Virtual reality as a form of entertainment is coming along in leaps and bounds, bringing with it new possibilities and challenges. And while VR is still finding its feet in the video games industry, now is the perfect time to develop something truly unique.
Viewpoint Games has been working with VR for several years. The plan has been, and still is, to create truly immersive experiences. Based in one of the UK’s growing games development hubs, Leamington Spa, the studio began when Neil Campbell and Neil Wigfield discovered their shared passion for VR gaming. And their shared view that there wasn’t enough quality content out there. The focus of their new venture would be to create titles exclusively for virtual reality.
“VR is still in its infancy in the industry,” comments Design Director Neil Wigfield. “And it’s a platform we wanted to delve into from a development standpoint - it’s exciting and offers us new challenges.”
With two indie titles already under their belt, and a combined 30 years’ experience, Wigfield and Campbell have managed to overcome challenges set by this form of game development, and harness the high level of player immersion that virtual reality provides.
When developing a new title Viewpoint’s approach is to keep the issue of scale firmly in the back of their minds. “When creating a new game world we have to constantly think about what's behind the camera as well as what’s in front of it,” continues Wigfield. “We have to take into account that players will be looking in every direction possible, whether it’s up at the sky or down at their feet, or even directly behind them. We have to think about the player’s every potential movement, and make sure the game world is built to accommodate that.”
As an indie developer Viewpoint has free reign when it comes to creating games. With a typical development cycle lasting between nine to twelve months, Viewpoint can create interesting and original ideas, while also trying out new game mechanics.
“We have a lot of creative freedom when it comes to developing brand new titles,” Wigfield adds. “As creatives we feel fulfilled when we make a game from the ground up based on our own ideas.” In order to put their ideas into practice, Viewpoint need the right tools for the job.
When it comes to their pipeline Viewpoint uses a mixture of software, which includes 3ds Max and Maya for their 3D models, Photoshop for textures, and Unity as their main games engine. Traditionally game development studios prefer one 3D modelling programme over another, however the lines between modelling packages have blurred in recent years. “It really depends on the project as to which software we’ll use” says Campbell. “For some of our projects we used 3ds Max, while on others we used Maya. We don’t have strong alliances in regards to what 3D software we use.”
When looking for software licences and workstations Viewpoint found that working with a solutions integrator was the ideal approach, so they contacted Escape Technology to get their studio up to spec as quickly as possible.
“Escape Technology saved us so much time when setting up our pipeline,” Campbell adds. “With their expert knowledge they were able to give us the exact workstations and licences we needed to get everything up and running.”
Viewpoint opted for a series of networked HP Z240s for their primary workstations, paired with Dell 22” monitors. Each workstation was outfitted with NVIDIA GTX970 GPUs and 8GB RAM. The studio opted for subscription licenses of Autodesk 3ds Max to give them the flexibility to scale as needed. And with financing options available Viewpoint were able to spread their CapEx in a more manageable manner.
While there’s still some way to go before virtual reality hits the mainstream in gaming, Viewpoint does think it has a place. “The most popular VR experiences are based on well established triple A franchises like the Batman Arkham series and Resident Evil.” Wigfield concludes. “VR gaming needs to move away from small ‘tacked on’ titles and start focussing on its own original games in order to break into the mainstream.”
It’s with this focus that Viewpoint Games strives to break the mould and help VR gaming achieve more recognition. With so much potential for fully immersive worlds and multifaceted storytelling, VR has great potential to open up new dynamics and turn the games industry on its head.
If you’re interested in spinning up your development studio, or need consultation on the best solutions for your business, contact Neil Parmar.