Opening the Gates of Nowhere at GDC 2018

The Game Developers Conference (GDC) 2018 may have ended a few weeks ago but VRFocus has still got lots of interesting virtual reality (VR) snippets from the event. The latest is an interview with Italian developer Symmetrical, discussing its VR horror experience Gates of Nowhere for HTC Vive and Oculus Rift.

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Having launched via Steam Early Access in August 2017 the team has continually updated and improved the title over the last few months. The experience is your classic dungeon crawler style videogame, with no explanation of why you’re there it’s a case of exploring the crumbling ruins in which you find yourself, picking up any useful items on route. These can be ingredients to make life giving potions or a sword and shield to protect yourself from the creatures that lurk in the darkness.

Last month saw the release of the campaign’s final chapter for Early Access players, unlocking a new weapon – the Hammer – bringing the total available up to ten, as well as Audio Spatialization and dynamic clothes to make the immersion even better.

While at GDC 2018 Symmetrical was showcasing Gates of Nowhere for the first time on HTC Vive Pro. While the title looks good on the standard headset the HTC Vive Pro certainly lives up to its name, offering greater clarity, depth and immersion than its little brother, much in the same way VRFocus was impressed with Evasion.

Gates of Nowhere Screen-Update-10-1

In VRFocus’ preview of the videogame we said: “Having been in Early Access for a number of months now Gates of Nowhere is looking very promising. Symmetrical look to have all the right ingredients for one of the best dungeon crawlers in VR, but there is some fine tuning needed before it can reach that lofty goal against some stiff competition.”

VRFocus spoke with Symmetrical’s Fabrizio Terranova about development of Gates of Nowhere and plans for its future as well as discussing the studio’s other projects that are in the works in the video below. For further updates on Gates of Nowhere, keep reading VRFocus.

PlayStation Leads The Way On VR Livestreaming

Videogame livestreaming is pretty popular. Many publishers and developers have a somewhat ambivalent relationship towards the streaming community, despite the popularity and Twitch, live broadcasts of events such as Awesome Games Done Quick and e-sports. Sony, however, seems to be embracing livestreaming for virtual reality (VR) with upcoming new features.

At the Game Development Conference (GDC) last month, Richard Forester, Senior Team Lead at Sony’s Research & Development West group announced a range of features that could see implementation into the sharing features of the PlayStation VR.

PlayStation VR users can already capture screenshots, record video or livestream gameplay using the functions available from the SHARE button. The footage thus captured is f the ‘social screen’ – which equates to the slightly cut down first-person view that is usually shown on the TV during play. This can cause problems if the tracking is slightly off, or the player is looking in the wrong direction during an important moment, as viewers can miss things.

Forester indicated that the new features that his department were experimenting with were not yet planned for implementation into the PlayStation VR, but he did say that Sony are actively searching for better ways for players to share their PlayStation VR experience with others. If for no other reason than it makes for great advertising for the product.

Several possibilities for new tools were presented. The first was called ‘Easy Access Broadcasting’ which was described as being similar to what is currently possible via the SHARE button but with the view modified for a better sharing experience. Forester suggested that the view could be re-rendered for proper fullscreen output, instead of the cropped version currently available; or a steadicam mode, which would remove the ‘shakycam’ effect that viewers can get when players move their heads quickly, creating a more comfortable viewing experience.

Another idea was to have another person present who would have command of a Dual Shock controller who could act as the director of the livestream. This second user could use the controller to adjust the camera view, or make other changes in real-time.

Driver4VR PlayStation Move

Even more sophisticated ideas are already being explored at R&D West. The team there created an Air Hockey VR Demo to use for experimenting with third-person camera views. The team even worked with giving the player avatar a kind of artificial life, such as fake eye movements, blinking or object tracking.

Mixed Reality compositing has also been worked with, with the player seeming to appear within the game world. Forester said that with sufficient processing power, it was even possible to apply masking and compositing to make it appear that the player was moving within the game world, making them appear to go behind trees, for example.

It was noted that this level of complexity would require a great deal of power and system resources, for which Forester suggested those functions could be outsources to a second PlayStation 4 Pro, which would be dedicated towards output for real-time broadcasting. Obviously the cost of this means it would be an approach best left to professional broadcasters or VR centres, though some streamers might consider it a justifiable expense.

