As an example of our development process we are going to take a peak under the hood of XpertVR’s in-house simulation VR C.A.T.S. This was a project our team took on in 2020 to test some new ideas, new platforms and to have some fun. We usually spend 4+ months on our projects but because this was an in-house project, built for entertainment, we sped this timeline up to 1 month.
Once you know all the in’s and out’s of VR C.A.T.S. try it out for yourself! Here’s the link to download it from Sidequest!
At XpertVR we follow a 3 step process when developing immersive VR solutions. These 3 stages allow XpertVR to collaborate with our clients on their vision, define the expectations and milestones, while also building a unique user experience for all of those involved.
Stage one starts with sitting down with our clients team and the industry eXperts they have on staff. As VR C.A.T.S. was an in-house project we used our in-house industry eXpert. VR C.A.T.S. is basically a virtual escape room so for this knowledge we sat down with Mustafa (Mu) who has years of experience in the space as he had a large escape room business in Turkey.
This allowed us to understand the in’s and out’s of the escape room process and the impact the simulation could drive. We then worked on translating these processes and ideas into VR, while setting up project milestones and timelines. As well, typing out a Game Development Doc, Technical Development Doc, collecting art reference photos and putting tasks into our project management software, ClickUp. This ensures everyone is on the same page when we start the project and that we stay on the same page throughout the project.
Every real-world scenario has a story. So, why don’t virtual scenarios tell those stories as well?
In this stage, the XpertVR creative team takes what they learned from our clients/industry eXperts and turn their simulations into stories. In the case of VR C.A.T.S. we knew we wanted a fun story to engage the players, that was both connected to the environment and the puzzles the players need to solve. Knowing we only had a month to develop the simulation we decided to go for a simple art style and an environment with one enclosed room and 2 smaller attached rooms. This meant no outdoor environment would need to be created and we could keep optimizing models for realism to a minimum. At the time we were looking into some police training simulations so we thought it would be fun to create a story around placing the player in the shoes of a futuristic “Cyber Agent”.
Having these pieces flushed out we got to work on the three main pieces of every simulation, asset creation, programming and technical art.
Asset Creation: In this phase, we create the foundational elements of the simulation. This includes creating 3D layouts of the environments, building static objects to fill the scene, and creating assets and display information, players will interact with.
For VR C.A.T.S, this started with a whitebox layout of the environment, which allows us to have a feel for the environment and how a player might interact without needing to do much work. From there our programming team was able to start working on the project while the art team got to work on bring the environment to life and creating the 3D assets the player will control.
Programming: In the programming phase, we create all of the functional aspects of the simulation. This starts with the basics of allowing the player to move throughout the environment, control their hands and stop them from falling through the floor! From there the programming team focuses on each of the interactable objects within the scene and makes them functional.
In VR C.A.T.S. the interactable objects included a futuristic screwdriver (similar to that of Doctor Who’s Sonic Screwdriver), a gyroscopic maze table, switches, a holographic keyboard and cutoff knobs for controlling pipes throughout the game. We don’t want to give too much away as these are all connected to puzzles in the game but if you want to see how each of these works and full walk through of the game, check it out here.
Technical Art: This phase encompasses the entire build out process. Because this phase involves art and programming it is usually completed later in the project, whereas the other two can run in tandem. That said, once this phase starts everything comes together, from the basics, such as scaling, sizing, and lighting. To more complicated features like shaders (water/smoke/weather design) that make the experience realistic and combining everything to create the perfect user experience for the final product.
Stage 3 is all about checking quality in-house, receiving feedback from our client/industry experts and making optimization/bug fixes. Feedback is vital to any successful launch. Collaboration is what brings those unique qualities to any outcome. During this time we plan as many meetings as required to ensure to hit the mark and that we are ready for launch. Plus ensures that every aspect of your simulation is rigorously tested before delivery.
In VR C.A.T.S. this meant a lot of gameplay testing with our in-house team as well as sending the simulation to a few friends and promoting it to our VR research panel. This gave us a lot of feedback and allowed us to make fixes to where people struggled with controls, ensure the tutorial explained everything properly and