The Ways of Old
Though Sanzaru is by now one of the most experienced VR development studios to date, they still had to rethink design elements in Asgard’s Wrath that would hardly be a consideration in a non-VR title.
For example, Lingad explained, “[Sanzaru] level designers realized early on that they had to compose their levels to always keep important stuff ‘in frame’. For example, if you pull a lever in a traditional screen-based game, you’d probably get a camera cut to some far-away gate that opens, right? We felt that camera cuts would feel disorienting in VR, so in Asgard’s Wrath we didn’t use any of those tricks. Instead, designers had to make sure that if you’re standing in front of a lever, as you pull it, the thing that you’re affecting is within view so you don’t miss it. As a game designer, VR provides plenty of opportunities to reevaluate the status quo.”
Granted, not everything needs to be rewritten from scratch, Lingad said.
“Another lesson that we learned while working on Asgard’s Wrath is that it’s perfectly fine to mix and match familiar things from traditional screen-based games with the blazing new frontier of virtual reality. Although our inventory menu is built around holding objects, there are some other menu interactions like shopping or crafting that we kept as simple pointer interactions because we found that we wanted faster, more immediate ways of doing those repeated tasks.”
“We’ve been fortunate to work on several projects with Oculus, which has allowed us to take an incremental approach to developing virtual reality experiences. Hand presence was the core focus in VR Sports Challenge (2016), Ripcoil (2016) kickstarted our initial innovations in full-body IK (inverse kinematics) and immersive movement, all of which got a superpowered update in MARVEL Powers United VR (2018),” Lingad said. “None of those mechanics are created or perfected overnight, and Asgard’s Wrath’s development has benefited greatly from all the titles that preceded it.”
But what if you don’t have the benefit of a handful of VR titles under your belt? Lingad offered some advice.
“Going back to our history of developing multiple titles for Oculus, one major takeaway for us is to embrace the process as stepped progression. Our VR design, tech, and pipelines evolved over the course of years. If you’re starting out in VR development, I think it’s prudent to start with a concise, focused project and grow from there.”
“This entire project is a testament to how it’s okay to flex from your original vision. We set out to make something based on the Toybox scale and wound up with a very unique Action/Adventure RPG,” Doran added.