In a recent talk, Valve programmer Kerry Davis said that some people at the company “hate” VR development. Davis’ comments were in reference to the sheer clutter that working in VR can create, specifically with the number of wires and headsets hanging around.
So, if you hate VR development, why work on it? In fact, why make a full length entry in your most cherished gaming series for it?
We put that question to Bronwen Grimes, Technical Artist, ahead of the reveal of Half-Life: Alyx this week. She clarified that Valve had struggled with these issues in the early days of VR development.
Turning The Valves Of VR Development
“We weren’t surprised to find that developing for VR was less comfortable for us – we’ve been building non-VR games for decades, so we’ve created very polished systems around that workflow,” Grimes explained. “It took us a while to find all the various tools we needed, both in-game and in real-life, to make developing for VR as comfortable and productive as non-VR.”
It’s true that VR development adds a lot of layers on top of traditional development. Some are digital, like the need to see your creations inside a headset to make sure everything looks and works well. Others are more literal; having a heap of different VR headsets and their respective controllers laying around an office can be tedious. That’s especially true if you’re in the middle of prototyping your own VR kit.
“In addition, we were using prototype Index hardware for much of Half-Life: Alyx’s development, and that added another layer of complexity to the software development side,” Grimes continued. “Now that we have a polished VR workflow and we’ve shipped the Index, we’re having a blast and feeling highly productive.”
Perhaps that explains why Valve chose this week to reveal Alyx. With Index shipped and that workflow in place, the developer can double down on meeting its March 2020 release date.