In this edition of PlayStation VR Conversations, we talk to Barry Meade, co-founder of Fireproof Games. Fireproof Games notably created the iOS hit The Room and is currently working on Omega Agent for PlayStation VR.
Find out below how Omega Agent will make you feel like you’re riding in a jetpack, and the real life physical ramifications of virtual reality!
PlayStation LifeStyle: What are the additional challenges in developing a game that uses virtual reality? Do you worry about players getting sick?
Barry Meade: Sure, we stay concious some are prone to nausea and we accommodate for it all we can. VR sets some limits on what you can do but that’s fine, we don’t let it stop us to be honest. While Omega Agent is technically an action game, it’s actually a mid-paced, pared-back, gentle action game a la Pilotwings. We took a lot of care to make the experience as chilled as possible for our players so flying our jetpack feels a bit like having a chairlift cradle you about the skies, although its a rocket-powered, dangerously armed chairlift. We enable players to do crazy turns and swoops and lifts if they want, but it’s down to each player how they pilot their machine, the base unit is just really comfortable and easy to fly. The thing is, VR’s viscerality is itself a powerful force you have to apply with care.
VR forces you to think about physical, real world problems that aren’t even on the radar for non-VR games. For instance, if you make a game where the player blasts between skyscrapers on a jet pack, if a player feels dizzy while playing you have to somewhat admit it’s not just wearing VR goggles, rather the fact that they really feel they are swirling about half a kilometer up in the sky. If you did it in real life your stomach would be doing tumbles all on its own, and so it passes in VR. So VR is weirdly physical like that – if in real life you get vertigo, you will get vertigo when placed on top of a virtual building, it’s a bit Matrix-like to be honest. All this is a big and strange for developers, but that difference is also what makes VR crazily interesting to use and create for.
PSLS: Is virtual reality the next step in evolving the medium of video games?
BM: Hell, who knows? All we know for sure is VR is furiously interesting right now and the tech has a lot yet to give before we see it in its peak form. It’s too early to judge anything, to be honest.
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?
BM: Well, I can only go on personal experience and that tells me that yes, you have to create something from the ground up. But I’m perfectly open to being proved wrong on that. Certainly for Fireproof, to us a new platform deserves new games, that’s how we approached mobile when making The Room and we haven’t seen anything since to make us believe otherwise.
PSLS: How important is immersion to the experience, and making sure the game doesn’t break away from it?
BM: On the surface sure, VR does immersion like nothing can else but it ultimately depends on the game. Some games, for instance actual funny games like Ben There, Dan That require the player to remain self aware and un-immersed to properly enjoy it. But yes, with VR the power of the medium is the visceral reality of it and as such immersion is definitely a head space worth mining for on the platform. I can’t say whether it’s super important, though, as frankly there aren’t enough games on the platform to know that one way or the other.
PSLS: How is Omega Agent enhanced by Virtual Reality?
BM: More than enhanced, it wouldn’t exist, but for VR. We specifically made a jet-pack-in-a-city game because we wanted to boost around a city in VR with total freedom. So the short answer is hell yes it is.
PSLS: Do you think PlayStation VR will get the same amount of support as other VR devices such as the Oculus Rift?
BM: I have no idea and I further have no idea how anyone outside of Sony can know that. I do know that anyone who is serious that is involved in VR is looking at it long term. Right now there’s a lot of players – there’s more than 20 existing devices I think – and no doubt many of those will die off because they can’t wait the few years it might take for the tech to fully mature. But companies like Facebook and Sony (and Samsung, and Valve) are simply not going anywhere and have the juice to see VR through quite a few years to build it up into what it needs to be. So to answer your question better and more fairly, I’d think unless Valve fires their hardware department and Facebook take a suicide run off a cliff, Sony and the others will be in it for the long haul too.
A big thank you to both Barry Meade and the team at Fireproof Studios for doing the interview. You can stay up to date on all of their projects, including Omega Agent, 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.