Following the official reveal of Microsoft’s head-mounted display (HMD) this week, VRFocus has approached numerous videogame and virtual reality (VR) development studios to discuss the new technology with them. We’ve already heard from the likes of IRIS VR, nDreams and Opposable Games, but now we find developers with increasing different reactions.
Studios such as CCP Games, Vertigo Games and Agharta Studio have already declared their commitment to VR, but the HoloLens provides an entirely different experience. Will existing VR videogames be able to make the jump to the device? According to UK studio Tammeka Games, it’s entirely possible.
“From what I know, it’s an exciting tech that we’d love to explore, since we’ve registered as ID@Xbox devs already,” states Sam Watts, Producer of Radial-G at Tammeka Games. “Not just games, very interested in the serious applications for it too. Pretty sure we could integrate some fun unique features for Radial-G though.”
Bossa Studios, the first studio to launch a full monetised consumer videogame for the Oculus Rift, Surgeon Simulator, appears to be in agreement. Imre Jele, co-founder of the UK studio, suggests that VR developers are right to be enticed by the technology.
“The short version is that the Microsoft HoloLens is super exciting and we can’t wait to show the world the cool ideas we have for it,” states Jele. “I know we’ll spend the next months comparing the detailed technical specifications of the various VR kits already available and yet to be announced. And I’m sure that the HoloLens will have both strength and flaws, as all modern visualisation systems do. However there’s one important area where Microsoft seems to have made the right choice: the form factor. This is an area often forgotten in VR debates, even though it’s one of the most defining aspects of long term VR use, and for me personally the most annoying side of all VR kits I’ve tried so far – that they are uncomfortable to wear.”
Jele continues to discuss the types of videogame experiences that HoloLens may, in time, be able to offer:
“Being able to see through the eye of my warrior as I line up for a massive battle of fantasy armies, being able to zigzag around enemy spacecrafts as I fly my space-fighter… and all the other experiences you can imagine become insanely immersive when you put on a VR helmet. But then they promptly break because my face is sweating under the helmet. In that area this new Microsoft HoloLens seems to be miles ahead of the competition. At the end of the day, the hardware however is only one side of the story. A comfortable shape and great technical specs have to be matched by integration to modern gaming engines, efficient developer support from Microsoft and workable content discovery for the users.”
There are of course some studios which treat the reveal with a degree of trepidation. Agharta Studio have become famous within the VR circle for not being afraid to reveal their early prototypes and learn from their mistakes. When it comes to HoloLens however, the studio may not be so eager to make their ideas public, unwaveringly cautious about the reveal despite it’s easily recognisable advantages.
“Between Hololens and Magic Leap, one can understand why Google Glasses were pulled back. Augmented Reality seems to be a growing trend aside of VR, will it compete on the same applications?” states Jean-Edouard Fages of Agharta Studio. “I always thought VR’s background full opacity would hold too much of a stigma, making people feel too isolated to be widely accepted, adaptive opacity seems like a very good solution to that problem. I’d like to know the real computing capacity these devices have, tracking environment and movement is usually very heavy, add some complex rendering to the mix and you get something I that can be awesome if done well.”
As all VR developers might well suggest, Agharta Studio are still interested in developing for the hardware. However, beginning to head down that road may be some time away yet.
“We would be interested to develop games for it as it potentially holds the same possibilities as VR, if not more, we still need to see precisely what it can do,” staes Fages. “I [would] really be interested in designing enhanced social experiences using this technology, such as games you play in groups in real life with some visual elements added, Augmented sports for example. A Capture the flag with generated arenas you could play outside in the park with your friends. It definitely opens a whole new level for social interactions.”
CCP Games’ Sigurður Gunnarsson, aka ‘Siggi’, is widely known for being the technology buff at the studio behind the VR poster child, EVE Valkyrie. Undoubtedly keen to take advantage of the unique features of the HoloLens, Siggi openly shares his enthusiasm yet remains realistic about the issues the device may suffer from.
“Very exciting! This is the stuff of dreams, but I‘m sceptical of the technology being good enough,” states Siggi. “Microsoft seems to have something new with regards to opaque display overlay, but there are so many other factors the device needs to excel at. The tracking and latency needs to be excellent and it sounds like the FOV is quite limited. But it‘s great to see more big companies enter the VR/AR space, it will only help accelerate the industry as a whole.”
Though the varied opinions of developers on the design, technology and the opportunities for videogame development are interesting, few were keen to openly discuss the potential end user. Vertigo Games’ Richard Stitselaar, Creative Director for World of Diving, is very enthusiastic about this aspect of the device.
“This is what VR will be in the future for the masses if you ask me. Listening to Mark Zuckerberg talk about the VR future he describes VR in this direction, I guess more VR companies will head in this direction in the future as well,” states Stitselaar. “My first impression is that it will be more suited for applications than full scale 3D games. combining real world with a game world could be very cool though.”
Stitselaar continues to remark on potential future applications for HoloLens, including within a hobby that is clearly very dear to him: “Just a ‘future’ thought: How cool would it be to include this tech in diving glasses? Get info on underwater fauna while diving – nice bridge between the World of Diving and real world diving.”
A final thought comes from the ever-excitable Olivier JT, currently developing Synthesis Universe for the Oculus Rift. Olivier has spoken openly about his enthusiasm for new technology on many occasions and HoloLens appears to be no different. However, Olivier is already thinking about the potential implications for his existing work.
“I am very excited, as you know a little I have created a civilization and this could be the bridge to it,” comments Olivier. “ Synthesis Universe is a musical universe and I have a concert hall, a multiplayer shared experience, and being able to have holographic notification of what is happening in there while working is very exiting. The video of the person building a motorbike and having a holographic views could change the way I work.”
Olivier continues to express his enthusiasm for VR, and the lines between this and AR that HoloLens promises to blur. “This is something I could definitely work with on a daily basis. I work in VR, live and eat VR 15h a day… I could totally see myself replacing my phone by that to keep a live connection with my Universe. I look forward to be at GDC and hope a demo of it. As you know I have been waiting for input control for over a year now and I am so excited, I am so ready for this!”
It’s undoubtedly interesting to hear what the development community has to say with regards to new hardware, and with a device as potentially disruptive as HoloLens it’s important to recognise the difference between developer excitement and potential products. Many studios may be keen to hop on board the HoloLens bandwagon but how many will eventually release products to the consumer audience? VRFocus will of course keep you updated with future developments.