PAX Prime 2015 Liveblog: Exploring New Worlds in VR

PAX Prime is well underway with the VRFocus team in attendance. We’ll be looking to bring you news, previews and interviews from the convention floor as well as anything to do with virtual or augmented reality related topics. As such yesterday evening the team attended a panel at the event on the subject of Exploring New Worlds in VR which looked at the ways VR can be used creatively and discussed what difficulties the medium also presents.

Moderated by Mark Deloura, current Senior Advisor for Digital Media for the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. The panel featured David Adams of Gunfire Games (Chronos on Oculus Rift), James Green of Carbon Games (AirMechVR on Oculus Rift) and Keith Hladik of High Voltage Software (Damaged Core on Oculus Rift). Unforutnately we weren’t able to bring you it live at the time owing to on-location connection issues, however here is our liveblog of the panel in its entirety.

The panel was attended for VRFocus by Editor Kevin Joyce.

  • Mark Deloura introduces the panel by asking the audiences who has played current-generation VR and encouraging them to introduce others to it.
  • Running through the industry’s recent past, Deloura talks about Virtuality and Dactyl Nightmare amongst others.
  • Deloura now introduces the panel, James Green, Co-Founder at Carbon Games, David Adams, President of Gunfire Games and Keith Hladik, Producer, High Voltage Software.
  • Deloura hands the panel to Adams to introduce himself, who discusses his work at Vigil Games on the Darksiders franchise and at Crytek USA, before running a trailer for Chronos, Gunfire Games’ Oculus Rift exclusive title.
  • Green now takes his turn, stating that he started in VR back in college before working at Epic Games on Unreal Tournament and Ubisoft for Splinter Cell, and eventually founding Titan Studios and Carbon Games, creating Fat Princess and Air Mech.
  • Green shows gameplay footage of Air Mech VR, stating that he ‘really doesn’t know how to show VR, other than in VR.’
  • Hladik is next to introduce himself, running straight into Damaged Core, High Voltage Software’s first-person shooter (FPS) built for VR. He too offers a trailer.
  • Deloura proposes the first question, which asks what inpsired each developer to begin developing in VR. Hladik states that the sense of presence drew him in.
  • Green says he was convinced many years ago with the original IO Glasses, but that hardware wasn’t ready. “There was no way to jump start the industry at the time.”
  • Hladik and Green move in to debating the challenges of developing for VR, such as avoiding inducing simulator sickness.
  • Adams states that evoking emotion in VR drew him in, having jumped from a horror experience and suffered from vertigo in VR. “These are things that you’ve never done in regular gaming but do automatically in VR.”
  • Moving on, Deloura addresses the different styles/genres of each of the three panellists’
  • Hladikstates that ‘the biggest challenge for a first-person shooter in VR is making someone feel comfortable playing’.
  • Stating that he played Half-Life 2 on the DK2 until the point of getting sick, and is now desperate to avoid this.
  • Adams states that the consumer version of the Oculus Rift is essentially the original Game Boy, which compared to the New Nintendo 3DS is a whole world of difference.
  • Green says that he feels he’s ‘cheating’ making AirMech VR, as it’s ‘kind of the game I’d want to make anyway’.
  • Deloura questions Green on what needed to be changed adjusting AirMech for VR. Green states that AirMech was always designed to be played on a controller opposed to mouse and keyboard, so it’s much more straightforward. “It ended up working better than we thought.”
  • Deloura asks about Oculus Touch, to which Green states he loves it, but Carbon Games are not developing for it currently.
  • Adams states that he has not used Oculus Touch, but has ‘heard it’s amazing’.
  • Green asks the rest of the panel about simulator sickness, suggesting that it might be easier to address the issue from a personal perspective rather than trying to find a solution in software.
  • Adams states that he believes the technology will take us past that point in time.
  • Green recommends that the audience now waits for consumer hardware, opposed to purchasing a DK2 on eBay and downloading an experimental demo.
  • The conversation moves on to other uses for VR aside from videogames, to which Green suggests that these properties will still be made using the same tools, such as Unreal Engine 4.
  • Deloura moves on to ask what is each panellists favourite VR movie. Lawnmower ManExistenz and Johnny Mnemoic are thrown around, all of which are dismissed as not particularly good.
  • The next question asks about what each panellist is looking forward to, to which Adams suggests high fantasy experiences and virtual tourism are appealing, once definitive presence is achieved.
  • “You can revisit anything that’s been done before,” states Green, suggesting that older videogame properties – or even toys – can be brought to life in new ways with VR.”It gives you something that games couldn’t have before.”
  • The panel now moves onto questions, of which the first is the process of adapting from traditional videogame development to VR. Green states that he doesn’t ‘see a radical shift… you’re still trying to design fun.’
  • The next question addresses the realism of VR worlds and whether there’s any potential to introduce dangerous implications, such as PTSD with VR. The panel universally agrees that it’s theoretically possible, but that there’s more promise for solving these problems than fear of bad intentions.
  • The next question asks about HoloLens, for which Green states ‘I see it completely different’. Adding that he wouldn’t want to play videogames on it, and that it’s much further out than VR. Adams agrees, stating that it’s just as cool but has different applications.
  • Another question asks about the cost for entry,to which Adams states he doesn’t know what it’s going to cost, but that he believes Oculus VR are doing their best ‘to make it affordable’.
  • Discussing the artist tricks mentioned earlier, Green suggests there aren’t workarounds as the attendee asks, but just adding more polygons makes things generally feel better in VR.
  • The next question asksabout multiplayer in VR, to which Adams states ‘it’s amazing… it’s actually one of the coolest parts of it.’
  • “The Oculus Rift has a microphone built right into it,” states Green, relating the question to the Oculus Touch and Toybox demonstration Oculus VR have at the show.
  • The next question comes from a VR developer working on Gear VR, asking about what types of new genres the panel are excited to see in VR. Adams states he loves simulators and that he wants multiplayer to come soon. He also reveals that Gunfire Games wanted multiplayer in Herobound: Spirit Champions on Gear VR, but that they “Chickened out, because we didn’t have a lot of time to make it.”
  • Green states that he wants Ubisoft and Electronic Arts to start making VR videogames with big budgets.
  • Hladik suggests that survival horror would be interesting. He wants to be scared in VR, he states.
  • Delourastates that there’ll be two more questions, the first of which is from a developer working with the HTC Vive. He asks about player movement and how it would differ between motion-controls and control pads. Green states he doesn’t see any difference between the two, but many titles with HTC Vive don’t make you move anyway.
  • “If I had to call right now, the Oculus Touch stuff is better,” states Green.
  • According to a consumer, at the HTC Vive demo area it was confirmed today that the controller is being redesigned in time for the launch of the device. VRFocus will of course look into this immediately.
  • The final question addresses the playspace for VR, to which Adams suggests that most people will play VR in the same space they’d play PC videogames. Hladik suggests that the tethered nature of VR restricts movement a lot.
  • Greenstates roomscale is limiting, but that Oculus Touch can essentially offer a similar experience. “You could do roomscale… it’s obviously just a question or marketing,” states Green. “You can do both experiences with both systems.”
  • That wraps up the panel.