VR World Congress 2017

At the VR World Congress (VRWC) 2017 we exhibited our vertical slice of a steampunk-inspired, interactive, multiplayer virtual reality (VR) experience: “The Acopperlypse” (Bristolian accents welcome). This year’s event was once again packed with innovators, discussions, demos and ideas.

So, what inspired our contribution?

Motivation

VR by its very nature can be an isolated experience: 1 headset – 1 person. Since our first interactive VR production, we’ve observed a repeating question and reservation.

“How can we get more people involved in the same VR experience?”

The brave investments our clients provide for such amazing experiences made us ponder on how to offer further engagement to more than 1 person all at the same time. Exhibiting at VRWC in Bristol was the perfect opportunity to demonstrate a multi-interface approach. Meaning, we’d not be constrained by multiple expensive VR headsets.

And so the goal was set; create a VR experience with more people interacting with the VR player’s world, on any input device and any display.

Hardware

So, how do we interact with our HTC Vive VR experience? Through a laptop? A phone? Tablet?
That would be boring, right?  Alongside our VR exploits, we have been developing interactive and non-interactive content on hologram displays with our hardware partners Realfiction.
With our in-house demo HD3 hologram unit and custom input devices, we wanted to underline the use of any input and any display device that interacts in parallel with the VR player.

Game on!

Having delivered many VR experiences for clients on mobile and tethered headsets, we had a list of 5 killer must-haves:
1. accessible to both newbies and those more experienced in VR
2. adaptable for both immersive VR (360º environment) and on an external display – HD3 hologram unit as a fixed view perspective
3. short enough to encourage completion
4. lend itself well to the fixed booth space at the event, and most importantly
5. bring that big VR grin to both the player in VR and the hologram.

Challenges

With 4 weeks to bring our game from a concept on paper to reality, there were challenges on both the art and development side. Our heritage in high fidelity 3d animations means one of our core values is to always, without exception, deliver gold standard visuals. Alongside engaging gameplay, gold standard visuals is a nymbl baseline standard. It defines who we are and what we do as a studio. A fluid in-house CGI and development pipeline meant a project like this further adapted our workflow in order to meet the demands of our brief.

For those wanting a bit more geek, examples include:
1. optimizing our Perforce version control pipeline for non-destructive art and development cycles
2. new asset creation workflows for multiple high fidelity and optimized assets – quickly
3. implementing the network code to enable the realtime interaction of the VR world and hologram world in parallel – all whilst ensuring performance is never compromised for the VR player.
4. hologram controls and layout in a small 3mx2m space.

THE ACOPPERLYPSE!

The year is 2457. It has been 440 years since the rise of the machines. Man has long been wiped out and machines have become void of purpose or predators. They’ve evolved from terrifying sentinels during the awakening, into wind-up copper shells of their former selves. They blindly wander the earth mining and turning the land into a raging inferno.

There is but one hope.

As the last bastion against these aimless automatons, the VR player represents the only surviving human. The goal is to protect your dwelling and prevent the ultimate ACOPPERLYPSE.

The hologram player is the commander of the machines, piloting a copper UFO that’s suspended by propellers, instead of the long since lost, anti-gravity. Using the spaceship’s controls, the aimless mini-machines are distributed onto the battlefield to finally rid the planet of those pesky humans.

Combining two game classics, VR players competed under a “tower defence” mechanic and hologram players competed using a “Fairground claw crane and button” mechanic to control the copper UFO with levers.

The future

Developing this experience has provided our own answer to the question:

“How can we get more people involved in the same VR experience?”

At VR World Congress (VRWC) 2017 we demoed a two-player version on unique devices. There could be 5, 10, even a whole audience taking part in the same physical space or over the web. All interacting in parallel in the same experience from unique perspectives. The opportunities are incredible.

Thank you to everyone for the great reception and constructive comments it received over the 3 days. So much, in fact, we plan to release a dual and single player version for free this summer. Keep your eyes peeled for the published app right here on nymbl.com.

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