#169: Epic Games’ Nick Donaldson on designing the Showdown Crescent Bay demo

Nick Donaldson is a Senior Designer at Epic Games, and I caught up with him at Oculus Connect to talk about the design process behind The Showdown Demo. This demo was meant to be the highest fidelity VR experience with AAA-game polish up to that point and time. They ended up re-using a lot of assets that were designed for other experiences, but in the end The Showdown Demo was an epic slow-motion walk through a war scene unfolding as you’re slowly moving down a road towards a giant robot who leans down to scream in your face. Here’s a video of what was shown within the demo.

Nick talks about some of the easter eggs and design process that they went through in order to create this experience. At Oculus Connect, he and Nick Whiting talked about some of the optimizations that they had to make within Unreal Engine in order to get the Showdown Demo operating smoothly. Here’s a video of that talk:

One of the fun anecdotes that Nick shares in this interview is the first VR social interaction that he had with Nick Whiting while working on the Couch Knights demo. There were still early in the debugging phases of creating a multiplayer experience, and he talks about how much body language and information that they were able to communicate with each other non-verbally. Nick Whiting looked over at him and just froze. Nick Donaldson shared a gut-level response of “Sup?” with a head nod, which Nick replied to with his own head nod and “Sup?” It sounds like a simple interaction, but until you’ve had your first social VR experience like this, then it can be quite a profound experience knowing that there’s a human being on the other side of all of the movements of an electronic avatar.

Nick says that Epic Games is very interested in continuing to explore the medium of virtual reality, and that they’re really excited about the potential for creating more games and other VR experiences moving forward.

For more information, then be sure to check out the Road To VR write-up of their Unreal Engine optimization talk or the summary from the Unreal Engine blog.

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