certainly an innovative solution to an issue that many hadn’t considered.
As for Smash Hit Plunder itself, the title is a first-person in which players explore a dungeon, trying to destroy virtually everything in sight to gain treasure. It is in development for both the Oculus Rift and, of course, Gear VR. Triangular Pixels hopes to have a demo ready for the latter’s launch in the UK. Just when Gear VR will arrive outside of the US is unknown, as Samsung recently announced a US-only launch in December 2014. VRFocus will continue to follow both Smash Hit Plunder and Gear VR, reporting back with any further updates.