With so many games on the VR market, it’s hard to really know which ones are the best for your workouts. We recently reviewed Sword Master VR here at VRFI and it was met with a lot of interest from both you our readers, and the game developing community as well. Because our reviews are straight up about fitness and how you can best use them in your VR workouts, our take is different than most others on the web. Eric Tereshinski, creator of Sword Master VR took the time to talk about our review, his games and how fitness comes into play when designing a VR experience. Here’s his insight into the gaming world of VR and what you can expect from experiences going forward!
VRFI: Take us through the development of the game. What made you want to do it? What was the process like, especially early on?
Eric Tereshinski: The development of Sword Master VR started with just an empty scene that I loaded up just to test out my new VR headset. My first few tests involved just sticking 3D models like guns and swords to my controllers in VR. Being able to download a file, attach that file to my controller as a game object, and then to actually hold that object in my hand, it was like living in a sci-fi movie.
From there I wanted something to use my new virtual sword against, so I downloaded a 3D model of a soldier that looked like he’d be fun to fight. I wrote some code to make him walk around and choose random attacks from a list of attack animations. Next I wrote some code that would make the sword actually be able to hit this new enemy. To my surprise, it worked very well. I have coded games for years, but it was amazing to be holding my own code in my hand in the form of a virtual sword and using it to fight an enemy of my own creation.
I wondered what I even looked like while I was playing game prototype, so I recorded this video. It was so much fun to pretend to be a sword master and show off my fighting moves. I uploaded the video to my youtube channel and it was a huge hit. Thousands of people saw the video and shared it on reddit and other sites. I think they were as excited as me to see that some guy in his basement could create a virtual reality fighting simulation like this. The future of virtual reality was finally here and games like this are just the beginning.
VRFI: Were you aware of how much of a workout the game was going to be when you started?
ET: Kind of. Early on in the days of the HTC Vive, I saw that some people online were talking about VR and saying it was a bad thing for gaming because you had to move furniture to set it up, move around while you play, pickup virtual objects up off the floor, ect.. I thought, “Aren’t those all the things that make VR awesome?” I decided to make a game that takes full advantage of room-scale VR. So I guess I wasn’t thinking about making a game as a way to get people into shape, but more I just wanted to push the limits of high action room-scale VR for the people who wanted that.
VRFI: We gave the game high marks for fitness. How do you feel about people using this game for fitness results?
ET: I think it’s awesome! I have developed back pain from years of sitting and was worried about my health being a game developer. With VR, I now stand and move all the time for my work. And now when my friends come over to play video games, we aren’t just sitting on the couch like zombies, we’re actually moving, jumping, acting crazy. It’s so cool that video games are now an active hobby.
VRFI: Please talk about the increasing intensity of the gameplay and why it’s important to the experience.
ET: Every time I show a new person VR and have them play Sword Master VR, they all have the same reaction. They calmly pick a level, difficulty, their sword, then the game emits a wall of fire all around them and they are all of a sudden in a hellish arena facing a large sword wielding soldier. No matter who the person is that is playing, a kid, an adult, or aunt Sue who has never played a videogame in her life, they all move into a full combat stance and proceed to stab and slice the enemy while dodging incoming attacks.
It’s this intensity of fighting for your life that makes Sword Master VR a fun game. But with practice, you can kill the beginning enemies with little effort. This increase in player skill needs to be balanced out with increasing difficulty. Adding stronger, faster, better armored enemies allows for that feeling of “I’M GOING TO DIE! AHHH! NOOOO! DIE!!!! AHHHH!!” to be a feeling you can come back to every time you play the game.
VRFI: Our one issue with the game (if we really had one) was the lack of impact on our legs when we played. Why is this the case in Sword Master VR and what can you say about this limitation in VR overall?
ET: Probably because it’s like sword fighting in real life. You need to keep your feet and legs firmly planted in order to give yourself stability while you swing. Even if you do stuff like dodge the enemy’s sword instead of blocking it, you end up moving and bending at your core rather than your legs. By the way, dodging the enemy’s sword swings is super fun and probably the best core workout ever.
Once foot tracking becomes more common in VR, moves like kicks and jumping over obstacles with become possible in VR.
VRFI: We loved the game, but our pet peeve is a lack of a leader board in competitive environments, so I have to ask: Why no leader board?
ET: I have had other requests for adding leaderboards into survival mode. I’ll have to look into adding it in an update. I guess I originally didn’t add it because I just never used leaderboards myself growing up playing games.
VRFI: How do you see fitness and VR evolving together?
ET: I could see people going to VR arcades instead of going to the gym in the near future. Even today some people are deciding to buy a new PC and VR headset instead of a traditional workout equipment so they can workout at home. It makes a lot of sense. You could spend a lot on a boring treadmill that you will use twice and then never use it because it’s painfully boring. Or you could buy video games that give you a better workout and are 1000 times more fun?!
VRFI: Do you workout in VR? Would you recommend it to anyone else?
ET: Well, bug testing Sword Master VR before release and making sure all the levels weren’t too easy or too hard was a few months of hard work, sweat, and virtual blood. Overall I try to get outdoors a lot and be active. Depending on what VR games I’m playing though, I’m probably working out without realizing it.
I would totally recommend someone to workout in VR. If you can upgrade the graphics card on your current PC, then the cost of VR is about the cost of other expensive workout equipment. And it’s infinitely more fun, so you know you’ll actually use it to work out. And if you were thinking about getting VR anyways because you’re a gamer, then win-win!
VRFI: What games are you working on now?
ET: I’m working on a new VR game called Jet Island. It’s an online multiplayer game where you can explore the open world of Jet Island by surfing on mountains at 200 mph with jetpacks and grappling hooks! I’ve coded a custom physics based movement system for this game that really allows you to feel the freedom of virtual jetpack land-surfing. It feels very similar to being on a roller coaster, except you are in control of going anywhere you want.
VRFI: Does fitness come into play when you’re designing a game? If so, at what point and in what way?
ET: I do have to think about fitness in VR a lot. Even with Jet Island I have to think about the physical fitness of the players. Most players will want to stand, but for those who can’t stand for long periods of time or just want to sit, the game supports that, too.
With Sword Master VR on the other hand, I used fitness as a way to challenge the player. The further you get in the game, the more enemies in a row you’ll have to fight. There’s something very rewarding about pushing yourself to your physical limit and just a little bit further in order to achieve victory in combat. I also used fitness as a way of making the game’s final boss more intense. I set up the final level so you must kill one of each enemy type, then a short 10 second break, just enough for you to catch your breath but not really, then the final boss appears. Saving the final boss to the moment when you are out of breath and tired was just one way to make him even more intimidating and challenging.
Are you a game developer with a cool VR game that people should use for fitness results? Send us an email at [email protected] for a possible review and interview!