Studio CEO Darren Jobling explains how VR is growing the studio's business both in and outside of games
How are you looking to harness virtual reality tech with your upcoming projects?
For Eutechnyx the key feature of VR is immersion – literally being totally inside the experience. While for some genres it is about new gameplay types, for our racing projects it’s about immersing the player completely in the car, on the track and in the race.
VR is going to let us go one step further with how players can engage with the cars and the racing series’ that they love. We want to find ways to close the gap between the players and the cars that are sadly out of reach for most of us – virtual reality is another way that we’re going to be able to do that and bring us closer to experiencing the world’s greatest cars.
Outside of games, our technology and innovation division ZeroLight is using VR to offer interactive experiences in new markets, which allows customers to engage with products and environments at a whole new level. That means not only inspecting and customising products in a real-time 3D environment, but actually experiencing them.
How can VR be used to branch into other markets?
We have invested heavily in our proprietary game engine and our ZeroLight platform to gives us a launch pad to do exactly that – we’re breaking into new markets and creating innovative new products. You could say that we’re actually ahead of the curve because we aren’t just suggesting that this is a real opportunity for the future, we’re already doing it. Across a broad range of industries like automotive, transport, architecture, heavy machinery, prototyping and more we’re bringing real value to new partners through world class interactive and VR experiences.
Having the technical capability to place a VR user in a totally engaging environment is an opportunity to create applications outside of the game industry – whether it’s a way to experience a venue or event that you otherwise couldn’t, or to engage with a product or person. VR can be the technology that links the game sector with new industries and new types of customer – the experiences may not be recognised as ‘games’, but the technology, expertise and teams behind it may well be from the game industry.
How can developers use VR to transfer their skills to other markets?
We have found through our work delivering real-time 3D and VR projects in other markets that there are two parts to this; a technical challenge and a business challenge.
From a technical point of view developers can transfer their skills to other markets by being able to offer the kind of experiences that are being demanded: although the expertise that exists within the game industry has to be purposed and directed correctly. Most non-game VR experiences will demand complete authenticity of the environment and objects that are being engaged with – this means an absolute attention to detail of things like geometry, textures, motion & physics and lighting.
Experiences need to be intuitive, scalable and cost effective – and the technology needs to be capable of delivering at all those levels. We’ve invested heavily in our engine to allow us to offer as-real experiences that are both accessible and acceptable to the environment they’re deployed in – so clients and customers alike can be assured they’re getting an authentic and scalable experience.
The equally big challenge is a business one – finding and working with new sectors is a challenge and can mean a whole new way of operating. Most game developers are selling either to publishers, or direct to gamers – taking VR to new markets means that all of a sudden your customers are completely new and you have to respect this change. There needs to be an investment in the capability to find, contract and manage new types of customer. There will likely be a bigger knowledge gap between you and expectation differences that require time and resources to overcome and to create a strong working relationship.
Just how big do you envisage your VR division will become?
VR has applications all over the business so we envisage that it’ll become a key skill in each of our teams. More broadly we envisage that our ZeroLight division, which offers VR experiences outside of the game industry, will become as big as our core games team, eventually adding up to another 130 new team members to cope with the extra demand.
The UK has a long history in console game development, do you think then that the UK is well suited to take on VR?
The UK is always well suited to emerging technologies – we have great creative developers who aren't afraid to experiment. Tax breaks for the game industry can only help that and will hopefully make a real contribution to how competitive the UK is on the global stage. So many fantastic technologies, projects and content comes out of the UK there’s no reason why VR can’t join them as a big part of our digital industry.
What kind of VR experiences do you envisage being the most popular? Will it be social? Will FPS remain 'king' of games?
It’s hard to argue that FPS won’t play a big part in VR experiences when they’re so profitable and popular now. But as a platform VR lends itself really strongly to other types of experience. World building titles (like Minecraft) and exploration style games (like Gone Home) are aligned with the benefits of VR and have a real chance to blossom. VR is also a great opportunity for the racing game genre to be re-invigorated and we’re already making plans here.
If there was any doubt before, then Facebook’s acquisition of Oculus VR means that yes, it’ll be social, and we’ll probably see the trend of personalised experiences continue – things like your music library, your photos, hobbies and likes appearing in virtual worlds.