First, are you sure you want to do this?
Showing a VR game is very difficult, particularly in comparison to showing a flat (non-VR) game. The effort is high, venue compatability is often low, and the number of people you can fire through the experience is low. Bang-for-the-buck is minimal!
Showing VR games can be useful in certain environments: by-appointment-only, at press events, for VIPs, and other high-quality-attendee venues. Know what you are getting into, and showcase where appropriate for your product.
Keep in mind that a good demo is usually around 10 minutes long. Add a few minutes for offboarding and onboarding for the next person, and you'll be lucky to fit 30 product demos in an 8 hour shift.
If you are showing to press, you probably want to give them 20 or 30 minutes. If you are trying to show to a mass audience, you have a few options to mitigate this;
- Invest in a big, expensive greenscreen booth. Fantastic Contraption's Mixed Reality features allow you to "show the action" on an external screen, allowing passers-by to get a good idea of the game.
- Setup several demo booths so you can churn through more people at once, in paralell.
- Run the demo for several days.
If you wish to show Fantastic Contraption despite all that, here's the advice I'd give you:
First you'll need to choose your hardware.
- HTC Vive: This is the most commonly used demo hardware. Requires a beefy PC and two lighthouses setup; works well with a large play area.
- Oculus Rift: Second most commonly used, requires a beefy PC and three (or in a pinch: two) tracking cameras. Highly recommend mounting your tracking cameras in strategic areas, which will probably require custom mounting brackets and/or USB extension cords.
- PS VR: Requires a PS4, and has a single tracking camera. This lends itself to standing or seated gameplay and smaller space requirements.
- Microsoft MR: Requires no external tracking gear so setup is much easier, but hands will only track when in front of the player. This might be fine for most games, but our game plays with many "behind the back" gestures.
Most of our demos have (coincidentally) been on HTC Vive hardware, so a lot of what follows is based on our experience with that hardware.
The PS VR "just works," wheras the other platforms will require setup of their software platforms and perform product configuration.
You will need to run room-size-configuration on-site after the play area has been set up! You cannot get the demo up and running, then pack it up in a box and deploy it elsewhere.
If you do not own a copy of Fantastic Contraption we can provide you with a key for whatever platform you choose to use.
Fantastic Contraption runs pretty well on it's own otherwise and will not require special setup or guidance, other than resetting the game between demos, which can be done with a mouse click or a keypress.
Overall, Fantastic Contraption is pretty lightweight. It doesn't take a lot of computing oomph to make it go, and we are pretty flexible with requirements (including physical space). Setup is painless and easy, and any "standard setup" will do.
What is a "standard setup?" By that, I mean whatever you would set up for VR in your own home. However, how that "normal home setup" translates to a conference environment can be tricky.
- Make sure you have a computer beefy enough to handle the gear. An easy test is just to play a few modern VR games. If that works, our game will run - we don't use a whole lot of CPU power.
- I recommend an nVidia 980 or equivalent for best performance, or a GTX 1080 if you have a higher-res HMD like the Vive Pro.
- The game was initially designed to run at room scale, but we have built a special mode to allow for seated or standing play that is quite fun.
- Though the game does technically run at minimal room scale (2 meters x 1.5 meters) the more space you can get, the better. We usually do shows with 3m x 3m or greater area.
- Note that the above is clear, free, playable room area, with complete floor-to-ceiling empty space. Allow more room if the computer is in the same space, room for a computer table/stand, chairs if necessary, or any viewing equipment (eg: TVs to mirror the display to).
- Make sure there are no delicate or fragile surfaces (such as computer monitors, TVs, or a lineup of people's faces who are waiting to play) that are within arms reach of the playing area.
- If there are a lot of people expected, I recommend the highest priced velvet ropes to keep people back.
- If you can, it is thematically awesome to have the floor of the playable area carpeted with "faux grass" or turf that exactly matches the play space. This thematically matches our game but also gives the player a tactile feel for what their boundaries are.
