Developing videogames for virtual reality (VR) is still somewhat unknown territory. Though we have a number of head-mounted displays (HMDs) revealed and even a publicly available high-end mobile device in the form of Gear VR, there is still plenty of uncharted ground left to cover. UK based Coatsink, developers of the puzzle title Esper, have spoken out about the highs-and-lows of working in such a new medium.
Posting on the official Coatsink website, as part of a regular series of question and answer (Q&A) sessions with members of the studio’s development team, an unnamed Esper developer voices their thoughts on working with the youthful technology: “When everything’s new there are no precedents that have been set, no expectations to fulfill, no standards to surpass. Getting in at the ground level allows us to experiment and come up with our own precedents.”
The developer continues to discuss the value of VR and the issues that could easily become a roadblock for developers looking to create larger, more complicated videogame experiences while using a HMD.
“The biggest factor is deciding if VR is really suitable for your game. If I’m making a story-focused RPG, is the addition of VR really worth it? It’s also worth noting that VR doesn’t do any extra work for you. You’re still responsible for making a believable, immersive world. The VR just takes what you make and magnifies it.
“There are also limitations to VR in its current form. You can’t walk around safely with a VR headset on so your players are going to be likely sitting while playing your game. This means a fast paced parkour game, while awesome in concept, might induce some remarkable motion sickness. Then there’s the eye strain you can get from wearing the headset for too long. I haven’t seen this written about very much but it’s quite real. There’s no way I could sit down and have a 2-3 hour gaming session with a VR headset like I could on a monitor, so design your game around short intervals of gameplay.”
The Q&A session closes with the developer asked for advice to give to others looking to work with VR. The response is somewhat muted, though encouraging for those hoping to look beyond the oft considered requisite first-person set-up for VR: “I’d encourage developers to go with their strengths first and foremost. VR won’t be a great fit for every game, and a game isn’t automatically better just by having VR, but I would definitely encourage all developers to at least look into it and see if it would work for them. I certainly learned that virtual reality can work well with more genres than I initially assumed.”