Developing a video game for console or PC play comes with a unique set of challenges, but translating a traditional video game to VR introduces new complexities that Slightly Mad Studios' Stephen Viljoen understands. The game director behind the popular Project Cars
race-car simulation franchise, now available in VR, reveals his secrets for building a memorable immersive game.
Pay attention to size and scale early on.
Inaccurate size or scale can quickly ruin a player's suspension of disbelief and draw them out of the experience. While this isn't typically a problem in 2D, where scale adjusts depending on the size of the screen, size and scale must be accurate in VR or the participant's brain instantly will register that something is off. Keeping this in mind, we collaborated with vehicle manufacturers ahead of time for Project Cars 2. I physically sat in the cars and placed my hands on the steering wheel and controls to gauge the scale so I could compare the two and adjust them accordingly in VR.
Don't forget to consider IPD.
Interpupillary distance (IPD), the distance between a person's eyes, is an important consideration in developing any VR game. For a person with a large head and eyes set wide apart, visuals are going to look smaller; you have to allow for the variances between player IPDs. We did this by creating a slider that players can alter to adjust the scale of the world to fit their liking in Project Cars 2.
Avoid motion sickness.
Motion sickness is one of the unfortunate consequences of a VR game that has not been thoroughly tested. We heavily rely on tester feedback and make tweaks until we get it right. If a large number of testers report motion sickness, it's an indication that we might need to adjust the physics of the camera movements, so we investigate, experiment, and test again. Keeping camera movements natural is another strategy we use to ensure a smoother, more comfortable experience for the player.
Authenticity is key.
For an immersive experience to resonate with the participant, it should feel real. Using modern tools like photogrammetry and drone scanning in the content creation process can be helpful in establishing realism. Data sourced from real-world objects and environments gives us a head start on the content creation process. For example, on Project Cars 2, we went into development with computer-aided design (CAD) data from various car manufacturers and laser scan and photogrammetry data from the environments; input the data into Autodesk 3ds Max, which our pipeline heavily depends upon; and then optimized and re-created the digital assets and scenery.
Make use of a worldwide talent pool.
The talent available today is incredible but also widely dispersed. To build the best team, consider remote collaboration. Our team works remotely, and it's been successful so far; we're able to attract and secure the best people for the job without requiring relocation or expensive real estate investments.
Listen to user feedback, and iterate.
Your players are crucial to your game's success. Listen to your customers and work quickly to fix issues - that's a charter here at Slightly Mad. We aim to regularly release new patches and additional content and features for our IP post-release.
Stephen Viljoen is game director at Slightly Mad Studios.