Sunday, July 31

ADR1FT: Detailed Constructive Feedback (with images)

ADR1FT is a game I've been waiting to play on my Vive for a long time, and now I finally have. The implementation of its VR mechanics can be improved, and so the following blog is based upon an email I sent to the developers outlining these potential improvements.  Enjoy.

ADR1FT: Detailed Constructive Feedback (with images)
ADR1FT already contains all of the art assets needed to make one of the richest gaming experiences in VR to date. The content is incredible. The theme is perfect. Only a few minimal tweaks to ADR1FT's Vive implementation are necessary to make it truly shine. These are detailed below.


The core gameplay of ADR1FT is essentially the player as a "pod" adjusting their movements in space and maintaining the player's existence by picking up floating oxygen tanks. This works perfectly as a flatscreen gaming mechanic where the view is always straight ahead, but runs into practical problems when the player is given control of the camera with the HMD (Head Mounted Display). The urge of the player to look around freely then creates a conflict with the core gameplay mechanic which requires a view constantly facing straight out from the "pod".
Similarly the HUD (Heads Up Display) elements that have traditionally worked perfectly within a flatscreen game mechanic also make a difficult transition to a full VR experience.
The following constructive feedback will address these two issues specifically.
In short, the following suggestions retain the core gameplay mechanic of ADR1FT, but introduce simple interface mechanisms that allow for a more comfortable, and therefore richer, VR experience.

THE HELMET - X-axis rotation - Looking Up & Down
In real life, if you wore a space helmet and looked directly up you would be staring up at the inside roof of the helmet itself.

Similarly, when you look down you would be looking into the helmet's chin cavity.

The only unobstructed view is when your head is facing directly forward through the visor. The same mechanic can apply to the VR experience in ADR1FT.

This isn't to say that the helmet doesn't move at all. Like in real life the helmet would move up with your head, but to a point. The same is true when you look down. You only become aware of the limitations of the helmet's movements at the extremes.

By introducing a degree of limited movement to the helmet, which is separate to the movement of the player's head, would actively encourage the player to adjust their "pod" orientation rather than adjusting their head position. This supports the core game mechanic, while at the same time enhances the experience of being inside a space suit.

A note on extremes:

Looking directly up (90°) the player's view becomes half blocked by the roof of the helmet, incentivising them to reorientate their view with the game controls.

Looking directly down (-90°) requires an extra solution to prevent the player from looking through their body. When you stand up straight and tilt your head as far down as it can go your head rests at an angle of about 45° at best.

At this angle (-45°) the helmet should be at its maximum obstruction to our visibility- looking mostly into the chin cavity. Beyond this point is unrealistic since our bodies are incapable of going any further, therefore the game view can then fade to black- starting at -45° and going completely to black at -55°.

This trains the player to keep their head within a certain playable range, and fading the view to black gently alerts the player that they have gone beyond this range. It can also be used as an emergency measure for players who are feeling simulation sickness to look directly down, cutting out the view without the need to take the HMD off.

THE HELMET - Y-axis rotation - Looking Left & Right

Because the Vive player has the physical freedom to turn around 360° horizontally, limitations placed on the Y-axis movement of the in-game helmet do not apply.

At best, the helmet's movement would "lag" behind the player's movement if the player moves rapidly in one direction left or right- just as in real life.

With normal movement, however, the helmet should follow the player 1:1.

This impacts the core gameplay, but only minimally. It essentially boosts the player's ability to pivot the Y-axis orientation of their "pod" by linking it to the player's head direction. It essentially allows the player to more quickly turn and boost, then turn again and boost, for much greater stability and ease of movement along the Y-axis, however, while giving this enhanced ability to the player it also greatly improves the immersion of their VR experience.

These two implementations of the X and Y axes of the helmet obviate the need to recalibrate the player's view with the R Trackpad button, since their view is now always calibrated.

HUD - Game Controllers

By removing the HUD from the visor and instead incorporating the radar and oxygen meter onto the Vive Controller models themselves supports the inclusion of the Vive controllers into the game world and gives them even more functionality to the player.

Bringing up important information like Oxygen Levels then becomes a physical act, enhancing the player's VR experience. Having this important information applied to the in-game controllers also makes it easier for the player to monitor, since the player is already using their controllers to target oxygen tanks and bat away unnecessary debris, therefore the controllers are already present in the player's view.

The above, relatively simple suggestions, if implemented, would retain ADR1FT's core gameplay mechanic while, with a minimum investment of resources, allow Vive players to have a more comfortable and richer VR experience.

Mat Brady is a Senior Storyboard Artist at Artrix Ltd (a game development studio) in Auckland, New Zealand. The views and opinions expressed above do not necessarily coincide with those of Artrix Ltd. This blog has been posted independently of the studio.

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