New hori­zons

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 (­vel­

“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

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