VDA Q&A: A Chair in a Room: Greenwater
You've been nominated for a Viveport Developer Award! How do you feel?
Ryan Bousfield, Director: It's amazing to be recognised for the hard work and to see that people are enjoying the experience.
Where did the idea for A Chair in a Room come from?
Initially it was just a way to make the most of the limitations of the early VR headsets - you couldn’t do anything but look around from a set position. So it made sense to put the player on 'A Chair in a Room' and bring the action to them. The advancements in VR, such as room-scale and tracked controllers, have meant that you can leave the chair behind and 'really' investigate the scene.
How many people worked on A Chair in a Room, and how long did it take to develop?
It was a solo effort, just me working away for 12 months - from the initial ideas and sketches to creating the artwork and gameplay right through to writing the code and even the music. Friends, family and other indies helped by sense checking, testing and generally being there to make sure I didn’t descend into madness.
Tell us something about A Chair in a Room that we wouldn’t know from just experiencing it on Viveport?
I've added a lot of references to film and literature. Some are pretty straightforward, such as your patient number is the same number given to Winston Smith in George Orwell’s 1984. Others are a bit more obscure, such as the painting of the Virgin Mary in the hotel is actually Mary Shelley, the author of Frankenstein.
During the development process, did anything surprise you along the way you didn’t expect?
Every playtest was like a psychological experiment. It’s easy to start categorising people - you have escapists who go wild and wreck the place while others would lay out the clues neatly on a table and instinctively tidy up after themselves.
What do you hope people take away from A Chair in a Room overall?
That there is more to VR horror than jump scares. Yes there’s the odd scene that will make you jump, but underpinning the whole thing is a gritty narrative and slightly surreal atmosphere.
Are you planning future updates and adding more features to A Chair in a Room? Or is there something new coming from the team?
We put out a free additional story over the summer but now the focus is on new ideas and stories. There was so much learnt from A Chair in a Room that I’m really looking forward to the next thing because I already know how to make it 10 times better.
What’s one piece of advice you’d give to other developers?
Create a prototype (whitebox version) within a set deadline. Just build the simplest version of the game out of primitive shapes such as cubes and get it into VR as soon as possible. I had a very blocky room-scale prototype for the Pelican Motel that resembled Dire Straits' Money for Nothing video from the 80s, but it allowed me to get the basics in there quickly and meant that I had a playable version of the level within days.
A Chair in a Room: Greenwater is available on Viveport.
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