Virtual reality is in full swing with the devlopment of the Oculus Rifts Touch controllers, the popular launch of PlayStation VR, and the HTC Vive selling over 100,000 units. One of the studios developing games for the latter options is Three Fields Entertainment.
The former Criterion developers have decided to enter the VR range, so to speak, with Lethal VR, a gun range simulator inspired by some of Hollywood's greatest gun action. With the game picked up by pubilsher Team 17, I spoke to Alex Ward, Chris Roberts and Phil Maguire about their upcoming release, the studio's previous efforts and the accuracy needed for a VR shooting range.
Your history in games has been based around a lot of destruction and pace on screen (Burnout/Dangerous Golf). How has it been changing tack and creating something in VR?
Alex Ward: Lethal VR is a fast action shooting and throwing game set in a virtual gun training environment. It features a little bit of destruction, but it’s still a fast paced game. VR was something new and exciting to try, and that can only be good for a small team like ours. As a small independent developer, there’s no one to stop us so if something feels interesting and fun then naturally, we’ll gravitate towards it.
I’ve seen that popular action movies inspired the levels and the gun play. How hard is it to capture the feel of those moments within VR, or is that easier than making a realistic gun range?
Chris Roberts: We tried a lot of different VR games on all of the headsets. Some of them felt quite complicated to use and simply weren’t fun. It was almost off-putting. We aim to create fun entertainment that can be enjoyed by a wide mass market consumer audience. Simulations can be fun, but they won’t appeal to a wide audience. Hollywood would be out of business overnight if that were the case. Personally speaking, I’ve always wanted to pretend to be Robocop, James Bond, or Dirty Harry for a few moments.
You’ve developed this for HTC Vive and PSVR. How has the difference in the way the units track their movement controllers and headsets been a challenge?
AW: Yes, but it’s not a challenge that cannot be overcome. They do different things differently, and that is reflected in their price points. The game was created as a full 360 room scale experience for the HTC Vive and we took full advantage of what the Vive hardware can do. Our engineers and designers are in the process of adapting the game for PSVR right now.
Personally speaking, I’ve always wanted to pretend to be Robocop, James Bond, or Dirty Harry for a few moments.
Accuracy is key with a game like this. How do you make sure that you get the most accurate shot with the variables inherent in using motion controls?
Phil Maguire: Motion tracking on Vive and Oculus is astonishingly accurate - they are reportedly as precise as using a mouse. While not as precise, the motion tracking of the PlayStation Move and Dualshock 4 controllers is also accurate enough for simulating aiming a gun. The fun of the game comes from the fact that the tracking is precise enough that when you miss a target it is because your aim was off, rather than a fault of the hardware. We deliberately played with this accuracy when we added semi-automatic and fully-automatic firing modes for the Uzi by adding muzzle spread into our simulation. While you can still get a tight grouping we don't just fire a whole clip on a precise laser guided path."
PSVR in particular is going to be a key point for the VR industry. As a developer, how have you found developing for it and is it something you’d do again?
AW: The development tools are very good and straightforward to use, which is incredibly helpful especially for indie developers keen to experimenting with the system and with VR in general.