During conference weeks, it’s kind of amazing to me to see how much seems to happen over the course of a single day or two. Today was the second day of the 2017 Game Developer Conference, but I decided to take a half day to keep on top of work and start exercising some of the ideas that I had gotten throughout the first day of GDC. As tough as it was to miss a half day of GDC, I had an amazing morning that started off with two great sessions and two demos from Oculus before the conference officially started.
Rift Demo: Mage’s Tale
Mage’s Tale is spell-based magic game where you go through dungeons, solve puzzles, and use your spells to fight off monsters and bosses. It was highly reminiscent to me of Vanishing Realms, though definitely a bit darker and grittier with more photorealistic models and texturing. Despite having a handler walking me through the process and mechanics of the game, there were some moments where I definitely felt spooked!
While the demo was definitely fun, the quick nature of shooting off fireballs and defending a 360 space (the developers did an excellent job of capturing attention in all directions) highlighted the weakness in the Rift’s tracking system. I was repeatedly losing tracking when I’d turn around and have to be re-centered, which kept taking me out of the experience. Another thing that I’d note is that a lack of standardization for grabbing things with the Touch controllers makes it harder to quickly move between experiences (but that may just be me). Despite those two things, it was a fun experience that would really excel with better room scale tracking.
Gear VR Demo: SingSpace
I spent all of high school and a good bit of time in college singing in various choir groups, so getting to start off my day with VR karaoke at 9:15am was a highlight. SingSpace is a cute, cartoon-style social karaoke app for the Gear VR that lets you sing karaoke and send singers emojis. I sang ‘Seasons of Love’ from the musical RENT, and had a blast. It was super cute and I could definitely see myself playing this regularly.
Matt Leacock and Rob Daviau, The Making of Pandemic Legacy
As a big fan of the board game ‘Pandemic’, when I saw that there was a talk about Pandemic Legacy, I knew that it would be on my list of things to check out at GDC. So often, we look to traditional methods of game development to experiment with the possibilities of virtual reality, but there was something to be said for thinking about experience in other game formats. There was some pretty great wisdom in this talk about building emotionally connected stories in a short format and creating player emotion.
My favorite points:
- You can design around linear storylines in innovative ways to amplify user choice and branch outside of expectations and traditional mechanics
- Consider how you expect players will consume your experience as part of the planning and design process
- Tap into the psychology of what makes users get attached emotionally (e.g. relating to characters, trust in the developers / designers, balance a fear of missing out if the game isn’t played to completion)
Robin Hunicke, Dennis Ramirez, Jichen Zhu, Jesse Schell, Ira Fay, Teaching VR Development
Another educational summit track session, this panel on teaching virtual reality development (and design) was a fascinating peek into the academic side of immersive technologies – specifically in how the next generation of immersive developers are being trained. Instructors from 5 different universities talked about their experiences teaching a new wave of 3D simulation technology, and what others should consider when putting together their own curriculum.
- Across the board, virtual reality (more than many other technologies) is an interdisciplinary area of study that requires contributions across artists, designers, developers, and engineers
- Getting access to hardware for students, which is an extremely important part of the teaching process, continues to consistently be a pain point for labs
- Much of the process of teaching how to build for VR also strongly encourages and trains students to work effectively across disciplines, find peer motivation, and build up positive cultures around creating apps
Tomorrow, I’ll mostly be away at the office during the day, but you can catch me at the VR Mixer starting at 7pm! The VR Mixer continues to be one of my favorite GDC-related events and this will be my 3rd year attending.