Austin Room-scale VR Jam Recap: A great success!

Room-scale VR jam header

It turns out when you bring 75 VR developers, Valve, HTC, NVIDIA, Epic, and Unity into the same room for a weekend, great things happen. The first ever room-scale VR game jam was a huge, ground-breaking success!

The Vuka event space

On May 9th, 2015 at 10am, the festivities began for the Austin room-scale Vive VR jam — the first ever game jam to allow participants to build games that take advantage of room-sized tracked spaces. Game jam participants filled the Vuka event space in Austin, TX, setting up their desktops on the ground floor while folks set up three HTC Vive headsets upstairs, separated into three 15’ x 15’ room setups. The space quickly filled with local Austin developers (both indie and AAA), along with some especially dedicated folks who flew in from California, New York, Georgia, Massachusetts, and even Canada!

Jammers conversing

Panorama of the ground floor

The weekend game jam lasted from 10am to 10pm Saturday and Sunday, and Monday we hosted a VR Austin demo night so all the jammers could show off their games to the public. It’s incredible that 19 projects were created and working in such a short time period, especially since most jammers hadn’t seen a Vive in person until this event!

A developer testing their build

Developers of the jam games have been posting links to their work (video, pictures, contact info, etc) on the VR Austin comments page, so that the incredible work created in 48 hours doesn’t vanish into the aether. Check out that page to see the games created in more depth!

Players having fun with the Vive

One story in particular that stood out was a father and son playing Juan Rubio’s jam entry “Space Time Cowboy”. The boy strapped on the headset, grabbed the controller, and entered a cartoony old west world. When his time was up, the attendants took the Vive controllers from him and while being unstrapped, he was physically waving goodbye to the cowboys in the VR world.

Additionally, Aaron Lemke’s team came up with a brilliant concept for allowing players to traverse huge environments by defying traditional spatial logic. With the snake-esque maze game Cyber Snake, players were turning around 180° in tight corridors and navigating tight duct-like areas by walking and crouching and moving about the space. After testing the game, Devin Reimer from Owlchemy Labs said that he felt like he had walked a quarter of a mile in the game and had completely lost his sense of forward direction by the time he finished the demo.

Final Approach by Phaser Lock Interactive

Another game that made the rounds was Final Approach, by the Phaser Lock Interactive team. In this game, players stood above a virtual airport, controlling air traffic with their hands, much like the mobile game Flight Control. Like most VR games, players had just as much fun destroying things as they did following the rules of the game.

One other jam game presented players with a virtual beer pong table, a clever use of the tracked controllers and room-scale movement. However, they took it to another level by throwing in unexpected variations on the classic game – including a zero-G stage, use of teleporters, and some other gravity environmental designs.

A huge variety of titles were produced. We saw games that had players picking up and throwing cars at destructible buildings as well as playing drums in a colourful and alien landscape.

Owlchemy team members working on Job Simulator

Job Simulator WIP cashier demo

In the midst of the chaos, the Owlchemy crew created a new prototype job for our upcoming VR-exclusive title Job Simulator. We focused on creating a grocery store cashier simulation, complete with a wide swath of supermarket-related actions like weighing items on a scale and scanning groceries. We ended up with a number of meta-mechanics that were really fun to mess around with in a virtual space. Experimenting with some of these new interactions and seeing reactions from fellow jammers was a fantastic experience.

Jam announcements with Aaron, Chet, and Alex

This event would not have been possible without the amazing support of a number of awesome companies. NVIDIA sponsored the entire jam and brought out 10 loaner desktops for game jammers who were not able to bring their own equipment. HTC and Valve also contributed immensely on the hardware front as well as helping to sponsor some of the last minute costs of the event. Also, a huge thanks to the folks at Unity and Epic for helping out the jammers with technical issues and being present for any questions that came up! Also a huge thanks to Matt Oztalay for the bartending!

Testing the Vive

With only twenty or so pre-development kits in the world currently, not many have been able to get their hands on this hardware before this jam. In fact, with only three dev kits at the event itself, developers had to code their game blind, without the hardware, and then transfer their builds to a flash drive, run it upstairs, and test on an open Vive machine to get a feel of what does/doesn’t work and how it physically feels to play your game. It’s incredible that anything at all was created, let alone these great titles, within 48 hours.

Developers watch a player's experience in the Vive

It’s hugely inspiring to be around so many talented developers. Overall, the event had a great feeling of sharing and community, where everyone came together to help one another. It’s clear to us that everyone who participated has a love for VR and game development. Great job everyone, and we’re looking forward to being a part of awesome VR get-togethers like this in the future!

Photos courtesy of Lauren Ellis and other game jammers! For all of the event photos, please see the photos page here!