Gaming Winners of the Qualcomm XR Innovation Challenge, Part 2

Tuesday 11/10/20 09:00am
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Posted By Ana Schafer
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Qualcomm Technologies, Inc. (QTI) held its second XR Ecosystem Conference on September 5th, 2020 in Nanchang, China to discuss industry development trends, the integration of mobile technologies such as XR and 5G, and to promote communication, cooperation, and future opportunities for the XR industry. Among the attendees were equipment manufacturers, operators, platform suppliers, content providers, local governments, and other key partners from the XR industry.

The conference hosted an awards ceremony, to announce the winners of Qualcomm Technologies' 2020 XR Innovation Challenge. In our previous blog you can read about the winners of the non-gaming categories (Esurfing 5G XR, VR Education and AR Industry).

Congratulations to the winners of the VR game category winners and participants which included:

  • Kyle Zhang of Bitsrealm, was the Platinum winner with Mortal & Monster VR, an action adventure game where players can explore, fight, and find treasures.
  • Xuezhi Wang of Chengdu Kukr Digital Tech. Co. Ltd., won the Golden award with Mercenary 2: Silicon Rising, a first-person shooter (FPS) utilizing 6DoF.
  • YangPeng Lv, an indie game developer, developed the impressive Dance Dance Maker, an entertainment title where players author virtual dance scenes complete with music, dancing characters, and other animated objects.

Here's a recap of what they shared about their VR development experience:

Mortal & Monster

Bitsrealm's Mortal & Monster takes advantage of 6DoF by putting players up against monsters in a dark dungeon environment while adding an element of adventure.

Mortal & Monster is a rogue-like VR action adventure game which combines a tower-defense battle system and rogue-like dungeon map to provide an epic single player VR dungeon adventure.

Ironically, Kyle says that their group actually started off in enterprise. They had bought many VR headsets over the years and developed several business projects for enterprises. But when Oculus Quest was released, they grabbed one as soon as possible, and after playing it, every team member agreed that it was time to make some fun stuff for consumers.

To maintain immersive game play, loading only occurs when the game is first launched. Subsequent game processes occur without any loading to avoid interruptions and maintain a continuous experience for the player. The game's dungeons, monsters, weapons, and items are all generated by algorithms. This means that when the game starts, every adventure will be different. Kyle describes the game as ‘easy to play but difficult to master' while having a high degree of replayability with about 20 hours of game content.

Looking forward, Kyle says that in the next few years, all-in-one XR headsets that do not require a PC or mobile phone will be essential for popularizing XR. At the same time, wireless streaming from a PC or mobile phones to standalone XR headsets will also lay a solid, affordable foundation for players to upgrade their XR experience step by step. Moreover, screens will be everywhere, and people will be able to easily switch between traditional 2D screens and immersive XR devices.

Mercenary 2: Silicon Rising

When you hear the term VR game, it's very easy to think first-person shooter. After all, the evolution from 2D to 3D video games ushered in a whole era of first-person action games that recreate the spatial environments from the real world. Building on this idea, Chengdu Kukr Digital Tech. Co. Ltd entered Mercenary 2: Silicon Rising, a VR-based FPS that takes advantage of 6DoF technologies.

Mercenary 2: Silicon Rising is set in a futuristic immersive environment with its core gameplay focused around dodging incoming bullets while trying to shoot at enemies. The game requires vigorous postures and keen insight to avoid the fast-paced attacks. For hardcore VR players who prefer more simulated operations, the game also provides a mode that simulates real firearm interactions.

Despite the fantastic result of the team's hard work, Xuezhi says they didn't originally intend to build an FPS game. Initially the team looked at how to use 6DoF in VR for actions like throwing and catching objects. However, they felt it would be difficult to motivate players through such behaviors and the resulting experience would feel unnatural. Instead, they chose to use 6DoF to recreate the instinctive reaction of humans that occurs when threats are present and how the body has been conditioned to avoid them. She describes the core gameplay of fast-paced dodges combined with shooting as proactive evasion, which innately works in VR since the form factor and interaction with many VR controllers is ideally suited to these actions.

Xuezhi also says that XR technologies from QTI help the game reach higher frame rates with less reduction in performance. This reduces motion sickness for players which can be caused by the high-speed locomotion afforded by VR, thus allowing users to enter the VR world more comfortably. On the other hand, the game's strong sense of immersion means players can experience a slower time flow than in the real world where sometimes gameplay might feel like 10 minutes but is actually more like half an hour.

Dance Dance Maker

Not every VR game needs to be an FPS action thriller to wow gamers as YangPeng Lv, an indie game developer, proved with Dance Dance Maker.

Dance Dance Maker is a VR/AR avatar dance animation editor and player. It comes with loads of built-in models and animations, but also allows users to import models from websites directly, thanks to its support for VRM 3D avatar files. While the game makes it easy to get hands-on for basic operations, it also provides advanced features to bring more eye-candy and other changes to dance scenes.

Taking his inspiration from other non-VR anime dance games and anime animation editors, YangPeng thought there should be a VR version incorporating 6DoF controllers and hand tracking support. This way users could set up and interact with 3D models directly with their hands, thus lowering learning curves and inspiring users in new ways. On the user experience side, YangPeng describes the interaction with scene objects as comfortable and smooth, and very easy to learn, while still having enough variables and spaces to encourage users' creativity.

YangPeng says he spent lots of time optimizing performance so that multiple avatars and scene objects can be loaded while maintaining the smoothness of the game. This includes the use of some tricky methods to achieve complicated background effects to maintain performance and frame rates on mobile VR platforms to mimic those seen on PCs. One of the biggest challenges was maintaining performance when loading VRM files on a mobile VR platform, as this can cause a frame rate drop or the system to run out of memory. Solving this involved balancing for optimal frame rate by determining whether performance is CPU bound or GPU bound all while lowering the app's memory cost.

Conclusion

This was the 2nd year of the Qualcomm XR Innovation Challenge, which was jointly supported by QTI and China Telecom, co-organized by three AR/VR leading technology companies: Pico, Shadow Creator, and iQiyi, and supported by world-renowned 3D content creation engine Unity.

Thanks to all the participants for their hard work. It was great to see the creativity that was developed in conjunction with XR devices powered by solutions from Qualcomm Technologies. As XR advances and with the introduction of new XR platforms like the Qualcomm® Snapdragon™ XR2 platform, we can't wait to see what the many innovators will show us next.

For additional information about XR, be sure to check out the following resources:

Qualcomm Tools and Resources:

Blogs:

Qualcomm Snapdragon, Qualcomm XR, Qualcomm XR Development Kits and Qualcomm 3D Audio Plugin for Unity are products of Qualcomm Technologies, Inc. and/or its subsidiaries.