Michael Glombicki goes hands-on with VREAL’s VR live streaming platform that puts viewers inside the game, right next to their favorite streamers.
I took a short break during my time at PAX West this year to checkout VREAL’s new streaming platform at their office in downtown Seattle. At the office, I strapped on a Vive and jumped into VREAL’s virtual lobby with a couple of others to try things out. After a quick tutorial on how teleportation and avatar controls worked, we moved our characters over to a small floating island depicting a scene from Cloudlands VR Minigolf and teleported in to launch the game.
As a spectator, I was able to teleport around the golf course and view the action from wherever I decided to point my headset. Cloudlands already supported multiplayer so that concept wasn’t particularly ground-breaking by itself, but the important part is that VREAL says this same experience can be viewed by an endless audience of viewers in VR.
After the golf demo we went back to the lobby and then hopped into a tower defense game. In this game I was able to see some of the neat perspective features that VREAL offers developers. Depending on where in the map I teleported, the scale of the entire scene would change to fit the action. Teleporting near the lanes brought me down to a frontline perspective while teleporting away towards the edges brought me back up to a more strategic overview perspective.
During the demo, I was also introduced to VREAL’s new virtual camera feature. By placing virtual cameras in the world, VREAL streamers can broadcast their gameplay from a fixed point of view. So while I was viewing from within a Vive, people in the lobby were watching on a 2D screen, but without the shaky perspective view that most streamers are currently stuck with.
After the demo, I sat down with VREAL CEO, Todd Hooper, to ask some quick developer-oriented questions about their platform.
Road to VR: What is the performance impact to the streamer?
Todd Hooper: Most of the VREAL tech actually runs on the CPU, not the GPU. We have not seen a massive performance hit on games. It seems to be in the region of a couple percent. Basically we are capturing the game state and sending up to the cloud so that’s not something that touches the GPU at all. Most games are GPU-bound not CPU-bound so so far that hasn’t been a challenge.
Road to VR: How does a developer make a game work with VREAL?
Todd Hooper: We have an SDK for Unity and Unreal 4. When we identify a developer that we want on the platform we give them the SDK. Our goal is to be able to have VREAL up and running for them in a day. We are not there yet, but for the beta at the end of the year, we should be able to get a new developer up and running on the SDK pretty quickly. It’s one of the design considerations for the system because there’s lots of ways you might be able to build something like this but would require the developer to do a lot of work. If you can’t get developers on board a system like this fairly quickly, it’s going to be challenging to get a lot of traction.
Road to VR: How would an interested developer get started?
Todd Hooper: We are happy to talk to all VR developers so visit our website, there is an address for the developer relations team there or hit us up on twitter, we’ve got a full time team that is talking to developers. We’ve had a lot of interested developers. I think they’ve seen that a way to stream VR games now doesn’t really exist, you just stream the headset. Once developers have that streaming experience they get really passionate about it.
Road to VR: How many developers are on the platform so far?
Todd Hooper: We haven’t announced any of the titles yet. We are going to be announcing titles at the end of the year.
Road to VR: What platforms will VREAL support?
Todd Hooper: The Vive and the Rift are the launch platforms. We are Sony partner and will be talking more about Sony later. We also have a way to do 360 video capture so you can render that and consume it on a mobile VR device as well.