How To Make A VR Game And Create Whole New Worlds
Why learn how to make a VR game? If you've ever experienced a virtual reality -- or VR -- game, I don't need to tell you that it's something of a life changer. The first time I stood on the prow of a sunken ship and watched a blue whale swim by, I knew that VR was something special that I wanted to be a part of. Don't you want to give people experiences like that?
VR was an unattainable dream until 2012, when the Oculus Rift made that dream a reality. In the seven years since then, VR has exploded, and the audience for these games will continue to grow. Fortunately, you don't have to watch — you can be a part of it. Learn how to make a VR game, and you'll be in a whole new world you created yourself.
Why You Should Make A VR Game Today
Virtual reality lets you experience worlds that don't exist or that you couldn't otherwise. A VR game enables you to be someone beyond what you thought possible. Traditional video games let you control a character, but in VR, you can be them.
But VR games are still remarkably new, which is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, the experience you're looking for may not exist in VR yet.
On the other hand, there's a big push to get people making games for VR. A lot of development software for VR games is open source. Some companies, like Google, are trying to make development as streamlined as possible.
All of this points towards one thing: This is the best time to learn how to make a VR game.
Whether you want to go all in and make the next Halo or just want to play in a virtual model of your house, learning how to make a VR game will open up endless digital worlds to you.
How To Make A VR Game On Any Platform
Making a VR game doesn't have to be a daunting task. There are plenty of programs that streamline the process and make learning how to make a VR game easy and fun.
There are a few different engines and a few different platforms to think about when planning out how to make a VR game.
Unreal Engine and Unity are two game development engines popular with VR designers. Both offer an array of assets and licenses for development. Choosing which one of these engines you want to make VR games in will affect a lot about your final game.
You should also think about what platform you want to make your game for. Oculus Rift and HTC Vive are the two big names in VR headsets right now. But there are some others, such as Google Cardboard and PlayStation VR, that give their own VR experiences. Your chosen audience, and perhaps your personal VR headset, will help you pick what platform to put your game on.
Unreal Engine And Unity
The battle between Unreal and Unity game engines is one that has been considered and commented on all over the internet. Much has been said about each engine and its strengths. But which will be the best to use when learning how to make a VR game?
You may want to picture what you want your game to be like beforehand. That process might make your choice a little easier.
Strength in Unity
If learning how to make a VR game is the first time you've tried to make a video game at all, Unity may be for you. Unity has a beginner-friendly user interface (UI) and a lot of tools that make game design easy. Game Designing recommends it as a stepping stone or low-cost option.
Unity doesn't work as well on 3D games, which is an obvious pitfall in VR game development. But that doesn't make it the wrong choice. If you want simpler graphics in your VR game, the ease of Unity may draw you over Unreal's graphical fidelity.
"VR is so immersive, and when it works, it draws you into the story in a way that is truly unique and powerful." - Doug Liman
However, Unity does also require a bit more know-how in terms of scripting because it uses the C# programming language. It's nothing terribly tricky but does have a bit of a learning curve.
If you're making a game for your personal use or a small-scale project, Unity is free. As you ramp up, and especially if you're making a large scale project, Unity starts to cost more for additional features. But no matter what, Unity does not charge you royalties on your game.
Unreal virtual reality
Unreal engine powers some of the biggest AAA games of the past 20 years. Massive titles like Fortnite and Gears of War 5 run on Unreal engine. If you want your VR game to have unbeatable graphics in 3D, Unreal is the engine for you.
While Unity may have a more user-friendly interface, Unreal has a pretty significant bonus to making it accessible to new game developers.
Check it out:
Rather than a coding language like C#, Unreal uses the Blueprints Visual Scripting System. This is a streamlined scripting system that shows you all of the moving parts without you needing to code. It makes learning how to make a VR game that much easier.
Unreal also has the bonus of being completely free, all the time. You'll never have to pay for it, although any game made with Unreal will owe royalties to the developer. Keep this in mind if you plan on marketing your game.
Oculus Rift And HTC Vive Square Off
If you know enough about VR to want to learn how to make a VR game, you've likely heard of the two most prominent names in virtual reality headsets: the Oculus Rift and the HTC Vive.
These headsets were some of the first to come out, and have been pioneers in modern virtual reality. Oculus Rift was the first mass-market VR headset since the ambitious but failed Nintendo Virtual Boy in 1995.
The Oculus Rift and the HTC Vive are far and away the most popular systems to develop for. They work with any PC that can run the hardware, rather than a specific phone or game system. But which one should you design for?
