The shift presented an unexpected challenge for Radiance Games, the company they formed after the competition.
“We had to completely redesign the way users interacted with the game,” Provencher reports.
In the original version of the game, users had a third-party view of the action. From above, they controlled the hero’s vehicle, navigating the shadowy “ocean of darkness” and protecting the life-sustaining tower at its centre. (“Ocean” was the theme of the Ubisoft competition).
In the switch to VR, the Radiance Games team scrapped all the third-person perspective, placing the user right in the vehicle’s cockpit.
They did this because third-person perspectives, which frequently swivel and re-adjust on a dime, tend to nauseate virtual reality players. First-person perspectives are a little steadier, and reduce seasickness provoked by the discrepancy of what the eyes see and what the balance system feels.
“It took a lot of experimenting and trial and error with the way the camera moved and its stabilization,” Provencher says. “It could still probably improve a little, but there’s now a night-and-day difference from what it would’ve been in third person.”
The trailer for Radiant Crusade, the virtual reality update of the game Eric Provencher and his team made for the Ubisoft Game Lab competition.
The team of software developers and graphic designers didn’t stop with a VR Crusade, which came out on April 5. They’re now going back and perfecting the initial version of the game for people who don’t own virtual reality headsets, complete with all the redesigned weapons and novel upgrade packages.
Furthermore, the project that the team had originally wanted to design for the competition, a multiplayer racing game, is now in its embryonic phase. Provencher has just finished recruiting new team members.
“I approached connections I’ve made over the years,” he says. “The good thing about being in a university program is you make a lot of friends who have similar goals and passions.”
Indeed, Eric Philippona, the artificial intelligence developer at Radiance who has just left to pursue an opportunity in British Columbia, was a former classmate of Provencher’s. They met in one of their earliest game designer classes, when they were put into teams to make a “procedural” game where the player runs through levels, collecting upgrades and taking out enemies.
“We built that game in a few weeks for our first game development class,” Provencher recalls. “And that really gave us that itch for developing and fleshing out larger projects.”