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Blood & Truth
Blood & Truth
Blood & Truth

Pushing the Boundaries of VR in Video Games

Sony London Studio's Blood & Truth was set to be a groundbreaking release: the first ever first-person shooter in VR. To meet the considerable challenges involved, they were seeking not only expert creative support but a partner with proven problem-solving abilities and a track-record of innovation, and Keywords studio SPOV fitted the bill perfectly.

Research and Concept Design

A striking, functional and character-driven UI design would be key to making Blood & Truth the immersive experience Sony needed it to be, and SPOV was tasked with delivering it. The design needed to be adaptable between 2D and 3D, and to feel not like a traditional HUD but an organic expression of the personality and experiences of protagonist Ryan Marks.

We were determined to make the player’s experience as authentic as possible, and our research began with a detailed look into real-world military iconography. We then generated key imagery for mood boards, combining a military design aesthetic and a range of other elements into a strong general concept.

 

floating graphic of a gun with labels

After generating various assets and design options for the UI, and bringing these to life through animation tests and further explorations, we placed them in the game’s Unreal engine for Sony’s team to experience. We also captured a 360° video of the environment with our assets included.

The designs were driven by the story and its main character. Sharp military shapes and degraded textbooks nodded to Marks’ Special Forces background, while hand-drawn scribbles gave expression to his spontaneous personality and ability to react under pressure – all helping the audience to relate while playing. The character’s voice was another key element, and we designed a UI/UX that allowed it to dictate the size of assets and their distance from the player as well as animation speeds and tone.

Mission failed you died

Challenges

We discovered early on that to produce functional and attractive designs we would need to build assets directly in VR using a range of sketching, simulation and preview software. Working this way came with its own challenges, but ultimately allowed us to optimise readability, accessibility, composition and colour design.

Another issue unique to VR content is the risk of motion sickness, and as a result we had to work within certain limitations not present when creating non-VR content. This meant thorough user-testing was vital, and that we had to create many assets as early prototypes to guarantee that they would function correctly in the game.

Perspective was also a challenge. In the game, the main character has no physical form other than a pair of hands at the bottom of the screen, so we needed to find ways to allow players to interact with items attached to their off-screen body. To do so, we used rendering software (3D Stroke) to test where assets felt comfortable around the body and where they caused the least amount of distraction for the player.

Drawing heavy weapons tutorial

Build & Implementation

With designs finalised and approved, it was time to build engine-ready assets. At this point we started working even more closely with Sony’s engineers to ensure that the textural authenticity of our designs was maintained. We also created the assets with multiple layers, meaning they could be spread out across unlimited z-space – the extra dimension added by VR – to really make use of this unique environment.

Once the finished assets were with Sony’s teams, we remained on-hand to provide technical support and creative direction so that our work could be seamlessly integrated with the game as a whole.

Packaging Art

Having been so involved in Blood & Truth’s aesthetic development, we were well placed to generate ideas for the packaging art as well as versions of the game’s logo in various languages. We contributed to Sony’s design process by combining our own research into classic film visuals with the unique assets we had created for the UI language. 

 

Character coming towards the player with directions on the screen on what to do
Packaging design
PS4 packaging

Conclusion

Blood & Truth was released in May 2019, making video game history by becoming the first ever VR title to top the UK’s all-format sales chart. It also went on to receive the Immersive Reality Technical Achievement prize at the 2020 D.I.C.E Awards, an accolade recognising ‘the highest level of technical achievement within an immersive reality experience through the combined attention to gameplay engineering and visual engineering.’
 

Pause menu
Controller tutorial frame
Holster your weapon tutorial
Difficulty menu
Symbol designs
Blood and Truth in Japanese

The Power of Partnership: Our Clients

Google
Microsoft
Apple
WB Games
Take 2 Interactive
Activision Blizzard
Nintendo
Playrix
Sony interactive entertainment
netmarble
Playtika
king
Perfect World
Sharkmob
NetEase Games
ncsoft
Square Enix
mixi
Ubisoft
Supercell
Nexon
Bandai Namco games
Konami
Tencent games
Riot Games
Electronic Arts
Cyber Agent