We interviewed Stewart Gilray from Just Add Water on developing Sniper Elite VR in partnership with Rebellion. Read on to learn more about this exciting new title and the challenges of VR development.
Tell me a little bit about yourself and what you do at Just Add Water?
My name is Stewart Gilray and I’m the CEO of JAW. I started the company back in 2006, but have been in the industry professionally since 1988, and have worked on over 70 releases in that time.
What are some of the challenges you faced developing Sniper Elite VR?
There are a lot of challenges in bringing a title like Sniper Elite into VR. Players are used to these large, free-flowing levels that look incredible. Making it look that good and keep up a reasonable frame rate is a challenge. If the frame rate drops in VR it’s more noticeable than on PC or consoles, and usually ends up with you feeling sick, so it’s important. Coming up with an AI to match player’s expectations has been a big task. Due to the change in the game and level structure, we couldn’t just take what had been done before, so matching behaviours, reactions and the various elements of making the enemy soldiers believable has been a biggie.
We also support a LOT of control systems for the various VR headsets. Making the game feel the same regardless of you using an AIM controller, VIVE wands, Oculus Touch or any of the others we support, plus left-handed support… yeah that’s a lot of configurations.
What are some of the things you are most proud of in Sniper Elite VR?
There is nothing quite like the feeling of watching people play this. Watching them wince if they get shot, watching them get grossed out with the bullet cam, watching them duck if a shot gets close to them and you can tell by the groans when someone has seen the Testicle shot bullet cam.
The level of the visuals is also something we are proud of. Sniper Elite VR looks REALLY good. We’ve had a lot of feedback, including certain game engine developers who were surprised at how close to the last Sniper Elite we had got.
What features are you excited for players to try?
While the Testicle shots are always fun, when players start to nail really long-range kills with a sniper rifle, we’re looking forward to hearing their stories. It’ll be interesting to see the reactions to the new story and how it is presented. It really is trying to do something different with that.
How did you translate the iconic Sniper Elite kill-cam for VR?
If we had just put in the kill-cam as it was in the previous Sniper Elite games, we would have been responsible for a lot of vomit appearing on carpets around the world. It was too jarring and too fast for a like-for-like VR representation. But the feature had to stay, it’s one of Sniper Elite’s many stand out moments. The, er, guts of the mechanic are still there, you will get to see various body parts and organs getting ripped apart by high velocity bullets. After trying out many different ways of doing it, what we have changed is the journey of the bullet itself to speed up the action and make it less nauseating.
How did it feel seeing the positive reactions at E3 about Sniper Elite VR?
We always knew we were creating something special, but to hear the reception from E3 really did elevate the team and give us that extra confidence in what we were doing. Then finding out we had received numerous “Best of E3” nominations and Gold Awards certainly put smiles on our faces, and an extra bounce in our strides! Getting such amazing confirmation of what we were doing was great and has given us the momentum to carry on evolving the game and giving fans of the series and new players alike the ultimate Sniper VR experience.
If you had to describe Sniper Elite VR in one sentence, what would it be?
“A brutally visceral depiction of being a Sniper during WWII. It’s Sniper Elite, in your face, literally”