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PlayStation VR Conversations: MixedBag

In this edition of PlayStation VR Conversations, we talk to Mauro Fanelli, Co-Founder of MixedBag Games. The Italian studio has wowed players with their previous games forma.8 and Futuridium EP Deluxe. The latter of which, Futuridium, will see a port and a sequel made specifically for PlayStation VR.

Find out below why Mauro feels like the best of virtual reality is yet to come!

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

Mauro Fanelli: There are a lot of challenges. First, VR development is like a blank slate: there are no known rules, everyone is pretty much experimenting. And that’s exciting from a game design standpoint, but also very scary.

We started working with VR more than a year ago and a lot of things we tried simply didn’t work. We’ve made a lot of little prototypes and we had to throw a lot of ideas that sounded brilliant on paper out of the windows and start over again. And again. And again.

Sure, there are also some technical limits, rendering the scene costs more and you have to maintain a stable and high frame rate (60fps at least), but nailing the gameplay is a lot harder.

Not making the players sick is the top priority: no one want to give the player an unpleasant experience, but while the technology is constantly evolving it’s still pretty easy to mess up doing the wrong thing.

For Futuridium VR we’ve been extremely careful in giving the players a good experience, and while the game is a crazy fast shooter it is also, surprisingly, an extremely safe VR experience. Actually, I’m quite sensitive to VR, so I am a good test subject! 

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

MF: Maybe it’s too early to tell, but for sure it’s a very important step and it will expand what can be done in games. We’ll see a lot of brilliant gameplay ideas and experiences possible only in VR, we’re only scratching the surface.

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?

MF: Adapting an existing game is tricky. As crazy as it may sound, adapting a ‘classic’ FPS, probably the first videogame genre on everyone’s mind when speaking about VR, it’s almost impossible to do without radically changing the basic gameplay formula and control system.

To make VR shine starting from scratch is the best approach: we’ve experimented with both adapting Futuridium and developing new ideas. Futuridium required a lot of work to nail it, it was not a simple ‘put the VR camera there’ stuff, but it’s the experimental stuff that’s really exciting for us.

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

MF: It’s crucial, and breaking it can be very easy. It’s all about making sure the player is in a believable world: you don’t need ultra realistic graphics, but you need everything to be extremely coherent.

That’s why adopting a very simple or abstract graphic style can do wonders in VR: the human brain can fill in the gaps and is more flexible in accepting some minor visual artifacts or any incongruent [details].

It’s also very important to replicate as faithfully as possible the real world player position in the virtual world: if you’re roaming in a dungeon or parachuting from a plane in VR, it really doesn’t work if you’re seated in the real world.

PSLS: How is Futuridium enhanced by Virtual Reality?

MF: It’s our intention to actually make two games: one is the port of the original Futuridium EP Deluxe, the second one is a full fledged VR only sequel. What we’ve showed at E3 was the port of the game with a couple of extra levels and VR enhancements. The port of EP Deluxe for now doesn’t include specific VR gameplay mechanics, but it works very well in VR and running at native 120fps really benefits the fast paced nature of the game. It’s like being into a giant 80s’ arcade, but in 3D.

For the true VR Futuridium sequel, we have a lot of possible-in-VR-only ideas. It’ll be a very different experience with unique VR mechanics, I can’t wait to show more about it!

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

MF: I think so. Sony is very proactive approaching developers, they worked very well with indies on PS4 and they’re doing the same with Morpheus.

The best experiences for Morpheus still have to be unveiled.

A big thank you to both Mauro Fanelli and the team at MixedBag Games for doing the interview. You can stay up to date on Futuridium VR, 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.

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