The Playroom VR: How Japan Studio Made the First VR “Sofa Multiplayer” Experience

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The Playroom VR: How Japan Studio Made the First VR “Sofa Multiplayer” Experience

Hello everyone. I’m Nicolas Doucet, creative director and producer of The Playroom VR, the first virtual reality title coming out from Japan Studio Asobi! Team.

As you may know, The Playroom VR will be available at launch on October 13 as a free download for all PS VR users. It’s our way to say a huge thank you for your purchase as we embark on a new era of video game history!

The Playroom contains six unique virtual reality games designed to be enjoyed by friends and families. The particularity of our title is that it mixes VR play with classic TV play to become the first ever sofa multiplayer experience released on VR. Let me tell you about the origins of the project and how we challenged the image of VR being a solitary experience.

As our team started researching new technologies and VR, we had a strong desire to keep a social dimension. At first, this felt like an impossible task, as VR is typically a solitary experience where the player is immersed in amazing worlds, cut off from the rest of the house.

However, what makes us different is that PS VR sits in the living room, and we know that all PS4 systems have a television screen nearby as well. If only those TV screens could also be used in conjunction with VR, perhaps new avenues would open up?

So we set ourselves a goal: to offer an inclusive VR experience where friends and families would be shouting and laughing together in the same room. That image of social play became one of four key values of our team, and was even illustrated onto one of our office walls, as a reminder of what we stand for.

We scratched our heads and came up with an idea. We used one of our PlayStation Vita development kits and connected it to the PS4 system via Remote Play. Then, inside the same game, we sent one image to the PS VR headset and a totally different view to PS Vita. We then plugged our PS Vita to a TV, and voila!

The next step was to create a simple head model and match its movement to the VR player’s head movement. We could now “see” the VR player on the TV as if it was a mirror. It was an instant win. Being able to see the VR player’s head moving, looking around, nodding and hiding behind a pillar was a lot of fun. So we then added small characters controllable on the TV using a Dualshock 4 wireless controller and we had a full-on five player prototype! The feeling of togetherness instantly made the whole thing gel as one: from that point, we knew we had something unique worth digging into.

Following this, we were able to try lots of new ideas that mixed VR and TV screens. The first was competitive games called Monster Escape where the VR player becomes a huge monster destroying a city with his head. On the TV screen, players using the Dualshock 4 wireless controller have to run away and eventually fight back in an epic battle.

In another game called Cat and Mouse, the VR player becomes a cartoon cat hiding behind curtains and must catch the VR players (mice) by surprise as they run around the kitchen, stealing cheese. It’s a frantic game that quickly turns into a battle of nerves.

We also tried cooperative games where the TV and the VR views become complementary, making all players in the room cooperate towards a single goal. That’s how Ghost House was born. The VR player enters a haunted house and must rely on the TV player to tell him where to shoot to catch the ghosts.

At last we had five people on a sofa shouting and laughing, something that felt like a distant dream only a few weeks before. All we had left to do was to show these prototypes to the rest of the company and the feature of a separate screen became a reality for PS VR.

So what do you think of mixing VR and traditional TV screen? Do you have any ideas for games? Please let us know in the comments below and see you soon for some more behind-the-scene stories of The Playroom VR!

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17 Comments

  • These look awesome! That bomb disarming game would be awesome in this format, where only the one using VR can see the bomb and perform actions while the other plays have different manuals to look through as he describes what he is seeing. Also a maze/puzzle based game where the other players are in the maze but the VR user is located above them such that he is barking directions at each of them. Maybe one play needs to be pull a timed lever so that another play can gain passage to an area that isn’t visible to them. The setting could be like Portal except the VR user it performing the experiments!

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  • I think this is great. Watched footage of the Godzilla like game and I was losing my mind laughing at how you changed the voice of the player controlling the dragon. Looking forward to more of this.

    The Ghostbusters-like games looks really fun as well.

  • Are you guy’s selling the bot’s? Because I would love one!

  • OH! Or a cooking/restaurant game (looking at you Over Cooked!) but the VR user is like a waiter who takes and delivers orders while the others cook the meals. So that he has to tell them the order and remember which customer ordered what.

  • I watched some footage from PlayStation access. Let me tell you it had me rolling. I laughed like a child! Looks like fun.

  • Please tell me there’s somewhere I can buy one of those Playroom Robot plush toys? I would pay good money for one of those!

  • 17 days left, I have my move controllers, I have my camera, I just need my PSVR.

  • I’m very grateful you guys made this because it’s become more and more rare to see local co-op in anything, much less the newer more innovative stuff. Knowing there’s some great content for my kids and their friends that they can all share makes this an even easier purchase for me.

  • “We then plugged our PS Vita to a TV, and voila!”

    I would really like to know how they managed to do this.

    • Vita devkits have HDMI-out ports. I’ve heard this from multiple people in the gaming news industry, and from several developer interviews.

  • Maybe some asymmetrical gameplay design from Nintendo wii u games can be adopted for future Dlc?

  • Where possible, can we have the PSVR user controlling action via the headset only, or using move controllers?

    If you can keep the DS4’s free for the “social screen” players, you can have larger groups playing (n+1, where n = number of DS4’s in household!)

    Oh, and sell those playroom bot plushies – we need those!

  • Man! I like the PS Vita Remote play idea. All three devices playing together. So, does it run pretty well with one on VR and one using remote play? Sadly, I’ve never gotten to see remote play run very well. I’m not sure what I’ve been doing wrong. I’m looking forward to VR and what developers are creating for it.

  • I bought everything Move and got about 2-3 games. I am waiting to see how Sony supports VR before investing any money. Show me you are committed to VR and you might have me. Show me its going to flame out without developer support – not so much.

  • Looks cool. Sony has a chance to do something really amazing, between VR, Vita & PS4.
    A ghostbuster esque game would be fun. Person in VR as a giant monster rampaging the City in 1st person.
    People on PS4 controllers (or Vita) could be the busters. Also vita users could scout the city using the cameras in the city to find the Ghost/Monster.

  • Man I love PlayRoom on PS4. Did everything in it [best one is the Ninja one!]

    Shame PS VR is so expensive in Canada, otherwise I’d be on board. Oh well.

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