Sony haven’t yet confirmed which, if any, of these new features might make it to the public, but it seems like the company intends to keep backing livestreaming. Now, if they’d just update the PlayStation Move, the future would look quite rosy for the PlayStation VR.

Yomuneco Discuss Their Multiplayer Co-Op Sword Fighting Title Gargantua

Japanese based Yomuneco are trying to change the way videogame players interact with characters while sword fighting. VRFocus spoke to Kiyoshi Shin, CEO of Yomuneco Inc. and Producer of their latest virtual reality (VR) title Gargantua about how it’s making sword fighting more realistic.

GARGANTUA - Screenshot

With the title as it is you may think, Shen says, that Gargantua is the name of a giant within the videogame. But in fact the the title gets its name of a pentalogy of French novels, The Life of Gargantua and of Patagruel, which was written in the 16th Century by Francois Rabelais.  Though they don’t exactly follow the same story, Gargantua is set in a fictional land where robots and humans are fighting for control of the world. With two generations of giants existing, humans are now trying to overthrow the mechs and regain control.

Utilising an Oculus Rift, VRFocus got hands-on with Gargantua at this year’s Game Developers Conference, getting to grips with the various melee weapons, as well as learning techniques and ways to deal with enemies. Through a combination of a tutorial and then getting stuck into various waves of enemies, you learn how to use each weapon, as well as how ebst to use shields and the lock-on mechanisms to both attack and defend yourself.

Shin explains that the majority of VR videogames consist of first-person shooters (FPS), something that Japanese videogame developers and audiences are less interested in. Instead, they’re more focused on role-playing games (RPG’s), fighting big bosses and wielding large swords. With Gargantua they’re hoping to bring elements of RPG’s into VR; specifically those with sword fighting. Yomuneco have developed a new collision system which can detect where enemies are hitting the player’s arm – something missing from previous VR sword fighting games.

He indicates and showcases on his right arm where a sword can hit, and the development the technology around it. However Shin’s biggest source of pride is making Gargantua for four player co-op. At the moment Gargantua is being developed for the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive, however he says that it might also be coming to mixed reality (MR) headsets. Gargantua will have around six hours of gameplay and will be focused on PC VR. Shin believes that what they’re doing in terms of new developments and systems will help make fighting bosses altogether more enjoyable and fun. Magic and spellcasting are also set to be introduced to Gargantua in the future, allowing player the chance to try different tactics. Replayability is also set to be high with random waves of enemies and bosses waking up – so you’d best keep on your toes whenever you go in because it’ll be different every time.

Gargantua will be released at the end of 2018 and will be available to play for four people, to find out more watch the video below.


Archiact is Having a Blast Making VR FPS Evasion

If you’ve been following VRFocus’ coverage of Evasion, an upcoming virtual reality (VR) first-person shooter (FPS) by Archiact Interactive, then you’ll know we’ve developed a fondness for the title after a couple of separate previews. Offering something VR enthusiasts didn’t think was possible only a short while ago, Evasion is turning into a AAA shooter for VR. Catching up with the team during the Game Developers Conference (GDC) 2018 VRFocus found out further details on the experience.


Archiact announced its latest title back in October 2017, going for a sci-fi, bullet hell gameplay style that would support both single-player and co-op multiplayer modes. With four character classes to choose from Evasion allows up to four people to play as a team, traversing destructible environments, completing objectives and facing off against giant bosses.

Each of the four classes (Striker, Surgeon, Engineer and Warden) have their own unique strengths, weapons and abilities, with players able to customise their class as they level-up.

With a frantic paced shooter like Evasion Archiact has been keen to ensure players are as comfortable as possible whilst in VR. So there’s a big range of movement customisation options available to suit every need. Whether that’s teleportation, smooth locomotion, snap turning or anything in between.

Evasion Screenshot #6

When VRFocus previewed Evasion at GDC 2018 Archiact was demoing the experience alongside the new HTC Vive Pro, to which we said: “Having used the HTC Vive since launch and being accustomed to its visual fidelity there was certainly a ‘wow’ moment stepping out into Evasion’s alien world, it looked so crisp and vivid that it’s was easy to forget this demo was being held in GDC. Screenshots of VR titles can sometimes look far better than what’s actually presented, this was like being inside a screenshot.”

