Starbreeze announced at VRLA’s Winter Expo yesterday project ‘Starcade’ to bring their wide FOV, high resolution in-house developed VR headset to more consumers by way of public arcade style venues. Frank He caught up with their CTO Emmanuel Marquez to find out more.

See Also: StarVR Detailed Hands-on: Big Field of View, Even Bigger Potential
See Also: StarVR Detailed Hands-on: Big Field of View, Even Bigger Potential

Starbreeze made a sizeable splash at E3 last summer when the unveiled their 210 degree, high resolution VR headset, born from project InfinitEye – the StarVR. Coupled with a dedicated VR experience based on their Walking Dead franchise, the headset received quite some attention. Since then however, things have gone a little quiet.

At VRLA yesterday, Starbreeze announced the next step for StarVR, a new initiative to open gaming venues with halls dedicated to StarVR powered virtual reality experiences. The name? Starcade.

Frank He, reporting for Road to VR, caught up with CTO Emmanuel Marquez to discover more about StarCade and the firms plans for virtual reality and StarVR going forward.


Now a second year UCLA undergraduate in a neuroscience program, Frank was born in Los Angeles and then raised in Canada, spending his high school years across the border in New York. His main interest is in technologies that enable immersive experiences, and Frank’s academic path is towards better understanding the brain, how it works, and then enabling us to do something for the betterment of life through that knowledge. Besides studying, Frank makes efforts towards supporting the VR community locally and online, where he regularly participates in discussions about VR.

Road to VR: Introduce me to what you’re doing with the StarCade.

Marquez: So we at Starbreeze believe that the VR experience needs to be very in a controlled environment for the coming two years. We also believe that it’s nice to be able to provide the premium experience to people that never tried VR before so they could really understand what VR is all about. So with our project StarVR and our themes Walking Dead and other titles coming on, we decided that we are going to open an arcade center of VR named project StarCade. And we will open our first place actually in Los Angeles during the Spring.

Road to VR: Let’s get a feel for the timeline here. When did you start getting the idea for StarCade?

Marquez: So it came actually where we did the E3 demo. It was so successful, and we put so much people in, and you know the ways which you just saw – we toured the RV around the US. So we have numbers. We know what people want, what they like, if it’s a good experience, if they are happy, and we are having a lot of fun doing that. People are really enjoying it. So this is where we got the idea and actually validated it, and now we are going to extend it.

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Road to VR: Outside of the StarCade, what other plans do you have for your headset?

Marquez: So I’m going to tell you that the arcade – solving the arcade problem – getting a lot of people through the headset – is going to help us actually to push the bounderies of our headset to be work solid, a good reference design. And also you know providing a very premium experience, something different from what you could get at home, at least for now.

Road to VR: The headset that you’re going to use for StarCade – is it going to be improved from this one?

Marquez:  Yes.

Road to VR: Can you say anymore specific?

Marquez: Well we will fix everything we don’t like in our headset without entering into any detail, to really get to the edge of what the headsets should be. But I don’t want to disclose more – it’s going to be quite soon.

Road to VR: This is a pretty big project. Do you have any plans on opening more arcades in areas around the world?

Marquez: Definitely, we want to open a pilot center first, maybe another one in Europe, maybe later in east countries. And when we find the best way for people to enjoy content on VR as a premium, yes we would love to extend that, for sure.

Road to VR: How big do you think your centers will be?

Marquez: Big in size or how much people we could get in, or?

Road to VR: Both!

Marquez: So, it depends because we are going to use that as a pilot. So we are going to try a room to room experience, we are going to try larger scale room, and so on and so on. So what I could say today is that it’s going to be a really laboratory pilot experience of 2016 and then we’ll know, we should meet after that, I will tell you.

Road to VR: So with the high field of view, and high resolution, you really need that high processing power. Where are you going to get that from?

Marquez: You know GPUs are getting better and better, and we are also optimizing our driver and the way it works to actually process this kind of resolution. And we – I have no… no real contraints there. I’m pretty sure we will get where we want to go over the year and get the power we need to run that.

