VR: Altered Space, Altered Mind, Altered Future

Virtual Reality has definitely come a long way. From humble beginnings, and products like the Nintendo Power Glove, it’s finally looking like VR Spring. As we lay 2016 to rest (/all rip GG we threw this year kinda hard report my team pls) and aim our sights on a newer, better year, we can look forward to stronger and more diverse VR experiences. The technology that powers our current VR offerings is blossoming, and with these experiences slowly becoming the norm we can tap into a new era in the game development industry as well as a new era in gaming as a whole. As a consumer of games, an independent developer, and an enthusiast of VR tech, I have high hopes and plans for VR.

One doomsday prophet-esque event buzzing around game development as the hot new topic point (with a lot of hot takes) is the so-called “indiepocolypse.” In a nutshell, believers in the indiepocolypse say that the bloating of digital distribution platforms like Steam, decreased sales, and increased competition will lead to a bubble-burst. Indies will be swallowed up, eaten whole, and go without revenue from an apathetic market that refuses to buy any more indies.

This DOES sound like a scary prospect, with our doom as independent developers prophesied as lingering on the horizon, waiting to rip us and our dreams a new one. However, I personally feel that my hopes are renewed in independent development. Within the bosom of VR, a new and budding technology, we have the perfect space to pioneer a new frontier in gaming. Games such as Cosmic Trip, Kingspray, Thumper, Superhot, and many others are proof: unconventional development and quirky titles from small teams are the current lifeblood of VR. As we wait on larger development studios and AAA games to slowly adopt the technology, it will be the meek indies that will inherit virtual reality.

This is the best of all worlds. We as independent developers can take on bigger risks, harder challenges, and further the technology more than any of the developer giants and titans can at this early point in VR development. We have the keys in our hands, and development has never been easier. Both Unity 5 and Unreal Engine 4 have easy-to-jump-into licensing for smaller indie projects that allows you to grow into your projects, as well as ample and robust support for VR. On top of this, headsets such as Oculus CV1 and Touch also function as high-grade development kits. With this in mind, and barring pricing, it has never been easier to take the dive into VR development.

A childlike joy and wonder filled my first experience as with VR. I tried The Unspoken once and I was hooked. Memories of my childhood flooded my mind. From late nights lying in bed, staying up and imagining how it would feel to be a Mage casting spells, or an alchemist of the Full Metal variety, or having a pet creature and human friends in a Digital or Pocket Monster world, or touring the Wild Wild Space-West with lively bebop jazz in the background… In a instant, when I put on that headset, all of these memories from my bittersweet childhood came flooding back to me. This rush of utter joy is what VR really is, and it is our duty as independent developers to bring this experience to as many people as possible. This technology has the potential to make all of these dream worlds real.

As a result, my opinion has definitely changed. VR truly is the next frontier, one of limitless inspiration and potential. The Age of Indies shan’t be over, and hopefully will never be over. However, the future of ourselves as developers and the future of VR rests squarely on our shoulders. We must not buy into the chatter and anxiety over the lifespan of the indie scene. As long as we have the the chance to create our own dream worlds, the ones that are our very inspiration and drive us to create, we have no limit to our viability as an industry. I am throughly convinced that VR is the tool we need and the new platform to revive our lifeblood as developers. The current and future VR landscape is one of promise. I’m truly glad and humbled to see it with my own eyes, both real and virtual.