Talking to Archiact Interactive’s Senior Producer Jennifer Dowding, VRFocus learnt that the Evasion build was specific to GDC 2018, unlocking more content and giving taste of the co-op action. Check out the interview below and for any further info on Evasion keep reading VRFocus.

Sony Experimenting with Advanced Livestreaming Features for PSVR, Mixed Reality Views

Speaking during a session at GDC 2018 last month, Richard Forester, Senior Team Lead at Sony’s Research & Development West group, chronicled a range of explorations in advanced livestreaming and sharing features for PSVR.

Today PSVR users can access the usual PS4 broadcasting tools. Using the SHARE button, you can capture screenshots, videos, and livestream gameplay showing your view from the ‘Social Screen’, the cropped first-person view shown on the TV as you play. But PC VR users have had a leg up thanks to access to tools which allow for things like a picture-in-picture view of the player, and even mixed reality views where games allow players to composite themselves into the action.

In the session, Forester said that the livestreaming experiments he was going to share were not yet part of the company’s SDK roadmap for PSVR, though the session made it clear that Sony is interested in finding new and improved ways for users to share their PSVR gaming sessions with audiences.

Forester identified several different modalities which the experimental tools are positioned toward.

The first is what he called “easy access broadcasting,” the kind of low-production livestreaming that a single user could manage in their own. The approach is similar to what PSVR users can do today with the SHARE function, except this mode could allow the player to position a virtual camera within their game world, rather than only broadcasting the first-person Social Screen view. Forester suggested that the first-person view could be modified for a better sharing experiencing, including the ability to re-render the view for proper fullscreen output (rather than relying on a cropped and distorted version of the view rendered for the headset). A steadicam mode, which would smooth out shaky head movements could also be applied, in addition to post effects to change the look and feel of the output.

Another modality, which involves a bit more production, would be to have a ‘producer on the couch’, a second user who would act as the livestream director. The second user could be sitting on the couch next to the VR player, and use a controller to adjust camera views and make other adjustments in real-time, potentially also offering on-the-spot commentary.

Forester explained that the R&D West team had built an internal Air Hockey VR demo to play with some of these ideas and see what else could be done to enhance the streaming experience.

As they began experimenting with third-person camera views, it became clear that tweaking the way the player is rendered to the third-person camera would make for a better live streaming experience. For instance, while the game alone wouldn’t have required it, Forester suggested that adding some kinematics to the avatar to make them move more realistically would make the third-person perspective look better to viewers. Fake eye-movements, like blinking and object tracking, were also something that he noted could make avatars look more believable and interesting for viewers.

Image courtesy Sony

The team also experimented with enabling some of the cool mixed reality composite mixed reality views that are popular for high-production broadcasts of PC VR content. Beyond just compositing a subject into the game using a green screen, Forester said it would also be possible for the game to output a mask which could be used to make players appropriately appear behind content in the game world, rather than just being plastered on top of it (as seen in the image above, where the player is ‘on top’ of the air hockey table instead of behind it).

Of course, compositing and masking take additional resources and could impact the performance of the VR game. Forester suggested that a second PS4 Pro could be employed which would be dedicated to generating output for real-time broadcasting and compositing, which could potentially include 4K and HDR output, additional shader effects and more.

Image courtesy Sony

In addition to sharing gameplay, Forester said that the team was motivated to explore these advanced sharing functions to help developers with promotion of their games, including the ability to output production-ready livestreams for professional streamers, and helping users capture cool moments in VR games to share online. Trade shows too, he said, would benefit from these advanced functions, giving Sony and others better ways to show off what players are seeing inside the headset while other players wait in line to try it for themselves. He also said that the tools could be helpful for the production of VR trailers, giving developers better ways to show potential players what it’s like to play the PSVR title.

Sony was showing off a number of these experiments on the show floor at GDC 2018 using various internal demos, but haven’t committed to which might reach the public.

The post Sony Experimenting with Advanced Livestreaming Features for PSVR, Mixed Reality Views appeared first on Road to VR.

