The Next Great Game
Motion graphics designer Lauren Valko talks VR and gaming.
Valko is a video specialist and motion graphics producer working out of Real Art’s Dayton headquarters. We sat down with her to chat about virtual reality’s transformative potential within the gaming industry.
How has game development changed over the last few years? How much of the industry is dedicated to VR and where do you see it going?
The game industry is constantly changing which is one of the coolest things about it. During the past few years in games, we’ve seen a huge rise in mobile and casual players, independent developers, competitive gaming tournaments, and technology in general—incentivizing and feeding the collective desire for the next great game that breaks the metaphorical mold. Designers are looking for ways to capture the hearts and the minds of their audience in exciting ways.
A lot of eyes rest on the VR industry in particular right now. People are interested in seeing where they can push it—what limits they can break. And it’s a challenge a lot of them are excited to take on. Not only does this new technology open up a whole new realm of possibility for some truly immersive player experiences; it also has people questioning a lot of things. Things like what comes next, in what other mediums can VR be applied, and what does VR mean for player interaction, story, and gameplay?
I think there’s going to be a huge push for more realism in games. There is a greater need than ever for game narratives to be fully integrated with gameplay instead of segregated in cut scenes. Because of this, discussions have already started on how to make characters not only look more real, but also act it.
There’s a growing interest in room-scale VR, turning the player’s body into the controller and giving the player a physical environment to interact in just as they would in the gamespace. A great example of this: in one simple test, designers created a virtual pit with a plank extending across the edge. Players stood on a physical board mirroring the exact dimensions of the board in-game. While the player was actually standing only 1 inch off the ground, gazing down they encountered a bottomless hole. If they toed the edge of the board, the designer was able to trick both the player’s eyes and sense of touch. The immersion was sometimes so complete that when instructed to jump off the board, most were too afraid.
They’re exploring new options to control game play that extend far beyond the traditional handheld controller.
In general the VR game community is interested in seeing how they can push the way in which the user interacts with the virtual world. They’re exploring new options to control game play that extend far beyond the traditional handheld controller.
There are also plenty of options for VR exploration outside of the games industry. Virtual journalism for example, could put you in the thick of the action, or help drive home a particularly poignant news piece allowing the viewer to draw conclusions firsthand. Art is another example. One particular VR art installation in Boston explores how players can interact with individuals outside of the VR headset. Experiences have started to pop up featuring partnership type roles, where communication between a player in the headset and one outside the headset is vital to completing tasks.
What are the major differences when building a VR game as opposed to a more traditional game? Challenges?
VR comes with a lot of it’s own special challenges. Some of the more obvious challenges have a lot to do with how our eyes work and player immersion. The tech needed to trick our eyes into believing what we see is still improving. Screens need to be very high resolution, and the frame rate must be fast enough as to not be detected. In-game, the designers also have to be hyper aware of how they treat the player character’s camera. It’s imperative that efforts are made to avoid situations that cause motion sickness, and cut scenes that will break player immersion.
Another important question designers are faced with is whether to show or hide the player character’s body in-game. One of the first things someone does when they put on a headset is to look down at their own body, especially their hands. More often than not there is nothing there. This can sometimes be pretty jarring and will break the players immersive experience.
Additionally, game optimization is key for any game but especially when designing for VR. Games can be taxing and without keeping in mind the average computer’s limitations, a designer could end up with a final product that won’t play correctly or will play at a low frame rate making the screen look jittery or delayed. In VR , when your eyes are directly against the screen, this is crucial.
Utilizing VR to it’s fullest potential is a challenge in its own right and not necessarily a bad one. In-game, players have the ability to look around at all times—something that should be encouraged and maybe even integrated into the mechanics of the game. This kind of challenge will breed creativity, and seeing how different designers approach it is half the fun.
How do you see VR in relation to the kind of storytelling we take on at Real Art?
At Real Art, we like to tell stories that will stay with you, to show you something you’ve never seen before. VR presents an opportunity—a new range of possibilities—to be creative, to be innovative, and to build wonderful experiences.
Got you hooked? here’s more:
I Still Can’t Believe How This VR Game Tricked My Brain
Standing in a tiny demo room it felt as if my body was on some kind of crazy theme park ride
VR Gaming Still Has Some Ways To Go
E3 laid bare VR platforms’ weak points
Touring New Digital Landscapes
A look at VR initiatives in gaming, art, science, journalism, and more