Today I wanted to write about the reflexion behind the conception of a game for the Oculus Rift. This new experience of video gaming brings new possibilities but also new constraints in the creative process of the development. Without being exhaustive, I will here list a few points to keep in mind for your game to be a pleasant experience for the players.
As I will deal with numerous points, I decided to split the presentation in several articles. The first one will dead with readability of texts and other 2D elements: menus, HUD, dialogs...
If you already tried the Oculus Rift, you know that it is sometimes difficult to read the texts that appear in the game. Ideally, a virtual reality game wouldn't display any texts, for the immersion to be complete. But as this is rarely possible, here are some ideas that may make the reading easier.
It is for now difficult to read a large quantity of text with the Oculus Rift. In addition, if text elements frequently appear during the game, the player's eye will constantly go from the 3D to the 2D elements. This is exactly when you are watching a 3D movie in original version with subtitles in a cinema. Some people will find very unpleasant going from the game to the text reading.
For long texts, find a font that pops up well, with a 3D effect and a readable color but that doesn't blind. For the small and recurrent text elements, try to privilege icons or audio elements, such as the use of a narrator.
A readable font that doesn't blind the eyes (Fallout New Vegas)
The player will encounter a menu right at the beginning of the game. If he can't navigate inside the options, he might be frustrated before he could even start playing! Then the player will encounter several menus during the game, and a last one to exit it. The games that are compatible with the Oculus Rift but which weren't created for it are often good examples of what you shouldn't do. A part of the menus is often outside of the field of view, the font is sometimes unreadable...
If you want a simple but pleasant menu, do all the opposite: a centered menu, large buttons and a simple and large font. The readability problem of the fonts will probably be resolved at the launch of the HD version of the Oculus, but for now reading too sophisticated and small fonts is difficult.
These first advices are obvious, and it is possible to go further. Reading flat text on a static background isn't pleasant with the Oculus Rift. The player is used to slightly move the head up and down, and left and right when he is reading, and it disturbs him when the menu isn't moving at the same time. If possible, privilege a 3D menu that allows head tracking. Several games offer a menu that surround the player, which can then turn on himself to face the different options. This creates a very natural navigation.
Break the codes of menu conception for standard screens, find your original solution! Another example: it is possible to put the player in a room with the instructions on the wall. This room will have doors named with signs, such as “Start the game”, “Exit the game”, “Options”... Entering one of this door would then lead to an event related to the option chosen by the player.
Avoid the HUD that are in the corners of the field of view, too small, too transparent... But it also shouldn't hide the environment by being too large and too centered. I believe that the creation of HUD will be one of the big challenges of virtual reality. Again, try to find new ideas that are adapted to the Oculus Rift. A few examples :
A HUD on the body of the player, or here a map that he would hold in front of him (Dreadhalls
The crosshair should be visible, but not too large. A large circle in the middle of the screen would constantly hide the view of the player and breaks his immersion
These advices might be basic and I point to directions more that I bring real solutions. Consider this article as a check-list. Ask yourself this question:
are the following elements of my game easy and pleasant to view with the Oculus Rift :
☐ Dialogs, goals, quests...
If you answered yes to all these elements, then there is a strong chance that the player will find the experience you are offering to him pleasant. Otherwise, he won't hesitate to let you know his disappointment! More seriously, it would be a shame if the user would exit with rage during the game for the only reason that the texts and 2D elements are unreadable!
The new reflexion brought by virtual reality on this topic should be seen as a motivating challenge, and not as a constraint. You are forced to imagine new solutions, it is up to you to beat your limits! Show us what you are able to create!