UNLTD and Made with Unity Partner to Create VR Experience TRINITY

In the virtual reality (VR) world, live action experiences tend to come in the form of 360-degree movies, whereas VR videogames tends to be rendered in CGI. VR and augmented reality (AR) studio UNLTD is seeking to change that with the results of its partnership with Made with Unity.

The two companies have joined forces to create an interactive, immersive live-action VR experience called TRINITY, which combined footage shot on live0action cameras with 3D VFX produced with Unity’s real-time development platform.

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TRINITY was screened at Unity’s offices during the Game Developer’s Conference (GDC) where it attracted praise from those in attendance. The experience was created to be an interactive science fiction VR movie experience that puts the user in a world of robots and AI where humanity has long since vanished.

“Creators like UNLTD are redefining VR cinema. We are so proud to be supporting storytelling of this caliber and experiences like TRINITY, which raise the quality bar for everyone,” said Isabelle Riva, Head of Made with Unity, Unity Technologies.

“Working with Unity has been amazing, and completely accelerated not only our post-production process, but gave us a creative freedom to accomplish things nobody has ever seen before,” said John Hamilton, CEO of UNLTD. “We’re looking forward to partnering up again to make TRINITY a global success.”.

TRINITY had its first trailer shown at the SXSW Film Festival earlier this year, with Hamilton speaking of the rewards and challenges involved in filming in VR, covering both the technical and creative sides of working with new technology.

UNLTD and Made with Unity are continuing the collaborate on marketing for TRINITY, including designing a supporting page for the experience on the Made with Unity website. Further details of other results of the collaboration will be revealed in the next few months.

For further news on TRINITY and other UNLTD VR projects, keep checking back with VRFocus.

Keeping an eye on the Future With Tobii

There are plenty of different avenues virtual reality (VR) manufacturers are pursuing to advance the industry, from better visuals like the HTC Vive Pro, to making headsets cable free and standalone such as Oculus Go. Another possibility being looked at is eye tracking, and one of the leaders in the field happens to be Tobii. So VRFocus caught up with Tobii Tech President Oscar Werner during the recent Game Developers Conference (GDC) to find out more.

Tobii HTC Vive headset

Eye tracking technology has a number of different use cases when it comes to VR. One of the biggest benefits comes in conjunction with foveated rendering. This helps reduce processing power by focusing maximum graphical performance where the user is looking whilst reducing detail at the periphery of their vision. With the GPU concentrating on a smaller area its working less and thus consuming less power, ideal for standalone devices that run off batteries, as it’ll make each charge last longer.

Secondary benefits relate to actual use cases. For example in social experiences like Facebook Spaces users can actually look at each other, providing far more realistic, human interactions, deepening the immersion. Or then there’s VR advertising, where brands and developers try to work out the most popular viewing areas when placing ads. Heat maps can be generated using eye tracking to give an accurate model of where each users gaze in concentrated.

VRFocus has been reporting on Tobii and eye tracking technology for a couple of years, yet the tech is still in its infancy when it comes to VR. Last year Tobii released an eye tracking development kit for HTC Vive and it was HTC Vive that the company used to showcase its latest developments during GDC 2018.

Qualcomm 845 Mobile VR Reference Design

One of Tobii’s most interesting announcements came a week prior to GDC 2018 when the company announced a partnership with Qualcomm. Qualcomm had unveiled its Snapdragon 845 Mobile VR Reference Design the previous month, demonstrating the design during GDC with Tobii’s tech built in.

Check out full full interview with Werner below, and for the latest updates from Tobii, keep reading VRFocus.

VR Board Gaming Comes Alive With Catan VR

Experiment 7 are the masters of virtual reality (VR) board games, having initially launched Magic Table Chess followed by Dungeon Chess. Last month saw the team release their next immersive experience Catan VR for Oculus Rift and Samsung Gear VR. VRFocus caught up with Experiment 7 to discuss the new title and more.


Catan VR arrived on the first day of the Game Developers Conference (GDC) 2018, with attendees able to play it on not only Oculus Rift and Gear VR but also upcoming standalone headset Oculus Go. The event was the first time Oculus had demoed its new head-mounted display (HMD) to the public whilst confirming that Catan VR would be one of the launch titles for the device.

