Google’s Daydream platform launched earlier this month, beginning with Google’s own range of Pixel smartphones and the Daydream View head-mounted display (HMD). One of the first titles available on the mobile virtual reality (VR) format was Bithell Games’ EarthShape, for which the company’s founder Mike Bithell recently offered his time to discuss the videogame, the format and the general rules of VR development.
Below is the full question and answer session with Mike Bithell, as he discusses the decisions behind the design of EarthShape and the development process. Furthermore, Bithell is open about his view of the Daydream brand’s potential and the pitfalls that lie ahead for VR. VRFocus will keep you updated with all the latest VR works from Bithell Games, but in the meantime enjoy this interesting discussion.
VRFocus: EarthShape has debuted at the launch of Daydream. What made you decide to develop a Daydream exclusive title?
Mike Bithell [MB]: I was super excited to work on a user friendly and incredibly accessible VR device. From conversations with Google I could tell that they were very much headed in a direction of inclusiveness. This is the VR headset you can wear on a plane, the one you’re going to take home for Christmas, I wanted to make something for that.
VRFocus: Aside from the typical VR constraints – simulation sickness, high framerate demands etc. – what problems did you have to overcome in the development of EarthShape?
MB: Creating for mobile takes some consideration and planning. Maintaining performance is the highest priority and that meant top to bottom considerations around gameplay and art budgeting. Also, devising a game that would make sense to mobile players and offer a fun challenge to more hardcore early adopters was a big job.
VRFocus: How has your experience with EarthShape influenced future VR development?
MB: I think it’s taught me the value in interface design, making the game feel great was even more important than the visuals, and we learned a lot of lessons about what was and wasn’t going to work with the Daydream controller (which is great).
VRFocus: The mobile VR audience is arguably wider than the traditional videogame audience. Did you take this into account when developing EarthShape?
MB: Absolutely. We had to assume that not only could this game be someone’s first VR experience, but maybe even their first game. There’s a responsibility there to be a great ambassador, and to help set the stage for the games that come next.
VRFocus: What is your expectation for the market this early on? Both for Daydream View and the Daydream brand as a whole?
MB: I think it’s going to do great, it’s super accessible and hopefully folks will see it as a bargain addition to their new phone. We’re not expecting it to launch as massively as a new console, but we do feel that it’s going to grow rapidly as more phones come out, and people replace their old contracts… this is a long tail situation.
VRFocus: Volume: Coda, an expansion to Volume, is also designed for VR. You’re set to offer Volume: Coda for free to Volume owners while EarthShape is priced at £4.79, which could be considered high for a mobile title. Pricing of VR software has seen a lot of rapid changes of late; where do you think the market will land?
MB: I would say that pricing is incredibly platform and situation dependent. Coda was DLC for an existing game, and we love free DLC! EarthShape being standalone meant that it was starting at a new price… I’m also not sure mobile VR pricing will be the same as mobile pricing more generally, we’re far from the highest priced on the platform… but we’ll see how things go and price accordingly.
VRFocus: Are we likely to see more VR titles from Bithell Games in the future?
MB: You never know!