Speedball Arena is a futuristic 2 Vs 2 multiplayer VR sports game on a flying hoverbike. Holding two motion controllers to maneuver the bike in one hand and to snatch the speedball with a grappling hook gun to score to the opponent’s goal.
As you can guess from the game name, it’s very speedy game unlike other stand-still VR game and it’s for the hard core gamers and speed junkies (maybe both!) who would enjoy the highest difficulty level game on the light speed hoverbike.
Let me introduce three musketeers behind the game who also developed Music Inside, a rhythm action music VR game which was selected as Oculus Touch launching title last year. Here are the 3 creators!
Speedball Arena went through multiple prototypes and demo during 7 months of development period from April to Oct. It had 3 prototypes and demos in total.
Let’s take a look at the first demo!
1. Racing Baby
At Reality Reflection, we have a unique development culture aka Game Jam, which is similar to a hackathon. Game designer and developers would team up in 3 members to work a project for 48 hours from design stage to game demo. Then the demo which earns all ‘OK’ from the all teams would continue to be a commercial project.
Speedball Arena’s original project was called the Racing Baby which was developed on April 3, 2017 during 48 hours Game Jam. It was far from cute ‘babies’ but themed after a horror concept babies who would race each other.
You could facelift the baby characters, customize vehicle’s color, distract other players by throwing toys and shooting bubbles, which made the gameplay quite entertaining. Although many team members were fond of the gameplay, we thought it still lacks the engaging core gameplay to move on to next development stage for commercial project. Look and feel was far from the current version of Speedball Arena, but prototype Racing Baby gave a lot of experience developing the bike control and multiplayer mode.
2. Bullet Riders
As you all know, shooter is the most popular genre in VR gaming, providing an immersive experience to users by mimicking two guns with controllers which keyboard and mouse cannot. Similar in racing genre, sense of speed is maximized in VR racing game.
Upgrade version from Racing Baby, prototype Bullet Riders was trying to maximize such experience; shooting guns on a speedy bike.
However, we had to face the motion sickness obstacle that the users would feed extremely dizzy on a speed bike shooting other users at the same time.
But we decided to focus on the core gameplay for the core VR gamers rather and worrying about motion sickness to end up in a mediocre game for all.
We wanted to develop a fun game for small group of core gamers who will enjoy our game at its fullest capacity rather than trying to chase after a high quality AAA VR title.
Bullet Riders was quite fun but still had some obstacles such as aiming opponent’s bike while driving at a fast speed. Also it turned out to be less thrilling to shoot each other on a bike.
When it comes to shooting, it would be more fun to shoot swarming targets toward the user and racing would be more fun to focus on the racing itself. Prototype Bullet Riders lacked both fun factors to capture both audiences in the end.
We were seeking more fun ways to develop Bullet Riders and decided to add two more modes to the original bike shooting mode.
The original was a close combat mode between motorcycles. It was a fighting game in which riders on the motorcycles fight each other with daggers.
Then, we expanded the idea to add a soccer game mode. We found that it was much more fun than the shooting mode because every player’s sight is focused on the ball. So we decided to concentrate on developing the soccer mode, judging that the new mode was definitely more interesting than racing and shooting.
Then came the Strikers, in which only the soccer mode was developed from Bullet Riders.
In May, we considered deeply about how to make the ball game more interesting and took time to examine the prototypes of boost items, ball position indicator, wall jump, and physical coefficient.
After prototyping, we developed the full version throughout June and July. It seemed like everything was going well.
Latency issue popped up.
In order to play a game smoothly, it is important that the game play on the user’s computer (client) takes time to get back to the server and return. This is called a ‘ping’. Generally, you can play pleasant games at about 50ms, and the higher the number, the lesser frequency of disconnection.
Because of the nature of VR games, players are scattered around the world rather than being concentrated in one area, so users who live far away from the main server are bound to have a high ping. So it’s important to make a game that works well even if the ping is high.
However, as a result of the test, the Strikers was hard to play normally in environments where ping is over 100ms. We tried hard to solve the problem for the next two weeks, but failed.
After a number of discussions, we decided to change the direction of the project, not the development, and changed the plan to use the hook gun instead of a regular gun.
4. Speedball Arena
After changing of the plan to use a hook gun instead of a regular gun, we found that it was well played even in environments with high latency. The feedback from the team and the company was much better, saying it was more engaging than the previous version.
Over the next three months, we constantly refined the game, applied art and effects and added necessary features to Speedball Arena.
And finally it was released!! As soon as the launch, Speedball Arena went on to #1 from Steam top seller, followed by positive streamer reviews and articles. Furthermore, Speedball Arena entered in VR Junkies, one of the major VR arcades in North America.
This was the story of how Speedball Arena came to be. Did you find it interesting?
In the next post, we will find out what kind of team & development culture the developers created to make Speedball Arena.