Today, we’re excited to announce Oculus Touch Tuesdays, a weekly blog post series that explores highly-anticipated titles from our Touch launch lineup! Each week from now to Dec. 6, we’ll go behind the scenes with the development teams responsible for some of our favorite games and share how the magic of hand presence brings new levels of immersion to VR.
Tell us a little about yourselves and how you ended up developing VR Sports Challenge?
Tin Guerrero: We started Sanzaru at the beginning of 2007 and have worked on console games, handhelds, PC, and mobile. And we've made sports games before, the core of the team delivering games for soccer, basketball, skateboarding, and most notably the Dave Mirra Freestyle BMX series.
Glen Egan: I've been a lifelong believer in VR, but over the past 20+ years I’ve always been underwhelmed. With low expectations, we got the opportunity to visit Oculus and try out the Crescent Bay prototype ... and it simply blew me away. I wasn't motion sick. It looked amazing.
TG: We were so pumped that on the car ride back to Sanzaru we designed a football prototype, cranked it out in a week, and invited Steve Arnold (now Head of Oculus Studios) over. He saw the potential, signed us up, and we hit the ground running!
What’s unique about designing sports games for VR?
GE: One of our pillars for VR Sports Challenge is immersion over everything. Instead of watching a team of players that you control from a third-person perspective, you actually are the player. You take in everything from the player’s eyes—the defender’s trash talking, your teammates calling for the ball, and the crowd on their feet ready to cheer you on or boo you off the court. You become the hero of the highlight reel.
TG: I've always been a big sports gamer, but I've grown so jaded over the years by the ratings-driven performances of the players—you can nail a mechanic in modern sports games but fail because you’re using a player with nerfed stats. That’s not the case with Touch. If you miss a shot wide right, it’s because you physically shot right. And you take that feedback and immediately adjust for the next shot. The skill isn’t in using the correct player; the skill is in performing the action. No stats, just you and a physical input—the way it should be!
How did you approach designing for Touch?
TG: We started VR Sports before we knew about Touch, so all our controls were initially for the gamepad—completely functional, but something was missing. We even hacked a Wiimote as an input to throw the football. So once we got Touch, the controls and actions mapped quite naturally and opened up even more possibilities for us. Performing a dunk in VR is an entirely unique and intuitive experience with Touch. As long as the ball goes in the basket, there’s no wrong way to throw down a dunk in VR!
GE: With Touch, we're actually teaching players a new set of hand-eye coordination skills. When you pick up a football, it feels like you’re holding it, but it has no mass. So we teach players how to interact with these real, believable objects without the same mass in this new reality they’ve entered.
TG: It’s been a lot of trial and error to ensure that Touch allows people to play the way they want. There isn’t only one way to perform these physical inputs. You don’t have to be a quarterback or even know the rules of football to succeed. With each one of our physical inputs, we’ve found a happy middle ground that rewards skill but adapts for all sorts of play styles. For example, you can shoot a basketball with perfect fundamental form or take a granny shot. As long as it goes in, it doesn’t matter.
What challenges arose from developing for VR that you didn’t expect?
GE: First-person sports is tough. Modern day sports games excel in making the movements of the players realistic, to behave like real sports—but all from a third-person perspective. When you’re actually on the basketball court staring a defender in the eye, the dynamics are different. The facial expressions of a defender straining to steal the ball from you become much more important than having 500 plays to choose from. Being that close to the action gives you less margin for error. So we ran a number of excellent motion capture sessions and have animated thousands upon thousands of actions.
TG: VR gaming is such a new medium that nobody has all the answers. We’ve had to continually experiment with game mechanics, user presentation, controls, moving the camera, etc. It’s so early in VR game development that only a handful of rules have been written about what to do, and those rules are changing every day. A defining moment in the project was when we implemented the ability to catch a pass. After the throw, we tried a camera cut to the receiver’s perspective, moving in slow motion and looking back at the pass, and then allowed the player to use Touch to catch the ball. And it was magic! We challenged and destroyed three “best practices” with the development of one mechanic, and we haven't looked back.
Thanks to Tin, Glen, and the entire Sanzaru team for all their time and effort. We can’t wait for you to get your hands on VR Sports Challenge, which launches with Touch Dec. 6!
— The Oculus Team