Bruce Wooden, head of developer and community relations at AltspaceVR, tells Develop how his team translated tabletop hits to the virtual space and explains why wearing a headset can be a highly social experience

Transforming Dungeons & Dragons, Boss Monster and chess from physical to virtual reality

Boss Monster is the latest tabletop game that AltspaceVR has brought to virtual reality. Why bring the card game to the medium?

Brotherwise Games has a loyal following across the country and internationally. But when fans are not in the same physical location, how can they enjoy a game of Boss Monster?

This is a problem VR can help solve – it can offer a compelling experience to play this game with friends from anywhere in the world.

For existing users who are new to Boss Monster, this is another awesome new experience they can learn quickly and enjoy in VR with others.

You also translated Dungeons & Dragons and chess into VR. What makes a tabletop board/card game suitable for recreation in virtual reality?

VR offers a way to interact with other players in a game that feels as if you are actually together.

Games such as D&D, chess and Boss Monster are typically shared when you are present in the same physical space.

Prior to social VR, there was really no satisfactory method for fans to play and have the same engaging, interactive experience.

In VR you see and hear the other players, read their gestures, and generally play as you would if you were sitting across the same table even though everyone is sitting around the world.

"Prior to social VR, there was really no satisfactory method for fans to play and have the same engaging, interactive experience."

Bruce Wooden, AltspaceVR

How did bringing Boss Monster to VR differ from your experience with D&D and chess?

Both D&D and chess are heavy on object manipulation – specifically dragging and dropping objects on a plane.

In both cases we wanted to provide the necessary pieces and resources, and leave it up to the player as to how they used them.

In D&D, it was also important that we had physical dice that rolled on the virtual table, to really bring that tabletop feel.

In Boss Monster, there was a focus on card interaction and readability – especially for GearVR users that have limited input. There are also a very defined set of relatively complex rules for the game, so a bit more work went into preventing the player from doing the wrong thing.

Although the apps are based on web content, we took special care to design high-performance environments around each app that set ambiance (Boss Monster Dungeon) and increase the opportunity for roleplay (D&D Tavern).

All of the spaces also include floating 2D web content in some form that provide additional game resources or tutorials.

Why should more tabletop game creators consider bringing their titles to VR?

Prior to social VR, when fans moved away or travelled, there was not an easy way for them to enjoy playing these games together.

Now, in VR, they can not only play, they can capture that feeling of sitting around the same table and enjoying a friend’s company that other mediums cannot.

Responses from fans experiencing their favorite tabletop games in VR has been very positive.

Game creators can increase the opportunity for their fans to play, and ultimately broaden the appeal and accessibility of their games by including a VR version.

As creators see the market reaction, and VR adoption expands, we expect more creators will want VR versions of their games.

What are the biggest trends currently affecting VR development?

Importantly, VR equipment is becoming easier to use and more available.

Products like Samsung’s Gear VR are making VR more affordable and mobile, and therefore more accessible for a broad audience of consumers, which expands possibilities for game creators.

Also, VR is a new medium. Best practices are still being discovered and shared. Developers are constantly finding new exciting use cases that only work in VR, and will continue to do so for some time to come.

In the early days of the smartphone, apps like Angry Birds and Cut the Rope highlighted a natural design interface for the touch screen. Similarly, many companies will find innovative UI and UX that will be native to VR.

What are the biggest challenges facing the wider audience for VR titles – and how can developers help overcome them?

Probably the biggest challenge for a wider audience for VR is simply the availability of VR equipment.

As these products become more affordable, easier to use, and more available, the audiences for VR titles will grow.

Aside from that, performance has to be top priority. There is a high bar for smooth performance in VR, and when it is not met there are serious consequences for user comfort and repeated VR use. The community has been hard at work to establish best practices and optimise performance to the fullest.

AltspaceVR is available on Oculus, Vive and Gear VR. How do you predict interest in the various headsets to shape the market going forward?

Cross-platform compatibility is important for a social VR offering. No one can really predict how the VR landscape will look a year from now, but we will be monitoring these and other products going forward.

"In the early days of the smartphone, apps like Angry Birds and Cut the Rope highlighted a natural design interface for the touch screen. Similarly, many companies will find innovative UI and UX that will be native to VR."

Bruce Wooden, AltspaceVR

You describe AltspaceVR as offering a more ‘social’ VR experience. Could you expand on how this is achieved and why it is important?

Every new technology medium has a significant impact on how humans empathise and connect with each other, and VR is no different.

The sense of space, of being, and of non-verbal communication that are unique to VR make sharing a virtual space with another human being a very compelling thing in VR – even through abstract avatars.

More generally, what are the key design considerations first-time VR developers should remain aware of?

It is worth thinking about how a game or app in VR is different from the typical 2D app experience.

Users can walk around the content. Is there a way to take advantage of that – or require a user to do so?

Users have a sense of scale and distance in VR – a large-scale object can be psychologically intimidating for a user; a small object the opposite.

What’s next for AltspaceVR?

There are many use cases for our platform that we are yet to discover, and we find ourselves surprised every other week by what developers have prototyped using our SDK already.

As VR adoption reaches a broader audience, we are looking forward to providing a natural and fulfilling communication platform for more applications, games, events, and communities.

This article is part of our month-long Virtual Reality Special.You can find more VR content here.

About MCV Staff

Check Also

Saints and Sinners

Oculus Quest is in the VR driving seat – The Walking Dead: Saints & Sinners sells 10x more on all-in-one headset

The game, which launched one year ago this week, has surpassed $29m in revenue on all platforms