When we started developing Arizona Sunshine our goal was to create a VR game that would allow the player to experience what it’s like to be one of the few survivors in a Zombie Apocalypse. We wanted to create a highly realistic, life like environment that is familiar to many players. The deserts of Arizona seemed like a perfect surrounding, so that’s what we’ve gone with. As a developer, we already had some VR experience creating our game World of Diving, but with Arizona Sunshine we’re dealing with a complete different genre, coming with its own difficulties and challenges. In this article, I would like to go a little in depth on some of the challenges that we faced and highlight some of the discoveries that we made along the way.
Due to the high requirements of the game we wanted to build, the choice of platform was an easy one to make. We required a graphically strong platform with support for motion controllers, both the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive seemed ideal for this. As many of you might know, to prevent nausea and/or dizziness these platforms both have set a minimum frame rate requirement of 90 at all times throughout your game. In the end this turned out to be a bigger problem than we anticipated.
At an early stage in the development of Arizona Sunshine we noticed that performance became an increasingly larger problem. It soon became a day to day routine to test and optimize the game, maintaining the performance at 90 frames per second. During the last few months of the development cycle we had to monitor about any change made to the project in terms of performance, at that stage anything could potentially break everything.
During a few of the many test cycles we had with our game, especially when people from outside the company tested the game, we stumbled on so called “unexpected feature requests”. Frequently people attempted to perform certain actions or interactions that we did not think of before, which meant that we had to make a decision at that time to build support for that feature and/or make it clear to the player why the action wasn’t possible or prevented. What it comes down to is that each player experiences VR in his or her own way with his or her own playstyle and expectations. We found that the best way to accommodate as many players as possible is to limit them as little as possible.
Another thing that we greatly enjoyed creating is the multiplayer in Arizona Sunshine. In one of our first multiplayer prototypes we simply represented the player body using a set of floating hands together with a floating head at their respective places, it was amazing to be able to see body language from just these three body parts, so we were curious what it would feel like to have a complete body to represent the player. Lucky for us Rootmotion’s Final IK plugin was already working on a VR representation of a player body so we ended up implementing that into our game. Even though the system is still being worked on and updated frequently having a full player to interact with is a great experience already.
Unexpected to us was that when we played multiplayer in VR we experienced complete different levels of fun as compared to non-vr multiplayer games. Even though we have built in voice over IP, we noticed that we have entire different way of communicating in VR, suddenly we can make gestures to other players to interact. We can point in a certain direction, wave for a player to come towards you, give a thumbs up if something went really well or just simply go crazy at each other.
We have learned a lot, but we still feel like there is a lot more to learn about Virtual Reality and we’re eager to do just that. We are very glad that as small indie developer we were able to bring this game to you all and now that the game is released on both Steam and Oculus Home we are so excited to see you play the game.