If you’ve been reading VRFocus this week then you’ll now that Russian developer Gaijin Entertainment is very excited about the future of virtual reality (VR) technology. The studio is already supporting the Oculus Rift head-mounted display (HMD) with its popular World War 2-era online combat title, War Thunder, and plans to integrate both Project Morpheus and the HTC Vive later down the line.
But War Thunder is just one of Gaijin Entertainment’s current projects, and the company has plans for VR across other titles and beyond. Here, VRFocus presents the full transcript from its interview with CEO Anton Yudintsev from Gamescom 2015 last month. He talks about the those business applications that sound so exciting, as well as providing his input on input and other areas of the VR industry.
VRFocus: Where are we at with War Thunder in VR?
Anton Yudintsev (AY): Well, currently War Thunder works for both main VR systems, Oculus and Project Morpheus for PC and PS4. So we haven’t tried HTC Vive yet. The thing is, HTC Vive is a very cool device but not really gamer friendly. I mean that it requires a lot of space. So, personally, I like it, it’s very cool, you can walk with it but it’s not required for War Thunder to walk. So we cannot use all the advantages of the HTC Vive because the main advantage is that you have that space to walk. It’s not required for War Thunder; you’re sitting in a chair as the pilot and controlling the aircraft. I think, because of that, of course we will support it as a virtual reality device eventually, but unfortunately we can’t explore its advantages so instead we’ve focused on Oculus and Project Morpheus.
VRFocus: How has the experience developing for VR been? Because War Thunder didn’t start out as a VR videogame…
AY: Yeah, the thing that—out of all current games genres on the market, vehicle simulation is the only one which is suitable for VR as is. I mean, racing is vehicle simulation, aircraft is vehicle simulation, all simulation where you’re sitting in something and looking around is not the same thing as controlling your character. Like shooting; a shooter is when you’re looking around, rotating your character, right? Moving around your character and your aim. Vehicle-based simulation games, you can look around and still be moving in the same direction.
So there’s those games, I’ve even played a game where you’re on a luge. That was awesome. So things like that are ready as is for virtual reality. So although War Thunder wasn’t started as virtual reality game from the very beginning we were supporting a head-tracking system which is called TrackIR and we were support stereo 3D for a long time so it was very natural and very easy to make VR support.
Of course, VR support and good VR support is a big difference, mainly because of UIs, not the core gameplay itself but the UIs, because they need to be aligned around you. But to make really good VR support you need to have a final VR device you’re working on. Both companies have just started finalising their hardware. So we just got the latest dev kit, Crescent Bay and for Project Morpheus, so right now we’re finalising for those devices. We couldn’t before because they weren’t quite the final devices. Right now we have the final dev kit for Morpheus and we’re starting finalising UIs for virtual reality for War Thunder. So we plan on being there for launch of both devices.
VRFocus: You said you got Crescent Bay recently, how’s developing for that been? Have you seen a big jump with the kit?
AY: Yeah, I saw Crescent Bay a few months ago at GDC but we just got it and by ‘just’ I mean really right now. So we haven’t started developing for it yet. We’re going to start in the next few days but right now we haven’t started. But the quality of the Crescent Bay between previous dev kits is much, much better. The persistency of pixels is much better, that’s the main thing. There’s also other things, latency is also a core one, but the most important jump is the persistency of pixels. It’s not a very noticeable thing, you’d find it a bit blurry when you look around but that’s one of the worst part of virtual reality experiences in general because you’re making yourself nauseous. In this one that has been much removed.
The frequency is also very good. I wouldn’t say it’s—it has to be improved but it’s very good already. The thing is that, with virtual reality, we’re trying to make a huge leap here. I mean it’s not just new hardware. If you’re not doing it good enough, it’s not working. So right now all of those are good enough for a lot of people to have that virtual reality experience. On the other hand, some people are more vulnerable to side effects. Some people are less, but it’s not for all of them but for a lot of them we can make a virtual reality experience. That’s a very significant leap. It’s almost a little bit above the needed threshold, it’s not very high but it’s already above. You can get fun experience playing in virtual reality. And by fun I mean more fun than if you’re not doing that. At least some people can. I can.
So that’s a very significant leap. I hope this will change the world forever because as soon as you have the hardware, you start making software. And I’m not talking about War Thunder only. But we will see new genres of games appear and we will see new types of software geared for virtual reality. Initially it will be like a toy, not a real software revolution, for example. But, sooner or later, there will be some utility apps and software, some creativity software. It’s already starting to appear but it’s yet to be proven useful. But we’ll see it eventually and that means people will buy that generation of virtual reality.