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Road to VR: And since you’re going for that sort of premium experience where you don’t necessarily need to be limited by –

Marquez: No no not at all. So we go as crazy as we want. Yes. And I think that’s a good part of it.

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Road to VR: I am wondering, will the wheelchair [from the Walking Dead VR Experience] carry over to your arcades?

Marquez: It depends on the experience you will have so yes if we do the Walking Dead experience, we’d have a wheelchair. But remember, it will be agnostic so people will be able to come and choose from a catalogue, and play from a different kind of VR content they want.

Road to VR: Do you have any idea about how big that catalogue will be?

Marquez: We are waiting it. I can not announce things but it’s going to be big. I hope that to be one of the biggest available VR content nowadays.

Road to VR: For a long time we’ve all had that sort of idea of the Holodeck, right? So we have people, like HTC with the Vive, where you can walk around the whole room. Are you planning on doing something like that?

Marquez: Yeah for sure. We want people… I think there is nowadays with seated VR we are going to stand up, and then we are going to run in VR. This is my expectation. So we are interested in working on that.

Road to VR: What do you think about omnidirectional treadmills?

Emmanuel Marquez, CTO at Starbreeze
Emmanuel Marquez, CTO at Starbreeze [Photo courtesy Gizmodo / Sean Hollister]
Marquez: Well why not? I am ready to try everything that would be fun to people, so let’s see what we could put in place. Because if you remember the arcade of the 80’s, you were able to enter the room and choose different kind of things – and why not. It’s a pilot. Let’s us try different things.

Road to VR: Do you know about redirected walking?

Marquez: So that’s an interesting concept, but I mean what we really have to do is to try what the killer app is from every sense… an experience you want to have. So I believe there is a killer application or game that should go with that that solves this issue.

And we will open the StarCade to any developers that want to come and try it.

Road to VR: [Is it correct that] you’re working with [Valve and] Steam?

Marquez: We are working with Steam because we have our Payday title, which is one of the big franchises, so yeah we work with Steam.

Road to VR: But what about SteamVR?

Marquez: Well, we interchange together. We are good friends but we have our own path. They have their own path. We walk together. At least, we try to use the API actually to be standard for our headset too.

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Road to VR: So does that mean any compatability perhaps?

Marquez: Yeah so we will actually work and make it easier for developers to come to StarVR.

Road to VR: Say a developer is making a game for the Vive right now…

Marquez: So what we would like to do is to abstract actually the API so you could use it on any kind of device. And that’s really alignment with what Steam VR is.

So basically in the future, possibly, we could have like you know with home VR, we could play X game, then if you want to have a more premium experience-

You could go come to our center-

Road to VR: And play that same game.

Marquez: The same game or X game or what part of these games that are actually specifically made for premium.


Road to VR: And in terms of the premium experience, what sort of ideas do you think might not carry over to home VR, because the field of view isn’t as wide, or…

Marquez: I don’t think the field of view is a broker to go on just like it’s massive nowadays so you better get the big computer and everything but I think the home problem, it’s not only tied to us, it’s tied to anyone. It’s a very expensive set [of requirements], you need to have a large room and everything, so it’s just like easier to try it in centers.

Road to VR: How many years do you think it’ll be before the sort of premium experience you’re developing might get into homes?

Marquez: We are at the stone age of VR. We still have a lot of things to fix. What I believe is that your headsets we build today are too big. Not enough resolution. The power actually, it’s immense computers that need to that. So we will have to solve that. We will have to have a very light and thin headset, and it needs to be driven by your cellphone that sits in your pocket. So this is where we need to go – is to make something that’s really easy to consume by anyone.

We are really happy to be able to push actually our headset and make more people be able to try it, and we strongly believe in a premium experience.

Our thanks to Emmanuel Marquez for this time and to Frank He for conducting the interview.

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  • TheNexusLord

    Between working on incorporating foveated rendering and their 210 degrees field of view; StarVR would pretty much make the Oculus and the Vive pretty much obsolete, the second it came to mass market. They basically taking the next logical steps, for what will probably quickly become the standard for basic VR. Hopefully they won’t take to long to bring this to the mass market, because these specs will probably be in the 2nd generation of hmd’s from Oculus and HTC.

