According to the IDC report, VR game annual spending in 2020 will amount to $3.3 billion. They say gaming as well as other VR industries will only grow, which makes it the piece of pie everyone willing to take. But how to create your own game with little difficulties? Let’s sort it out.
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Few people think much of a final goal after they happen to have an idea. Nonetheless, it’s a crucial point, which may influence the development process dramatically. Do you want the game to promote your brand, for example? In this case, it must remain simple and be popular while creating a positive brand image with a lasting impression.
Do you want to earn money with a game? Monetization options are at your service. Explore your target audience and learn how they want to spend money to decide on the revenue model, be it F2P or a full-price game.
Many other questions arise, too. For example, how will your game be sold after the launch? What are the marketing channels, and what is the customer acquisition price? All these issues must be contemplated to answer the central question: Will the game resolve the business need?
For that reason, the client should decide on all the business requirements and goals. It is a vital project stage that is called a Discovery stage.
Complete the Discovery Stage
Here and now, the client should define the product-market fit (for example, competitive alternatives and genre popularity) and put down all the requirements to organize the future development process.
To do so, the client should answer several questions, such as:
- Who is your player?
- What story do you want to tell, if any?
- What emotions do you want your game to cause?
- What are the WOW points of the game?
Thus the client and the contractor understand the business value of the game.
That process helps determine the purpose of the game. To do so, the client meets the contractor’s game designer or game producer and develops a future game concept. That initial document is called High Concept and contains the game idea along with some specific project aspects, such as:
- General concepts and gameplay
- Features to implement
- Technologies and production details
- Moodboard and references.
The client also needs to know the cost of the development in this stage. It lets the client leave along some features or replace them with other ones as early as possible to stay in terms of the target budget.
Decide on the Game Platform
Now it is time to select the right platform for the game. It may pose restrictions to the further development process, so it also must be done in the early stage. That decision allows to focus on the platform capabilities and build truly outstanding solutions.
In general, there are five VR gaming platforms. Let’s observe them briefly.
Mobile VR only requires a smartphone as an output device and a headset to insert a phone. For this reason, it’s a solution for resource-light projects, such as small games and simple demo videos. Other challenges – a wide scatter of smartphones and performance issues – make mobile gaming a more niche solution. Still, there are several active devices here: Google Cardboard, Daydream, and Samsung VR Gear.
PC provides the broadest range of possibilities due to its powerful hardware. It makes PC-connected devices a suitable platform for the most complicated solutions with detailed graphics and extensive interaction options, such as Half-Life: Alyx, Serious Sam VR, and Fallout 4 VR. The examples of devices here are HTC Vive Pro (we’ve recently compared it with Oculus 2 Quest), Oculus Rift, and Samsung Odyssey.
They are a mix up of portability and capacity. These headsets don’t require a PC or any other additional hardware to operate – they have an embedded processor and memory. The power they provide is less than the PC-connected HMDs (head-mounted displays), but it gives a tetherless experience instead. Device examples are Oculus Quest 2 and Oculus Go.
That type is quite similar to the PC-connected ones, but it works with consoles solely. Its power may sometimes give in to a PC as consoles have specific unmodifiable hardware, but not dramatically. On top of that, some producers, such as Sony, provide partnership programs and licenses to support game developers. The most significant example here is SonyPlaystation VR.
Unfortunately, these are the most complex and the least popular platforms. Full-size simulators appear to be quite massive units that replicate the real-life based object, such as a sports car cabin or a tank turret. Its main idea is to place the player inside the cabin for better simulation. That way, these platforms are being created for sector-specific purposes, such as VR parks or homes of super passionate game fans. A good example here is a B2Fire simulator.
Test the Game Idea
Unfortunately, it’s not enough to clear up the idea and create comprehensive documentation. It is vital to know whether the game is engaging and enjoyable for the target audience.
For that reason, the team should create an MVP of the game as the first step and give it to the gamers – a part of the target audience. Thus the idea author could see how the central concept looks like in practice and should the development process continue in its original form. The interest of players will tell the most important thing – whether the game idea is relevant.
Another good practice is to keep on with the gamer testing approach. That method allows for seamless feedback gathering during the development process, thus ensuring you are headed in the right direction. If not, you will at least have time to introduce changes without demolishing the game from the ground up.
