Thursday was the last day of Facebook’s Game Developers Showcase and there’s a lot to cover.
The online event launched earlier this week as a digital alternative to Oculus presence at the canceled Game Developers Conference. ARPost has been covering the event from the launch on day one to all of the exciting updates that came out in the following two days.
The last day was full of heavy content that might be a lot for a non-developer. However, there was some lighter fare for casual users as well. So, we’ll cover that first and of course link to the original content so that all of the developers out there can take a deeper dive.
“Where Multiplayer Is Going in VR”
Three videos were posted on the last day of the Game Developers Showcase. The longest video is the one that probably has the most meat for more casual readers. The video was a conversation between Content Launch Manager Bruce Wooden and Product Manager Mike Howard, both from Oculus. It covered both industry news and personal opinions on the future of multiplayer VR.
“We’re really here to let you know what’s been going on on the ground, what’s actually working out there, and hopefully give you a little bit of inspiration to create something great and really get into it,” said Wooden. “Virtual reality is still this frontier of undiscovered country. It’s still this opportunity to push 2D multiplayer on the screen and into that new frontier.”
They both agreed that VR has come a long way in the past couple of years. “We’re seeing a swell, a shift in the industry, in the market. And for me, that’s really exciting because it represents more people being there,. mMore people who can engage in these dynamics around social interaction,” said Howard.
The discussion started with a conversation on why the VR marketplace is ripe for a multiplayer explosion.
“We have a lot of quest out there, we have a lot of users out there. They are hungry for content, they are engaging at a level that we’ve never seen before. So, the VR market is essentially primed for some great multiplayer experiences to come along,” said Wooden.
“The Future of VR Is Competitive”
The hosts agreed that the future of VR is competitive. Right now, most VR games are competitive through “asynchronous multiplayer.” In most cases, that means leaderboards. These and other features like ghost modes allow players to feel a sense of competition and community with other people despite all of them playing single-player games.
Oculus has been trying to make these features more compelling with apps that let users check leaderboards for their favorite games from their phones. From a user perspective, this allows the player to have access to a community without putting on – or being near – their headset. For game developers, this gives players more incentives to come back to their favorite games.
“We’re really trying to fill the gaps with information and make that information available to you outside of VR and really kind of engage people where they’re at, which I think is a huge opportunity for developers to kind of capitalize on and stimulate people to compete with each other in these competitive games,” said Howard.
Wooden is excited about one competitive aspect of VR in particular – esports. He believes that the potential for VR esports is great. However, he also thinks there’s still a lot to figure out in terms of how to actually present that to spectators, especially those people who don’t understand VR yet.
“The Future Is Frictionless”
Howard and Wooden also said that the future of VR multiplayer was “frictionless” – a term that could use some clarification for some.
“Whenever [game designers] make the user wait, whenever you keep that user from interacting either with the environment or with other users… you’re boring them,” said Wooden. “Really, what you’re trying to do is maximize the amount of time and the ease of experience that that person has with the VR experience that you’re building.”
The hosts commented that some games are doing this by allowing player-to-player interaction in lobbies. Others are doing it by making other players easier to find to spend less time in – or even eliminate – lobbies in the first place.
To address the problem with friction, it’s important to think about discoverability of VR experiences. “Part of the friction to getting into VR is actually not even knowing when you should get into VR in the first place,” said Howard.
Some game developers avoid this problem with “rich presence,” which allows users to see which games or game modes have players looking for social games. New messaging affordances also allow users to click an invite from a friend and, with that one click, be brought into the exact game and lobby that the invite was sent from.
How VR Game Developers Can Use MR Technology
This topic is a bit of a bridge between some of the posts. Howard and Wooden talked about it later in their discussion but it was also a huge topic in another video featuring Head of Developer Relations Dan Morris, and Product Manager Greg Smith, both of Oculus. This is where the discussion begins to shift. It may be an interesting background for gamers but it’s definitely more for game developers.
“[Mixed reality capture] really allows a person that might not understand or have experience with VR before to at least get a taste of what the experience is like,” said Wooden.
Using mixed reality capture (MRC) of VR gameplay as a marketing tool was the entire focus of Smith’s talk after he took over for Morris. He mentioned that in some of their earlier experiments, they’ve seen “an increase in purchase conversion when showing MRC trailers to a person versus a very similar non-MRC trailer on a product details page.”
Designing Your VR Game for Today’s Landscape
Morris gave a more general discussion about the market that VR game developers are in right now.
“Unlike in previous years where your development was kind of speculative, the truth is, there’s a really good revenue opportunity in VR right now,” said Morris.
The best way to capitalize on that opportunity, according to Morris, is to create a game that works on as many different platforms as possible.
The best way to do that? Be compatible with “common denominator hardware” that might not have all of the coolest features but that won’t price too many people out.
Also, mind your “min spec,” the minimum specifications that your game needs to run on a given platform. Keep in mind that it’s easier to raise resolution than lower it, so setting the bar pretty low at first might help.
Watch Your Scale and Plan for Updates
Here, Morris gave the maxim, “Don’t make your game too big, Don’t make your game too small.”
Make your game too small and it won’t hold players’ attention. Aim too high, and you’ll have to set off your release date. Set your release date too far in the future and the hardware affordances and market tastes could be completely different. That can mean shooting at a moving target.
“We really encourage people to target several hours of gameplay at a minimum,” said Morris. “[But] for independent developers scoping too big, often means as much about time as it does money.”
Regular releases and updates, which Morris also recommends, can be a good way for idealistic game developers to compromise with modest scales.
“By releasing some kind of interesting update – a new mode, a new weapon, a new map, some kind of new feature […] we’ve seen this really do terrific help for a title and create a second big spike,” said Morris. “The best developers were able to do this over and over again over time and really harvest a lot of revenue out of the long tail of their business.”
Follow Submission Guidelines
Finally, Morris recommended that game developers follow submissions guidelines. Morris and Oculus store operations manager Richard Duck in his talk stressed that these guidelines help Oculus deliver consistently great content to users. However, the guidelines also help game developers make sure that their titles are going to be successful.
Duck pointed out that the three most common reasons that applications are rejected have to do with performance issues, entitlement checks, and app pausing.
“By focusing your time on these three things, you can reduce the number of VRC [virtual reality checks] failures and the number of submissions before you launch your title,” said Duck.
That Wraps Up GDS
Hopefully you’ve enjoyed our coverage of Facebook’s Game Developers Showcase.
That’s the end of this four-day special event but naturally, it’s not the last we expect to hear from Oculus. They’ve promised more content later this month, and we’ll be watching for it for our gamers and game developers alike.