Yesterday, Google announced the creation of a new virtual reality platform called “Daydream” and announced a partnership with ten developers who would be working on content for this new mobile-based platform. These developers range from larger companies like EA and Ubisoft to smaller developers like Otherside Entertainment and nDreams. Some, like Otherside and CCP were able to announce their games right away, others, like Ubisoft and EA, have yet to fully make their development plans clear yet.
We reached out to these Daydream developers to get their thoughts on developing for Google's VR platform, and what role it may take in the future of virtual reality development. All of them see advantages in the trade-off of console and PC hardware for mobile processing, and many indicated the possibility of a proper mobile touch controller could improve mobile VR for years to come.
Most of the companies who responded indicated that their partnership with Google on Daydream extended back only a few months, but a few had been working on making experiences for Google Cardboard, which was the basis for the company’s commitment to mobile VR. “We aren’t able to share all the specifics here, but what we can say is that we typically keep our productions between 6-8 months and Wonderglade will be ready for the launch of Daydream, which is expected this fall,” says Resolution Games’ Tommy Palm.
nDreams’ Patrick O'Luanaigh says their company saw potential in its original work with Cardboard, and was glad to see Google begin building a platform with interest in increased performance. “Cardboard has been a great way of bringing virtual reality to huge numbers of people, however it was never designed to be a high-performance VR experience.”
“Daydream confidently solves this problem while remaining a widespread, open platform that should reach an enormous audience.”
Otherside CEO Paul Nerath explains that mobile-based virtual reality has a market advantage right now in that the headsets will have no wires to drag behind the player, and will have a lower price of entry compared to console and PC experiences. “You have to work within a leaner polygon and texture budget than a high-end setup because you’re running on a smartphone, but otherwise it’s more similar than different,” says Nerath.
CCP Shanghai’s JC Gaudechon, executive producer on Gunjack, says it plans on bringing the sequel to Gunjack exclusively to Daydream. It was able to port the first game previously to the Samsung Gear VR, and Gaudechon says they’re counting on further advances in mobile processing technology to make this exclusivity deal possible.
“The big difference for us is that we have to be much more focused on extracting every single bit of performance out of our game and the hardware. Mobile processors are making huge leaps every few months,” says Gaudechon. “But it’s still a real challenge to deliver the frame rates necessary for VR while still giving the player great graphics and gameplay.”
Most importantly, the partnered developers seemed happy to have motion controls and anything resembling a universal control scheme for mobile finally in reach. “Up to now, mobile VR has relied on touching the side of the headset or using a Bluetooth game controller, neither of which are ideal for casual VR users,” says O'Luanaigh. “The new control system is one of the best things about Daydream, and a fantastic sign that of the ambition that Google has for VR.”
Google's partners in Daydream development certainly seem eager for players to get a chance at mobile VR with touch controls, but it'll be interesting how the Android-centered development process will deal with an already fragmented platform and promises of multiple types of VR headsets and controllers entering the market. This process seems tentatively eased by both Unity and Epic promising engine support for Daydream, so hopefully other developers will have a stable path in to developing for Google's new platform.