We’ve talked with Wiktor Öhman from Quixel about his upcoming VR-project Homebound. This little game grew from a very nice Unreal Engine 4 scene, created to showcase the power of Quixel SUITE tools. Wiktor talked about his jump into VR and some of the challenges he had to face during the game’s creation.
The official pitch for Homebound is this:
Immerse yourself in the most beautiful and spine chilling VR experience to date. Experience a series of catastrophic events in the cold void of deep space as you crash rapidly towards earth. When disaster strikes, your one mission is to make it out alive as fast as you can. Dead or alive, you are Homebound.
It was started as a simple VR Showcase of the space station I created a while back that’d allow users to inspect materials up-close in VR, but it quickly escalated into a game or experience. I’d never worked with Blueprints or created anything interactive before, but I quickly learned the basics and created some interesting things. This lead to internal discussions about possibilities and ideas. After a couple of weeks it was turning into an actual game instead. We think creating short but intense experiences is a great way of showcasing our tools, so this is really interesting for us. We were recently Greenlight on Steam so you’ll all be able to try it out for yourselves, both in VR and on a regular monitor.
The scene worked really well for VR straight away. The scene is very geo-heavy and there’s not a lot of large-scale baked information which can easily look strange in VR. Instead I’ve used NDO to create fine details such as bolts, rivets and wear & tear. Smaller details like that work great in VR. The scene is also very three dimensional, which feels really immersive and interesting – there’s a lot of stuff going on everywhere you look in all directions.
UE4 works really well with the Vive out of the box. It’s pretty much just a matter of enabling the plugins and setting up some basic Blueprints. It’s all very well documented in the official documentation for both Unreal and the Vive. You control the flashlight and manipulator with the motion controllers if you have one, and if you don’t they’re simply positioned as akimbo weapons in first-person shooters. You control the camera by looking around. If you look to the left the camera starts slowly panning to the left and if you re-center your head it’ll stop panning. It feels really natural and easy to use.
The materials worked really well from the get-go. I’ve made some smaller changes to allow for up-close inspection, such as scuff maps and detail normals, but overall the textures are high enough resolution and the geometry is pretty high. Overall, well-made materials read so much better in VR than they normally do as you get to experience the depth and reflectivity in a much more natural way than you’re used to. When the materials read well enough it makes you feel as though you can reach out and touch them. It’s a really cool feeling that has to be experienced to understand.
Homebound is developed as any other indie game. It’s mainly created by me full-time and Scott Baker is helping out with certain technical aspects. It’ll be a separate game available for PC on Steam for both VR and non-VR. A Mac version is being discussed, but it’s not decided yet. The format is a short experience well-suited for parties and for showing off VR to your friends and it features a time-trial where you can try and beat your own personal best time.