The Solus Project Devs On Adapting A Non-VR Game For VR Headsets

by David Jagneaux • September 26th, 2017

The Solus Project from Teotl Studios and Grip Digital just recently released last week on PS4. Both the PC and console versions include VR support, making it one of the first fully-featured survival simulator experiences with full VR support on all three major headsets: Rift, Vive, and PSVR.

With the game so fresh on people’s minds we reached out to the game’s chief creator, Sjoerd De Jong of Teotl Studios, about the development process and what it was like porting a game this complex over to VR devices.

UploadVR: How do you think the survival mechanics transferred to the VR platform? Was it difficult adapting the UI and other systems to work from a VR headset POV?

Sjoerd De Jong: It certainly took quite a bit of effort. UI was a challenge indeed, but so was fighting motion sickness, and ensuring everything is more realistically interactive while in VR. The most challenging has probably been the motion sickness issue. A problem that the industry struggles with in general. For our survival game with large explorable worlds the problem was more complex though. One of the ways to make someone less likely to get motion sick is to scale down the walking speed a lot. The slower and more stable you move forward, the less likely you will get sick. The default VR walk speed is considerably slower than the non-VR version. But the slower you walk, the longer it means it will take to go from A to B, which means that you will need more resources such as water and food to bridge the same distances in VR as in non-VR. In response to that the game lets you configure the difficulty freely at any time, and in VR the difficulty automatically scales down some.

UploadVR: What about The Solus Project do you think makes it fit VR so well?

Sjoerd De Jong: The Solus Project is an experience on an alien planet. The atmosphere and immersion are a major part of that experience. And VR amplifies those two things greatly. It really makes you be there on that planet. I remember that during the first few proper VR playthroughs I did in my own game I spent most of my time just staring at rocks, alien plants, the stars, caves and so on. Taking it all of it in awe how I was really there on that other planet, all on my own. The Solus Project is not a combat or action game, but about the story that you go through as the sole survivor of a crash all alone on those lonely beaches and caves. VR is absolutely ideal to portray that. And all that aside I also want to point out that the game is not a short demo that relies on the novelty of VR. It is a full sized 12-16 hour story driven experience. There is a lot of value to be had in a game this big in VR.

UploadVR: What’s it like to create a game with a strong VR-focus that still appeals to a market wanting to play without?

Sjoerd De Jong: The first challenge we faced was that development on the game started in July 2013. VR was still in its early days back then, so we had to develop the game not just for VR and non VR, but also try and guess what the consumer version of VR might actually be like one day. We approached it by focusing entirely on the non VR version first for about a year and a half, but by taking VR into account for all design decisions that were made. For example we deliberately avoided adding a complex HUD exactly due to VR compatibility. This allowed us to focus all out on first getting the core mechanics up and running, the type of mechanics and graphics you would need in the game regardless of how you play it, and then once that was stable in the mean time VR had matured considerably, and we could begin implementing it.

UploadVR: What are some of the best practices you learned for porting a non-VR game to VR?

Sjoerd De Jong: Definitely give the process time. It goes much further than just flipping a few switches somewhere. VR is about immersion so think of what will help that immersion. We have a pocket computer in the game that essentially acts as a HUD, and at first we  had buttons on the various VR controllers that would then activate a menu item on this computer, just like the non-VR version works, but players want immersion. That means the ability to actually press a button on this pocket computer. So when in VR, the pocket computer model automatically exchanges itself for a different version, one with large and obvious interactive buttons. Make sure as much of the content as possible can be interacted with in a realistic way, and does not just rely on pressing a button on the controller.

You can find out more information about and purchase The Solus Project over on Steam for PC, Rift, Vive, and OSVR at the price of $19.99, as well as on the PSN Store for the same price.

Let us know what you think of survival sim games in VR, and The Solus Project specifically, down in the comments below!

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  • Mane Vr

    two things bothered me in this “in VR the difficulty automatically scales down some” I hate how games r dumb down for vr. it’s the reason so little vr games are worth finishing or returning to. the enemy ai mostly feel too simple. then there is this “One of the ways to make someone less likely to get motion sick is to scale down the walking speed a lot” this is another thing that drives me crazy I hope we get the option to scale back up the walk speed I always feel like the speed in vr is WAY too slow I don’t walk that slow it doesn’t feel normal to me. why no info on rotation whether they took it out all together or is there snap and smooth rotation. u guys got to start doing a better job at getting us locomotion info. stop being cheerleaders and start being reporters y’all know locomotion is a make or breaking fact to whether someone can play the games this should be the number one question you guys should be asking every devs and after tripwire bs about locomotion option where u got no choice in rotation, I don’t trust these devs any more when they say their game offer locomotion options. it your job to get your readers info

    • ender707

      FYI, the game has smooth rotation and you can set the walking speed and difficulty however you like when starting a new game, or any time by going to the menu.

      • Mane Vr

        Something they should have put in this preview then..

        • ender707

          I agree. Also those details are for the pc version, I see someone else below said the ps4 does not have smooth rotation, I have it on pc.

          • Sven

            PS4 has smooth rotation and I just found out how to sprint as well. It’s a bit of a workaround. Normally sprint is mapped to L3 (click down left stick) With accessibility options you can swap that to R3. Then you can hold the ds4 in your right hand (since you don’t really need to hold the pda, simply lay it down in view) and have smooth rotation, sprint, jump, crouch etc all on the ds4. However if you want to strafe or teleport (by disc) you’ll need to temporarily pick up the move.

  • Sven

    I’m enjoying the game a lot yet the survival mechanics are rather inconsequential. Since I turned up the walking speed to 100% I never run out of food or water. The only problem is hypothermia as jumping from pillar to pillar is rather difficult with the limited movement options, and thus easy to fall in the water.

    Default controls on ps4 are workable but need improvement. Walking is always at full speed with the left move button, rotation in 30 degree slices with face buttons on the right move but at least you can strafe and go backwards by pointing the right move controller. However I prefer smooth rotation (hate it when you can’t walk straight through a corridor and have to strafe through it due to snap rotation) Thus now I use the DS4 in my right hand which allows smooth rotation with the right analog stick, and leave the right move controller lying next to me so the PDA (hud) is visible in game. Unfortunately that removes the ability to strafe and walk backwards. It would help tremendously if the right analog stick would at least control forward and backward movement next to rotation. Left move button could then enable strafing with the left move, or sprinting would be nice as well.

    Btw I noticed that if you turn on teleportation that certain puzzles are simply skipped. One sliding pillar puzzle could simply be skipped. Makes sense since you can’t push anything with teleportation.

  • Tony

    The PSVR version is a really half-assed attempt at bolting VR. I’m disappointed with the absence of PS4 Pro support but can overlook that if the game controls well. Unfortunately, the lack Dualshock 4 support and absence of smooth turning morph the game into a very clunky and disorienting experience. When the original developer starts posting on Reddit that you need to get used to what seems like a terrible control scheme at first, you know the game is in trouble. I want VR to success but I also want the devs to take it seriously and not just spam the feature on a game without any consideration to how well it will play.