Videogame livestreaming is pretty popular. Many publishers and developers have a somewhat ambivalent relationship towards the streaming community, despite the popularity and Twitch, live broadcasts of events such as Awesome Games Done Quick and e-sports. Sony, however, seems to be embracing livestreaming for virtual reality (VR) with upcoming new features.
At the Game Development Conference (GDC) last month, Richard Forster, Senior Team Lead at Sony’s Research & Development West group announced a range of features that could see implementation into the sharing features of the PlayStation VR.
PlayStation VR users can already capture screenshots, record video or livestream gameplay using the functions available from the SHARE button. The footage thus captured is from the ‘social screen’ – which equates to the slightly cut down first-person view that is usually shown on the TV during play. This can cause problems if the tracking is slightly off, or the player is looking in the wrong direction during an important moment, as viewers can miss things.
Forster indicated that the new features that his department were experimenting with were not yet planned for implementation into the PlayStation VR, but he did say that Sony are actively searching for better ways for players to share their PlayStation VR experience with others. If for no other reason than it makes for great advertising for the product.
Several possibilities for new tools were presented. The first was called ‘Easy Access Broadcasting’ which was described as being similar to what is currently possible via the SHARE button but with the view modified for a better sharing experience. Forester suggested that the view could be re-rendered for proper fullscreen output, instead of the cropped version currently available; or a steadicam mode, which would remove the ‘shakycam’ effect that viewers can get when players move their heads quickly, creating a more comfortable viewing experience.
Another idea was to have another person present who would have command of a Dual Shock controller who could act as the director of the livestream. This second user could use the controller to adjust the camera view, or make other changes in real-time.
Even more sophisticated ideas are already being explored at R&D West. The team there created an Air Hockey VR Demo to use for experimenting with third-person camera views. The team even worked with giving the player avatar a kind of artificial life, such as fake eye movements, blinking or object tracking.
Mixed Reality compositing has also been worked with, with the player seeming to appear within the game world. Forster said that with sufficient processing power, it was even possible to apply masking and compositing to make it appear that the player was moving within the game world, making them appear to go behind trees, for example.
It was noted that this level of complexity would require a great deal of power and system resources, for which Forster suggested those functions could be outsources to a second PlayStation 4 Pro, which would be dedicated towards output for real-time broadcasting. Obviously the cost of this means it would be an approach best left to professional broadcasters or VR centres, though some streamers might consider it a justifiable expense.
Sony haven’t yet confirmed which, if any, of these new features might make it to the public, but it seems like the company intends to keep backing livestreaming. Now, if they’d just update the PlayStation Move, the future would look quite rosy for the PlayStation VR.