Today at GDC, Oculus revealed some exciting updates on its new major platform: Oculus Go. We also got a sneak peek at a few of the first Oculus Go launch titles, described below, all of which are made with Unity.
The Headset: Affordable and user-friendly
When it launches soon, Oculus Go’s low price and unique features can help increase your potential reach as a developer. It’s an all-in-one headset and comes at the low price of $199, making VR accessible to a much larger audience.
Oculus Go is also a user-friendly headset. It is binary-compatible with Gear VR and based on an Android OS, but because Oculus owns every level of the stack there are some special VR optimizations that you won’t see anywhere else. One of these optimizations is a new technology Oculus built with Qualcomm, called Fixed Foveated Rendering, which increases performance by focusing the eye on the center of the image.
Oculus Go also features new processor technology called Dynamic Throttling, which helps save battery life and delivers increased performance when needed. All of these features make the Oculus Go a great multi-use device to watch 360 videos, play casual games, or simply hangout with your friends in VR.
Oculus Go is available for public demos for the first time at GDC. GDC attendees who stop by the Oculus booth can try three Made-with-Unity games on the new headset: They Suspect Nothing by Coatsink, Catan VR by Experiment 7 and Anshar Online by OZWE. I had the chance to chat with these developers to learn more about what it’s like to build for Oculus Go.
They Suspect Nothing by Coatsink
I don’t want to say these robots are dumb, but…
As the last human in a world controlled by bungling robots, you’ve managed to elude capture by scavenging spare parts, which you’ve turned into a makeshift disguise. But the time has come to “prove you are metal” in a series of human detection tests. Don’t worry, though, They’re not the sharpest. They suspect nothing.
In They Suspect Nothing, the player must perform a series of fun, but bizarre, tasks to prove they’re a robot. It’s Coatsink’s fifth VR title to date, but the development process was a bit different this time. Because the game is a collection of tests, or mini-games, it was a lot more like a big game jam at the beginning of the development cycle. They split up into small “spike teams” to rapidly prototype and design these smaller mini-games.
“This is where Unity’s tools shine,” says Paul Crabb, designer at Coatsink. “The editor’s flexibility allows our spike teams to rapidly create and iterate to build many versions of an idea for testing and filtering down into the optimal experience.”
Testing directly on the consumer hardware
When it was time for testing, Unity’s native platform integration allowed them to test directly on the consumer hardware within minutes. In a matter of hours, they had testable gameplay running on-device. In a matter of days, they had a playable prototype.
Open Part Surgery prototype (top) and final result (bottom)
Coatsink built about 25 mini-games before determining which 12 would make it into the final game as robot tests for the player. The game is designed exclusively for Mobile VR and will be available on Oculus Go and Gear VR.
The team enjoyed working with the latest Oculus hardware and found that Oculus Go is simpler to develop for because it removes the need to test on different phones. When asked if they had any tips for other Mobile VR developers, the Coatsink team said the most important aspects are to fail fast, make use of the whole VR space, and of course, reduce draw calls by any and all means.
Catan VR by Experiment 7
Just like game night (but maybe even better)
True to the classic, but optimized for virtual reality, Catan VR allows tabletop fans and new players alike to experience the best-selling board game in a fresh, fully-immersive format. The devs at Experiment 7 believe that VR has huge potential when it comes to social presence and bringing people together, which is why they designed Catan VR with multiplayer in mind, allowing people to play one of their favorite games any time with friends around the world.
What you can’t do in the real world, you can do in VR
Catan VR is Experiment 7’s third VR title – the first two being other traditional tabletop games turned VR. Geoffrey Zatkin, the Creative Director, explained that their goal was to both encapsulate the entirety of the game and improve upon it in ways that weren’t possible in the physical version. To achieve this, Experiment 7 worked closely with the original creators of Catan, Klaus and Benjamin Teuber.
One of the advantages of playing Catan in VR is that the game takes care of the mechanical thinking for you. No need to figure out how many resources to collect based on a roll; you can instead focus on game strategy and enjoy hanging out with other players.
Special VR considerations for technical art
Experiment 7’s technical lighting artist, Kelly Mermelstein, mentioned that it was important to use natural, positive lighting in order to make it comfortable for players to hang in VR for the length of a game ( a game of Catan lasts 40+ minutes), while also keeping the immersion strong. Experiment 7 found the new Progressive Lightmapper to be helpful in creating a streamlined view between the Rift and Gear VR/Oculus Go. They were able to quickly and easily make all three platforms feel very close to one another, without having to sacrifice too much quality. She focused on creating a beautiful, static environment that wouldn’t be too distracting, but added some hidden animated elements to the game board for those who are looking closely.
Catan VR will be available on Oculus Rift, Gear VR and Oculus Go when it launches later this year. The game needed to be optimized to perform well on all three platforms, while also supporting robust multiplayer, which was one of the larger design and development challenges.
However, the result is well worth the team’s effort. Since Catan VR has VOIP abilities, and allows players to see the other avatars (accurately represented with head and hand-tracking), it is much more immersive than playing Catan in another digital form. Everyone’s heads, hands, and voices are alive, just like game night.
Learn more about Experiment 7.
Anshar Online by OZWE Games
An action-packed space shooter
Put your skills to the test while racing friends in the visually stunning world of Anshar Online. It contains over 50 missions and multiple modes including PvP, Co-op and space-racing, has single and multiplayer options and is compatible with Rift, Gear VR and Oculus Go. OZWE Games has been building mobile VR games since before the Gear VR was announced in 2014.
Like Experiment 7, OZWE Games found that designing a multiplatform/multiplayer game came with some challenges, but it was important to them to make the game as accessible as possible. One of the things that they focused on was making sure that the players on lower-end hardware would not have a disadvantage to players on Rift+PC.
Each device has its own control scheme, but a gamepad can be used for any platform, and there is no advantage to using one control scheme over the other. They also made sure the collision system was consistent on all devices, as you wouldn’t want to see another player exploding in mid-air for no reason.
It was also important to OZWE Games that Anshar Online had the same visual quality on all platforms, which is why they spent a lot of time reducing polycount, culling properly, and building beautiful shaders that look great both on mobile and PC.
What about optimization?
In terms of optimization, they found Single Pass Rendering and GPU instancing to be extremely helpful. Stephane Intissar, CEO of OZWE Games, also mentioned that they took advantage of the new features for Oculus Go: dynamic throttling and fixed foveated rendering.
Because of these two features they were able to run at full resolution, with sharper fonts and details. They found that Oculus Go is altogether a much more powerful device, as it was designed only for VR (compared to VR-compatible mobile phones, which need to do much more).
What will you make?
Because Oculus Go runs on the same runtime and requires the same build process as Gear VR, you can begin developing content for it right now in Unity. To take advantage of Unity’s latest and greatest features for VR development, including the new lightweight render pipeline, download Unity 2018.1 beta now.