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Very impressive article Jake! You are very talented.
nice article! i love seeing the breakdowns.
There are a lot of considerations to take into account when you move from building games for desktop or console, to virtual reality. Block Interval is one of those studios that has done that and Daniel Allen, creative director, wrote out some fundamental concepts that will change with the transition.
This is the concept Block Interval spent the most time researching. Any game that doesn’t have a comfort option in the menu is not going to do as well as it should with the users. Some users won’t be affected at all during the VR experience while others will be highly affected to any kind of motion with the VR headset. So there should be a way to change the settings to accommodate for the users that are sensitive to VR. ‘Blink mode’ was one of the ideas. This is where you’re basically removing the animation between points while moving. Also, alternate control schemes should be implemented, which allows for the support of as many input devices as possible. The more testing is done, the greater you can make the player’s experience more comfortable.
In traditional games you can snap interfaces to the player’s face, but for VR, that can no longer be done. Today, the interface needs to exist within the game world, or even mounted to an external area instead of just the head. For the current generation of VR headsets, the resolution is quite low compared to a PC monitor so text and buttons should be larger and more easily identifiable. In the overview below, Mike Alger goes into more detail about the other considerations that should be made for the interface.
Audio is an extremely important factor in creating a fully immersive experience. There can be no laziness when it comes to this. A lot of effort must be put in by game developers to make sure the sound and music is done well. There has to be reason for the sounds and a specific point for them to come from. If they are randomly thrown in without any consideration for the environment, it will cause the players to feel like they’re playing a simple desktop game and they won’t feel immersed. Multiple sound and music professionals are needed to do this, instead of the typical ‘one’.
There can no longer be the typical WASD movement scheme for desktop games. With VR and different ways to move and look around, it’s much more complicated than that. This is especially important depending on the type of game you’re making. Games with cars and ships work very well in VR because the environment moves around the vehicle, whereas a simulated body is not the same, and feels quite awkward. Standing vs. sitting should be taken into account as well.
Block Interval discovered that normal maps don’t work very well in VR a lot of the times due to the eye being quite skilled at understanding depth perception. Because VR is stereoscopic, normal maps are seen as flat or lacking depth information to be seen as an object with depth. This would mean that geometry is more important for immersion more than normal maps. Normal maps should only be used on objects that are going to be far away from the player because the parallax effect will be insignificant at a certain distance. Block Interval made an emphasis that they don’t mean you should never use normal maps, but they are saying that if you’re trying to use normal maps to convey depth of objects that are close to the player, immersion will be fought.
Compared to traditional desktop gaming, VR allows you to get extremely up close to objects in game. The downside is that the amount of detail that goes into making the objects seem realistic and detailed are much higher. Users will expect these objects to look good and be fully interactive so the 3d modeling has to be much more fine tuned. Budget cuts can be made on far away objects but not close objects.
Testing is extremely important, even more than before. This goes back to comfortability and making sure the players don’t get sick. The environments must make sense from a 3D spacial standpoint. It also has to be figured out if users will know where to go or if there needs to be visual or spacial audio cues that tell users where to go or look. VR is not a place to half-ass things.
Daniel Allen has much more to say but this is what he has at the moment. We look forward to seeing what else he’s got for us in the future.
Daniel Allen, Creative Director, Block Interval