PlayStation VR Conversations With Developers – Harmonix

October 6, 2015 Written by Tyler Treese

Harmonix VR

In order to kick off PlayStation VR Conversations with a bang, we talked to Jon Carter, the creative director of Harmonix’s upcoming PlayStation VR title. Called Harmonix Music VR, it’s an interactive music visualizer that lets you “climb inside” music.

Find out below how Harmonix Music VR is enhanced by being on PlayStation VR, and what the music game gurus over at Harmonix have learned about developing for this new medium.

PlayStation LifeStyle: What are the additional challenges in developing a game that uses virtual reality? Do you worry about players getting sick?

Jon Carter: Simulator sickness is definitely the biggie.  The only people I worry about getting sick more than players are me and my team!  It’s important to develop best practices around avoiding sim sickness if you want to make anything in VR, because you can’t iterate on any ideas in-engine if you’re too nauseas to put on the headset. In a funny way, our own sensitive stomachs allowed us to arrive pretty quickly at some smart decisions about camera movement, while also providing a great reason to keep our framerate high.

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PSLS: Is virtual reality the next step in evolving the medium of video games?

JC: Virtual Reality will lead to the creation of whole new categories of interactive experiences, some of which will resemble contemporary video games, and some of which will fit somewhere on the continuum between “game” and “experience.”  Games as a whole, though, are evolving in way too many directions to identify one single “next step.” 

PSLS: Do you feel that to make the best possible VR experiences, a game has to be developed from the ground up for VR? Or do you believe that current games can be adapted?

JC: If you look at really early films, a lot of them are basically stage dramas acted out in front of a single camera.  These aren’t all bad movies or anything, but they certainly don’t take full advantage of the medium.  I think the transition from 2D experiences to VR is nicely analogous to the transition from stage to cinema.  So, some current games will certainly make for good VR experiences (especially first- person, cockpit-based games), but the best possible VR experiences must absolutely be built from the ground up for VR.

PSLS: How important is immersion to the experience, and making sure the game doesn’t break away from it?

JC: A sense of immersion is critical to the type of experience we intend to provide, and VR is the most immersive platform currently available.

PSLS: How is Harmonix Music VR enhanced by Virtual Reality?

JC: Harmonix Music VR exists because of Virtual Reality.  There are plenty of existing music visualizers for traditional, 2D screens, but none of those experiences can begin to play with your lizard brain’s sense of space in the way that VR can.  You could say that old-school visualizers aim to let you “watch your song,” whereas our goal is closer to letting you “climb inside your song.”

PSLS: Do you think PlayStation VR will get the same amount of support as other VR devices such as the Oculus Rift?

JC: [PlayStation VR] is going to be great!  Both Sony and Oculus are committed to expanding the boundaries of entertainment with virtual reality, and I think we’re going to see great support from both.


A big thank you to both Jon Carter and the team at Harmonix for doing the interview. You can stay up to date on all of their projects, including the recently released Rock Band 4, over on their website and Twitter.

PlayStation VR Conversations is a recurring interview feature where developers talk about the learning process of developing for virtual reality, and the future of video games.