Eyeing the Oculus
If you're considering developing for the headset that reintroduced VR to the world, there are a few things to consider.
First off, Oculus Rift has a tutorial for building games that walks you through the most basic steps. If you need an easy way to get started, this may be enough to swing your vote!
The Oculus Rift is the less expensive of the two. It also has the benefit of its proprietary game library, the Oculus Store, that is exclusive to this headset. Plus, the setup is much more straightforward. This makes the Oculus Rift more enticing to everyday users and may cause your audience to grow — if you're going for that sort of thing.
Vibing with the HTC Vive
The HTC Vive is the slightly upscaled counterpart of the Oculus Rift. It costs a little more but was the first to introduce things such as motion controllers. The Oculus Rift initially did not have them.
Because of the Vive's emphasis on movement, it has a lot more support for motion controls. It has two "lighthouse" sensors that let you move freely around the playing space. If you're learning how to make a VR game for the HTC Vive, make sure to use this dynamic aspect of the platform!
The HTC Vive also is limited to SteamVR games and doesn't have access to its own library. If you don't plan on making a game especially for the HTC Vive, consider developing for both headsets using OpenVR.
Other VR options
The Oculus Rift and the HTC Vive are the two major VR headsets, but they're far from the only options.
Reach console players by developing for PlayStation VR. Or target mobile gamers with Google Cardboard and Samsung Gear. These systems often have their own development programs to make the process as easy as possible. Learning how to make a VR game can be a varied project, depending on who and what you are developing for.
Making The Game Itself
Once you've done the legwork of learning what you should develop for, you need to learn how to make a VR game properly.
But don't worry! As we said, it's not difficult to make games in VR. A lot of programs will guide you through the process. If you don't want to go this route, it's still relatively simple to go it alone.
Use a guide or a program
Learning how to make a VR game doesn't have to be a slog. It can be pretty straightforward, and even a lot of fun.
Did you know?
Google Cardboard's Cardboard Design Lab is an informative place to start. It introduces you to several of the most essential features that make VR games different and worth experiencing. From a sense of scale to head tracking, you'll learn how to make a VR game that stuns.
You can also learn how to make a VR game inside a VR game. With Loop, you use an Oculus Rift to experience a virtual world whose code you can change. You interact with the code piece by piece, changing the game world around you. It teaches you the connection between coding and creation.
Getting into the first game that you made yourself can be a one-day project. There are countless tutorials online that help you build a simple app in no time. Free Code Camp lets you create a 360 video for Android using a cardboard headset and Unity. BRIO VR enables you to create a 3D game in minutes using their easy game engine.
DIY in VR
If you want to start from scratch, rather than rely on a program, there's plenty to help you do that. Once you've chosen your engine and platform, there isn't much else left to do but start building!
Like we mentioned, there are a lot of tutorials that don't guide you through a prewritten program, but give you a step by step process to get a game running.
Unity has a step-by-step process on its website that takes you from scratch to create a working program, making sure you don't miss any steps along the way. Just because you're doing it yourself doesn't mean you should go in blind!
Unreal has a pretty straightforward process to make sure you are programming in VR. You just turn on VR mode!
Unreal has a lot of tips and tricks to get you started making your game. In addition to the Blueprints Visual Scripting system, which makes putting code together more effortless than ever, Unreal gives you best practices to consider. When you're making a game on your own, it helps to have the expertise of others on tap.
Fleshing out your virtual world
The last thing you need to know for how to make a VR game is how to build a world of your own. All of these engines, from Unity to Google, have their own asset libraries. They store 3D models that you can include in your game, either free or for a price.
But if you're making your own game, chances are you'll want to put your unique pieces in it. You won't always be able to find exactly what you need, and you'll probably want your game to be unique. If you have the time, learn a 3D modeling program.
This can be an extensive process, but with free programs such as Blender, you can create just about anything you'd want to fill your virtual world. It's an additional step, and a big one, to make your world come to life. But if you're going to make games for an audience, it's essential.
After The First Game
Once you've learned how to make a VR game for the first time, infinite virtual worlds are open to you! Whether you build for mobile or PC, with simple or complex visuals, you'll have the tools you need to create them.
Virtual reality games are a whole new path of entertainment. As VR technology gets more advanced, more and more people will hop onto this fantastic medium. You'll be happy you learned how to make a VR game when you did.
What was your first VR experience? What kind of game do you want to create? Drop a comment below and let us know!