How Raw Data dev Survios succeeds by recycling its own tech

[XRDC is happening today at the Fort Mason Festival Pavilion in San Francisco, and sister site Gamasutra is there to cover the show! What follows is an excerpt of that coverage.]

The team at Survios have been building VR games for years, across most major platforms, and today at XRDC cofounder Alex Silkin gave a talk about why the studio builds its own tech for each game — and why you should too.

The core takeaway of his talk was that VR devs should try (wherever possible) to build flexible, extensible codebases that make it much easier to do multiplatform VR game development. If you’re aiming to do multiple VR games, it pays to start with the assumption that you’ll be re-using and iterating on your core systems.

And while it can be tempting to house them in one big chunk, Silkin says Survios has learned to break things up into modular components which can be brought into a game during development and modified at the team’s discretion.

Survios itself has launched a slew of VR games across PlayStation VR, Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, and other platforms, though Silkin highlighted the studio’s recent multiplayer pirate-’em-up Battlewake as a prime example of how the studio has been able to re-use and build upon the systems its built for each of its games.

“One of the most fundamental pieces of tech we developed, even back in the Unity days [before Survios became an Unreal Engine shop] was the interaction system,” said Silkin. “It’s fundamental to how you interact with the world…it’s how we set up the associations when the player interacts with the world.”

Recycling your game systems for fun and profit

This interaction system has been part of multiple Survios games in one form or another; from Raw Data to Battlewake. As another example, Silkin highlighted the weapon system Survios created for Raw Data; The system was built to be modular and portable, so it could be used for all the game’s guns, as well as its autonomous turrets.

Survios’ weapon system includes components like firemode (burst, automatic, charge shot, etc.) and damager (whether the weapon is hitscan, or projectile-based, or volume-based like a flamethrower), and Silkin says those components continue to show up years later in games like Battlewake.

By the same token, the damage system Survios built for Raw Data has been expanded and extended since the game’s debut. Originally built to let the game do things like track health on a per-limb basis or trigger hit reactions, Silkin says the team has since expanded upon it and made it more modular . (think: tracking health on a per-limb basis, allowing for custom health-like variables like armor, hit reactions, etc).

The team also built in support for melee combat in Raw Data, and so when the time came to start work on its VR boxing sim Creed: Rise to Glory, it already had a strong foundation to build on.

“We did some melee in Raw Data, but it was very simple; your hands were kinematic, they would essentially just go through the enemies,” said Silkin. “So we really wanted to polish that up, particularly the impact of your punch, and the collision detection of the hands.”

So the team kept working with the melee weapon system from Raw Data, building collision spheres into the player’s hands and using inverse kinematics to shift character limbs appropriately.

“So if you blocked, an the enemy tried to punch you, the sphere would hit, and the IK would offset the hand,” said Silkin. “That really added some physicality to the combat.”

“We also wanted to make the act of getting punched more real, more immersive,” said Silkin. The team had already designed enemy robots in Raw Data which would charge the player and “knock” them back; so they grabbed that system and tried to build a similar mechanic for Creed.

“If you get punched too hard you get knocked out of your body; it gets consecutively harder [to get back in] if you get knocked out,” said Silkin, explaining that the Survios team was able to build out a unique feature by re-using the Sprint Vector traversal system in a canny way.

Where possible, make your systems modular

But having Sprint Vector and Creed using so much of the same code was a problem because most of it was tied up in a single Survios plugin. This led to a lot of extra effort required to pull out or modify components, as well as some wasted time as team members went back and forth about the best way to do so.

“We realized that all these assumptions were constantly getting broken, and teams were constantly arguing about what is the right way to do things in the base level,” said Silkin. “So instead we decoupled things into independent plugins with abstraction layers.”

Plus, the team created a sort of template which serves as an example of how to configure these systems for a game, creating a low-key unified philosophy of game design that anyone in the studio can access when starting a new project.

“People are free to hack together these classes from there,” said Silkin. “This is when we started our Great Pluginification.”

