What’s New with RoboCo VR?

What’s New with RoboCo VR?

Happy Friday, RoboEngineers!

Last week, we announced our new update schedule as well as the release date for RoboCo Copper. This week, we’re taking you behind the scenes of our progress with RoboCo VR!

What’s Happened So Far

As you may know from our (Mostly) Complete History of RoboCo devblog, RoboCo originated in VR. We started working on the desktop version of RoboCo in 2018 and, while that’s the version of RoboCo so many have come to know and love, we have never given up on our dreams to also bring this compelling robotics experience to VR. We’ve come a long way since the initial VR prototype. Check out the video below to get up to speed on what the VR version is like!

You may recall that when we announced the release date for RoboCo on Steam, we also talked about how RoboCo will be a standalone title for the Meta Quest 2 and that VR compatibility would be added to the PC version of RoboCo free of charge!

But There’s an Amendment to That Original Announcement…

RoboCo VR, both the Meta Quest 2 version and the Steam update, will now be releasing in 2024.

It was a difficult decision but in short, the reasons why we’ve delayed RoboCo VR are very much in line with why we updated our release schedule for RoboCo on Steam Early Access. Our scrappy development team is working on BOTH RoboCo VR and RoboCo 1.0 for Steam, and, in order to make sure both games are the best versions of themselves they can be, we need to make sure we’re optimizing our team’s time and resources as effectively as possible. It also allows us to improve upon features like these…

Here’s What We’ve Been Working On

***This footage was all recorded from RoboCo on The Meta Quest 2!

VR Tutorials

We’ve ported our tutorials to VR to help players get building! Our initial tutorial and our RoboRepairs now include VR-appropriate steps. It also uses a dotted line to guide you to its user interface callouts.

For this recording, we’re showing the initial tutorial in the Sandwich Server challenge that you’re used to, even though this tutorial will actually be moving to one of our mini-challenges. No sneak peeks there yet, but stay tuned!

VR Camera Improvements

Cameras in VR are super important! A good VR camera can give a sense of presence, while a weak one may make you queasy or disoriented rather than immersed. Different players also have different comfort levels, so VR cameras often benefit from being customizable. Those of you with long memories may recall that RoboCo’s VR camera has three modes when driving your robot in Live mode: Step Follow, Smooth Follow, and Free Look.

Our Step Follow camera is designed for the most common player who wants the camera to keep up with their robot but might get motion sick from a Smooth Follow camera. The Step Follow camera automatically teleports you to catch up after your robot gets too far away. But user testing revealed that it was updating too eagerly, so we’ve changed its behavior. The Step Follow camera now waits for your robot to be far away from you and for you to let go of transmitter controls. Just that single rule change yields a night-and-day difference in how it feels. As a player, you now feel in control of when the camera updates, but it also doesn’t take conscious thought and becomes second nature.

We also got rid of any automatic snap rotation in favor of manual snap rotation. This is what we’ve always wanted, but RoboCo has a lot of controls so we had to figure out how the control scheme could accommodate it without disrupting other controls. You can now manually rotate by squeezing the grip button (to tell the game you’re trying to move the camera and not the robot) and then flicking the joystick left or right to snap rotate in 20-degree increments.

VR Controls Improvements

Good VR controls give you a tactile connection to the virtual world through your hands. In a complex building game like RoboCo, you also need access to a wide range of tools for editing. While sometimes you just want to grab a block and move it, at other times you may want to multi-select specific parts on your robot and move them only along the X-axis.

To make these edits quick and easy to access in VR, we’ve been remapping some controls and we’ve also been updating our VR selection tool to have more intuitive behaviors for selecting single parts, multi-selecting, and deselecting. We expect to continue tweaking controls based on user testing feedback to ensure that VR is as intuitive and usable as possible.

And More!

Since we last updated on the VR front we also have:

  • Updated the flow upon completing a challenge so that players are guided to their Results on the tablet.
  • Ported features to the file system of the Quest 2 so that robot saving and loading, campaign progress, and all other game data work on that platform.
  • Ported robot sharing to the Quest 2. We’ve set up a workshop that will allow Quest 2 players to share their robots with each other, much like Steam users can. Please note that the Steam workshop and Quest 2 workshop will not share the same uploads due to the different accounts and backend tech.
  • Dug into all the technical aspects of RoboCo to optimize the game for increased performance! Some of these performance optimizations will benefit PC or PC VR. Others are specific to the Quest 2 so we can bring all those squishy humans and that sweet robot physics to a standalone headset with no need for a PC! Optimizing is another initiative we expect to be ongoing as we eke out every frame.

And that’s it for this week’s devblog! We hope you enjoyed this behind-the-scenes look into what’s been going on in the world of RoboCo VR. Next week, we’re announcing our inclusion in a familiar game expo! 😉

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Available now for purchase on Steam Early Access!