The most recent of VIVE’s GDC substitute webinars had something for everyone. The talk detailed updates coming to VIVEPORT this year.
As the platform that connects users to content and developers to users, the announced updates have ramifications for everyone. Further, the company’s aspirations and intuitions contribute to writing on the wall that we’ve seen from other notable VR and content companies.
“Working to Improve Customer Experience”
Tuesday’s webinar was given by VIVEPORT director of product, Adhar Walia.
“I’m really excited to talk about all of the things we are working on, [and] we are doing to improve the developer experience,” said Walia.
VIVEPORT is the company store. It’s intimately connected with the company’s other major platforms, the development portal, and Infinity – their subscription service. Early on, Walia introduced what is becoming a mantra in the company: “The Netflix of VR.”
“We want to be the first service you think of and head to when you want to play any content in VR,” said Walia. “Developers are obviously a key partner for us – they are critical to our success – so we want to help you build immersive content that helps you reach more users and grow your business.”
That means a hardware-agnostic platform open to a more diverse range of both users and developers. The platform has more than tripled in size in the last year in terms of the number of titles offered, according to Walia.
Between an expanding market and changing business models, all of this means that things have changed a lot for users and developers alike in the three years since the platform launched.
Further, the VR landscape has launched as more people from more varied backgrounds get into VR development.
Many of the changes and updates that Walia announced aim to rectify these shortcomings.
“We are always listening to our developers,” said Walia. “We’ve talked to many of you either directly or indirectly and we used your feedback as a guide to plan our roadmap.”
Simplified Documentation and More SDKs
There are a lot of great Software Developers Kits that Walia announced. However, a lot of the talk involved making their available SDKs and documentation easier to find and approach.
“We want to make it easier for developers to find the information that can help you to develop, publish, and monetize better” said Walia. “We realize the need to simplify and make it easier for developers who are just starting out… This is an ongoing effort that we’ll be doing through the course of the year.”
On the developer end, that means a revamped developer console, more opportunities for networking with other developers, and simpler documentation.
It also means that VIVE will be sharing more of their metrics with developers. This is an opportunity for transparency, but I honestly believe that it’s out of genuine good will. A common theme in these webinars has been execs wishing that they could share more info.
“There’s clearly some sensitivities around actual data or real sales numbers or certain types of activities like that which we can’t share,” VIVEPORT President Bjorn Book-Larrson repeatedly lamented in the first webinar of the series late last month.
SDKs for developers that will no doubt impact users include tools for in-game ratings, managing multiple builds of the same game, utilizing notifications of updates from developers, companies, and friends, and improved tools for in-app purchases.
A recurring theme throughout the webinar series has been an increased focus on app-style infrastructure to accommodate increased use of self-contained headsets.
There are also a number of more exciting developments for gamers: social updates and networking.
Social VR Multiplayer
“We realize that social is a big, big part of VR. Social is one of the key priorities for us this year,” said Walia. “This will allow users to play games as they are supposed to, with their friends as opposed to alone.”
The updates that he’s talking about include the ability to have friends on the network and send them in-game invitations to play in the same lobbies. Other SDKs will make it easier for developers to incorporate things like leaderboards directly into their game.
The technology has already been around for ages in multiplayer for non-VR experiences.
The lag in VR has largely had to do with the significantly lower number of people playing on VR, which makes it more difficult to populate multiplayer lobbies. However, VR multiplayer is able to expand more rapidly as the adoption of the technology increases.
Cross-platform gamers and developers may recognize a number of these trends from the Game Developers Showcase that Oculus hosted last month. During that event, execs daydreamed about the future of multiplayer VR, which to them primarily consisted of leaderboards.
Because VIVEPORT is hardware-agnostic, this doesn’t necessarily mean competition for Oculus headsets. However, it does signal a huge advance for VIVEPORT in terms of competition with other VR platforms.
Because the social SDKs need to work with the notification tools mentioned above, they need to be developed in tandem. As a result, it’s unclear when all of these updates will be available. However, as this was a 2020 roadmap, Walia did say that all of the updates discussed in the talk should be available at some point this year.
What’s Next from VIVEPORT?
Next Tuesday, VIVE’s GDC webinar series continues as vice president and general manager Chris Chin, and senior director of enterprise content Amy Peck will present “What’s the Opportunity in Enterprise?”