I ran into Dylan Cuthbert as he was taking pictures of players enjoying Dead Hungry, the new burger making game that his studio, Q Games, was showing for the first time. He was pleased by its popularity, telling me, "The line at one point was around two hours long."
Yes, VR was one of the main attractions at BitSummit, just as it has been everywhere else. You can shrug off the unrelenting hype, but you can't deny its ability to draw a crowd, and that's as true for Japan as anywhere else. Everywhere you saw Japanese gamers carefully applying sanitary paper facemasks before pulling on the HTC Vive and plunging into one of the VR worlds on display.
Both Q Games and Vitei, which was started by Cuthbert's friend Giles Goddard, had VR demos on display. Like most VR games, they weren't much more than proofs of concept, with Dead Hungry rising out of a game jam. Cuthbert seems to still be figuring what to do with it, telling me that they were "still deciding" when I asked if it had a release date.
Regardless of what it ultimately becomes, it's tough to deny its appeal. The basic idea is that you are serving burgers for hungry zombies, who are lurking just outside your hamburger stand. Standing behind the counter, you have to quickly cook the burger, put it on the bun, add a tomato, and hand it off the ravenous zombies. Then you do it all again.
It works for a number of reasons. First, it's frantic, as you have a limited amount of time to get the burgers to your undead customers. Second, it requires you to manipulate the objects in a way that feels relatively natural by building the burger and handing it to the zombies. Third, the fact that you are behind a booth means that you can stay in one place, which keeps you from getting motion sick. It was a hit with the crowd at BitSummit, drawing big crowds throughout the weekend.
Dead Hungry was joined by Vitei's Powder - a VR skiing game that does a good job of capturing the rush of speeding down a mountain. When I tipped down the hill for the first time, I felt my stomach drop like in real life, and it was exhilirating to take a mogul and zoom through the air. This game is a natural fit for Vitei. After all, as Cuthbert pointed out, Goddard originally worked on 1080 Snowboarding - one of the original snowboarding games for the Nintendo 64.
Other VR games dotted the floor. I was amused, for instance, to see a game in which you back and forth on what looks like a high-tech mechanical bull in a first-person dragon-riding game. The feeling is actually pretty amazing, but it looks undeniably silly when viewed from a distance. There was also a cycling game nearby, which I imagine will be the standard at places like the YMCA (at least, I hope so).
Outside the show, VR was as always the hot topic. Go to any game developer gathering and you're pretty much guaranteed to be asked what you think of VR before you finish your first drink. For developers with a technical and creative streak like Cuthbert, it's an exciting new canvas for them to experiment with. True, not many of them have produced full-blown games - as I said, Dead Hungry is basically tech demo - but those will come with time.
For now, the proof is in the excitement that VR generates at every single event. From Europe to Japan, VR is fast becoming ubiquitous. This is just another prelude to what will almost certainly be a massive holiday season for what is, whether you like it or not, the hottest trend in tech.