Hi! My name is Blake Stone and I’m the Lead Designer at VitruviusVR located in London, Canada. We’ve made a lot of mistakes over the past year in the making of “Mervils” an RPG platformer, but we’ve learned a great deal about designing a “living-breathing” VR world, and I’d love to share 2 important things we learned along the way!
Mervils: A VR Adventure- Early Access Trailer
Our game, “Mervils: A VR Adventure” is a 3rd person RPG platformer that combines sword fighting combat and classic platforming gameplay set in virtual reality. Although, it’s not a solely third-person adventure game, you interact with other Mervil characters, ballistas, catapults and battle enemies like "Darthate the Dragon" and "Ramaug the Fire King" from a 1st-person perspective.
The story begins with "The great Mervil Book" becoming unbound, its pages scattered throughout the lands and Balazar the Evil returning from the shadows to destroy the very world itself! It’s up to one brave adventurer to collect the lost pages of the Great Mervil book and destroy Balazar once and for all. In order to create a VR experience that can engross the player in the story and world of your VR game there's a few things you can do...
#1: Focus on Immersion
The reason why VR could be the new paradigm of games is because you actually feel like you are a part of the world you are in. Everything in that world emotionally & sometimes physically happens to you and it makes for a powerful experience. Here's what we learned about immersion...
The Gramophones & 3D Sounds:
You can really bring a world in VR to life using 3D sounds! The 3D sounds in Mervils such as enemies lurking, rivers, streams, waterfalls, tree choppers, fishermen casting, fish jumping,frogs croaking, and teleport runes oscillating all add up to make an immersive audio experience. But much like other games in the genre, we wanted to add fast pace battle music for fight scenes and a peaceful tune while exploring the countryside. In VR it's sometimes hard to have this without breaking immersion, our solution was...
Gramophones! Each Mervil house has there own Gramophone that plays jolly 3D Celtic music that carries throughout the countryside. It's not a solution that would work in every game, but it's definitely worth exploring your options on how to place natural 3D background music throughout your VR world!
People are what make up a community and in VR it's very important to bring your world to life with it's people. In order to bring the Mervil community to life we made sure that each had their own story to tell. Mervils are scattered throughout the world living their day-to-day lives by fishing, woodcutting, digging, gardening, and selling goods to the community. Each has either a quest, a phrase to guide your journey, or just an ambient sound like whistling, burping, grunting, or singing which all combined together starts to build a real culture within the world.
Lastly, all the objects within the world can be brought to life to increase the immersion with your title. In Mervils, the flowers pop, barrels fall, boxes break, trees spin, and mushrooms bounce which all makes the world feel less static and more alive! These may not work within your game but making sure there's physics on objects that look like they could move and that breakable objects can be destroyed will all add up to making an immersive environment. (And don't forget the 3D sound to go with those lively objects!)
#2: Make it Comfortable
The immersion within a VR games means absolutely nothing if players feel motion-sick in it. Before you even begin developing it's important to figure out a camera system that will be both comfortable and non-immersion breaking (I'm not saying that we did, but in hindsight we definitely should have!). The 2 camera modes we have settled on for our 3rd-person game is a "Blink" and "Smooth-Follow" mechanic.
"Blink" Camera Mode:
Overall Mervils is a very comfortable game no matter what setting due to the natural camera speed but the “Standing Gameplay” option will be most comfortable for 99% of players.
This camera mode uses a double “blink” setup where the player can move their character with a gamepad and “blink” to his/her position without any artificial movement. Secondly, on the gamepad the Right-Stick will snap around the character instead of smoothly rotating giving the same “blink” like effect. The rotation mechanic was important due to the "open-world" nature of our game, players are able to explore more freely throughout the worlds. Here's what "Blink" looks like...
Lastly, the "Blink" mechanic also works comfortably for standing gameplay when using the HTC Vive Motion Controllers. The biggest learning from the Vive wands was to increase the distance between the camera and character in the game. This made it possible for the player to see their hands and led to a more comfortable experience while playing. (Vive Controllers below)
"Smooth Follow" Camera Mode:
This setup removes the “Blink” function to follow your character throughout the Mervil worlds. Instead, the camera will smoothly follow your character as you run. For most VR users this will still be a very comfortable experience and may even heighten the immersion within the game. In addition, when the player jumps the camera will slowly follow on a smooth track and while falling the camera will move at an even slower pace.
Lastly, we gave the player the options to change all these camera settings from the in-game start menu. VR is new to everyone and giving players as many options as possible allows for more users to have a comfortable and fun exeperience in your game!
Everything I’ve said is only from my experience over the past year and because VR is such a new medium I wouldn’tsay this is the way YOU should be developing your game as well. My only goal is to share what I’ve learned and hope you can improve upon it for the next generation of awesome VR games.
If you'd ever like to experience the game for yourself you can download the demo of Mervils from Steam!