And as soon as we get twice bigger framerates and twice bigger resolutions and twice bigger persistency and improved tracking, both positional and rotational, we’ll be able to replace – well let’s say we get four times the resolution, we’ll be able to replace real monitors and real TVs in your living room with a virtual one. And that’s really, really a huge change. That means that for a single person – and most hardcore gamers play alone – for a single person there won’t be need to play anywhere else other than virtual reality because as a worst case scenario you can just put a TV in front of you and play on a virtual TV instead of a real TV.
The other area unexplored but very promising approach is Microsoft’s HoloLens. What they do is twist reality with augmented reality. Which means that resolution can be lower compared to virtual reality – the same goes for persistency – and still give you a lot of useful things. Like you can actually visualise things.
We made some tests in Oculus with that. It’s really, really promising. Unfortunately we don’t know anything about the final specs or when it will be on the market, there’s really nothing. It’s another approach but really promising as well. All-in-all I think the world is changing in that area and it’s going to be the biggest change in the gaming and in, well, everything basically. Bigger than, I don’t know, smartphone production, this will be next.
And it will also be a good time for hardware manufacturers because you need to get better resolution, better framerates and at the same time me and you need more horsepower out of our GPUs and CPUs. So it’s going to be a good time for them. And that’s really great because, in the last couple of years, there hasn’t been big changes in CPU computing power because there was no reason for it. Right now it’s going to be a good change for hardware manufacturers but not a very good change for our wallets because the customers will have to buy them, or at least we’ll have reason to.
If you remember 10 years ago, a 2 year old computer was an old computer. It wasn’t suitable for gaming. Right now a 2 year old computer is as good as a new computer. So it’s good for customers right now, but not good for manufacturers, not good for revolution, for progress. So, new times.
VRFocus: We talk about how this will change the world and change everything, but what part does Gaijin play in that?
AY: Well not even as a company but, personally, I am a big fan of VR. The world is changing so fast they we are facing a lot of challenges which were not an issue 10 years ago. There’s so many traffic jams. There’s so many—Skype, Whatsapp, everything. It’s not only messenger but also a platform and it’s not good enough. It cannot replace the real communication with people. And even real communication with people sucks. You cannot put all of your family in one room, you need to arrange meetings all the time, even if they are in different rooms. So real communication is not good enough but messengers are even worse than that communication. Some would say it’s better because they can instantly approach someone but you cannot replace the real communication.
So the same goes for the need to travel and traffic jams and we wake up in the morning and we need to go to work by car or by train. It’s not particularly reasonable for IT developers. It doesn’t make much sense to go to the office. The only reason is to communicate with people and, again, that means that there’s a potential of huge change in the productivity. Not even in gaming productivity. And the same goes to what you’re actually doing on your real work. The amount of information you can fit on one screen is limited to that screen. Even with a high resolution screen it’s do with the physical size of that screen.
And even with that, even though we’re not very good with 3D information but we are not back with 2D communication. Let’s say lots of people have other work. You can have a few monitors because they know is for that information is for that monitor and that information is for that monitor. Which means you could have 360 degree monitors all around because it’s perfect for virtual reality.
We’re not very good, we are, humankind, we’re not very good at 3D thinking. We think in 2D. So a surgeon drawing on something on a whiteboard is not as good as looking at a 3D illustration. And the only way you can really do a good 3D illustration is to have virtual reality as showing something 3D on a 2D monitor is almost the same as showing a 2D illustration. It can be even worse. So virtual reality, again not the current generation of virtual reality but sooner or later, can improve productivity and creativity a lot. I also can be very fun as well.
And that, again, is a big change. We in Gaijin explore these opportunities. We have made some productivity apps for VR but not published or released them. There’s no virtual reality device that can handle them, basically, so we cannot release them. Some of our devices look like a Kinect attached to your head with an Oculus Rift and a laptop on your backpack. It’s not plausible, it’s a prototype just to make some experiences. So I cannot say what we are going to do exactly except for just for some of our games because it will depend on will be on the market in terms of devices and what software will be on the market. Because we’re not planning to do the most amazing productivity app, that will be developed by someone else but we will do some and we already made some because we need it. We need those virtual reality things and, ideally, mixed reality things at the moment, in the current generation of devices to really work nowadays.
So I cannot tell you our exact plans because there are a lot of things going on and maybe none of them will be on the market ever and maybe all of them will be. I cannot tell because it’s a really early stage. What I hope people, even if not in Gaijin, some people will make enough things out of even current generation of virtual reality and mixed reality devices.
VRFocus: Do you see the company ever making a VR dedicated game or starting a new project—
AY: We are making one. We in Gaijin are making a VR dedicated game. We are making it, it’s not announced yet.
VRFocus: What about Crossout? Are there plans for any VR there?
