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Oculus counting on indies for virtual reality success

Oculus counting on indies for virtual reality success Exclusive

October 11, 2012 | By Kris Graft

The promise of the Oculus Rift is a new generation of high fidelity virtual reality -- full-on digital immersion that places players in the worlds created by game developers.

Key leaders at major studios like id Software, Epic Games, and Valve have expressed a high level interest in the headset, even though it's still only a prototype. But for Brendan Iribe, CEO of Oculus, it's indie developers who will be key to the initial success of the promising device.

"Both us and big, key people who we've been talking to -- big, key, triple-A developers -- have said 'indies are going to be largely your secret to success.' Indies are going to be a big part of the beginning of this, and certainly the whole process, but especially the beginning.

"That's because right now, from a triple-A developer you're going to get ports. They're not making made-for-VR content today because there's no market. Can you convince a publisher or a big developer that needs to pay 100 people to make a VR game for a non-existent VR market? That's pretty hard. So you'll just get triple-A games ported over."

He said triple-A developers will be able to do a good job of creating game modes that support Oculus, but you're unlikely to see a "holy grail" VR-tailored experience with a port. Right now, Oculus is demoing the prototype with id Software's Doom 3.

Oculus had a blockbuster Kickstarter campaign earlier this year, overshooting its $250,000 goal and hitting over $2.4 million. The first version of the Oculus SDK is slated to go out in December.

Game Developer magazine editor Patrick Miller sporting the Oculus prototype

Out of the box, Oculus will support Epic Games' Unreal Engine 3 and UDK, which can give the company an advantage if it's trying to attract game developers of all sizes.

"Ultimately, you really will want made-for-VR games. The indies are going to be the ones who do that right away," Iribe said. "Indies can get in with two, three, or four guys and say, 'Let's make a VR game. We don't need thousands of units sold. We just want to make something fun.' They'll make the bite-sized VR experience that is made for VR. That's going to be where you start to see the 'holy grail' experiences."

Effects that today's player take for granted, such as steam or the texture of a brick, are just more enthralling using Oculus' VR. Indies can leverage the unique advantages of being "in" a game without having to spend a lot of money, or creating an intense experience like Doom 3.

"Indies will be much faster to make made-for-VR experiences of all different kinds. They'll also bend it and challenge it and beat on it," said Iribe. "And we want to be beaten on, and we want them to do totally different things with our SDK than we intended."

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