Adding VR support to our horror game Medusa’s Labyrinth

During the last few months we‘ve been busy adding VR support to our horror game Medusa’s Labyrinth. We’d like to share some insights from the process the game has gone through –  adapting a first person horror game to a VR one. This is the first blog post focusing on this process, with the intention to give you an overview of the project.

Converting a game to work in VR is easy. At least in theory. And somewhat from an initial technical standpoint. Unity and Unreal have good support for both Oculus and Vive (or vice versa?) and you can be up and running in a “few” minutes. Technically, at least. And in theory.

Even though the game should be working fine in VR there are a lot of user experience wrinkles that needs to be ironed out before the game actually is enjoyable in VR. We consider Medusa a good example of a game that should be easy to adapt to VR. It has no user interface obstructing the view, easy graspable game logic, atmospheric environments, torches and a bow. Bows are great VR weapons (this has been proved by the archery minigame in The Lab) and torches are surprisingly rewarding holding in your virtual hands and lighting up your virtual dungeons.

But, things like movement and how to deal with motion sickness is a little bit more quirky…

This is neither new nor groundbreaking information for people interested in game and tech development. Already in ancient times, back in 2015 when VR still was new and hot, many developers wandering off into the new dimension of gaming did notice that making games for VR was a little bit different from making games for ordinary old fashioned viewing devices. One example is about the VR adaptation of The Vanishing of Ethan Carter.

On the devblog of The Astronauts the team described the process as “…any VR developer worth their salt will tell you that making a VR version is not as simple as clicking “enable VR” button. Even when a game technically runs flawlessly, with no visual bugs and with silky smooth framerate, VR is also about proper control systems and avoiding non-VR friendly solutions that all “normal” games feature without a second thought.

Controls and especially moving around is still one of the weak spots of VR. Using standard FPS controls, motion sickness is a serious problem. Using teleporting movement provides new game design challenges. In Medusa VR we opted to make the player decide which control method to use. Teleport, movement with fixed angle turning, movement where your gaze controls the direction and standard FPS-style controls – it’s all there. As for me, a motion sick VR developer, teleport works best, and the game is very enjoyable using teleporting.

We aim to support both Oculus and HTC Vive headsets and their respective motion controllers. This means we can focus on making not only a visual adaptation of the original game using the headset, but also go full VR with motion based controls for immersive interaction with the game world.

We aim to release the VR version before the summer this year, but in the meantime you can familiarize yourself with the original Medusa’s Labyrinth – it’s on Steam and it is totally free of charge.