To shed light on how the Great Pluginification is going, Silkin showed an example of how the old Survios components plugin has now been broken out into 37 separate plugins (that get as granular as SVRDamage, SVRAnimation, SVRLoadScreen, etc), with more in the works.

“They all live in their own separate module, so theoretically those subsystems can be completely swapped out in a game if the team needs to,” said Silkin.

And as one of Survios‘ most recent releases, Battlewake is built on this system and incorporates a lot of the studio’s lessons learned to date. It’s also influencing future projects already; Silkin shared the example of Battlewake‘s Damage Decal Composition system, which efficiently applies damage decals to in-game ships and is already being repurporsed in other Survios games for things like displaying damage on characters.

“When we’re picking projects, we’re trying to choose things that will let us develop tech that we can use for future projects,” said Silkin. “Definitely try to break your systems into decoupled, modular blocks…it might means there’s more maintenance and boilerplate code connecting things, but over the long term its gonna make it easier for you to manage.everything.”

Fine-tuning for the ‘action hero’ feel in PlayStation’s VR game Blood & Truth

[XRDC is happening today at the Fort Mason Festival Pavilion in San Francisco, and sister site Gamasutra is there to cover the show! What follows is an excerpt of that coverage.]

PlayStation’s London Studio has been a leading creator of showcase PlayStation VR experiences, and at XRDC in San Francisco today director of VR dev Stuart Whyte shared some of what the team has learned.

Whyte traces the origins of Blood & Truth back to London Studio’s initial work with the PlayStation VR during the headset’s development. The studio designed a few different VR experiences that were packaged with the headset as PlayStation VR Worlds, and after PlayStation VR launched, the studio learned that one of those experiences — London Heist — was far and away the most successful experience.

“It was pretty clear that one experience was way more popular than others, and that was London Heist,” said Whyte. “We wanted to expand on that, and create an experience that makes you feel like an action hero.”

A few key pillars undergird the development of Blood & Truth; in addition to that emphasis on an “action hero” aesthetic, Whyte says the team prioritized making it accessible, designing the experience to be played while seated via DualShock gamepad or Move motion controller.

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Using body language to create more compelling VR game characters

[XRDC is happening today and tomorrow at the Fort Mason Festival Pavilion in San Francisco, and sister site Gamasutra is there to cover the show! What follows is an excerpt of that coverage.]

Beast Inc cofounder and CEO Vivian Tan appeared at XRDC in San Francisco this week to share some of what the company has learned about building great character interactions in virtual reality using body language.

“You don’t need a lot of hyper-realism to create a believable character, but you do need to look at nuanced movements and presence,” said Tan. “I’m not just talking about animations…in a very spacial medium like virtual reality, body language could mean physical presence, facial interactions, eye contact, or even the player’s gestures.”

Beast is best known for Beast Pets, a VR sandbox in which players play with and care for baby dragons. A big part of the game’s appeal is tied up in how players interact with these virtual characters, and Tan says the company has learned a lot about nonverbal communication in VR.

But she says Beast didn’t initially realize how key body language is to making VR characters feel real and authentic; at first the company’s wish list for “awesome AI characters” included features like voice recognition, dynamic dialog, and more.

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Owlchemy’s audio wizard offers tips on making the most of music in VR

[XRDC is happening today and tomorrow at the Fort Mason Festival Pavilion in San Francisco, and sister site Gamasutra is there to cover the show! What follows is an excerpt of that coverage.]

Music is a critical aspect of game design players often overlook, and at XRDC in San Francisco today Owlchemy’s Daniel Perry shared some tips on how to use it well in virtual reality.

Drawing on his experiences designing and implementing soundscapes for VR experiences like Job Simulator and Rick and Morty: Virtual Rick-ality, Perry shared some advice for game designers on how to make the most of music in VR.

“I don’t want to talk to the audio people; I want to talk to the designers,” said Perry. “Just because these are things that need to be considered early on, and prototyped on, because they can make a significant difference in your experience.”

