The creators of the UK development scene’s favourite event are branching out into VR
Organisers of the UK dev scene’s favourite event are moving into VR
The noise surrounding the re-emergence of virtual reality has made it difficult for developers and consumers alike to separate the opportunity, hype and challenges thrown up by the likes of Vive and PSVR. It’s here that the organisers of a new conference, Develop:VR, are aiming their expertise, with a debut event curated by the team that makes Develop in Brighton a must-attend fixture on the UK game industry calendar. Taking place on November 24 at The Old Truman Brewery in East London, the dedicated VR conference aims to bring some clarity to a scene that is only becoming increasingly crowded.
Alongside an expo element, and plenty of opportunities for attendees to exchange business cards, the one-day conference’s most distinct feature is perhaps the effort being made to ensure that Develop:VR connects creators from within the videogame and VR industries with those on the outside looking to break in.
At the event’s core is its lineup of speakers, who collectively demonstrate that Develop:VR – and VR as a whole – is not all about games. This is a gathering that brings together speakers from across numerous disciplines, where documentarians and creative agencies will explore the prospects VR presents.
“There’s so much virtual reality out there,” says Dean Johnson, the head of innovation at VR film production and brand development outfit Brandwidth, who will deliver the event’s opening keynote session. “What I hope to do when I speak is give the audience an overview of the pieces of VR they might have missed. Obviously, a lot of people there will be interested in developing for VR, and I hope to broaden that out to look at what VR means for film and cinema and all those other opportunities.”
The new event’s Brighton heritage means that there will be plenty of focus on games, however, in both VR and AR flavours. Two of Develop: VR’s three tracks concentrate on game production, their speakers sharing insights into a creative process that is still finding its footing.
“Most people seem to think about how you can crowbar existing games into VR,” says Peter Pashley, head of production at Monument Valley studio Ustwo Games, as he ponders his Develop VR session. “I’m much more interested in what we can do in VR that we haven’t been able to do before. It’s interesting to start that debate with people, and I hope we can help do that by talking about what we’ve done with Land’s End.”
Gear VR adventure game Land’s End, released in 2015, was a project that Pashley believes taught the Ustwo team a great deal about working with VR.
“That’s part of the really interesting thing about this nascent VR industry – that most people have no fucking clue what they should be doing,” Pashley says of some of the thinking behind the presentation he’s planning for Develop: VR. “A lot of the attention on VR at the moment is on non-interactive experiences. In my mind, interactivity in VR is half of the puzzle – half the reason we can believe in these worlds comes from the ability to interact with them. We need to figure out ways to do that in ways that don’t break the illusion. Hopefully I can get people to think about VR in a way that accepts its limitations, and pushes it to towards what should make it completely distinct.”
Also speaking together at the event will be Steve Jelley, joint MD of Hammerhead VR, and Becky Power, creative director of media agency Mindshare, demonstrating the potential for collaboration within the realm of VR. Hammerhead VR partnered with Mindshare and its client Jaguar Land Rover to build a VR experience that placed viewers in the shoes of Andy Murray as he stood on Wimbledon’s centre court, at the very moment he won the championship. Jelley believes the production delivers something that exists somewhere between traditional definitions such as game, film and sports broadcasting.
“We want to show people how we did it,” he says of his joint presentation with Power. “We want to give them a peek behind the curtain into how these things are made.”
“Coming from ad agency or creative agency land, it’s a weird one, because it’s hard not to think of VR in comparison to what you’ve done before,” Power explains. “It’s easy to think of VR as film, or a form of film that has all these amazing possibilities to immerse. But working with Hammerhead VR, it’s clear VR is something different from that, and that’s something to talk about.”
Exactly what VR is – and what it isn’t – feels like a key theme for Develop:VR as its organisers continue to add speakers to the schedule. Tickets for the event are available to buy now from the official site (www.developvr.co.uk).
“That’s part of the really interesting thing – that most people have no clue what they should be doing”
FROM TOP Dean Johnson, Peter Pashley, Steve Jelley and Becky Power