    • Andrew Jakobs

      StarVR will be much more expensive as the Vive or the Oculus when it’s released.. So it won’t make Vive or Oculus obsolete, neither will any new headset make them obsolete.. and don’t count on these specs to be in the 2nd generation of consumer hmd’s from Oculus and HTC, I don’t expect both of them to have 210 degrees FOV anytime soon.. StarVR hasn’t actually shown anything but one or two prototypes, and haven’t shipped any prototype to developers, so it’s certain that it won’t release anytime soon to consumers..

      • Badelhas

        Why is that? Could it be because we dont have the proper GPU power available yet?

        • Andrew Jakobs

          The headset itself will be more expensive due to the larger screens needed for one thing, and yes, you will need even more GPU power to drive the StarVR..
          One thing that’s a big problem IMHO is expectation, people just expect Battlefield 4 ultramode type of graphics with the headsets on their midrange GPU’s ($200-$300) (which by themselves already have difficulty to produce a single FHD on 60fps image), and then become very disillusioned by the actual image.. It will take a few years for GPU’s to get to a ‘low’ pricepoint ($150-$200) that will be able to handle 4K on 100fps+ as even now the $500-$600+ cards have problems handling that..

        • klepp0906

          We do. My gpus are 3 years old and I play at a higher resolution on 3 monitors with an accessory monitor at that.

          To be fair I have 4 of them but I reckon my 4 Titans are about as fast as 2-3 980tis and by the time this is to market pascal will be out.

          Pascal is going to be up to 10x faster than maxwell. Power has long been attainable.

          • Badelhas

            10 times?! That seems a little exaggerated… Do you have any source you can provide for that claim or is just your hope? ;)


          • ribbitz

            Bleeding edge doesn’t matter, it’s the median market. Of course 4 titans or 2-3 980ti’s could do it, but you may as well be saying “but a government supercomputer lab can do it.” When most people who want it can afford it, that’s when it will come. Should only take a few years.

    • CazCore

      also, focusing so much on huge FOV is a mistake in the early days of consumer VR.

      bigger FOV means lower resolution. and there are rapidly diminishing returns when rendering farther and farther from the center of the screen. sure its nice and ideal to have your view go out that far, but its a waste of processing and resolution, because your vision is really blurry at the edges. until they get foveated rendering working good (something i’m really skeptical about, because of latency), its a waste in more ways than one.

      • klepp0906

        Based on simple math his PPI is fine and the fov is worth waaaaay more than a marginally high pixel density.

        Don’t get me wrong, sounds like he’s got some arcade idea that will either not happen or happen but fail. Was a fan until I read that. Not even going to consider waiting for a consumer version now if it ever even comes.

        Human FOV is more than double all the other headsets. It’s beyond important for immersion.

        You sound like one of the people who is for unknown reasons championing the incomprehensible and over used third person in vr games.

        • CazCore

          you sound like one of the people that foolishly assumes VR is first person or nothing. extremely limited imagination there. also you better make your math not so simplistic. because nothing in VR even APPROACHES the pixel density we are used to with 1080 monitors. biggest reason? doubling the FOV from what we are used to with trad monitors. ALL HMDs improve the FOV greatly from that. like around doubled (depending on your monitor size).
          that must be part of your simplistic math that you didn’t account for.

        • Bruce Bridges

          Agreed on the arcade issue. This arcade concept is a top-heavy gimmick enterprise that will die like similar ventures in the past, and take this headset down along with.
          They need to market to individual users, give us at least a tentative price point or launch date, or any and all interest will diminish.
          I will not stick around to watch a world fail tour. Will buy a tangible product from a competitor instead.

      • ribbitz

        Foveated rendering is a dead end because, you’re right, latency. With GPU performance scaling up so quickly, it’s a “problem” not worth bothering with, and VR is already potentially uncomfortable enough without introducing latency into the human visual saccade system, something we’re not doing now and noone is asking for, thank you.

        FOV is important and resolution is important. But, they aren’t “or you’re going to throw up” important. They’re more for fun, and tradeoffs between them can come down to personal preference until we don’t have to trade off anymore. Latency however IS of an “or you’ll throw up” importance.