A joint project between Catan GmbH, Catan Studio, Asmodee Digital and Experiment 7, Catan VR remains true to the classic, but optimised for VR gameplay. Players take the role of settlers who need to establish colonies on the islands of Catan, acquiring resources to build infrastructure and roads whilst engaging in trade with other players, all with aim of growing large enough to get the ten victory points needed to win.

Featuring both single-player and multiplayer online modes, up to four people can play against one another in cross-platform gameplay, with Oculus Rift players having the added bonus of two hands compared with Gear VR and Oculus Go’s single controller.

Catan VR - Screenshot

Speaking to Demetri Detsaridis, Co-Founder and Managing Director at Experiment 7, VRFocus found out that the launch was delayed due to Oculus Go enabling the team to polish the title further whilst adding additional features like hand gestures to make the experience that bit more interactive and fun. Other options include being able to change the masks other players can see and swapping the environment if the classic look (seen above) isn’t to your liking.

Available on the Oculus Store for Samsung Gear VR and Oculus Rift, priced at £7.99 GBP and £10.99 respectively, VRFocus will continue its coverage of Experiment 7 and its latest VR projects.

Atari Showcase Rollercoaster Tycoon Joyride On PlayStation VR

During the recent Game Developer Conference (GDC) 2018 VRFocus were able to sit down with Atari’s Senior Producer, Simon Deal and talk about their upcoming virtual reality (VR) videogame, Rollercoaster Tycoon Joyride.

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Rollercoaster Tycoon Joyride is a VR enhanced experience that is a mix between first-person VR rollercoaster rides and non-VR gameplay that is akin to other Rollercoaster Tycoon titles. Though there is no theme park management in this title like other entries there is plenty to do with just the building mechanics and the gameplay that comes from riding the rollercoasters as well.

The title will feature two huge locations that are designed for completely different types of rollercoasters including a huge canyon that will let players build massive drops that will surly get the adrenaline flowing. In the interview Simon Deal just mention that conversations have been had about possible new locations that could be added to the title including a Kitchen. As for the tracks themselves, their are plenty of different pieces that players will be able to put together to create the biggest and best rollercoaster that the world has ever seen.

RollerCoaster Tycoon Joyride Screenshot 03

Sharing will be included in the title as well but not via direct sharing but rather through the leaderboard. Should you get a high enough score and get on the board, other players will be able to find your score and download the rollercoaster to then try and beat the set score.

What makes Rollercoaster Tycoon Joyride an interesting title is that beyond making and designing the rides the player will be able to experience it for themselves in fast paced VR. There will also be a number of gameplay modes available for players to enjoy while riding on a rollercoaster of their design including shooting at targets. There are three different types of weapons available to pick up that change the shooting gameplay up a bit allow for players to find an ideal setup all while competing for the highest score. For those wanting to get the max score the title will include a slow motion feature that can be used to maximize your shoots and score multiplier.

Rollercoaster Tycoon Joyride is set to release later this year for PlayStation VR. You can see the whole interview from GDC 2018 below.

VRFocus will be sure to bring you all the latest on Rollercoaster Tycoon Joyride in the future so stay tuned for more.

10 Minutes of ‘Vacation Simulator’ Gameplay, Owlchemy Labs’ Sequel to ‘Job Simulator’

Owlchemy Labs, the studio behind Job Simulator (2016) and Rick and Morty: Virtual Rick-ality (2017), are back again with a new whimsical take on the simulator-satire genre – Vacation Simulator.

Unveiled at this year’s GDC, we got a chance to go hands-on with the colorful, object-based game that puts you in an imperfect simulation of what life must have been like before all the jobs (and now vacations) were replaced by automated labor.

Taking what they’ve learned from their previous titles, Owlchemy Labs is setting Vacation Simulator apart from Job Simulator by offering multiple interlinked areas which can be traversed by node teleportation, letting you pop into sections of the game that offer room-scale activities like playing beach games, building sand castles and chomping down on popsicles you can buy with sand dollars (replete with a $ dollar sign). There’s also a narrative at play, although we’ve only seen one area in the demo, so what that’s supposed to be, we just can’t say.

Check out our hands-on with Vacation Simulator to hear all the fun you’ll be having in the virtual sun.

Vacation Simulator is slated to arrive on HTC Vive, Oculus Rift, and PSVR sometime later this year.

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