Get the inside story of the incredible virtual reality world being powered by the Project Morpheus headset – and the innovative team at London Studios.
E3 2014 has been packed with PlayStation innovations – and one thing on everyone's lips has been Project Morpheus, the prototype virtual reality headset that's unleashing even more PlayStation 4 power.
Leading the charge into the virtual world are London Studios, developers of two jaw-dropping demos that are being shown off to the world at E3: perilous under-sea expedition The Deep, and white-knuckle downhill racer Street Luge.
We caught up with London Studios' head honcho Dave Ranyard to talk about how the future's taking shape before our very eyes...
How long have you – and London Studios – been involved with Project Morpheus?
I think E3 2014 makes it just over a year that we've been working with the prototype kits and trying out some demos - we've already learned so much in that time.
London Studios has a history of working with the PlayStation Eye camera and augmented reality games – is there a lot of cross over between that and virtual reality?
We've found a lot of similarities in how we deal with a real person in the game space; the Morpheus kit uses the PlayStation Camera to track movements, which we were doing in a much more basic, 2D way in our first camera game which was EyeToy Play on PlayStation 2.
We're used to thinking about games that don't necessarily use a controller for input or a traditional screen for output – so I think that camera tech expertise has definitely helped.
It's almost the case at London Studios that if there are wires still hanging out of something and it's in an early prototype state, then we want to get in there and work on it. It's in our DNA to want to do that. First and foremost we look at how we can create new experiences – once we've nailed that, we'll see where we can take it.
Can you explain a little of the technology behind Project Morpheus – what's going on inside the headset?
The image is sent from the PS4 system down a HDMI cable into the headset, and a pair of optics in front of your eyes bends the image to create the realistic 3D version of what's happening on-screen.
The stars have aligned in terms of what technology is available; better quality screens and the power of PS4 gives us the high frame rate, low latency and ability to track movement that virtual reality needs to work. If the frame rate was lower, it's not quick enough for your brain. And of course, when you move your head, you want the image to move at the same speed so you really feel you're inside the game.
It must be exciting to show your innovations to the world on the E3 stage – does this feel like the start of something big?
Something like The Deep isn't just a tech demo that shows off how many pixels we can use – it's a real experience and a chance to show how we can create a world within the headset. Once people have tried a quality VR experience they really start believing in where we can take this thing.
What's the most amazing thing you've seen with Project Morpheus? What's really blown you away?
I have to be honest, it's been The Deep. I've never been that close to a shark, let alone have one try to attack me, but I know what it feels like now!
What sort of controller inputs have you been using for these demos – the DUALSHOCK 4?
We've been working on a demo called Street Luge; a street luge is basically a giant skateboard that you lie down on and travel downhill. In the real world, you'd shift your body weight to control the luge and within Project Morpheus, you use your head movements to steer.
Street Luge is set in California, on steep country roads, and you weave in and out of traffic on your way downhill. It's a pretty intense two minutes! But it's pure Morpheus controls, so again we're trying to create a unique experience by taking the controller away and seeing what we can do.
Project Morpheus is named after the Greek god of dreams – what would be your dream game to bring into the virtual reality world?
We've always been heavily into the social side of gaming with titles like SingStar and EyeToy, and then there's Project Morpheus; I think there's a myth that virtual reality is a very solo experience.
When we got involved, the penny dropped that it can actually be very social; with the headset and another screen in the room, or even an app or a tablet, other people can take part and help – or hinder –whatever the player's doing inside the virtual world. And it unlocked a lot of potential – so my dream game would be to do something innovative and really social and fun at the same time.