kayla-kinnunenKayla Kinnunen is a game director at Roadhouse Interactive, which is an independent game development studio based out of Vancouver, BC. She talks about her process of evangelizing VR at her studio and slowly ramping up a VR team. She made a goal to put every one of Roadhouse’s 150 employees through a Vive demo loop, and she talks about what discovered in doing this as process well as how a indie game studio is thinking about VR.

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Seeing the Valve demo room at the Steam Dev Days gathering in early 2014 convinced Kayla Kinnunen that VR has a transformational potential, and now nearly two years later we’re approaching the consumer launch of the first VR HMDs. There’s still a lot of risk to dive all into to VR game development, and so Kayla talks about her process over the past couple of years to do some internal evangelizing of VR.

She decided that the best way to establish a baseline of conversation about VR was to first give all 150 employees of Roadhouse Interactive a wide range of Vive demos over the course of about 30 minutes. She wanted to build a consensus around what VR is, what works in VR, as well as what doesn’t work.

She slowly tweaked a demo loop that has a logical progression of showing specific mechanics. She starts with the constraint-free 3D graffiti painting application of Tiltbrush before putting on headsets so that people could get used to what it feels like to have frictionless creation within VR. She then puts on headphones and puts them through the TheBlu: The Encounter in order to demonstrate what a linear storytelling cinematic VR experience looks like. Then she shows Valve’s Apature Robot Repair for what high-fidelity animation can do, but with limited interactivity. She shows Job Simulator for a highly interactive experience, and then finally ends with Fantastic Contraption for a full-on, world-building experience.

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After going through demos, she’s been seeing a lot of excitement as well as lot of ideas being brainstormed. She created a Unity test project that developers can download and start to experiment with VR on their own time. She’s been slowly recruiting internal developers in order to do rapid prototypes in order to quickly interate and continue to experiment with what types of game mechanics seem to work really well.

Kayla reflects a lot of the sentiment at the VRX conference in that 2016 will likely be a year where VR will continue to have a lot of experiments and early explorations as the install base starts to be established within the consumer VR market. It’s obviously too risky of a move to completely shift over all of their development resources, and will instead slowly build out some experiences over the next year.

She’s really excited about how VR can be used as a positive force in the world, and how it could amplify our humanity. She expects that social multiplayer games will help us feel a connection to other people, and that VR can appeal to a broader range of people beyond just gamers because the interface is a lot more intuitive and natural. She sees that VR allow anyone to experience anything, anywhere, and at any time and that ultimately it can help society enjoy the spirit of play as well as help make the world a better place.

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