When it comes to virtual reality gaming, there are a couple things I’m really excited about. The first is the ability to move around and use my hands. The second is to be there with someone else. Last weekend at VRLA, I checked out a demo for Raw Data, the new game from Survios, and was really happy to see them working so hard to check both of these boxes. Plus, I stabbed a robot with an arrow. Check it out:
As you can see, Raw Data is full of drone dodging, laser ducking, rocket deflecting, dual wielding, shotgun pumping, katana slicing, bow slinging, robot stabbing, grenade throwing, high fiving action. The Survios team coined the term Active VR to describe the game mechanics at the core of their business.
What is active VR? According to Survios, it involves six things:
Being surrounded by images, sound and other stimuli that create a believable environment.
Feeling or sense of actually existing within an environment.
Having a virtual body or avatar that interacts naturally with the environment.
4. Free Movement
Being completely unbound from physical restrictions in the outside world.
5. Shared Space
Playing and interacting with others in shared digital space.
6. Dynamic Spectating
Being able to view and interact with people playing in VR from the outside world.
For the most part, these are the usual suspects; things most game developers are trying to solve for. One of the tricky things about the current state of VR is developing and playing within the limitations of this first generation technology. If you have a Gear VR, you know the feeling of seeing something in front of you and wishing you could lean forward to get a better look. Raw Data was developed for the HTC Vive, so you have a lot more freedom to move around. But you’re still tethered to a PC in a 15 square foot box. So they had to figure out how best to design gameplay around this new challenge. Some do so by sticking you in a cockpit. Others let you teleport. Survios went the tower defense route, a gaming mechanic where the goal is to stop the enemies from reaching a specific point on the map. In this case, it’s the center of the room.
The shared space is a big one. Blasting evil robots with a litany of super weapons is fun in its own right, but standing back to back to defend your turf with friends anywhere in the world is next level. My partner at VRLA had a tough time with it. That will be an interesting development in VR and a conversation for a later date. Will games like Raw Data, where you need a great deal physical coordination, be a draw or a deterrent for most people?
I thought the most thoughtful element above was number six: dynamic spectating. For anyone who has been to a VR demo event, you know what a chafe it is to spend all your time in line, having no clue what the people ahead of you are experiencing aside from what you can see on their faces. To create truly shared experiences, it’s something we need to solve for. Survios is tackling this by displaying gameplay in real time, which you can see in the video above, and livestreaming on YouTube for all to see.
Who is Survios?
These guys are salty vets, at least in VR years. They’ve been working together since 2012. The old days. Back then, they were still students at USC working on Project Holodeck. In 2013, they released two demos: Wild Skies and Zombies on the Holodeck.
They formed Survios in 2014. Raw Data is the first thing we’ve seen from the studio since they went into stealth mode after receiving $4 Million in venture funding. We can’t wait to see what’s next.