Owlchemy Labs‘ Job Simulator was recently announced to be one of the bundled games to be included with the HTC Vive, and it’s also going to be a launch title for the Sony PlayStation VR as well as for Oculus Touch. I had a chance to catch up with Alex Schwartz and Devin Reimer at the Unity VR/AR Vision Summit to talk about developing across all of the major VR platforms, the magic of hand presence, and the range of behaviors they’ve seen when given an open world physics sandbox.
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Alex has observed that people either mimic their natural behaviors from reality or they will do the most extreme things that they’d never do in real life, and that experiences like Job Simulator could be a sort of psychological personality test. Devin also discovered that people have had so much fun in Job Simulator that they experience time dilation to the point of misestimating their how long they were in VR by a factor of 4-5x.
They also talk about developing across each of the VR systems with hand tracked controllers and how they had to calibrate each system so that the virtual hands matched the position of your actual hands. One interesting discovery that they made with hand presence is that they found that it felt better to make your hands disappear when you’re holding an object. They’ve coined this phenomena as “tomato presence,” because hand presence seems to be transferred to whatever object you’re holding at any given time.
They’ve also noticed that there’s a certain performance art vibe that happens when people play Job Simulator within group gatherings, and that they expect that group experiences will inspire people to take suggestions from the audience and to do them in a way that’s as entertaining as possible.
They realize that there’s an inherent marketing problem with Job Simulator, in that people aren’t inherently motivated to simulate ordinarily mundane jobs within VR. It’s a problem that VR faces in general in that you have to try it out to really get it. But they’ve noticed that they have a lot of diehard fans who have been evangelizing and defending Job Simulator on Internet threads saying that you have to really try their experience to really understand why it’s so compelling.
It’s probably best summarized by this Tweet from Devin:
VR has two development camps. 1)Building what people think they want 2)Building what people don't yet know they want. #1 is very dangerous!
— Devin Reimer (@DevinReimer) March 3, 2016
Job Simulator is definitely a VR experience that most people don’t yet know that they want, but it illustrates the magic of hand presence in virtual worlds in a way that is both really surprising and delightful.
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