VR Impact on Development

Another interesting aspect of VR is how it impacts the development process and how you structure your workplace when building VR experiences. Valve’s normal “cabal” structure is pretty well documented elsewhere but we have had to adapt how we organize our desks for VR. It certainly helps that all of our desks are on wheels so we could just move things around to adapt.

The key thing for us is that its important for every developer to have a quick ability to stand up from their desk and try out the code they are writing. I should say that depending on the thing you are working on probably 50% of the time or more we just end up putting on a headset at our desks and trying things out there. But when working on things that are more about interactions its important to be able to stand up and move around a bit. We have structured areas so that we have a bunch (4-8) desks that surround a common area that can be used for this testing. So all the desks are around the outside and when you need to try something out you just stand up and use the space.

Depending on the group these spaces are different sizes- some of the people working on things that need more moving around have spaces that more closely approximate the maximum tracked area, but I rarely need that and am sitting with a few others in a smaller space. Each area has its own pair of base stations that we can all share but we each have our own HMD which I realize is a luxury that most developers don’t have yet (balanced by the fact that we have to try out new builds of stuff all the time to make sure it works before it gets to others). Right now because base stations can interfere with each other each area is curtained off from other areas. With the final product this shouldn’t be necessary since the sensors will be able to reject incorrect signals.

Of course with shared spaces its important to share- we can’t all be testing and bumping into each other at the same time. Also there is an important rule that the person with the HMD on their face has right of way. If you are moving through the area its your responsibility to avoid them since they can’t see you (for now).

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