Sony Talks Key Lessons for Artists Working with Virtual Reality
Virtual Reality (VR) is a technology that in recent years has seen an explosion of interest in the video game industry. What once was something of science fiction has now become a reality as companies compete to be at the top of the VR experience, with Oculus Rift arguably being at the top, but as more companies enter this market including Sony and Valve the race is at a full sprint. At GDC 2015 Jason Hickey of Sony gave an interesting talk about the key lessons he learned as an artist working with VR on projects like The Deep and Street Luge. Jason began the talk with explaining what the VR experience is like, "You've got to understand presence in order to understand VR. What we call "technical presence" is the hardware and the rendering engine working together to fool your senses into believing you're actually there. So no longer are you using suspension of disbelief or your imagination to fill in the gaps like you would a story or film, you actually feel like you're there." Jason went on to talk about the importance of creating an engaging experience for the user, and making sure it's correct, because one bad VR experience can influence how they feel about the technology overall. "If you do VR right, it's super powerful and engaging, but on the other side if you do it wrong you can make the player feel really uncomfortable and you can disengage them. So if it's the first game they play on VR, you're basically denying everyone else in this room who is working on something else the opportunity to show that audience their product because if you put someone off in VR they're probably never going to pick it up again. So be very responsible and think about your audience." Now that we have VR technology the next step is to understand how to enhance the experience and make sure you're creating something that complements the technology, "You've got to work together as a team to stay in budget, and what I mean by budget is the target frame rate, and that can be 60fps, 90fps 100fps, whatever it is you decide to do you've got to stick with that all the way through. That means no spikes, no 57fps if you're aiming for 60fps, so stick to this target frame rate through the entire production."
Art DirectionDuring the talk Jason outlined some of the most important lessons that every artist who is working with VR should know, the first is team building. "If you're going to a build a team with new artists the first thing you'll want is artists who love design and understand it. This is going to help a lot with iteration time, and it also means they are going to support new designers in your effort to make innovative gameplay." Jason continued, "secondly make sure that they love doing technical things, for you artists out there you need to enjoy optimizing and enjoy getting those frame rate budgets down. In your interview stage with artists you really need to be informing them of all the technical things involved with VR, because you can't fool someone who really just wants to make pretty assets into working on a VR project, they really need to love the whole product more than the asset."
- Review in headset
- UI must be in world
- Fit for purpose, and test early
- Thin geometry is bad!
- Accurate scale is vital
- Large shapes are more important than high frequency detail
- Stylized can work better than photo realistic
- Accurate Materials