Gamasutra's Kris Ligman speaks with seven leading developers who are making games for the Oculus Rift VR goggles, as part of our Advanced Input/Output Week.
With the Oculus Rift serving as the forerunner in a new wave of interest in virtual reality technologies for games, Gamasutra sought out several developers who had managed to get their hands on a development kit -- and ask how their projects are coming along.
Julian Kantor (Groov), Lau Korsgaard (Spin the Bottle: Bumpie's Party), Robert Yang (Radiator) and E McNeill (Bombball) were among a select few chosen to exhibit their works from Oculus's VR Jam at IndieCade this October. Sigurdur Gunnarsson is currently at work building EVE: Valkyrie, an extension of CCP's EVE Online specifically designed for VR. Finally, Andre Maguire is creative director of Zombie Studios, currently working on the Rift-compatible Daylight.
Below, we asked these seven developers how they settled upon their concept, what they learned, and how they dealt with some of VR's biggest known issues.
Julian Kantor (Elevator Music): As the start of the jam was approaching, I didn't have too clear of a concept. Since I first heard about the Oculus Rift, watching videos of John Carmack from E3 2012 talking about how near and how awesome consumer VR would be, my mind had been racing with different ideas I could make into a VR game.
I got the opportunity to use a lot of those ideas in a game called The Recital, which I put together for E3 this past year at the Indiecade booth. I had four weeks to make that game (one more than I had during the VR jam!) and it was an awesome experience to get to make something and show it at E3, but I was sort of tapped out when it came to VR game ideas in the lead-up to the jam.
The Recital was a game about waking up from a dream, something I thought worked really well within the context of using the Oculus Rift. When you take off the Rift after being completely immersed inside of a virtual world, you almost feel as though you are waking up from some crazy dream.
[So] Elevator Music started with me riffing off of that idea, and turning into a more literal "virtual reality within a virtual reality" conceit. From there, I started developing Omnihedral Incorporated, the company whose mysterious and surreal corporate headquarters serves as the setting for the game.
Robert Yang (Nostrum): I started by working on a lion simulator where you eat misogynists, but then I watched Porco Rosso and realized that movie is actually very much about looking -- and many current flight simulators in development right now have complex controls, complex flight models, and closed cockpits. So one week in, I stashed my lion simulator away, and changed to that idea.
Robert Yang's Nostrum
Lau Korsgaard (Virtual Internet Hacker): Our goal from the beginning was to make something that looks as badass as we all imagined virtual reality in the 90s. We were less interested in mechanics and immersion and more interested in the social context around the play situation. How does the player look and feel? We really wanted to procedurally generate the levels based on the actual HTML code of the website you are hacking, but time constrains simply made that impossible. What we ended up with is much better: We grab a screenshot from the website you are trying to hack and project that onto the material of a predesigned level. This makes it much more obvious that they are hacking a real site instead of using obscure HTML no one can recognize.
E McNeill (Ciess): When I pick a project, I usually try to find a sweet spot between "what I want to do" and "what I'm capable of doing". It was immediately clear that a cyberspace hacking game was perfect, since it would allow a lot of design flexibility and it would let me de-emphasize the 3D art, which isn't my strength.
I didn't do any significant prototyping of other game concepts. That said, I had lots of ideas of what I wanted to experience in VR. Luckily, so did other developers, and in many cases they're already making the games that I want to play. For example, I wanted to make a game about skydiving in a wingsuit, and there's already Volo Airsport, The Wingsuit Madness, and AaaaaAAaaaAAAaaAAAAaAAAAA!!! for the Awesome available. The dev community is doing a lot of public prototyping, and we're all learning from each other about what works and what doesn't.
Sigurdur Gunnarsson (EVE: Valkyrie): At first we just wanted to make a game for VR since we were very excited about the Oculus Rift. Once we had gathered a small group of people, we started discussing ideas and this one quickly became the most favored one - especially since it was a subject close to our hearts (spaceships) and used the EVE universe. Having it based in the EVE universe also allowed us to reuse assets from EVE Online, giving us shortcuts in development time.