In the weeks since the unveiling of the latest headset from Oculus or Facebook Reality Labs (FRL) as it’s now known, there has been much debate about the technical specification of the Oculus Quest 2. Of course, it looks better on paper – bigger numbers mean better things, right? – but there’s been some argument that the Quest 2 doesn’t go far enough. In the opinion of the team here at Fallen Planet Studios, that’s certainly not the case.
Fallen Planet Studios began working in VR many moons ago, with the first launch of the AFFECTED IP way back on the Oculus Rift DK2. Since then we have made various ports, updates and other projects using the same thematic for a huge variety of hardware. As with most VR entertainment studios, the consumer release of a title is only one part of the story, and at Fallen Planet Studios we take experimentation with new hardware very seriously. It was with great pleasure then, that our team had been able to put the Oculus Quest 2 through its paces over the past few months and really see what the device is capable of.
Perhaps the even greater pleasure, however, was to find that our team has been able to implement features simply not possible on the original Oculus Quest. Despite our efforts, adding dynamic shadows to AFFECTED: The Manor for the Oculus Quest was an unobtainable goal. The feature simply demanded too much from the hardware despite there arguably being little happening on-screen. It’s a computationally demanding process that to the untrained eye results in little more than black blobs. However, it’s the next stage of realism; a new layer of immersion that you might not know you needed, but once you experience it, you’ll miss it when it’s gone.
On the Quest 2 not only have we been able to implement the feature, but it’s also given rise to an all-new gameplay mode.
The Darkness Update will allow players to venture through the manor in a brand-new way. Not only have we added an additional route (also coming to the original Oculus Quest) but also dynamic shadows will ground the player in this reality even further. When the lights are dimmed and players only have the flickering of a candle to light their way; it’s the shadows that paint the real picture.
In order to enable dynamic shadows in this manner, we began with our heavily optimised Oculus Quest build. With our experience in developing for mobile VR stretching back to the Samsung Gear VR days, we are accustomed to getting the best visuals from a mobile device through processes such as batching assets, atlasing textures, mobile efficient shaders and most of all, clever level design to reduce the draw distance needed from the camera. All of this primed the build to run in an already optimised state on Quest 2, allowing us to allocate the additional headroom afforded by the increased RAM and improved chipset to new features, such as adding Dynamic Shadows into the Quest 2 build.
To facilitate the new features we wanted to introduce into our Oculus Quest 2 update we created a device manager to recognise which Quest HMD is running the software and apply custom settings accordingly, similar to how the PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 4 Pro system seeks out the correct version of any given game.
To best capitalise on the software improvements we moved to Dynamic Foveated Rendering (DFR). Prior to this, we utilised Fixed Foveated Rendering, however, the DFR function allows us to use the foveated
rendering feature more effectively, given that the Quest and Quest 2 have different GPU performance baselines. Our adaptive performance system is also a key component in managing the Dynamic Shadows, altering both the shadow distance and light distance to ensure we can implement these
features whilst maintaining the non-negotiable 72 frames per second that all Oculus Quest and Quest 2 apps require.
Our engine of choice for mobile VR is Unity 2019 as it provides a flexible platform that allows us to achieve our technical goals for each project. With Quest 2, Unity’s continued evolution in the support of the VR ecosystem is very transparent and even exciting to see. Developing with Unity for our future releases has allowed us unique insight into the XR system the engine provides and the constant support it receives. Continued improvements with their Scriptable Render Pipeline (SRP) allow for an even higher
visual quality on mobile VR platforms, as evidenced with the ability to bring Dynamic Shadows to Quest 2.
Furthermore, support for Vulcan and DATS is just around the corner; both of which Fallen Planet Studios plans to experiment with immediately in an effort to further heighten the immersion of our future VR titles.
With regards to the HMD itself, Quest 2 is a smaller, lighter device than its predecessor continuing a trend that suggests the fabled Ray-Ban style VR HMD is inevitable, if not imminent (the inaugural Facebook Connect did little to dispel such expectations). The Quest 2 also ships with the most well-balanced controllers Oculus have released to date, although a USB-C port and rechargeable battery would certainly benefit these input devices. Overall, the changes to the device in terms of both technical prowess and physical form factor warrant the name Quest 2; this isn’t a half-measures device, it is a genuine generational leap.
As stated above, the team here at Fallen Planet Studios experiment with all kinds of VR technologies. Not always does that result in a product, but in this case, the Oculus Quest 2 has provided an exciting extension of an existing platform. As such I’m pleased to confirm that AFFECTED: The Manor will be coming to Quest 2 including both the recently released The Gauntlet mode and the all-new The Darkness Update soon!