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How Ubisoft designed and refined its Assassin’s Creed VR escape rooms

[XRDC is happening today and tomorrow at the Fort Mason Festival Pavilion in San Francisco, and sister site Gamasutra is there to cover the show! What follows is an excerpt of that coverage.]

At XRDC in San Francisco today Ubisoft Dusseldorf’s Cyril Voiron took to the stage to talk a bit about his work on Ubisoft’s Escape Games, virtual reality experiences that challenge players to escape virtual puzzle rooms.

Dusseldorf leads development on these experiences, and Ubisoft has released two so far, both set in the world of the Assassin’s Creed games.

They’re not available for purchase on any current VR platform; instead, they’re exclusively playable at location-based entertainment centers around the world. And they’re built by a small team within Ubisoft Dusseldorf, itself a small part of the greater Ubisoft network.

“We operate a bit like a small startup within a startup,” said Voiron. “We are 21 guys, we are very small, very fast; we want to change the world like a startup.”

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Reminder: Know and abide by your XRDC Code of Conduct!

If you’re coming out to XRDC at the Fort Mason Festival Pavilion in San Francisco next week, make time to read through the Code of Conduct and commit it to heart — violating it is grounds for immediate removal from the event, with no refunds.

Organizers take the health and wellbeing of XRDC attendees very seriously, and when everyone knows and abides by the Code of Conduct it fosters a more inviting and collegial event for everyone.

With that in mind, we’ve taken the liberty of reprinting the Code of Conduct in full below.

1. Purpose
XRDC believes our community should be truly open for everyone. As such, we are committed to providing a friendly, safe and welcoming environment for all, regardless of gender, sexual orientation, disability, ethnicity, or religion.

This code of conduct outlines our expectations for participant behavior as well as the consequences for unacceptable behavior.

We invite all sponsors, volunteers, speakers, attendees, media, exhibitors and other participants to help us realize a safe and positive conference experience for everyone.

All determinations of appropriate or inappropriate behavior are in XRDC’s sole discretion and the decision(s) of the XRDC representative’s onsite will be final.

2. Expected Behavior
– Be considerate, respectful, and collaborative.
– Refrain from demeaning, discriminatory or harassing behavior and speech.
– Be mindful of your surroundings and of your fellow participants. Alert conference organizers if you notice a dangerous situation or someone in distress.

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Coming to XRDC next week? Help make it a more sustainable event!

Our planet and our environment are our most prized resource, so today XRDC organizers want to take a moment to let you know what’s being done — and what you can do — to help make it more sustainable event in a more sustainable industry.

XRDC kicks off next week at the beautiful Fort Mason Festival Pavilion in San Francisco (there’s still time to register and save money vs paying on-site), and along with all the great opportunities to meet interesting people and see intriguing talks, what you’ll find when you arrive is a trained team of event management professionals who are keen to ensure you have a great time.

They’re also committed to putting on shows that have a positive environmental and social impact on the local community and the industry. For each of our events, we constantly seek out areas for improvement, set objectives, implement change and then report on our progress regarding these six areas. This process results in us continually driving forward the sustainability of our events, as you’ll see at XRDC 2019.

What XRDC is doing:

  • Using Energy Star rated projectors, monitors, and speakers and energy efficient LED lights.
  • Printing as much signage as possible on recyclable materials.
  • Choosing partners who value sustainability, like the Westin St. Francis who diverts over 75% of their waste from landfill.
  • Collaborating with the venue and general service contractors to compile data on the waste produced by the event and electricity used.
  • Studying the data to determine how to improve from year to year.

What you can do:

  • Download the XRDC app (search for it ahead of the show on Apple’s App Store and Google Play) to stay informed of everything happening at and help work toward a paperless event.
  • Limit your impact from travel by using public transportation options like MUNI and BART and shared ride services like Lyft and Uber to get to and from the conference.
  • Reduce plastic waste by bringing your own refillable water bottle.

