Bringing VR to the Masses: What I Learned from Joe Montana Football About Developing for the New Frontier

Bringing VR to the Masses: What I Learned from Joe Montana Football About Developing for the New Frontier

Damon Grow

A few years ago, the future of gaming was social, with millions of players flocking to Farmville. Now, virtual reality is the new frontier. But if you want people to buy into the future, you have to build and sell the future. With VR’s true value proposition and path to success lying in mass adoption, the challenge is making these revolutionary experiences accessible to everyday people in the next year, five years and decade.

Conquering mobile is the first step on the path to mainstream adoption. As far as the consumer market is concerned, affordable hardware, rather than high-end headsets, will be the initial contact most users will have with VR. For its part, Samsung’s Gear VR is a completely untethered technology. You can bring it to parties and share casual experiences with friends. But once they’ve had that first experience, it’s up to us developers to keep them engaged.


Establish simplicity, relatability, and presence – instantly.

As a game developer, you always want to minimize the amount of time people spend within an app and actually experiencing the game. It’s especially important with VR to create simple yet engaging experiences that people can immediately immerse themselves in and share with others.

In our case, football is America’s most popular sport. Many people understand the game from a spectator perspective, but they haven’t felt what it’s like to be on the field, surrounded by opponents and noise. Joe Montana Football places players on the field and starts game play right away. They simply tap the side control and look at the receiver to pass the ball as the crowd cheers in the background. By putting players into the environment and giving them the “wow” factor right off the bat, they’re more likely to return for more.


Don’t forget biology.

VR gives developers the potential to create unprecedented sense of presence in game environments. To achieve a realistic experience, we can’t forget the fundamentals of how our minds process 3D. This means ensuring that frames are rendered at a minimum speed, camera transitions aren’t too abrupt, and the player isn’t overwhelmed by stimuli.

The human eye can perceive any lag, so it’s important to make sure the environment appears continuous – especially if there are many moving components. The majority of mobile VR content is situated in mostly static environments, sacrificing movement for frame speed. But some environments, like a football field, would be watered down if they remained static. We challenged ourselves to reach 60 frames per second in both eyes to achieve that richer presence.

There’s also a fine balance to offering the right amount of detail. Not enough, and the experience isn’t realistic. Too much, and the player becomes distracted from game play, and may even become nauseated. The solution is to curate the information and narrow down players’ options. In Joe Montana Football, we did this by color coding the receiver with red, yellow and green to indicate when the player should pass the ball.


What’s next?

With VR only just beginning to take off, there’s a tremendous opportunity to establish an early presence in a soon-to-be-crowded market. If you have a great idea, build it, have people try it and continue building as you go. Any great game should be a living experience, and VR developers will continue to push the envelope as emerging technologies are released.

One of the most exciting updates is Samsung’s upcoming Vulcan integration, accessible through a partnership with Unity, that will unlock multiple cores and low-level rendering to create an even richer, sharper experience. We’ll be able to push more polygons, textures, and animation, increasing graphics performance. These new capabilities will bring massive amounts of interest for VR from both developers and consumers.

VR is about breaking technology’s rules and barriers, and building new experiences from the ground up. And its future is ripe for developers looking to create unforgettable experiences for their users.


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