Insomniac Games’ Brian Allgeier on their VR game, Edge of Nowhere

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With Insomniac Games making the announcement that it would be developing three different titles for the Oculus this year, we sat down with Insomniac Games’ creative director Brian Allgeier, who is currently working on Edge of Nowhere, and asked how it’s been for the development team switching gears from console to VR.

NR: Having worked on multiple franchises including Resistance and Ratchet, what was it like seeing everything grow over the last 17 years for you?

Brian Allgeier: It’s been an incredible journey. It’s hard to believe it’s been 17 years. Time just flies by. It’s funny because when Insomniac was starting out, we were just a one-project company. So we were just doing Spyro and Ratchet and Clank. And then that’s when Resistance came along, and we divided our team into twp separate teams. Now we’re launching 5 games in one year. It makes your head spin. Certainly the growth of the company has been a big part of it. But just the culture of how we really embrace collaboration and embrace separate teams, and how people are able to come up with their own ideas and go forward with that. It’s really cool to see different people rise up and become creative directors and manage their own projects. So yeah, it’s been great. But I think, all in all, the culture’s remained the same. We’ve always felt we’ve been independent and collaborative, and we really own our creative vision.

NR: Having worked on console gaming for so long, what was it like to switch to developing for Virtual Reality?

Brian: Yes, definitely a huge paradigm shift in terms of how we develop games. The whole comfort factor was kind of brand new to us. We had to learn more about the inner ear than I would’ve thought… Ocular motor discomfort and something of that nature. So we have a prototype early on. We learned about what works and doesn’t work for VR. In particular, we had to look at how to make a 3rd-person moving game where you’re running, jumping and shooting but not make people sick. So we have to re-design all our levels based on VR, and some of the restrictions.

NR:  Did the early concepts have that problem?

Brian: Oh yeah, it was really bad. It’s funny. We had the Oculus’ best practice white paper that the company sent to the developers, and so I thought, for our first prototype, we have to do everything right and follow all the rules, and people couldn’t play more than 5 minutes, and they got really nauseous. It was really bad. So we really learned there are no hard fast rules for motion comfort. They can be stacking issues that you don’t find out until 20 minutes later. You’d be playing the same game, same camera, but then after 20 minutes, it all starts to add up. You really have to be a detective and find out what it is that sets people off.

NR: What was the reason for that shift? Compared to focusing on consoles.

Brian: When you think about the future of games and you think about VR, it’s such an exciting new media, and it’s very powerful and visceral. I think we just have a lot of enthusiasts in this company who really wanted to get into it.

NR: From what we’ve been able to experience from the demo, Edge of Nowhere really takes advantage of what Virtual Reality gaming can offer users with beautiful imagery and that Uncharted-style exploration.. How hard was it for you in incorporating all of those different elements into a new platform?

Brian: It was a natural fit, we like making more stylized games, and we like embracing the 1930s-style look in creating these creatures and characters. It took us a while to really nail the tone and make sure we craft that unsettling horror. In terms of technology, we’re drawing in 90fps, which is 3x the rate we’re used to rendering in. And we have to render in a very high resolution that’s far bigger than 1080p. So when you try to come p with the game and where you set it, we knew we couldn’t do a highly-detailed jungle environment, because of the frame rate, so it made sense to use Antarctica to work in 90 fps. You can use shadows and fog to hide details if needed to hit the right frame. At the same time, it’s a very realistic game, with all the details where it counts.

NR: We’ve noticed that when you’re playing, the game has a fixed path, as opposed to being able to control the camera. Is there a reason for that in terms of motion sickness?

Brian: Absolutely. We tried using a rotating stick to rotate the camera around the camera, but it just makes you want to omit. It’s really bad. We constructed our levels based on that. It’s really funny because our team was like, “How’re we going to deal with this constraint, how we do accommodate this floating head? We don’t clip geometry through your head or through walls.” So I thought back to one of the first Ratchet and Clank game, and at the time, they came out with the dual shock controller with the right and left stick. Well, I don’t know if people are going to use the right stick to move the camera around. Everyone’s so used to using the face buttons. So we designed the game with the idea that you may not move the right stick around, and the camera, we didn’t want that knocked either if you hit something, so we made all this camera space behind the camera as you move the hero. It’s pretty much the same channel as you have now. So it’s funny how a lot has changed but not a lot has changed in terms of channel design.

NR: Any thoughts on wanting to work on a PlayStation VR  game down the line?

Brian: That’s a great question. We have a great relationship with Sony. We’ve worked with them for Ratchet and Clank, Spiro, Universal. It’s something that hasn’t actually come up. We have such a great relationship with Oculus, and they’re kind of competing companies, but for now we’re happy working with them. We certainly understand the hardware a lot better.

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Chris Del Castillo
Chris Del Castillo 2588 posts

Growing up Chris watched a lot of the original Saturday morning cartoons and developed a love for arts and animation. Growing up he tried his hand at animation and eventually script writing, but even more his love of video games, anime and technology grew.