How to create a successful VR game
According to the IDC report, annual spending on VR games in 2020 will be $3.3 billion. According to them, games and other VR industries will only grow, making it the lion’s share that everyone is ready to take. But how do you create your own game with little difficulty? Let’s figure that out.
Define the goal
Few people think much about an end goal after they have an idea. Nevertheless, this is a crucial point, which can greatly influence the development process. Do you want the game to promote your brand, for example? If so, it should be simple and popular while creating a positive brand image and lasting impression.
Do you want to make money with a game? The monetization opportunities are at your service. Explore your target audience and learn how they want to spend money to decide on the revenue model, whether it’s F2P or a full-price game.
There are many other questions as well. For example, how will your game be sold after launch? What are the marketing channels and what is the customer acquisition price? All of these questions must be considered to answer the central question: Will the game meet the business need?
Therefore, the customer must decide on all requirements and business objectives. This is an essential step in the project and is called the Discovery Stage.
Completing the Discovery Stage
Here and now, the client must define the product-market fit (e.g., competitive alternatives and genre popularity) and set all requirements to organize the future development process.
To do this, the client must answer several questions, such as
Who is your actor?
What story, if any, do you want to tell?
What emotions do you want your game to evoke?
What are the WOW points of the game?
This way, both the client and the contractor understand the business value of the game.
This process helps determine the purpose of the game. To do this, the client meets with the contractor’s game designer or producer and develops a future game concept. This initial document is called a “High Concept” and contains the idea for the game as well as some specific aspects of the project, such as
General concepts and gameplay
Features to be implemented
Technologies and production details
Moodboard and references.
The client should also know the cost of development at this stage. This allows the client to leave out some features or replace them with others as soon as possible to stay within the target budget.
Deciding on the game platform
Now it is time to choose the right platform for the game. It can pose restrictions to the further development process, so it should also be done at the beginning. This decision allows you to focus on the platform’s capabilities and build truly exceptional solutions.
In general, there are five VR gaming platforms. Let’s take a brief look at them.
Mobile VR only requires a smartphone as an output device and a headset to insert a phone. This makes it a solution for resource-constrained projects, such as small games and simple demonstration videos. Other challenges – a wide dispersion of smartphones and performance issues – make mobile games a more specific solution. Still, there are several devices active in this area: Google Cardboard, Daydream, and Samsung VR Gear.
Headsets connected to a PC
The PC offers the widest range of possibilities thanks to its powerful hardware. It makes PC-connected devices a suitable platform for the most complex solutions with detailed graphics and extensive interaction options, such as Half-Life: Alyx, Serious Sam VR, and Fallout 4 VR. Examples of devices here are HTC Vive Pro (we recently compared it to Oculus 2 Quest), Oculus Rift, and Samsung Odyssey.
They are a combination of portability and capability. These headsets don’t require a PC or other additional hardware to operate – they have a built-in processor and memory. The power they provide is less than HMDs (head-mounted displays) connected to a PC, but they offer a wireless experience instead. The Oculus Quest 2 and Oculus Go devices are examples of this.
This type is quite similar to those connected to a PC, but it only works with consoles. Its power can sometimes yield to a PC because consoles have specific hardware that cannot be modified, but not dramatically. In addition, some producers, such as Sony, offer partnership programs and licenses to support game developers. The most significant example in this regard is SonyPlaystation VR.
Unfortunately, these are the most complex and least popular platforms. Full-size simulators seem to be quite massive units that replicate the real thing, such as a sports car cockpit or a tank turret. The main idea is to place the player inside the cabin for a better simulation. Thus, these platforms are created for industry-specific purposes, such as VR parks or super enthusiast game fan houses. A good example here is a B2Fire simulator.
Testing the game idea
Unfortunately, this is not enough to clarify the idea and create a complete documentation. It is essential to know whether the game is attractive and enjoyable for the target audience.
For this reason, the team should create an MVP of the game as a first step and give it to the players – a part of the target audience. This way, the author of the idea could see what the core concept looks like in practice and the development process should continue in its original form. The interest of the players will tell the most important thing – if the game idea is relevant.
Another good practice is to continue the player testing approach. This method allows you to gather seamless feedback during the development process, ensuring that you are on the right track. Otherwise, you’ll at least have time to introduce changes without tearing the game down from the ground up.
