chemistry

At GDC 2015, we chatted with some of the best videogame designers and engineers in the world; inevitably, the question arose: “we know all about videogames, what do we need to look out for when creating VR?”

Across the course of the conference, we synthesized these key points, which together represent what we feel are the guiding principles of VR design, circa 2015.

From the trenches, to your eyes.
Here’s your free guidance:

Best Practices in VR Design

1. YOUR 3D MUST BE PURE

  • 2d tricks no longer work. billboards, masks, overlays etc…
    unless you want to make a stylistic choice
  • even your UI + HUD is now 100% situated in full-on 3space

2. YOUR GEOMETRY MUST BE WATERPROOF

  • when a player sees the world stereoscopically, small details stand out
  • for instance, props that float 1cm above a surface
  • and 2mm cracks at wall joins
  • these were overlooked in frame games, but are unforgivable in VR

3. LOD +1 : UP CLOSE EXAMINATIONS

  • VR has a way of inviting players to inspect objects, props, surfaces and characters…
  • up close. really close.
  • in a much more intimate level than traditional games
  • so be prepared for close inspection
  • and make sure that your geometry & textures are tight
  • along with your collision hulls (see point 7, below)

4. WELL-CRAFTED POSITIONAL AUDIO SEPARATES THE MEN FROM THE BOYS

  • audio now has true perceptive 3d positioning, 360° sphere
  • you can really effectively guide the users attention and direction with audio prompts
  • they will generally turn and look at audio calls for attention.
  • Audio is at least 50% of the equation for presence. Invest in it.

5. LOCOMOTION IS KEY. AND HARD.

  • swivel chair seated experiences are currently optimal
  • near-instant high velocity teleports are optimal
  • strafing is out, completely : generates total nausea
  • 2 primary metaphors are
    . . . a) cockpits — cars, planes, ships
    . . . b) suited helmets — space suit, scuba mask, ski mask
  • cockpits allow physical grounding and help support hard / fast movements
  • helmets support HUDs for UI, maps, messaging

6. FLYING IS FUN

  • a near optimal form of locomotion
  • no concerns with ground contact, head bob
  • good way to cover large geographies… at moderate speed
  • cartoon physics and simplified controls (i.e. steering) trump real flight physics
  • keep velocity < 30mph and limit hard aerobatic maneuvers
  • have both an auto- and a triggered auto-leveling function
  • managing in-flight collisions:
  • food for further thought : force fields and the skillful flying illusion
  • speaking of collisions:

7. COLLISIONS FOR NEAR FIELD OBJECTS MUST BE NEAR PERFECT

  • fingers can’t penetrate walls, props, or NPCs
  • create detailed high resolution collision shells
    . . . for all near sets pieces, props, and characters

8. CONSIDER UI : HUD 101

  • fixed GUIs suggest a helmet
  • local / natural GUIs are more optimal
  • consider point of attachment : primaries are:
    — head attachment, which is like a helmet
    — abdomen attachment, which is something you can look down and view

9. PERFORMANCE, i.e. FRAME RATE, IS KEY

  • the difference between 75fps and 30fps is night and day…
  • you MUST deliver 75 fps at a minimum
  • don’t ship until you hit this bar
  • this isn’t an average, its a floor : so target 100fps average
  • this isn’t a luxury, its a requirement

10. DESIGN FOR THE TRACKING VOLUME

  • generally, depending on the specific hardware, the positional tracking is in a limited volume..
  • in the shape of a frustrum, or truncated pyramid
  • design your game to optimize performance while in that volume
  • and don’t do things that tempt players to move outside the volume
  • and gracefully handle what happens when they exit, and then re-enter, the tracking space
  • this is similar to the “follow-cam” challenge in trad 3D videogames

11. PACE : SLOW IT DOWN

  • when designing the play experience, consider:
  • VR currently favors exploratory experiences above fast paced combat
  • this is an absolutely new medium, with its own conventions and rules
  • this is a KEY design principle
  • be considerate of a users comfort and joy

11+. TEST TEST TEST

  • VR experiences are very subjective
  • find out what works for your intended audience
  • reward your players for their commitment

 


That’s your high level design direction.

There’s also some great, more detailed technical docs on the web regarding the dirty details of VR dev & design, from the creators themselves. Here they are:

Got experience with VR dev / design?
Think we missed something? Want a job?
Comment below:

One thought on “VR Design : Best Practices

  1. As I agree with most of this, strafing in particular has never been an issue personally and generates 0 nausea for me. That is very much a personal thing though, what causes and doesn’t cause nausea in VR, but not being able to strafe in a game like Half Life 2, Portal, or basically any other FPS would be an absolute terrible thing.

    I do completely agree 100% with the pure 3d and watertight geometry. When I don’t have my edges lined up just perfectly in UE, it stands out like a soar thumb.

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