Developer interview: Gamedust / Yupitergrad

Those of you who regularly follow us know how much we enjoy the growth of VR as a medium for games. One of the pleasant VR surprises this past year was Yupitergrad by Gamedust, so when we got the chance to chat with Jakub Matuszczak, the COO of Gamedust and exchange some thoughts on the state and future of VR, we seized the opportunity. Here’s what we learned.

Some of the most impressive examples in VR gaming have been PC-based, yet Oculus has moved away from the Rift in favor of the less powerful Quest. What will this mean for the development of major VR titles?

First of all – we need to differentiate two aspects. Oculus may move from the Rift headset, but offers both Oculus Link and Air Link instead with the same functionalities, so it does not mean that it’s harder for new VR consumers to check the PC titles – I think it’s easier than ever – you just need to plug the cable and play. Also – as we know – there is a PlayStation VR 2 headset in the making, so there will still be room for AAA VR gaming.

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However – while we were developing Yupitergrad, we knew that the most crucial markets are the standalone headsets – in our case – Oculus Quest and Vive Focus Plus. Considering this – we needed to have optimization in mind during the whole development process and choose the artstyle which would be both attractive to the player and technically efficient.

PlayStation is teasing a new generation of their VR headset. What do you feel would be the biggest game-changing feature in a new headset?

The most important change for me in recent years was that headsets are going untethered. Wireless was part of the Samsung Gear VR / Oculus Go’s appeal, but the greatest innovation was the introduction of Six Degrees of Freedom to the wireless headsets. Considering we currently know that PSVR2 will have one cable attached to the console – we can’t expect wireless to be its game changing feature. There are two other things that come to my mind – lightweight headset construction allowing for longer sessions and better, more immersive haptics like the ones used in the PS5 controller.

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In a broader context – not only about PSVR 2, but VR headsets market as a whole – cloud streaming of the content to the device with reliable and fast service similar to Xbox Cloud Gaming or GeForce Now would be great. This could be a solution for the problems of processing power of the mobile headsets and the necessity to have a powerful device (like a PC or PS5).

Motion controllers are a major part of VR gaming – how could the VR experience be improved through new control (and feedback) mechanics?

Physical motion controllers are great, but what do you think about hand tracking? This is a real innovation in VR. It is currently still experimental, but the games like Cubism feel totally different when you control them with your own hands. The technology still needs some polish, as it could work faster and be more reliable, but for the right type of game hand tracking really changes the feeling of the game.

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When you look at the mainstream appeal for VR, we’ve seen VR emerge as a location-based industry as well. What are your thoughts on this development?

I believe location-based VR experiences and a lot of VR games are descendants of video games amusement arcades and the culture that goes with it. Some of the most popular VR titles (like Pistol Whip, Beat Saber or Synth Riders) are games whose core gameplay derives from arcade experiences. They focus on easy-to-learn yet hard-to-master mechanics, have a short and addictive gameplay loop and encourage competitiveness on leaderboards. Our Yupitergrad, which initial mode was a Campaign, now also has a Time Attack Mode with special levels, which is a tribute to arcade gaming. So, the location-based VR seems like the modern re-creation of the arcade spirit from the 90s with all the flashy decorations and atmosphere which I totally miss nowadays, so I’m very happy about their popularity.

Going back to Gamedust, how did the core idea/concept for Yupitergrad come about?

Everything started during the development of our previous title in the spring of 2019. We had an internal game jam for interesting VR interaction mechanics and one of the prototypes showed plungers on ropes. The user could pull the objects with them and generally toy with the physics. It was generally fun and the whole team liked it, but the turning point for the project was the idea that instead of pulling the objects, players could be pulled to the object and that is how the idea for the core gameplay loop in Yupitergrad was born. It is worth noting that the signature plungers are still there as grappling hooks!

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What were some of the insights gained during the development of Yupitergrad?

First of all – we chose the artstyle of the game considering the target platforms. It was a great lesson which helped a lot when optimization was needed. We also learned that with VR games you could have a great story mode, but the players would like to have an incentive to come back to your game. That’s why we added Time Attack, 120hz support and Gymnasion Mode, and we have the next update coming soon. With each update we learn a new thing about our game, testing new features and discussing them with our community.

What’s next for Gamedust?

We can’t say a lot about our next in-house project. One thing is certain – our studio is currently focusing on VR devices, but would also like to help other VR developers with the publishing process. Our first game as a publisher will be Best Forklift Operator, a game based on serious VR simulators used to train people to drive forklifts.

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