Hello everyone. I’m Nicolas Doucet, creative director and producer of The Playroom VR, the first virtual reality title coming out from Japan Studio Asobi! Team.
As you may know, The Playroom VR will be available at launch on October 13 as a free download for all PS VR users. It’s our way to say a huge thank you for your purchase as we embark on a new era of video game history!
The Playroom contains six unique virtual reality games designed to be enjoyed by friends and families. The particularity of our title is that it mixes VR play with classic TV play to become the first ever sofa multiplayer experience released on VR. Let me tell you about the origins of the project and how we challenged the image of VR being a solitary experience.
As our team started researching new technologies and VR, we had a strong desire to keep a social dimension. At first, this felt like an impossible task, as VR is typically a solitary experience where the player is immersed in amazing worlds, cut off from the rest of the house.
However, what makes us different is that PS VR sits in the living room, and we know that all PS4 systems have a television screen nearby as well. If only those TV screens could also be used in conjunction with VR, perhaps new avenues would open up?
So we set ourselves a goal: to offer an inclusive VR experience where friends and families would be shouting and laughing together in the same room. That image of social play became one of four key values of our team, and was even illustrated onto one of our office walls, as a reminder of what we stand for.
We scratched our heads and came up with an idea. We used one of our PlayStation Vita development kits and connected it to the PS4 system via Remote Play. Then, inside the same game, we sent one image to the PS VR headset and a totally different view to PS Vita. We then plugged our PS Vita to a TV, and voila!
The next step was to create a simple head model and match its movement to the VR player’s head movement. We could now “see” the VR player on the TV as if it was a mirror. It was an instant win. Being able to see the VR player’s head moving, looking around, nodding and hiding behind a pillar was a lot of fun. So we then added small characters controllable on the TV using a Dualshock 4 wireless controller and we had a full-on five player prototype! The feeling of togetherness instantly made the whole thing gel as one: from that point, we knew we had something unique worth digging into.
Following this, we were able to try lots of new ideas that mixed VR and TV screens. The first was competitive games called Monster Escape where the VR player becomes a huge monster destroying a city with his head. On the TV screen, players using the Dualshock 4 wireless controller have to run away and eventually fight back in an epic battle.
In another game called Cat and Mouse, the VR player becomes a cartoon cat hiding behind curtains and must catch the VR players (mice) by surprise as they run around the kitchen, stealing cheese. It’s a frantic game that quickly turns into a battle of nerves.
We also tried cooperative games where the TV and the VR views become complementary, making all players in the room cooperate towards a single goal. That’s how Ghost House was born. The VR player enters a haunted house and must rely on the TV player to tell him where to shoot to catch the ghosts.
At last we had five people on a sofa shouting and laughing, something that felt like a distant dream only a few weeks before. All we had left to do was to show these prototypes to the rest of the company and the feature of a separate screen became a reality for PS VR.
So what do you think of mixing VR and traditional TV screen? Do you have any ideas for games? Please let us know in the comments below and see you soon for some more behind-the-scene stories of The Playroom VR!