VR and Characters – Overview

Howdy folks,

Welcome to my extensive series on how we use motion-controlled characters in our game ViKubb!

Note: This is an article of a mulit-article series which is not finished yet.

Overview (this chapter)

Chapter 1: Adapting the height of the player

Chapter 2: Embedded Calibration

Chapter 3: tbd

Simplified Characters are used in almost all Motion-Controlled VR games

What can currently be observed in motion-controlled VR is that there is a strong tendency towards displaying the player characters very simplified to 1) the player himself and 2) other players in multiplayer games. There are variants of this, from just displaying hands and the head (e.g. in PoolNationVR) or a bit more exaggerated but still very simplified bodies like it is done very well in Rec Room.

Doing this gives developers some benefits:

  • Simple to implement and animate as hands and head just have to be attached to the given motion controllers
  • Even though the characters that are displayed by this method are usually strongly abstract / simplified, the appear lifelike due to the realistic motion they get by the players movement
  • As developer, you don’t need to worry about unrealistic character animations that can appear in VR, e.g. when someone puts the headset on while he sits and has the motion controllers lying somewhere else. Still, charcters will look odd when players sit on a chair or even the ground, or people that are significant smaller are playing.
Using “Real” Character Models instead

That being said, there are games that show fully animated bodies like Hover Junkers or the not yet released Mindshow. Since these games also only have 3 measuring points as well, the character animations are calculated by a method called Inverse Kinematics (IK) which aligns the character’s bones based on constraints that are similar to the joint constraint that every human has.

We did a lot of experimenting with what would be the best way to integrate characters in our game. We figured that for ViKubb, character desing and the way they are displayed is very important as  you will look at your opponent over the whole game and possibly interact with him a lot of times too.

Therefore, as we want to put emphasis on the characters, we chose to go the latter approach. Using the fantastic FinalIK asset from the Unity asset store, adding a rigged character to the game and controlling it in VR requires just a couple minutes. The results which can be quickly achieved are nothing less than fantastic. See for yourself, a video posted by the FinalIK creator.

While playing around with this, we figured that this approach however does come with its set of limitations and new challenges that would not appear for a character without feet. In the following chapters, I will go through all these challenges one by one and how we attempt to solve them for ViKubb. It is a lot of work, but we feel that adding real characters does increase the immersion and gives the whole game a less “abstracted” feel.

Next Chapter: VR and Characters – Chapter 1: Adapting the height of the player