Headmaster Prototype at The Boston VR Bender


(Image courtesy of Owlchemy Labs)

This might seem a little odd to be posting so long after this event, but I want to catch you up on what I’ve been doing and this was where Headmaster got its start. Kinda bridge the gap…

So, one of the first things that I did after I quit my studio job was to truck on over to Boston for the Boston VR Bender, a VR game jam put on by Alex Schwartz and Devin Reimer of Owlchemy Labs in June 2014. I was really interested in getting to know indies in my area, as well as dive headfirst into VR. They invited some folks from Unity and Valve to come and the Valve guys brought their prototype desktop VR hardware for folks to try prototyping projects on. Not only was this hardware running at a really high frame rate of 95fps but it was also much higher resolution than the currently (at the time) available Oculus DK1. Most importantly though, it had positional tracking via a camera. It was the closest thing to an Oculus DK2 that existed at the time and so was a great jump start for anyone that wanted to try out that technology. The challenge of the jam was to make a game that took advantage of the positional tracking.

I had an idea immediately. I play soccer. I also like building simple games with easy to learn/hard to master mechanics. Heading soccer balls was a perfect thing to try. I didn’t know if it would be fun but that’s what game jams are for.

So I work for a couple hours and think I have something worth testing. Pop a build out of Unity, put it on the USB key, and bring it to the room where the Valve setup is.

I ran the build and put the headset on. At that point I hadn’t tried their demos, so all I knew was what I saw of my demo on a DK1 and what I was seeing on their hardware and WHHHOOOOA. Even with my fairly ugly two hour prototype of a flat green field and a soccer goal, it was obvious that this hardware was in another league. In hindsight, I’d say it was like a DK2 + 50%. Definitely better than Oculus’s soon to be released devkit.

And you know what? The header prototype, the first time I ran it, was fun. It is not hard to make a ball launch at your head in VR, and just the act of seeing it coming and then moving my head to hit it was really really novel. I think just seeing me flailing my head around got some of the other guys interested in trying it, so Chet Faliszek and Aaron Lieby of Valve, Pete Moss of Unity, and Alex and Devin gave it a shot. I spent the rest of the jam adding a simple scoring system to give us something to compete over and we’d keep trying to beat each other’s score.

I had to cut things a bit short since I was living on borrowed time away from my wife and 5 week old daughter, but I had a mechanic that had a lot of promise. Pete even made mention of it in his blog post about the event for Unity. I went home and put it on the back burner since I didn’t have a DK2 and had no real way of playing it without positional tracking. I figured I’d approach it again once I got my hands on some hardware.

One thought on “Headmaster Prototype at The Boston VR Bender

  1. Pingback: The Story of Independent Ben | Ben Throop

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