For more details about XRDC, which is produced by organizers of the Game Developers Conference, check out the official XRDC website. You can also subscribe to regular XRDC updates via emailTwitter and Facebook.

 

Travel tips to help you make the most of your trip to XRDC next week!

As everyone gets ready for XRDC to kick off in San Francisco next week, organizers wanted to quickly take a moment today to share some info which might help you plan your trip.

This is important because XRDC is taking place in a new venue this year, the Fort Mason Festival Pavilion, which is located right on the San Francisco waterfront!

The venue itself offers unparalleled opportunities for networking and learning, with lots of well-lit open space and beautiful views of the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz, and other Bay Area landmarks.

The Festival Pavilion is just one part of the Fort Mason Center for Arts & Culture, which is itself a fascinating location to explore if you’re at all curious about the history of San Francisco and its northern waterfront.

Located at 2 Marina Blvd in San Francisco, the Fort Mason Center is readily accessible via public transit and offers parking options for visitors; check out the Center’s website for further details and directions.

If you haven’t booked accommodations yet, now’s the time! An abundance of lodging options exist in the event vicinity and across the city, and you can start your search by checking out the Fort Mason accommodations listings or the San Francisco Travel hotels listings for more details.

We also encourage you to leave time in your XRDC travel schedule for some sightseeing and fun in San Francisco and the Bay Area, one of the world’s premier tourist destinations. Take advantage of all the region’s public transit options and get up-to-date traveler information (including weather, traffic conditions, and parking) via the free 511 information service.

And if you need to book a flight for XRDC, San Francisco International Airport is the Bay Area’s largest airport (and California’s second busiest). Flying into SFO is the best option for international visitors. You have lots of options to get to and from the airport; the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) train network is connected to the airport providing easy access to the heart of San Francisco and the East Bay. Taxi and rental car service is also available.

Some attendees may find better flight fares flying into the smaller Oakland Airport, which also offers direct access to BART as well as taxi and rental car service.

So if you haven’t already register to attend XRDC now to access a ton of great AR/VR/MR content at a lower price than you’ll pay at the door! This year there’s an all-new XRDC pass for sale, the Startup Pass, which is nearly half the price of the regular pass and specifically designed to give smaller teams and trailblazing startups a clear path to success at XRDC!

For more details about XRDC, which is produced by organizers of the Game Developers Conference, check out the official XRDC website. You can also subscribe to regular XRDC updates via emailTwitter and Facebook.

Gamasutra, GDC and XRDC are sibling organizations under parent Informa

XRDC brings the future of AR/VR in healthcare to San Francisco next week!

Are you coming out to XRDC next Monday and Tuesday at San Francisco’s beautiful Fort Mason Festival Pavilion?

There’s still time to register now so you can save a bit of money compared to paying onsite, and you want to be there if you have any interest (professional or personal) in the AR/VR/MR industries.

XRDC is a great place to see the future of these cutting-edge technologies, demo them firsthand, and learn how your AR/VR skills and expertise can be put to good use in all sorts of efforts.

Hospitals, physicians, and other caregivers are already doing amazing things with AR/VR, and at XRDC there’s a whole track of Healthcare talks scheduled to help you learn from developers and experts in the field, meet innovative healthcare practitioners (including the U.S. military), and identify opportunities in this rapidly-growing sector.

Check out “A VR Tool for Interactive Pharmaceutical Design at the Nanoscale“, for example, to see University of Bristol researchers Mike O’Connor and David Glowacki present Narupa, a remarkable open-source VR drug design tool.

This VR software pairs high-performance computing with rigorous physics simulations to allow researchers to visualize and interact with the nanoscopic world, and enable them to intuitively reason about complex molecular structures and design new drugs at nanoscale.

Nanotech and pharma research involves studying domains which cannot be perceived with human senses. As such, XR technologies, combined with cloud computing and open source standards, already have transformative potential at the cutting edge of nanotech and pharma.

