Develop Conference 2015: Allow Them to Believe With Katie Goode (Liveblog)

VRFocus is down on the south soast of England for the annual Develop conference, held in it’s traditional setting of Brighton. Throughout the next two days we’ll be covering a number of virtual reality (VR) talks and panels with our liveblogs.

The first panel features Katie Goode of Triangular Pixels, the studio currently working on Smash Hit Plunder for the Gear VR smartphone-based head-mounted display (HMD) and Double Destruction which was entered into the recent Oculus Mobile VR Jam 2015.

  • Goode begins by explaining the process she’s gone through to get to this point, suggesting that most of Triangular Pixels’ projects thus far have been ‘more like game jam games’.
  • Goode suggests that titles that are intended for VR should be made for VR from that start, especially with the Samsung Gear VR.
  • Taking into consideration aspects such as limited power and battery life are important, but also the wireless nature and built-in input device are advantages.
  • The PC versions of HMDs have a different set of advantages and disadvantages, such as positional tracking, built-in audio and additional power, yet it’s wired and has a different range of controllers.
  • The Vive, Goode suggests, is a different prospect altogether: “Are you going to be targeting RoomScale? Not everyone as a 15′ space.”
  • “You want to think about the limitations of the device, but actually use them as part of your gameplay.”
  • The Hatton Garden Heist was Triangular Pixels Vive Game Jam title, Goode reveals, produced at the event in London this past weekend.
  • The Core Pillars of VR development, according to Goode, are Agency, Progression, Comfort, Tactile, Reward and Empowerment.
  • Goode suggests that constant interaction with the environment makes for a rewarding VR experience.
  • Moving on to simulator sickness, Goode highlights many of the issues that have been discussed over the last 2 years: acceleration, screen freezing, rapid visual changes etc.
  • Goode discusses movement, both snap turns and forward movement without acceleration, suggesting that there are multiple design opportunities; for example darkening the room while still highlighting the path moved and teleported the player in increments.
  • Stabilisation cubes, Goode explains, are real-world properties that in-game move with the player as opposed to the world. For example, the sun will always remain relative to the player.
  • Goode reveals a menu system that has been integrated into Smash Hit Plunder that asks the comfort level of the player before and after the tutorial.
  • Tiny effects have a great influence on the player’s immersion, Goode suggests, such as footprints and kicking up dust when moving.
  • For aiding immersion, Goode suggests that getting the scale right and making sure your geometry is bug-free is important. Furthermore, creating world rules early on is important, but sticking to them throughout is more so. For example, dropping a glass that doesn’t smash upon impact can break immersion.
  • Goode suggests that instead of having geometry that the player can clip though, ‘warping’ walls and objects when the player gets close is far less immersion breaking. For example, if the player approaches a wall set a minimum distance and then maintain the visual of the wall on that distance until the player moves away again.
  • Discussing UI, Goode explains that having a time limit on the wall seemed like a good idea at first however the player isn’t always looking at the wall. They then moved the time limit to a watch, which did work, but more information was needed. Finally, the team moved on to a magical book which is carried around at all times.
  • Moving on to the social aspect of VR, Goode suggests that even a single-player experience needs a ‘social outlet’. Something as simple as the Companion Cube from Portal could work as this, however consistent, believable AI is obviously better.
  • Multiplayer is of course going to be the big player for VR, but there are many ways to do this: VR to VR, accomplice applications (such as Project Morpheus’ Social Screen) and VR to traditional system.
  • Playtesting is important, states Goode: “You have to make sure you listen to the player.”
  • The session now moves to Q&A, the first of which asking about cameras in VR, such as a real-time strategy style camera.
  • Goode refers to a Bossa VR Meetup, in which she once saw an experience that offered two view points: one in which you were positioned as a god when standing, but bending down zoomed you in and made you a part of the world.
  • The next question addresses the option to switch between first- and third-person. Goode suggests a title for Gear VR which actually does this, and states that for her it’s confusing as she’s not sure who she’s supposed to be in the experience.
  • Questions come to an end and Goode thanks everyone for listening.

VRFocus will continue to bring you news and details from everything VR related at this year’s Develop Conference.