Just launched, Crashland, on the Oculus Quest is timely, following images from the Perseverance Mars Rover, recently sent back from the planet.
In the first person ‘shooter’ game, the player has crash-landed on an alien planet and has to defend themselves from waves of alien species before being rescued.
But the programme has a far longer history.
Llŷr ap Cenydd, from the School of Computer Science and Electronic Engineering at Bangor University has been closely linked with the Oculus VR headsets since their inception. He developed some of the first apps available, including Ocean Rift, a virtual underwater safari and one of the world’s most popular virtual reality programmes.
Llŷr explains that Crashland was another early spare-time project of his.
“Crashland started out as a tech demo in 2013 when I was experimenting with different ways of moving and tracking the human body in VR. It was a very popular demo at the time but it was placed on a back-burner as I focused on developing Ocean Rift for the first commercial headsets. I returned to the concept a few times over the years, but it took the launch of the Oculus Quest to convince me it was time to develop it into a full game.
“While being able to swim with sharks in Ocean Rift is great, Crashland delivers a more primal experience, and also reflects my lifetime love of sci-fi in all its forms.”
Delivering the best graphics possible
Llŷr explains that what Crashland offers is artificial intelligence driven procedural animation.
“What that means is that the animation the player sees is generated live as they play, giving each play a unique experience. They aren’t just seeing the same animation over again. This gives it a more visceral, real feel,” he says.
The VR technology runs on mobile hardware, and Llŷr’s expertise is in getting the greatest advantage from the technology to deliver the best graphics possible.
For those unfamiliar with VR headsets, Llŷr explains:
“The Oculus Quest is a virtual reality headset which gives the wearer an immersive 3D experience. It has positional tracking so as the wearer moves around, what they experience changes. It also tracks your hand movements, making the VR experience very immersive.”
At Bangor University, students at the School of Computer Science and Electronic Engineering have the opportunity to explore a broad range of technologies and collaborate with world leading researchers.
“We've got a lot of modules in this department like Artificial Intelligence (AI) and game design, programming and computer graphics. All these elements are related to virtual reality. In the third year, students have their dissertation project, where they can choose to spend the whole year working on their own virtual reality project.
They team up with a lecturer like myself and we spend a year developing their prototype and that can really be the main thing on their CV when they graduate, therefore it's a very important part of their final year.”