VR Unicorns is a Copenhagen-based development collective that developed #SelfieTennis. They were working on Julie Heyde’s RagnarökVR until they stated experimenting with room-scale sports experiences.
Playing tennis against yourself in VR was the first mechanic that found was really compelling and fun, and so they started doing rapid iterations on maximizing the sense of fun and play in the game. Rather than trying to create an accurate tennis simulation, they started adding in the ability to kill the audience members by hitting with balls, putting in selfie sticks, and adding other mini-games that were more about exploration of an interactive environment than making an accurate tennis simulation.
I had a chance to catch up with VR Unicorn developers Horatiu Roman & Milan Grajetzki at the Unity VR/AR Vision Summit to learn more about their game jam-inspired design process and intention behind the game.
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#SelfieTennis is an oddly compelling game that I found myself coming back to play again and again. The teleportation mechanic is fun, but it’s also fun to explore physics interactions within an interactive environment. ResearchVR Podcast‘s Azad Balabanian wrote an essay on how Cause & Effect is VR’s Basic Interaction where he argues that physics is how humans can predict the future. This is supports Valve’s Jeep Barnett’s theory that physics in VR is compelling because it’s how humans are able to see into the future.
I’m a tennis player, and so I actually found that my tennis skills could be a detriment while playing #SelfieTennis. If I used proper form, then I would just hit the ball in the net, and so I found that I had to alter my swing just to keep a rally going. The design goal of #SelfieTennis wasn’t to create an accurate simulation to make me a better tennis player, and in fact I imagine that if I played too much #SelfieTennis then it would make me a worse tennis player in real life.
But real tennis is hard, and an accurate simulation would not be fun for a lot of people. #SelfieTennis can be still quite challenging for a lot of people, but the learning curve is a lot faster than playing real tennis. And the teleportation mechanic is something that is so unique to VR that it can be really compelling for a lot of people. For example, here’s a video of Twitch streamer OMGitsfirefoxx in a typical evolution of how people play and explore in the game:
One warning is that it’s easy to get so immersed within the #SelfieTennis experience that you either swing and hit the ceiling or wall, or accidentally throw a controller across the room. So be sure to have players wear the wrist guards while playing.
Also, the initial #SelfieTennis game does feel a bit light to justify the current $19.99 price, but hopefully there will continue to add more features and do a lot of rapid iterations and improvements over time. But it’s also a lot of fun, and a great experience to include for people playing VR for the first time because there are a lot of cute animations and interactions to be discovered within the environment.
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Theme music: “Fatality” by Tigoolio