Watch Game Developers Discuss the Challenges of Designing for Virtual Reality

Topics cover everything from social play to learning how to design for a room-sized playing area.

Mar 5 2016, 6:00pm

Image: Valve

The jury's still out as to whether virtual reality in its current form is anything more than an elaborate gimmick, but a new series of roundtable discussions featuring prominent virtual reality game developers for Valve and HTC's Vive headset highlights its potential. Filmed during Valve's SteamVR Developer Showcase last January, the two available videos showcase why it's not entirely hyperbole to call the associated tech, in the words of Fantastic Contraption's Andy Moore, a "reset" of the gaming industry.

Valve's Chet Faliszek, the company's public face for Vive and one of the main writers behind celebrated Valve games like Half Life 2 and Portal, chairs the discussions. Together, the videos themselves deliver over an hour of insights into the problems encountered (and generally overcome) by the makers of Vive games like Elite Dangerous, Budget Cuts, and Fantastic Contraption. Some, for instance, relate how they struggled with fitting all the necessary controls for their game on a controller but then later realized they could toss the controls altogether.

Or take Dylan Fitterer, whose Audioshield resembles the party game Guitar Hero in that particles representing musical notes come flying at the player. In Fitterer's game, though, you're supposed to fend them off with your hands rather than sync them with buttons on a fake plastic instrument. Originally, though, Fitterer had a much different idea based on strapping an accelerometer to the pedal of his exercise bike.

"I had this version of Audioshield where you have to pedal as fast as the music's going because I like to work out that way, so I kind of made a game out of it," he says. "I lost interest in it. There were various issues: I was driving my wife crazy, pedaling super fast late at night."

Other highlights include a fascinating discussion of the social strengths of virtual reality, which tend to get pushed aside into the focus on the way the tech fully pulls it's players into a digitized world. But with virtual reality, most of the developers agree, it's much more fun to watch other people playing than it was in the age of the gamepad and its passive physicality.