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John Carmack offers Gear VR game dev advice

At the developer's request, Oculus CTO John Carmack has published a public critique of a Gear VR game with the intent of helping all VR developers better understand and utilize the technology.

Alex Wawro, Contributor

May 8, 2015

2 Min Read

"Crowds of little monsters cry out for grenades."

- John Carmack offers practical design advice to a developer who asked for it.

Back in April, Oculus CTO John Carmack took to Twitter to ruminate about whether or not VR game developers might find his public feedback on early Gear VR games valuable as they sort out how to best make games for VR headsets. 

Evidently some felt they would, because this week he published a fairly detailed critique of VR Bits' game Nighttime Terror running on Gear VR. It's worth reading if you're at all interested in the nascent field of VR game design, as Carmack is well-equipped to critically evaluate the work as both a game designer and a VR engineer with intimate knowledge of the Gear VR hardware.

"While dim is generally good, solid black strongly brings out the two-frame-rise ghosting problem with the display," he writes, referencing the game's use of color. "Loading screens should go to black at the edges to reduce the impact of choppy updates (we need to make a sample of a load screen that is only rendered a single time, which can avoid the chopped-off effect that very low FPS load screens can show), but game scenes, like the kitchen, should avoid solid black."

Throughout the (brief) analysis Carmack ties together his experience with VR hardware and his time spent developing iconic first-person shooters like Quake, suggesting at one point that "the monsters are so silent – the big ones should have an occasional roar animation," and adding that "3D audio would help...but you would have to be careful to limit the channel count under rapid fire for performance reasons."

Of course, Nighttime Terror is not a first-person game, and in offering VR design advice Carmack refers back to Herobound, a free third-person action game developed in-house at Oculus as a learning experience; it was distributed to early Rift developers as a tech demo under the name VR Adventure.

"I lost track of my guy after looking around sometimes. HeroBound added a dynamic pointer to help this," wrote Carmack. "In general, I wish I was at least a little closer to the action at all times. It is hard to identify with your character when all you look at is a small hat."

For more, check out the full post over on Carmack's public Facebook page. It's a good read (Mark Zuckerberg liked it) and he may offer further public game design critique going forward.

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