How do you make a good virtual reality game? Oculus developers meet to find out

Originally published September 19, 2014

By Ian Sherr

James Iliff’s team had hit a wall.

He and his team at Survios, a startup Iliff co-founded devoted to virtual reality, were trying to find a way to create a VR game where the movements of a player’s hands, feet and body in the real world were mirrored in a digital playground.

The technology already worked in a space about the size of an area rug, called the play space, allowing gamers to move around, grab various items off a digital table and duck behind boxes they saw on the screens attached to their faces.

But there was a hitch. In a typical video game, characters often traverse large distances in mere minutes. Walking at a normal pace to get through a game would take forever, and require too much room. “We don’t have giant warehouses where you can do crazy things like play VR laser tag,” he said.

Survios needed to figure out how to help players walk from place to place, but without moving too much in the real world.

Those struggles will be among the myriad of discussions virtual reality enthusiasts and developers will be having this weekend in Hollywood. There, virtual reality pioneer Oculus VR, which  Facebook agreed to buy for $2 billion in March, will hold its first ever conference to bring together the burgeoning virtual reality community.

The developer conference is a critical step for Oculus. As it prepares to launch its  Gear VR mobile-device software with Samsung, and puts the finishing touches on its “Rift” goggles for PCs, the company will need to ensure that developers are creating top-quality games, apps and movies for its still nascent devices.

Oculus has its work cut out for it.

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