Streamline Studios: The Do’s and Don’ts of virtual reality development
By Chong Jinn Xiung January 24, 2017
- During development ensure that VR players are comfortable to avoid inducing motion sickness
- Don’t be stuck to one platform but be familiar with multiple to futureproof one’s self
VIRTUAL reality is set to be the next exciting step forward in technology for the next five years. But before we can prance around in our virtual mansions or embark on a mission to space, a lot of hard work must go into the development of the optimum VR experience.
Reza Farahmadnia (pic, above) understands the delicate balance between offering immersive experiences while keeping a game fun.
“There is a lot that you need to think about when developing VR games. Being in VR can be a confusing experience for the player who is placed in this new environment. It is your job as the developer to get their attention,” said Reza during Multimedia University’s recent Virtual Reality and Games Convention in Cyberjaya.
The producer from Streamline Studios, an independent game development studio in Malaysia spoke of the many challenges in developing a game for VR.
From the onset, players are often lost the moment they put on their headsets as they don’t know where to go or look. Hence, it is very important to for game developers direct the player’s attention to where they want them to look.
“You wouldn’t want them to be looking at a speck on the ground when something important or interesting is happening like a story scene or a character talking right behind them,” said Reza.
To achieve this, he suggests that developers use subtle cues like music, visual cues or animation to guide players to where they need to look.
Don’t get sick now
However, Reza warns that it is paramount for developers to ensure that players feel comfortable when playing their game because the moment they start to feel motion sickness, the game is ruined.
“The problem with VR is that players expect things to happen to them in reality. If you show something or make them feel something that is unreal, that is when they start to feel dizzy. So as much as possible avoid making the players move around too much,” he said.
Another cardinal sin in VR development is the use of a double rotation control scheme. Reza points out that one prominent game, Resident Evil VII is guilty of this whereby the player can control the movement of the in-game characters head with the VR headset and in their hand controller at the same time.
In his opinion, Resident Evil VII’s VR experience was ruined by this mistake as the wearer feels that his or her body and head are moving out of sync, resulting in motion sickness.
Another thing to consider when developing for VR is that cinematic cut scenes should be done away with when conveying story beats as it would take players out of the experience. Instead, VR is all about using the real-time environment to your advantage to convey the story.
Alhough this forces developers to think differently when developing for VR, it offers far deeper immersion for the player.
Developing for VR
VR is very demanding to develop for as students need to be familiar with all forms of development tools regardless if it is Unreal Engine, Unity 3D or Cry Engine.
“It doesn’t matter which engine you develop for, but know the basics. I started with Unity 3D as a student and when I started working at Streamline Studios I had to learn Unreal Engine but my knowledge of Unity 3D helped me,” said Reza.
To those thinking of diving into VR development, Reza recommends them to get their feet wet by porting over their existing game into VR in order to understand the nuances in developing for VR.
Once they figure out what works and doesn’t, only then can they start developing an original intellectual property (IP) for their game.
Speaking of original IPs, putting theory into practice, Reza has been working on a VR project under Streamline Studios codenamed Jekyll and Hyde. The idea behind the three to four minute VR experience is that the player is a patient trapped in Dr Jekyll’s lab and needs to find a way to escape.
Working around the limitations posed by VR, Reza wrote the script and elements for Jekyll and Hyde with the hopes of presenting an unforgettable VR experience as players witness the terrifying transformation of the timid Dr Jekyll into the monstrous Mr Hyde right in front of them.
Reza declined to confirm when the VR project will be completed but says the team at Streamline Studios is hard at work and can’t wait to show it once it is ready.