Heroes of Newerth VR (Collaboration with Garena)

From 1-2 April, the top four Heroes of Newerth (HoN) teams from around the world descended on Bangkok for HoN World Tour 2017. The tournament was a part of Garena Star League (GSL) 2017, a huge multi-game e-sports event held by Garena, featuring other games such as Point Blank and League of Legends. While the rest of the world might have moved on from HoN to other MOBAs, it’s still the undisputed king in Thailand, and the fervour for it is as strong as ever.

As a part of the event, we collaborated with Garena to develop HoN VR, a virtual reality mini-game for fans of Heroes of Newerth at the event. In HoN VR, players wield a bow and arrow in virtual reality against waves of monsters and an enemy hero from the main game. Upon making it through the first stage, players will then go up against Kongor, a towering gorrilla-like monster that hurls boulders at the player. Despite only having three weeks to develop it, HoN VR was to be showcased at the HoN booth at GSL 2017. Having just returned from Bangkok last week, we thought it’d be fun to share the awesome experience we had there.

Before the event started, a couple of pro HoN players tried out HoN VR in the Garena offices. They put together a short video showcasing the game before the event to build some hype for it.

After arriving early on the first day of the event to set up, we awaited the throngs of fans that would flood the halls. Soon after, a line rapidly formed for HON VR, as Thai people were eager to try out virtual reality headsets which are still a rare sight in Thailand. After some growing pains with setting up our HTC Vive in an open area next to the stage with bright spotlights, we soon solved the technical issues and started running people through our booth at a steady pace.

And then the queue started growing…

While HoN VR was a relatively short game lasting just a few minutes per playthrough, the sheer number of fans wanting to interact with HoN characters in virtual reality resulted in a long snaking queue, the likes of which you’d find at DisneyLand or Universal Studios. By mid-day, fans were queuing from the edge of the hall (where the HoN booth was located) all the way to the center of the convention hall, with people waiting in line for well over an hour. It was a pretty incredible sight.

Once they finally reached the booth, many of them donned a VR headset for the first time in their lives. Despite the crowd’s inexperience with VR, almost everyone immediately grasped the controls and the gameplay. It was awesome to watch people pick up the controllers and instantly start having fun, shooting arrows at the creatures lumbering towards them, dodging attacks by dropping into a squat or leaping to the side. When monstrous wolves came running towards the player, many recoiled in fear and kept trying to back away from the non-existent threat. When fireballs and boulders came flying at the player, more than a few yelped in fear as they tried to avoid getting hit.

By mid-day, the queue was getting so long that the HTC booth got in on the action, repurposing some of their stations to run HoN VR instead. This included their main mixed-reality station in which they could superimpose players into the VR game on-screen.

On the second day of the event, half of the stations at the Vive booth had been repurposed to showcase HoN VR instead of other commercial games. Even the Intel booth got in on the action, with 2 out of their 3 Vive stations running HoN VR as well. In total, on the second day of the event, 7 out of the 11 Vive stations at the entire event were running HoN VR.

Over the two days, roughly 400-500 people played HoN VR. For many of whom, this was probably their first VR experience. It was awesome to be there personally to watch fans interact with and enjoy our game first-hand, something not many indie developers get to experience and relish in. It was a hectic three weeks to build a VR experience from scratch, but it was definitely worth it to be able to give so many gamers a unique experience in their favourite game and get them excited about VR in general. Watching hundreds of first-time VR users pick up and play the game with ease also reaffirmed our belief in the future of VR gaming, with people of all ages becoming completely immersed in the world of HoN VR. It was an amazing experience and we were glad to have the opportunity to work with Garena on this project.

Also, congrats to Fnatic for taking home the championship!

 

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