- Make sure you run through a full software setup pass at the platform level and set up the boundaries appropriately. This will give an in-VR indication of how much room each player has to work with. Note that this must be done on-site (it can't be done, then the computer packed up and moved to the venue)
- You will need to mount tracking hardware somewhere in the play area. This might mean you need tripods, or ability to drill into a wall.
- The PS VR camera should be mounted at eye-level directly "forward" of the player.
- Oculus cameras should be mounted at eye-level and distributed evenly around the room.
- Vive Lighthouses should be mounted at 7' or higher in opposite corners of the play area.
- Make sure your two Vive lighthouses can only see each other, and has no line-of-sight to other lighthouses (eg: from other demo stations brought by other companies). Note: this is not an issue if you have the Vive Pro 2.0 Lighthouses, and rarely a problem at all for Oculus or PS VR setups.
- If there are other demo stations nearby, an infrared-opaque surface must be used to block line of sight between stations (standard conference-black-drapery does not do the trick). In the past we made little "hats" out of spare cardboard to solve this issue. Failure to block conflicting signals WILL mean the VR gear will not work!
- Make sure there are no reflective surfaces within line of sight of Vive lighthouses. Glass panels at oblique angles, TVs, reflective surfaces on nearby ceiling lighting, and mirrors are particularly bad.
- The computer running the game should be situated as close to the space as possible to give maximum length to the HMD cable. Make sure the length of the cable for your particular HMD can easily reach all corners of the playable area comfortably.
- You will want to have a few HMD facial interfaces (those foam inserts) on hand to swap out and clean between demos. Waterproof/Leather is preferable so people aren't swapping sweat. There are tons like this on Amazon.
- We strongly recommend using an HMD that has built-in-headphones. If you have the HTC Vive, consider upgrading to the rigid headstrap with built-in-headphones. If you don't have this you will need to procure a pair or two of good headphones that players can wear over the headset.
- Please do a demo before the day of the event so that you can validate your hardware can run the experience at adequate performance, and that your physical play space is compatible and safe for attendees.
MIXED REALITY REQUIREMENTS
Setting up greenscreens and feeding a live camera feed into compositing software for realtime broadcast (either to a nearby TV, or a streaming service) is relatively easy and possible with Fantastic Contraption... But you really need to know what you are doing, have experience with professional cameras and greenscreens, and knowledge of how streaming services work.
We included several keyboard shortcuts and specialized tools to make this video content flexible and engaging, and allows for camera moves and avatar views and other such tricks.
I'd be happy to help you set this up, give you pointers, and let you know how things work - email link is in the footer below. The Northways have also posted a guide to Mixed Reality streaming on their website that goes into a bit more technical detail.
- If your venue attendees are not VR Pros you should have staff on hand that can guide players through putting on the HMD, and basics of using the hand controllers.
- Note that when people are in VR, they probably won't be able to hear you very well with headphones on. Give players all the info they need before they go in.
- If you must address players while they are in the headset, save your voice - don't shout over their headphones - buy a microphone/headset of your own and tell windows to "Listen" to this device. You can then speak to the player in a natural voice and they'll be able to hear you alongside the game audio. (Make sure you have a mute button!)
- If you are not running an official "demo" copy of Fantastic Contraption you might need someone to reset the game between play sessions. There is a big "reset game" button on the screen if you wiggle the mouse, or you can press ~R as a shortcut.
- Players often need help removing headphones and setting down the hand controllers without breaking them.
- Remove the foam insert from the HMD and swap it with a fresh one between each play session. Nobody wants to wear someone else's sweat.
- Wipe down the foam insert and controllers after each use. Have hand sanitizer nearby at all times.
- Have a cloth available for wiping down the lenses. Anything safe for glasses will do.
- Since so few people can make it through the experience (a ten minute demo usually means around 30 people get to try in an 8 hour shift), it might make sense to book appointments to prevent people from standing in line all day. If someone misses an appointment, any passers-by can jump in.
- Bring a whiteboard so you can communicate wait times or other useful information in a clearly visible way.
_This is one of a handful of VR advice pages I've written. Check out the index for more._