Building my First VR Game:

10 Lessons Learned the Hard Way

James Vidler

@jameskvidler

github/jamesvidler

About Me

  • Background in Web Development
     
  • Currently leading a Product team at Agility CMS
     
  • Never built a game before
     
  • Huge fan of VR, still have my Oculus DK2
     
  • I code on weekends

NOT an expert

About The Game

*Quest, and Rift coming soon

Why?

VR is the ultimate medium to express yourself

VR: New Worlds

Traditional Mediums

I'm also a little nuts...

How did I go from...

It was painful...

But doesn't have to be

10 Lessons:

Learned the Hard Way

#1 - Don't Build a Game

If you are just starting off with Unity and C#...

Spend as much time as you can learning and experimenting before jumping to building a game

#1 - Don't Build a Game

Game development is hard, you will get stuck and demoralized

Start on a game only when you feel comfortable with your skills

#2 - Keep it Simple, Stupid!

  • Aim low. Aim real low.
     
  • Stick to your strengths and build a game around that
     
  • Beware of the rabbit hole

#2 - Keep it Simple, Stupid!

Dodgeblock is 99% comprised of primitive game objects

  • Familiarity with C# meant I was comfortable with scripting and writing algorithms
     
  • Still don't know anything about 3D modeling or animations 

#2 - Keep it Simple, Stupid!

Some of my early, failed attempts...

#2 - Keep it Simple, Stupid!

And this one...

And then my PC crashed...

#2 - Keep it Simple, Stupid!

I was trying to take on too much, so I developed a set of rules...

  1. Use the Cube primitive game object for pretty much everything
     
  2. Only target the Oculus Go platform... for now...
     
  3. No multiplayer
     
  4. Accessible to any kind of VR user, even first-timers
    ...

5. No gravity, physics is hard

#2 - Keep it Simple, Stupid!

#3 - Engage the VR Community

  • If you build it, they will not necessarily come
     
  • You need a following, hype, and champions who are going to vouch for you
     
  • Do it early and often
     
  • It is your responsibility

#3 - Engage the VR Community

  • My marketing efforts were inconsistent
     
  • Forgot about specific channels such as Discord
     
  • Only had a couple YouTubers do reviews
     
  • Still struggling with marketing... any tips?

#4 -                   the Asset Store

AVOId

#4 - Avoid the Asset Store

  • Not a magic bullet
     
  • You never really know what you are importing
     
  • Configuring external assets in your scene can be complicated
     
  • Packages can be bloated
     
  • Save your money
     
  • You taking a learning opportunity away

#5 - Take Breaks

  • Doing too much at once can cloud your judgement
     
  • You need time in-between to reflect on your work, collect feedback, and iterate
     
  • Entire weekends have been wasted
     
  • Life balance

#6 - Grow Some Thick Skin

Getting feedback is extremely valuable, but it can also be your downfall

  • Negative feedback can hurt, but is probably the best type
     
  • Positive feedback is great, but low value from friends and family
     
  • Use a group of testers you don't know

#7 - Feature Creep is Real

Most difficult type of feedback are feature requests

  • You might get some good ideas, but it can lead you astray (#2 - Keep it Simple Stupid)
     
  • Feedback is a loop, if you implement something new people have asked for, they will ask for more 

#7 - Feature Creep is Real

Failure to stick to your MVP (Minimum Viable Product) can lead to...

  • Endless "Todo" list
     
  • A game getting exponentially more complicated
     
  • Bugs
     
  • "When are you done?"

#8 - Be Mindful of your Partner

Developing a game requires a ton of energy and time.

  • If you are spending all your energy on this, its going to affect them
     
  • They will support you, but things can go un-said
     
  • Prioritize time with your partner and try set a schedule for when you work on your game

#8 - Be Mindful of your Partner

Don't put a strain on your relationship, its not worth it

Find a way to involve your partner in the project too

#9 - Mobile VR != PC VR

Just because something worked on your Oculus Rift while in Unity, does not mean it will work on the Oculus Go

  • Mobile VR has dramatically different hardware
     
  • FPS is critical on Mobile VR
     
  • Add an FPS counter while you are testing on each device
     
  • If FPS drops below 60 FPS on your Mobile VR, undo whatever you just did

#9 - Mobile VR != PC VR

Build and test on the Go after each feature/bug fix you do

  • Days wasted trying to fix performance issues
     
  • Be smart about how you use Git to help rollback builds

#10 - You CAN Do it!

If you aren't familiar with impostor syndrome, you will be after trying to make your first game

  • You'll think your game isn't good enough
     
  • You'll second-guess decisions
     
  • You'll lose confidence
     
  • You might even give up after a while

#10 - You CAN Do it!

Best way to keep your confidence up is to have a good support system

Friends and family

The VR Community

What to Expect At Launch

On launch day, I felt a great sense of achievement, but I was also incredibly nervous

  • Had 0 sales the first hour
     
  • Fear set in
     
  • Anxiously refreshing the Oculus sales dashboard

What to Expect At Launch

Then sales began to pour in... 

Then kinda plateaued :(

What to Expect At Launch

  • Sales started off strong, as it was highlighted as the latest app on the store
     
  • Over time it fell down the list of "New Releases"
     
  • Despite strong reviews (95% positive) and daily usage, it continues to struggle to get prominence in the Oculus store

What's Next?

  • Though sales have slowed, the game still has consistent daily usage from users
     
  • Build a better game trailer
     
  • Minor gameplay tweaks based on feedback
     
  • Release to Oculus Quest and Oculus Rift platforms by the end of 2019

Challenges

  • A constant struggle to motivate myself to market the game
     
  • Recording high-quality videos on the Oculus Go is hard
     
  • Building + publishing for the Oculus Quest without owning a Quest
     
  • Finding time and energy to remain focused on the game 

Thank you

Want a free key for Dodgeblock? DM me on twitter @jameskvidler

Building my First VR Game - 10 Lessons Learned the Hard Way

By James Vidler

Building my First VR Game - 10 Lessons Learned the Hard Way

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