Gameplay and narrative should be tested along with all other features as an essential part of the project. No bug-free, 120fps environment will hold players if the game’s story is boring. So it’s crucial to listen to your audience throughout the process.
Then, when you are sure that the future idea will resonate with the gaming community, it’s time to move on to the next stage of game development.
Choose the development platform
The next step is to choose a development platform. The first decision to make is between two titans of the market – Unity and Unreal Engine – whose goals and features vary considerably, so it’s important to know their differences.
n general, Unreal Engine is a top choice for powerful and massive games with outstanding graphics and gameplay. UE 4 (its latest version) boasts many features, such as a particle simulation system, illuminated transparency and dynamic lighting, as well as fast and convenient rendering. In addition, 2021 will see the arrival of a new version of the platform – Unreal Engine 5 – with enhanced features and two shock points: Nanite and Lumen.
Nanite improves geometry visualization, so that all the polygons in the initial 3D model (billions of them) could be transferred directly into the engine without optimization.
Lumen, in turn, represents a global and dynamic illumination system that realizes diffuse interreflections with infinite bounces. It opens up a wide range of scenes with dynamic light that reacts to the developer’s actions. Unity can only dream of it from afar.
Nevertheless, the unit can compete with the EU in several dimensions. This engine is the best option for simpler projects that don’t require super detailed and large-scale graphics. In addition, Unity offers better cross-platform capabilities, which means better integration with all the devices mentioned above. It’s unlikely you’ll see a mobile VR game made on Unreal Engine.
On that topic of ease, let’s talk about programming. Unity’s original language is C#, which is easier to learn and master than UE’s C++. The overall architecture of Unity is also simpler, which contributes to the speed of development.
In a nutshell, Unreal Engine is a leading platform for large-scale gaming on PC- and console-connected VR devices, and for some standalone headset and full-scale simulator projects. Unreal Engine is the best solution for simple projects on all VR devices and for tasks that need to be completed quickly.
Determine budget and time
Budget and time depend on several factors, such as:
The type and genre of game
The size of a development team
Content (quantity and quality)
The number can vary considerably when even one of the points changes, which we looked at closely in another of our articles. Still, a simple game with standard features and a single mechanic (racing, for example) can cost up to $15,000 typically. More complicated games that offer a fuller range of interactivity, such as dragging and throwing VR objects, can range from $20,000 to $60,000.
If we’re talking about a massive game with an open world, sophisticated storytelling, and top-notch graphics, then it can go for $200,000 or more. It all depends on the initial idea of the project and its goals.
The development process is also flexible. A simple game can take 6-8 weeks, while the development of the next “Beat Saber” can take up to 9 months. Complex games, such as massive VR MMORPGs, can take over a year to build.
Publish the game
Although the development process is unique for each game, it all comes together in one at publishing time. The main idea here is to choose a market that suits you best. In all, there are seven possible markets for VR games:
Epic Games Store (EGS)
Do some research and find the most popular platform among your audience. For example, large-scale projects are displayed in Steam and EGS, while VR for mobile devices is best published on Google Play or App Store.
The development process doesn’t end with the release of a game. Many game producers sustain their work after release, managing to make a lot of money by implementing improved marketing strategies and adding new content. Or by correcting mistakes made. Remember the game No Man’s Sky with its terrible initial release? The developers drew the right conclusions and then made a real rags-to-riches story in a post-launch campaign. Today, the game’s reviews on Steam are very positive.
So, post-launch support is a great way to improve your game, add new content and increase sales through marketing channels. Or, if something went wrong, fix the problems and restore the confidence of your players.
Another crucial element is scalability. If you are creating an online game with many players, make sure the system survives. If necessary, provide horizontal scalability so that players don’t see the “Server is unavailable” notification. Nothing kills the desire to play rather than the inability to play when you want to.
All things considered, a prospective game owner should keep the following points in mind:
What type of game you want to build
Who your target audience is
How you want your players to feel
What device and platform will suit your idea
What your budget and requirements are
Where you will publish your game
How you will support it after release.
Creating a VR game is not as difficult as it sounds, especially when guided by VR game development experts. All you have to do is follow the play you put together with a game designer and listen to your audience during testing. This will help your game win the hearts of players after the initial release.