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Andrew Severson gave some tips on how to build interactive game environments for VR games. Most recently he’s been hard at work on Gunheart – a new VR shooter made by Drifter. Much of this work has benefited from the art direction and assets of Kenneth Scott and other members of the Drifter team. VFX was done by Shen Spurgeon.
In this little post Andrew shared some of the things he learned during the production of high-quality 3d environments for virtual reality. Before Andrew created spaces for Halo 4 and Halo 5.
I have been working in VR for 1.5-2 years now, I have some experience making environments on multiple VR projects.
One major difference between classical 3d environments and VR games is that large normal map details don’t read so well. This is why it is important to get the most out of your geometry. Where the Normal map would read very well, in a non VR game it will still look very flat when you’re standing in front of it in VR.
Detail Normal maps are still great for adding some resolution to something that is being scaled a lot. You obviously don’t want to go overboard with the vert count, something like rivets may not need to be modeled out, but maybe you have a pipe or a hose that should be in the low res mesh and not just a normal map.
Another consideration is just how much differently people see the world compared to flat screen games. A player can lay on the floor or crouch, pretty much anything they can physically do, to see stuff in ways that you may not expect. You have to imagine things to be able to be seen from nearly any angle within the play space and even then, a player with a lot of room to walk around in their VR set up can potentially walk out of where you want them to be. So you want to be mindful of how environments are composed.
Beyond that you just do what you can to have good performance, cut down on transparencies and decals, try to keep shaders optimized. It’s really a juggle, as game art usually is, to make the art you want and keep the performance you need. Because of working in VR, keeping up a good frame rate for reasons of comfort for the player is the most important thing. The last thing you want is to make someone feel sick.