X8 - VR Gaming Development, the Inception
X8 - VR Gaming Development, the Inception

I'm Adrian Teodorescu, Sound Engineer at Amber. My journey in game development began officially 18 years ago in 2005 when I first crossed paths with Mihai Pohontu, the current Chairman of Amber. However, my passion for gaming ignited much earlier, back in 1990 at the age of 9 when my mother took me to her workplace – a computer factory in my native Romania. It was there that I encountered the world of computers and, more importantly, video games. Growing up, I played on various platforms, and by chance, I also ventured into playing the cello, diving into the realm of music performance. Fast forward to 2005, and this is where my two passions converged.

My responsibilities span from crafting sounds to implementing them in our games, a job I find incredibly fulfilling, especially when working alongside the amazing colleagues here at Amber.

In 2021, Mihai was approached by Nogi (Thirdverse - CBO) for assistance in co-developing what eventually became our first VR project at Amber. I won't lie; I was apprehensive about delving into a medium that was entirely new to me. Fortunately, I thrive on challenges.

X8, our hero-based VR multiplayer shooter, melds elements and mechanics from Counterstrike with the Hero/Agent element of Overwatch/Valorant. Additionally, core VR mechanics were integrated for a "new and improved" factor, crucial for successful games:

Interactions - touch, grab, throw, catch.
Gestures - climbing and Global Virtual Reality Interactions (GVRI) replacing standard button presses with physical interactions.
The fusion of haptics, visuals, and SFX for heightened immersion.
Initially, our work on the project focused on SFX creation and implementation, mostly using blueprints, with occasional scripting needs. Over time, this expanded to include music and VO implementation.

We encountered numerous challenges:

  • Working solely with what Unreal provided, without an SDK, necessitated building everything we needed.
  • Creating believable ambient sounds led us to devise an actor for use within levels, adapting to various shapes (box, sphere, or capsule) that generated SFX around the player character during overlap events.
  • Addressing the spammable nature of VR interactions, particularly with the extrapolator (bomb), proved complex and exhilarating, involving intricate moving parts and interaction options, including pulling out the core for disarmament.
  • Crafting Gestures/Combination of haptics, visuals, and SFX presented its own fun, especially with the immersive ability wheel in-game.
  • However, the most challenging aspects were VO implementation and cross-discipline communication. Limited data providers for VO implementation made it difficult to meet every design need, emphasizing the importance of comprehensive systems before embarking on similar projects in the future. Clear communication between disciplines, especially in co-development teams, where cohesion might not be as strong as in teams with extensive project experience, should be prioritized early on.

This venture into VR marked a first for Amber, providing invaluable lessons about VR and its intricacies, lessons we will undoubtedly apply in future similar projects.