When Racket: Nx launched on Rift, Road to VR singled it out with an overall score of 8.8/10 for “impressive visuals and a heart-thumping soundtrack” while VR Fitness Insider described it succinctly as “a high speed, psychedelic combination of the classic arcade game Breakout and racquetball.” Since then, it’s racked up an impressive 4.75/5 rating on the Oculus Store. And today, we’re excited to share that it’s now available on Oculus Quest!
While many VR gamers may be familiar with Racket: Nx, they may not know much about its backstory. An Israel-based developer, One Hamsa has a core team of five co-founders who started the company as a way to help foster a more vibrant gaming industry in their home country.
“Our local industry has a ton of talent,” explains One Hamsa Creative Director Dave Levy. “We're thirsty for innovation and pushing the bar, and the landscape is just bustling with ideas and people wanting to express themselves. We hope that by making good, proper games, we can help the local ecosystem, in whatever small way, to grow into something more wholesome and which harnesses all the latent potential here towards worthwhile games.”
The studio’s first VR title, Racket: Nx actually began as a demo of Waves Audio’s Nx binaural audio technology. “The demo was a hit, so we expanded it further, and little by little it grew in scope into a full game,” notes Levy. “Since then, we fell in love with VR and all the possibilities, risks, and excitement that developing for this rapidly changing medium offers.”
Given One Hamsa’s focus on creativity and innovation, it’s little surprise that the team decided to capitalize on the increased freedom offered by VR in a standalone form factor. Having upgraded Racket: Nx’s PC VR version from Early Access in July 2017 to its full release a year later, the timing was just about perfect for the team to take another stride forward.
Of course, that’s not to say that bringing this PC VR title over to a mobile chipset was easy. “We replaced almost all the shaders with new and optimized ones, getting rid of all light sources (yes, the Quest build has no lights!) and faking them within the relevant shaders,” Levy says. “Loading levels and assets that worked smoothly on PC were now causing hiccups, so we restructured our game scenes and made a host of asynchronous loading mechanisms that pre-loaded elements in a more effective way.”
In another attempt to improve performance, effects that were straining the CPU were migrated to run on GPU while a dynamic bitmap was created to allow the game’s UI elements to sample for colors more easily. “These are just some examples,” adds Levy. “Most of our time was spent profiling every bit of the game, analyzing it for bottlenecks, and finding ways to alleviate them.”
Thanks to cross-buy support, players who already own Racket: Nx on Rift also have access to the Quest version, so they can enjoy the new version with no strings attached.
“Racket: Nx is a true 360° degree game—it's basically space-racquetball played inside a giant dome,” says Levy. “Playing this game untethered is fantastically liberating. You feel free, light, and so much more responsive. When we played the very first build on Quest, everyone's first reaction was, ‘Ah! This is how the game was meant to be played!’”
And without the need to connect the headset to a gaming PC, Quest’s portability makes it even easier to play with friends and even host a tournament.
All told, it took a few months to complete the Quest build, from rewriting code and remaking shaders to optimizing the game more broadly. The team also focused on improving the overall gameplay experience, stabilizing performance under a number of circumstances, and rigorously hunting and squashing bugs.
“We're really happy with the result,” says Levy. “The game's never felt tighter.”
— The Oculus Team