And in “Patients, Families and Clinical Education: XR Simulation Development in a Pediatric Setting” David Davis and Bradley Cruse will share what they’ve learned about designing effective AR/VR experiences for a medical setting while serving in Cincinnati Children’s Hospital’s Digital Experience Group.

You’ll get unique insight into the hospital’s efforts to create immersive simulations that serve clinical, educational, research and patient experience needs, and enhance patient outcomes. You’ll get an insider’s perspective on the challenges of engaging organization leadership in advancing support and resources for VR/AR/XR development. Expect to walk away with a better understanding of what it takes to succeed when developing for the healthcare industry, as well as a clear view of how new technologies are already being put to use there!

And in “The Augmented Reality Forward Surgical Care Project” military veterans Steve DeLellis and Jerry Heneghan will provide details on an Augmented Reality Forward Surgical Care research project, as well as how training evaluations are conducted for the U.S. Army Special Operations Command.

Come out to this very unique talk to learn all about how augmented reality technologies can be used in the field, as this technology’s telestration capability adds to the user’s perception that a mentor is right there with them, guiding each step of the procedure. Improved access to care, safety, and decreased treatment costs are anticipated to be among the benefits of putting this tech in the military’s hands, and you’ll leave this talk with a better understanding of both the United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) and the United States Army Special Operations Command (USASOC), a tele-mentored surgical and training initiative using augmented- and mixed-reality technologies to collaborate.

So if you’re not already registered to attend XRDC, sign up now at a discounted rate! Plus, this year there’s an all-new XRDC pass for sale: the Startup Pass, specifically designed to give smaller teams and trailblazing startups a clear path to success at XRDC at nearly half the price of the regular pass!

For more details about XRDC, which is produced by organizers of the Game Developers Conference, check out the official XRDC website. You can also subscribe to regular XRDC updates via emailTwitter and Facebook.

From eye games to military surgery, see how AR/VR is advancing medicine at XRDC!

Want to learn more about how the future of healthcare is being advanced by AR/VR/MR experts?

Come on out to the beautiful Fort Mason Festival Pavilion in San Francisco next Monday and Tuesday to attend XRDC, a premier event for AR/VR/MR innovation of all stripes. On the popular Healthcare track of talks you’ll have a chance to hear from developers and experts in the field, meet innovative healthcare practitioners (including the U.S. military), and identify opportunities in this rapidly-growing sector.

For example, check out “VR Games for Better Vision” to learn, firsthand, about the hundreds of eye clinics are using games to treat lazy eye in more than 16 countries.

In this session Vivid Vision chief James Blaha will cover the science and business challenges of getting a novel game-based medical device adopted as the new standard of care. Learn how you can apply your development skills to solve meaningful health problems, and see how cutting-edge tech like VR is helping to improve users’ vision!

And in “The Augmented Reality Forward Surgical Care Project” military veterans Steve DeLellis and Jerry Heneghan will provide details on an Augmented Reality Forward Surgical Care research project, as well as how training evaluations are conducted for the U.S. Army Special Operations Command.

Come out to this very unique talk to learn all about how augmented reality technologies can be used in the field, as this technology’s telestration capability adds to the user’s perception that a mentor is right there with them, guiding each step of the procedure. Improved access to care, safety, and decreased treatment costs are anticipated to be among the benefits of putting this tech in the military’s hands, and you’ll leave this talk with a better understanding of both the United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) and the United States Army Special Operations Command (USASOC), a tele-mentored surgical and training initiative using augmented- and mixed-reality technologies to collaborate.

So if you’re not already registered to attend XRDC, sign up now at a discounted rate! This year there’s an all-new XRDC pass for sale: the Startup Pass, specifically designed to give smaller teams and trailblazing startups a clear path to success at XRDC at nearly half the price of the regular pass!

For more details about XRDC, which is produced by organizers of the Game Developers Conference, check out the official XRDC website. You can also subscribe to regular XRDC updates via emailTwitter and Facebook.