A Students Take on Developing for Oculus Rift.

The Project

So over the past few weeks I’ve begun development on a new game. In elevator pitch format: I’m making a VR medieval jousting game for the Oculus Rift with stat tracking in order to analyse your opponent before attempting to duel them. Initially developed as a single player game, it has the means to easily transform into a 1vs1 multiplayer game if  desired.

The game, Project Joust (working title), was originally intended to be developed for the GearVR (with GearVR Controller). After a couple of weeks of strenuous debugging methods a decision was made to instead develop for the Oculus Rift then later port back to the GearVR upon completion. Whether this will happen before the end of my current trimester of study remains to be seen.

Current scene before functional internal play-test (still lots of assets to be added) 

Why VR?

VR provides a level of immersion that simply cant be achieved with a standard PC or console game. Jousting is a sport based around timing and danger. Having an opponent running toward you on a 2D screen can sometimes mislead judgement of whether you should be aggressive or evasive in your approach to each run. This is why the having the ability to use depth of field in a game as more a mechanic than a feature is going to be more successful in achieving what you want the player to think and feel as they play.

The Downsides of VR

There are a few general downsides to VR such as; performance issues, debugging simplicity, expensive hardware and extra API’s to learn. These are all issues I was expecting and have already faced so far. But project specific downsides also occur and these are the ones that really throw a spanner in there.

Controls Suuuuuck

Honestly, I didn’t think this would be as hard as it is. There are issues with having control of the lance being super jittery and hard to keep stable, just seems super sensitive. after a bit of research and asking around it seems to be a physics thing with the update function in unity so whoopee that’s something we gotta figure out.

Thankfully for us, an added benefit for pivoting to the oculus rift from GearVR is the addition of positional tracking. This allows the player to physically jab with their lance rather than pushing a button to make it jab, improving the immersion by getting the player moving.

Motion Sickness

Research always needs to be done in this regard when developing for VR. We think we may be lucky in regards to this because we did very little research into motion sickness but when testing the game I personally feel fine when playing it. This is something I will definitely be looking into when play-testing. A scale rating from 1-10 will always be used on every play-test we do to gauge when and if motions sickness really starts  to become a problem.

Mid-Development Review

The Oculus framework seems well fleshed out at the moment and despite having a lot of issues, the framework provided by oculus make many more things expected to be difficult, go smoothly than things expecting to go smoothly ending up in a fire. Kudos to Oculus for that, with a little more practice and experience with the Oculus platform I feel like I can really start to make some cool and interesting things happen!

Stay tuned for further progress on the game and don’t forget to follow on twitter for minor updates and screenshots on progress.

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