Game development as a whole is poised to transition into spatial 3D in the not so distant future. Already the two leading game engines, Unity and Unreal, are doing all they can to fully support the development needs of both virtual reality and augmented reality because they know that inevitably all products will eventually be made in these formats. Sure, our standard screen format that we have toiled in for decades has a place, on flat screens that will become dynamic picture frames that you view or interact with. But once the new hardware matures into mass adoption the old format will look antiquated and hold less engagement power.
So should you be considering developing for either new market? Well, no. Currently both markets are in their infancy and are evolving mechanics and scenarios that best fit the new technologies. VR has had a head start but has been weighed down by slow hardware development, as room scale kits continue to be wired, heavy and still not to the depth of resolution where it needs to be for deep immersion locking. The software has shown promise and thousands of games and apps show off plausible use cases across a broad range of interactions. With AR it all started with the Pokemon catalyst, that gave an entry level understanding to using AR with a smart phone, and now with AR Kits ease of use we’re seeing the first stages of the possibilities of augmenting our lives and daily use cases. But that’s also why AR isn’t a viable business approach unless you’re doing something spectacular right now, everything is a tech demo and there’s not a lot of depth of usability to monetize around. Where AR is guaranteed to flourish is when it can move into glasses and become a new layer of vision we have access to. As someone who used Google Glasses for 3 months consistently while at work and at home, with an attempt to leverage the feature set to improve my daily tasks, I can see how much of a jump the ability to do all of the things you already do on your phone through the corner of your eye. And as AR technology matures we’ll see immense leaps in how we can enhance our vision and also layer in entertainment such as social, web and games.
No one knows when exactly we as game developers should begin to transition into the new formats. But what we can do is be aware of how both VR and AR development is going, what elements do we need to add to our skill sets as developers to be ready for that inevitable transition. When mobile development came along it changed the way a lot of developers had to plan, build and release games. The use of 3rd party backends to accentuate a games ability to track and tune wasn’t something developers were doing beforehand. It was build and release, then hope for the best. Things have changed thanks to the lessons learned from developers discovering the mobile gold rush. Releasing your game was now just a step for F2P titles, then the hard work of tuning features and marketing to specific users was a full time job and teams were now becoming support for the titles as well. We’re not going to see a drastic change in development aspects as both VR and AR already have similar aspects to themselves, and to basic 3D development but it will pay as developers to understand the differences in approaches to developing games and apps for both.
If you are developing concepts inside of either virtual reality or augmented reality then the approach should be a focal point in the concept. By timing your development cycles to coincide with new platform releases or burgeoning game genres can be advantageous to your release strategy.
By Josh Smillie