Sponsored By

Postmortem: SOUL COVENANT – Development Insights and Lessons Learned from #1 Hit on PlayStation VR2 in Asia Markets

Here, we share the development insights and lessons learned from the journey of SOUL COVENANT, highlighting both successes and challenges.

Masaru Ohnogi

May 29, 2024

4 Min Read
Images via Thirdverse.

On April 18th, our Japan Studio launched our VR JRPG, SOUL COVENANT, to global audiences on Meta Quest, PlayStation VR2, and PCVR platforms. As a co-founder of Thirdverse, overseeing our studios in both Japan and the US, and a games industry veteran with over a decade of experience in the VR market, I have witnessed firsthand the evolution and steady adoption of VR technologies. Our Japan Studio’s latest VR game aimed not only to captivate but also to broaden the market by engaging more casual gamers in VR. Here, we share the development insights and lessons learned from the journey of SOUL COVENANT, highlighting both successes and challenges.

Celebrating the Wins: Enthusiastic Reception of SOUL COVENANT on PlayStation VR2 in Asia Markets

With the initial launch, SOUL COVENANT major success in some key markets – reaching #1 in sales on PlayStation VR2 in Japan, where it has strongly resonated with audiences, notably in Japan and other parts of Asia. This enthusiastic reception underscores the alignment of our game with the preferences of these VR players who appreciate immersive narrative experiences. The development team's deep love for JRPG mechanics and storytelling shines through in every element of the game, making it a hit among traditional and casual VR players alike.


Development Insights

In addition to our successes, we’ve also experienced some major opportunities to adopt and learn for our future projects. Let’s dive in.

Technical Challenges and Solutions

One of the major challenges we faced during the development of SOUL COVENANT was managing the performance demands of VR, particularly given the high number of creatures and enemies in the game. VR hardware, especially on standalone headsets like Meta Quest, has limitations that required us to optimize the game's performance continuously. We focused on maintaining a high graphical quality while ensuring the game ran smoothly, which was particularly challenging with the fast-paced, action-heavy gameplay (inspired by titles like Dynasty Warriors).

Another technical hurdle was minimizing motion sickness, a common issue for Japan players in VR. To address this, we designed intuitive controls and simplified mechanics, ensuring that players could enjoy extended play sessions without discomfort. This approach, while beneficial for reducing motion sickness, also meant we had to forgo some complex physics-based interactions that might have appealed to more VR enthusiasts in other markets.

Design Challenges and User Feedback

Cultural differences played a significant role in the reception of SOUL COVENANT. While the game was well-received in Asia, and particularly in Japan, hitting #1 in sales on PlayStation VR2, we noticed varying levels of enthusiasm in other regions. Japanese players, who often play VR games while seated, appreciated the game's design. However, Western players, who tend to prefer standing and more physically engaging VR experiences, found the gameplay less immersive.

We realized that our development team, being based in Japan, had naturally designed the game with Japanese players in mind. This led to some design choices that did not resonate as well with Western audiences. For instance, we avoided aggressive physics interactions and focused more on narrative and storytelling elements, which aligned with the preferences of Japanese gamers but not necessarily those of Western players.

Key Lessons Learned

Understanding Your Audience

One of the most critical lessons we learned is the importance of understanding and designing for your target audience - whether it’s local or global, core or casual, and so on. While it is natural to cater to familiar cultural preferences, expanding our focus to include a broader range of player experiences was essential for us. In future projects, we plan to conduct more extensive market research and beta testing across different regions to better tailor our games to diverse player bases when the focus is reaching and engaging more global audiences.

Flexibility in Game Design

We also learned the value of flexibility in game design. Implementing different modes, such as a more physically demanding "hard mode" and a less intense "beginner mode," could cater to both hardcore and casual gamers across markets where preferences really vary. This approach would allow us to maintain the core elements that make our game unique while adapting to various player gameplay nuances.

Technological Innovation

Investing in proprietary technology and optimizing existing tools were crucial to overcoming technical challenges. Our experience with SOUL COVENANT has reinforced the importance of staying at the forefront of VR technology, continuously seeking innovative solutions to enhance performance and player experience.

Looking Ahead

The development and launch of SOUL COVENANT have been both challenging and rewarding. Our success on PlayStation VR2 in Japan and Asian demonstrates the potential of VR to offer novel and engaging gaming experiences. However, the varying reception across different regions highlights the need for a more nuanced understanding of global audiences for VR.

As we move forward, we are committed to learning from these experiences and applying these lessons to future projects. By embracing a broader range of player preferences and continuing to innovate in VR technology, we believe that VR gaming can transcend traditional boundaries and invite players from all walks of life into immersive, compelling worlds.

With our continued dedication to innovation and quality, Thirdverse is poised to keep pushing the limits of what VR can achieve. We invite gamers to join us on this exciting journey as we strive to develop experiences that not only entertain but also inspire and connect with people across the globe.

Read more about:

Daily news, dev blogs, and stories from Game Developer straight to your inbox

You May Also Like