amazing stuff man
Am I tripping? I Always thought "pixel art" was based on those 8-bit old games, with hard pixels and little shapes to form scenes. THis is NO PIXEL ART in my conception, but mere digital images.
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One of the biggest game publishers in Russia has recently announced a new virtual reality game, which features awesome 3d visuals, beautiful weapon design, and some clever mechanics. We’ve talked with the developers about the production of this title and their choice of the technology.
The Team Behind VR Invaders
VR Invaders is being developed by our in-house VR development team at My.com. Currently it consists of 7 people including myself. While I’m a programmer, we also have VR and 3D artists, game designers, sound designers, and others. Our team is formed up of enthusiasts – some were looking for a new challenge after they finished working on another title, others were specifically initiating the VR game development. So basically our interests and aspirations met at this title and we started to work on a new VR game. Previously members of our team worked on such titles as Skyforge, Allods Online, and other PC and mobile titles.
We analyzed all the games that have come to market up until now, and then we started to test what works best in VR. It is worth mentioning that initially we wanted to make a game where players would fight against drones with their sword. But unfortunately we had to pass on this idea – you can’t feel the mass and recoil of the sword. So we picked up a gun as the main weapon on the game.
While working on a defense we came to the conclusion that an energy shield is the best choice – it is semitransparent and gives a good visibility, and should be quite light so it feels real when you hold it in the game.
To make graphics really awesome we spent a lot of time on optimization. For example, we played some tricks with the textures of distant objects.
Game mechanics have been constantly improved as well; we had hundreds of players testing gameplay on different levels to achieve the most exciting experience.
Unreal Engine 4 supports both devices (Oculus and Vive) and provides fantastic tools for game development. Our goal was to have beautiful imagery, with lots of lighting effects and cool materials/shaders. After careful comparison research between Unity3D and UE4 we have chosen UE4. Our project was created entirely using the Blueprint programming system, which allowed us to iterate very quickly.
Our VR artists have done a huge amount of research on what looks good in VR and what makes you feel immersed. Distances, colors, lights, materials – all that stuff. As for the overall appearance and setting, it was decided to do a sci-fi game from the very start, as we felt that it is the best choice for people who have VR helmets and who play VR games now. All this tech and geeky stuff, you know? Besides, we are all fans of sci-fi as well.
Could you talk about the way you are working on the production of the assets? Is it difficult to build the low poly assets for the VR?
Actually, we focused on the technical and physical opportunities that VR may give to deliver the best possible experience. The controller feels like a gun in the game? Then we should have a gun. The best feeling in VR is the movement? Ok, we’ll make a small platform where the player can move a bit, and shoot and defend themselves with an energy shield.
We also worked a lot with the distance of the objects so as to feel the depth of VR at its max. That’s how the level architecture was born. Basically, the way our levels are designed right now has been determined by VR characteristics, by our desire to give players the best feelings. The same goes for drones and other gameplay elements.
From a production standpoint – first of all we create sketches, after that we make a highpoly model, remodel it into low poly using Maya and texture it with Substance Painter. We try to make the overall process very quick. By itself the difference between usual and VR 3D art is in details made with polygons. In regular games you make a lot of normal textures, which give effect of fake 3D volume. In VR, this does not work too well. It is much better to shape the surface with real polygons, then the object looks much more real.
We wanted players to be able to shoot as cool as a cowboy, without careful aiming. To achieve this, we created scalable bullets. When the bullet is spawned in front of the gun it has initial scale (not very small, actually), but during the flight it doubles in size. There are three benefits of such a method: you can see projectile bullets further (otherwise small screen resolution skips the picture between pixels), you can shoot less carefully, and you can balance game mechanics on different distances from player.
Future of VR
I think in the future Augmented Reality and VR devices will be merged into one, because VR is basically a full screen image in AR. Also the next step is to remove cables from PC HMDs and improve performance of mobile helmets. When all these things are done we will enter the next era of virtual reality technologies. The power of such entertainment and educational systems is unlimited.
The most popular genre, in my opinion, will be games based on feelings – whether it is a shooter or a horror game.