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12 Days of VR Gaming: Day 11 – Ether One

As VRFocus‘ feature series, ’12 Days of VR Gaming’, approaches it’s finale we begin to look at some home grown talent from right here in the UK. Today, it’s the turn of White Paper Games and their critically acclaimed Ether One, available for PC now and also confirmed for release on PlayStation 4.

The original release version of Ether One offered support for the Oculus Rift head-mounted display (HMD) from day one, though with some minor hiccups in it’s implementation that were soon resolved. White Paper Games are currently updating the videogame with Unreal Engine 4 and have promised a re-release with improved virtual reality (VR) support and a PlayStation 4 release which could potentially include a Project Morpheus component.

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“I’m honestly surprised at the great reception Ether One received for its VR support. It was around a year into the development of Ether [One] that Oculus launched their Kickstarter so VR definitely wasn’t planned from the outset. When we received the Oculus development kit we plugged it in and within 15 minutes we were walking around inside of our game,” states Pete Bottomley, co-founder of White Paper Games. “It was a little rough around the edges and in some cases, caused people a bit of nausea but overall the VR was really well integrated out of the box both from the Unreal Engine team at Epic & Oculus. We released Ether One on the UDK version of the Unreal Engine. Epic & Oculus had clearly worked very hard to make sure the implementation of VR was a smooth (and idiot proof) process. Because they had already laid the groundwork for us, it allowed us to focus most of our effort on the experience of VR in Ether and when you have hundred other things going on, having things just work helps massively. I definitely don’t think the VR in Ether One would have been as good without their support.”

Obviously enthusiastic about VR, Bottomley continues to explain the ease at which White Paper Games went about adding Oculus Rift support to the already existing gameplay model of Ether One:

“Since there were no major gameplay elements that would conflict with VR in Ether One, it was more the small tweaks that had to be considered. Things such as head bob and projecting the cross-hair into the world, instead of having it on the screen, had to be adjusted. I don’t think we did a perfect job on release though and having hundreds of people give you feedback on the VR implementation makes you realise that there is still a lot more we can do.

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“I think the hand painted art style of Ether One was a large part of the success in VR especially with the initial Oculus development kit which had a lower quality display than the more recent HMD’s. It meant that Ether [One] didn’t suffer as much from a drop in resolution because the hand painted art style almost filled in the missing pixels – that may just be me, but I definitely felt that it had a huge impact on the immersion. I feel that you don’t notice the drop in resolution as much with a hand painted art style. Ether One also allows you to move throughout the environment at your own pace. Not forcing the player to rush through an environment allows people to experience the game at their own pace which I think is really important. Although VR works with most game genres, I personally think (and possibly from a biased perspective) the best VR experiences are from a first person point of view which definitely helped in the case of Ether [One].”

A videogame released to a community eager to experience VR and a passionate response to their audience’s feedback already under the belt, White Paper Games are now looking to the future. Ether One‘s continuing development plans play a big part in this, but VR itself is a boat about to set sail and Bottomley clearly wants to be aboard.

“The most exciting thing for me is that year by year, VR is continually improving and I think we’re at a tipping point where VR is going to become much more accessible in mainstream gaming and it’s pretty cool to be making games that can have an extra level of immersion,” offers Bottomley. “It’s like experiencing the game for the first time in VR and it also makes it really refreshing from a development point of view. Although Ether One got reviewed well for it’s VR implementation on VRFocus, I definitely think we can do a better job with the VR implementation and hopefully with the re-release of Ether One, in Unreal Engine 4 on PC & PS4 with support for the newer HMD’s, we will be able to do that.”

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Ether One is available to purchase via Steam now, with native Oculus Rift support as standard. Future releases from White Paper Games are expected in 2015 and VRFocus will of course keep you updated with all the latest details.