  • Fenris

    I dont understand : are they planning to release a consumer standalone version of this headset, or will it be only available in their arcade centers ?

  • P. Pzwski

    This insane resolution requires hardware totally beyond reach of a regular people.Oculus and VIVE with their requirements are beyond of reach of more than 70% PC users!

    Same thing with prices of those screens. PRICE – that’s the only thing interesting for consumers. What is the meaning of existence of something like that? For me – no point.

    Someone can buy a plane and fly over the ocean in couple of hours whenever he wants. That’s reality, not sf. So what? It does not concern us. For me interesting are prices of plane tickets, not prices of planes..

    • user

      whats your point? you dont like arcades?

    • Raphael

      Very short-sighted view you have there. Oculus CV1 and Vive are already playable with their target market. The first generation consumer VR will sell more to simulation fans and many of them are using single or dual 980Ti. It also depends what you want to play in VR. If you’re only interested in AAA games focusing on photo-realism then that will limit first generation VR for many. There are many VR titles already on Steam for Oculus that don’t require super gaming machines and people don’t have to run a game on maximum detail. I run Elite Dangerous on lowest settings. I can run some other games on higher detail with Oculus DK2.

      • P. Pzwski

        I’m short-sighted? For a 3-5 years when we will have enough gpu power this Hmd will be ancient and good for nothing. Now we have 2016.

        • Raphael

          I’m not talking about Star Breeze. I’m talking about Oculus and Vive.

        • Hungle Jut

          Um, yes it will. But what are you getting at? These HMDs that are available today are so for the enthusiast crowd, partly because of the pricing, but also because of the required hard-ware. I think that a VRcade is perhaps the smartest sollution for the entire venture, not just Starbreeze studios. What they are doing is trying to get VR were it needs to go: filling your entire field of view. My guess is that what you really want to complain about is that the rift will cost 600 dollars. In which case, yes you have a point, but not here, not at this article.

        • klepp0906

          I’ve had my 4 Titans for almost 3 years now. I game at 4680×2560 ie a higher resolution than this headset by a fair amount.

          We have the power already.

      • ribbitz

        A lot of people seem to obsess over a particular type of graphic detail, ignoring everything else. If these people care about those things above all else, then they are in the wrong forum; it is a fundamentally different topic than VR. The difference in experience provided by VR over hi-def gaming on a classic monitor has more to do with head tracking, 3D, and perspective. The hi-def quality may enhance the enjoyment but are not necessary for a VR experience. 10 years ago, I never once threw my mouse to the floor in exasperation over the low-quality textures of the game I was enjoying. More patience, less complaining.

  • Fenris

    The integrated eye-tracking device is what makes the whole thing functional with current hardware, so please end with the old power-requirement argument… It will quickly become irrelevant anyway with new GPU architectures coming this year.

    The main thing for the consumer is, indeed, the price. Until mastering the production of those complex screens, price will never fall into reasonable range, at least for the average consumer.

    Hope their arcade systems will drag enough audience to lead to an affordable standalone version… See you next 1-2 years I guess…

    • ribbitz

      What “integrated eye-tracking?”

  • Adriaan

    I have used the oculis defkit 2 and although its wow the field of view really really makes me reconsider buying one as it feels like you looking in a narrow tunnel. I now read about the 210 degree field of view on the starvr and i instinktivaly know this is the way to go, but now its already march 2016 and the plans for star vr sucks, just make the hardware and let me buy it please. Somebody needs to make all games compatable to all vr headsets otnerwise this whole thing is just a gimmick. Your plans for your headset does not sound very interisting for a guy sitting in south africa waiting for the vr expierience. Just take my money and give me the starvr. I swear i am going to build one myself and it will probably be done before any of the current vr hardware becomes available to the general public.

    • ribbitz

      Oculus aren’t just a bunch of jerks who don’t think anyone needs more than 110° in their VR. The limit is there because they are trying to keep the pproduct affordable to a large population. The headset screens aren’t the difficult or expensive part; it’s the $4000 in GPUs you’d need to run the extra display area. Oculus and others will naturally increase their FOV and resolution with each new product release as GPU price/performance allows.