AY: At the moment it’s hard to say. There are things in Crossout – you build your own vehicle – and it’s actually easier to do in VR because, again, we don’t do very well at 3D thinking, we just see with our own eyes. At the same time, there’s a lot of small things, numbers and when you create your car you want it not only to be looking great but also efficient. So we’ll make experiments on that, but the actual answer will depend on the resolution and the persistency of the device and we just got dev kits so the answer is unfortunately not yet clear. We need a high resolution to basically read the text and numbers and, at the same time, of course virtual reality helps to build creative things.
VRFocus: We’ve talked a lot about the technology inside a headset but where do you stand on input and control?
AY: There’s nothing good here. Well, HTC Vive gives you an option. Project Morpheus gives you an option with Move controllers. The Oculus guys have their own solution for that. Everyone understands that a typical gamepad is not good now for virtual reality. At the same time with War Thunder, it’s good enough because it represents the actual vehicle simulation we all like. So right now we’re not using anything except for regular flight sticks and gamepad. Of course, when we’re talking about Crossout that’s obviously one of the issues so HTC Vives or a couple of Moves could be good enough for that.
But for creativity apps it’s not good enough. Let’s say you create virtual reality with a world of Skype boxes and browsers. A good keyboard should be somewhere and either you should see it in virtual reality, which is not right now possible because the resolution’s not good enough, even if you locate it correctly in a virtual space. Some people can type blindly but most of them don’t. A virtual keyboard doesn’t give you feedback, which is important. There’s no good answer at the moment. It’s going to be something new. I think someday we’ll see something like integrated directly into your brain or whatever. That would be fun. I would be the first one to do that. But right now, it’s gotta be something.
Touch screens once were not good enough for typing because there was no feedback. Right now people are typing more on touch screens than keyboards. So maybe it’s going to be solved somehow. We’re going to see. It’s not that easy to predict but I think that’s one of the next challenges in virtual reality, maybe the biggest challenge. Because increasing the resolution and improving the persistency and latency and everything else is engineering task. It’s always very hard and very challenging if you want to keep a low price but it’s something that’s manageable already with the current state of technology you can increase resolution you can decrease latency and you can achieve greater framerates. It’s possible although they’re expensive but that means that someone will sooner or later do it.
Input is going to be fundamental. Maybe mixed reality would be one of the answers because you can see real world stuff, you can see a keyboard that’s just a keyboard. But it’s yet undefined. The answer to that problem is not yet defined.
VRFocus: Can tanks use VR in War Thunder now?
AY: Well they do support it but it’s not good, because you are looking from a third-person view. Frankly speaking, you cannot enhance the experience a lot. You cannot have that experience with the tank because in real life when you’re in a tank you don’t see anything at all. There’s only a small window and you cannot look around. When you look around, you see your comrades in the tank. It’s not helpful. So when you’re on a plane virtual reality gives you a better experience because you can look around, you can control where you go, and at the same time you can control the aiming position.
When you try to do this in a tank it’s not bad but it’s not enhancing the experience. It can be fun but it’s not better gameplay, it’s just more fun. We’re going to tune things and polish things on that side as well. Frankly speaking, players will not be performing better. It’s complete different. You’ll be having fun but you won’t be playing better than other players in a tank.
VRFocus: What about the risks of mixing VR players with standard players online? Is there a concern that VR players are at any kind of advantage?
AY: Well that’s good that there’s an advantage. I’m a big fan of VR so I’m not seeing anything wrong with—well, frankly speaking, if you have a better internet connection, if you have a better PC, if you have a better monitor with a higher resolution and a better GPU you also have an advantage. So it’s the same kind of advantage. There is nothing unfair in it.
VR is, for me, providing a better gameplay experience, which is a good thing.
VRFocus: Can you explain the history of Project Morpheus support?
AY: We’ve been involved from the very beginning. When the first press saw Project Morpheus it wasn’t on-stage but inside their booth, maybe not the first time but the second time. I don’t know when. Plainly speaking, both manufacturers like us as developers but they don’t like to show our work on the support very much as because virtual reality can be unpleasant experience and when you’re in a plane, even in a real plane, regardless of the quality of virtual reality, it can be unpleasant because we are taking you into that space. Again, there’s nothing wrong with that. We want to try and attract as many people as possible but they don’t want to alienate anyway. Because of that they don’t want to start showing off their hardware with something that can be nauseous, even if you’re playing on a TV without virtual reality. Because you’re having good enough immersion you can actually be a little uncomfortable even on a TV. We’re always showing it in our booth and Oculus guys and Sony guys help us and provide us with the keys to show our game but on their own booth they try to show something more slow. Because it’s a new thing.