Gameplay and narrative should be tested together with all the other functions as an essential project part. No bug-free environment and 120 fps will retain players if the game’s story is boring. So, it is crucial to listen to your audience through the entire process.
Then, when you are sure the future idea will resonate with the gaming community, it is time to proceed to the next game development stage.
Choose the Development Platform
The next step is to choose a development platform. The primary decision here is between two market titans – Unity and Unreal Engine – whose aims and functionality vary greatly, so one should know their differences.
In general, Unreal Engine is a top choice for high powered and massive games with outstanding graphics and gameplay. UE 4 (its latest version) enjoys many features, such as a particle simulation system, lit transparency, and dynamic lighting, along with fast and convenient rendering. Moreover, 2021 will bring a new version of the platform – Unreal Engine 5 with improved functionality and two shocking points: Nanite and Lumen.
Nanite improves geometry visualization so that all the initial 3D model polygons (billions of billions) could be transferred directly to the engine without optimization.
Lumen, in its 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 reacting to the developer’s actions. Unity can only dream of it by far.
Nonetheless, Unity can compete with UE in several dimensions. This engine is the best option for simpler projects that don’t require super detailed graphics and large scale. Moreover, Unity provides better cross-platform opportunities, which means better integration with all the devices mentioned above. It’s unlikely you would see a VR mobile game made on Unreal Engine.
While on this easiness subject, let’s touch upon programming. Unity’s original language is C#, which is easier to learn and master than UE’s C++. The overall Unity architecture is more straightforward, too, which contributes to the development speed.
In a word, Unreal Engine is a top-tier platform for large-scale games on PC-connected and console VR devices and for some projects for standalone headsets and full-scale simulators. Unity is best for simple projects on all the VR devices and for the tasks that need to be built fast.
Determine Budget and Time
Both budget and time depend on several factors, such as:
- Game type and genre
- The size of a dev team
- Content (amount and quality)
The number may vary dramatically when even one of the points changes, which we closely examined in other our article. Still, a simple game with standard functionality and a single mechanic (racing, for example) may cost up to $15,000 in general. More complicated games that offer a more comprehensive range of interactivity, such as dragging and throwing VR objects, may vary from $20,000 to $60,000.
If we speak about a massive game with an open world, sophisticated narrative, and top-tier graphics, then it may reach $200,000 and even more. It all depends on the initial idea of the project and its aims.
The terms of the development process are also scalable. A simple game may take from 6 to 8 weeks, while the next “Beat Saber” development may last up to 9 months. Complex games, such as massive MMORPGs in VR, might need over a year to be built.
Publish the Game
Though the development process is unique for each and every game, it all rolls into one when it comes to publishing. The main idea here is to pick a market that better suits you. All in all, there are seven possible marketplaces for VR games:
- Epic Games Store (EGS)
- Oculus Store
- Google Play
- App Store
Conduct research and find the platform most popular among your audience. For example, massive projects are posted in Steam and EGS, while VR for mobile devices is better to release on Google Play or App Store.
Support after the Launch
The development process doesn’t end with a release. Many game producers support their work after it, managing to earn great money by applying enhanced marketing strategies and adding new content. Or fixing the made mistakes, too. Remember the No Man’s Sky game with its awful initial release? The devs drew necessary conclusions and later on performed a true rags-to-riches story as a post-launch campaign. Now the game reviews in Steam are Very Positive.
That way, post-launch support is an excellent way to improve your game, add new content, and increase sales through marketing channels. Or, if something went wrong, fix the issues and rebuild the trust of your gamers.
Another crucial part is scalability. If you create an online game with many players, be sure the system survives it. If necessary, one should provide horizontal scalability so as the gamers won’t see the “The server is not available” notification. Nothing kills a wish to play rather than the inability to play when you wish.
To Wrap it Up
All in all, a future game owner should keep the following points in mind:
- What kind of game you wish to build
- Who your target audience is
- What you want your players to feel
- Which device and platform will suit your idea
- What your budget and terms expectations are
- Where you will publish your game
- How you will support it after the release.
Creating a VR game is not as difficult as it may seem, primarily when guided by VR game development experts. Just follow the play you composed with a game designer and listen to your audience during tests. It will help your game win the players’ hearts after the initial release.