Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Announcing 'Titans of Space PLUS' for Gear VR

I wasn't planning to go back to Mobile VR so soon!

Developing for mobile VR in general is full of challenges, and after spending a lot of time tweaking and optimizing the original Titans of Space on Gear VR, I yearned to be able to creatively pile on all the features and content I wanted.  Developing for PC VR once again was a breath of fresh air - I liked the quick prototyping, not having to worry so much about draw calls and thermal limits. On top of this, the retail headsets finally came out and they have been a joy to work with.

So, nearly a year ago I forked the code and began early access for Titans of Space 2.0 in order to achieve what I've always wanted to do with the project.  I sliced apart the project thinking I'd never take it back to mobile VR.   But, nearly a year later, I'm still not where I'd like to be yet and looking back, a lot of my time has been spent retooling, staying on top of SDK/Unity updates, and refining the user experience side of things.  I also have a busy family life and contract work to stay funded, so all of that time spent adds up.   And then, a shift!

Several factors have gradually changed my mind about mobile VR.  The userbase was growing and growing.  Oculus's submission and build channel processes have matured by leaps and bounds.  I picked up more experience with optimization.  The new sexy Gear VR orientation controller.  Both direct and indirect competition on PC that have bigger budgets and are able to move faster than I can. With PC VR's relatively small userbase, I'm competing for a player's time.  Time they are probably spending to play great games like Robo Recall or Elite Dangerous, for example. Titans of Space is not a game, so although it has found many happy customers in PC VR, it's a bit strange trying to compete against all that time spent in games.

So on a whim, I spent a week trying out the Titans of Space 2.0 project on Gear VR, and the whole process just went so well that I decided to jump back in with another 4 or 5 months of work.  The result is Titans of Space PLUS.  For many reasons, this is not an update to the original Titans of Space app.   And not everything from 2.0 can go back to mobile VR, but I managed to squeeze in far more than I expected this time around. Along the way I improved and streamlined a lot, added useful new features, squashed all the little things that always bugged me, did playtesting through friends and the FishbowlVR service, properly integrated voiceover, professional translations, a little facelift on some things, and a massive facelift on other things.  I even dared to change things that have been in there since the early prototype.  In many ways, PLUS on mobile is now a better experience than 2.0 on PC!   

Titans of Space 2.0 will continue to be the premium experience however.  Almost all of this work on PLUS will go straight back into 2.0 on PC, and then I am cutting a couple of planned features that I never talked about that I now suspect won't truly add value for the time and effort it will take to implement, and will focus on the finishing the real meat of it, which I will reveal later this year.  I'm very excited for that.

In closing, I wrote up a list of frequently asked questions on the app's site to help those that wonder things like:

What's the difference between PLUS and the original?
Why does it have a price tag?
Why buy this app instead of the other apps in this category?
If I have 2.0 can I get a key for PLUS?
If I bought the narration on Cardboard, can I get a key for PLUS?

And so on.