Animex 2016: Christine Phelan on Valve’s VR Development

Christine Phelan outlined Valve’s VR development process in the final talk of Animex 2016.


Valve’s headset of choice is the HTC Vive and most of Phelan’s talk was built around a 3D version of the DOTA 2 Secret Shop. On top of the visual aspects, the addition of Playstation Move controllers mean players can actually interact with the environments they find themselves in and the characters they encounter; such as when the Secret Shopkeeper hands them an orb.


Phelan outlined how human instinct can be a useful tool when designing environments:

“There’s a table that’s between me and the Secret Shopkeeper. This is an entirely digital table whose space I can walk right through but I’ve never seen anybody do it. I have seen people try to crawl under it. This is your brain responding to something it knows and has experience with. Generally people are respectful of objects and barriers they can understand and do not try and get into fistfights with physics. It’s so simple yet incredibly effective in showing players where they can and can’t go.”


Some issues have cropped up. A section was added to the Secret Shop demo where the player shrinks down and is attacked by a spider. A tester wasn’t informed of this and turned out to be quite arachnophobic. When the tester was then confronted by a spider “the size of a large dog” he had no way of dealing with it and ended up quite stressed as a result.
“It’s important to remember players are enclosed in your world. While this can be really effective for storytelling, emotion and in general an amazing experience it can also be stressful.”


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