Last November I made a somewhat-mysterious posting which some people speculated was hinting at stereoscopic rendering in The Witness. Indeed it was, and Now It Can Be Told.
Last year I was pessimistic about VR systems in the near future, since the ones I had tried didn’t seem to offer much (certainly not enough to justify wearing a bulky headset all the time and fighting back feelings of nausea).
But I was fortunate enough to get a sneak peek at Valve’s virtual reality system. It is so much better than anything else I had used that I was instantly very excited by it. Right away I could see games you might design for this system that had been impossible before; so it isn’t just a matter of the system being very immersive (which it is) but that it can take video games in general to a new place.
We worked with Valve to get support for the system in The Witness, and that’s where those screenshots come from (but when I took the shots, an HMD was not plugged in, and as a result what you see is a dummy calibration that does not correspond to any useful image-warping; the screenshot was really more about just being happy about the stereo display capability.) In late November I spent a few days at Valve’s offices working with Atman Binstock and Doug Church to adapt the HMD’s input system more thoroughly for The Witness and to build a few scenes that are playable on the device.
(In theory the whole game is playable on the device, but when you are rendering for VR the performance demands become much higher, because you are rendering two scenes at higher resolution than you might previously have been rendering one scene. So the full game world with all content currently does not run fast enough for this device, but that is the kind of problem that gets solved over time).
We had to keep this under wraps, though, because Valve’s system was not announced. But this month at Steam Dev Days they revealed details of the system.
For more details on the Valve system, Lee Vermeulen wrote up a nice post of his impressions:
So, we will be supporting this device (and any similar devices) with The Witness. But I am really looking forward to see what gets designed specifically for devices like this.