Set Sail in VR with ‘MarineVerse Cup,’ Now Available on Quest

Oculus Blog
February 28, 2022

It’s been three years since developer MarineVerse launched VR Regatta on Rift, which UploadVR called “a beautiful and realistic sailing simulator.” And now, developer MarineVerse is back with MarineVerse Cup—a competitive VR sailing racing game out now on the Quest Platform.

We sat down with Lead Developer Greg Dziemidowicz to learn more.

Tell us about your background. How did you first get into VR and the tech industry? Are you a sailor yourself?

Greg Dziemidowicz: I grew up in Poland, and when I was a kid, my parents bought our family an i386 PC. That started my passion for computers that would eventually lead me to becoming a software engineer. When I was 12, I joined Sea Scouts and learned how to sail—that’s the beginning of the other part of the story that brings sailing together with my software engineering experience. I’ve spent most of my sailing days on a local lake, but I’ve also sailed on the Baltic Sea during summer holidays. When I went to Uni to study computer science, my sailing was put on hold.

Nine years ago, I moved to Melbourne, Australia, working as a software consultant. In 2015, I had a chance to try the “Roller Coaster” demo on the Rift DK2. Inspired, I bought a Google Cardboard and started experimenting. Because I was missing sailing, my experiments drifted toward VR sailing.

In 2016, I decided to start MarineVerse so that everyone could “sail” in VR. It also has been an excellent excuse to get back into sailing—after all, Melbourne is an amazing spot for it. These days, I regularly crew on a 40-foot keelboat and I own a one-person Sabre dinghy that I race in Elwood Sailing Club. It’s all part of “research“ for MarineVerse Cup, but also a lot of fun.

What motivated you to bring the world of sailing into VR?

GD: I love sailing, and, as anyone passionate about a hobby, I was keen to share it with others.

Sailing is such a magical experience and a great, potentially lifelong activity. However, there are many barriers to getting into sailing, and not even regular sailors can just go sailing whenever they want.

First of all, you need a body of water nearby, and a lot of people don’t have access to that. Second, you need the right wind conditions—not too little, but also not too much. As any sailor will tell you, races and events are regularly canceled because the conditions are not right.

With VR, we can let you experience a bit of sailing joy at home, removing some of those barriers. Moreover, we can put you in risky situations in a safe environment, allowing you to practice without the risk of harm to yourself, your boat, and others.

Sailing can put you in a special state of mind—flow—and VR has such an uncanny ability to bring that feeling quickly. Playing a game can “feel like sailing,” and Marineverse Cup is our way of bringing that incredible feeling of flow to as many people as possible.

How does MarineVerse Cup build off of your earlier work on VR Regatta?

GD: VR Regatta was our first major project in this space. I’m very proud of how we were able to improve on it with MarineVerse Cup on Quest. First of all, you no longer need a gaming PC, which was a barrier to entry and a limiting factor for the usefulness of VR sailing. Now, with Quest, you can experience affordable and cable-free VR sailing at home.

I’m also excited by how we were able to expand on our design goal: “easy to sail, difficult to master.” Similar to VR Regatta, MarineVerse Cup is very easy to pick up, even without any sailing experience. At the same time, we were able to add layers of complexity in racing that you discover as you progress through the game. This extra complexity allows new and unique situations to emerge in our Daily Races, keeping the game fresh. We have sailors that started playing during the beta two years ago and are still sailing with us regularly today. And I am excited, as we still have features we plan to add soon that will bring another layer of complexity to the racing experience.

What’s your favorite part of the game and why?

GD: Serenity. Open space, the sounds of lapping water, blue sky with relaxing clouds. You and the boat on the race course. It can be quite a calming and exhilarating experience at the same time—even more so, when it’s winter and still dark in the real world. It’s magical how VR can transport you to your “happy place” in an instant, especially with Meta Quest’s ability to be ready to go in seconds. It is awesome!

I also love how the game brings a community together every day, across various time zones. We have a procedurally-generated race daily, with varying wind conditions. Anyone can join at any point within 24 hours. The results are calculated and displayed at the end of the day. It is so fun to compare notes and discuss the race on Discord.

How long was MarineVerse Cup in development for? Any fun anecdotes to share?

GD: During development, our beta testers with sailboat racing experience reported that sailing felt great, but the speed displayed on the speedometer seemed low. Our game engine, Unity, measures the speed in meters per second, but our intention was to display it in a nautical unit—knots. To get the knots, we had to do a calculation, but as it turns out, we got it backwards! This bug has been there since the VR Regatta days🤦. It’s fixed now.

Strictly speaking, MarineVerse Cup development started in 2019, so three years ago. However, the project started with assets and source code from the VR Regatta days, so in some sense, you could say it has been in development for six years!

Six years might seem like a long time, but we’re passionate about VR and sailing. With the community’s support, we hope to work in this space for many years to come, as we are building towards our vision of MarineVerse as “The World’s Largest Sailing Club”—and everything that this vision encompasses.

Did you encounter any challenges during development, particularly around optimizing for a mobile chipset? If so, how did you overcome those obstacles?

GD: Bringing VR sailing from a PC to Quest and its mobile chipset has been a challenge. In 2017, while developing VR Regatta, we were going for nice, complex environments, under the assumption that widely used hardware would get faster and cheaper. Instead, in 2019, the VR market went mobile, led by standalone Quest. To make the app run on Quest, we had to challenge our assumptions and redesign the core experience.

For Quest, we decided to focus on features that we felt we could make great, given the device capabilities. Those features included a more interesting sailing simulation, a better multiplayer and racing experience, and better tutorials.

We had to work hard to make the game run well, especially when many boats are on the screen during racing. Tools like the OVR Metrics, access to peer support via the Oculus Start Discord channel, and other online resources were invaluable in enabling us to actually ship this project on Quest.

Anything else you’d like to share with our readers?

GD: If you’ve never sailed, I invite you to give MarineVerse Cup a try. Our playtesters reported that they were surprised by how much they enjoyed the game. Who knows—perhaps trying the game on Quest will be a first step to your lifelong sailing adventure. To help you get started, we have created a YouTube playlist with helpful MarineVerse Cup tutorials.

If you’re a sailor, come sailing with us. I’m sure you’ll have feedback, comments, and ideas on what we should build or improve next. Let me and the team know—sailing and VR is really a passion for us, and we hope to keep improving and enriching what MarineVerse can offer, for everyone to enjoy. VR could be a game changer for sailing.

Today is Day One for MarineVerse Cup, and I am excited for what comes next. Happy sailing!

Set sail in MarineVerse Cup on the Quest Platform today.