VR Master League Onward teams Loyal Dogs and Phantoms recently introduced virtual reality to visitors of NiceOne Barcelona through the most effective means – putting people in headsets for firsthand VR experiences. The small group of volunteers met at the videogame fair and introduced over 1,000 visitors to virtual reality and VR esports over a four day period at their small exhibit.
The game featured at the Barcelona event was Onward, a first-person shooter built from the ground up by Dante Buckley. One of the most popular competitive VR games on the market, Onward is now managed by Downpour Interactive and has been featured in the VR Master League since 2017. Onward has also been featured in seasons 2 and 3 of the VR League, which is sponsored by Oculus and ESL.
When people see Onward – and other VR games – on a flat 2D screen, it’s difficult for them to envision the immersive 3D environment they’ll experience once they put on the headset. Virtual reality enthusiasts have advocated community-based events for quite a while and now in some cases they’re taking it upon themselves to encourage or help organize such events.
Donell Perez, CEO of Loyal Dogs, has been working faithfully to introduce virtual reality to residents of the Canary Islands, where his VR esports team is based. In addition to encouraging the development of other teams in the region, he is passionate about education and training.
“At NiceOne Barcelona we have enjoyed being able to teach visitors about Onward, the VRML and the community that supports them,” he states, adding that “we also realize that there is a need to show more people about what we do.”
While many people are readily adopting VR technology, player retention rates are higher when people are involved in VR communities and competitive leagues. Since they’re more likely to become involved when they’re introduced to actual community members, events featuring community volunteers are important for the ecosystem overall.
Recently Oculus and ESL have increased recognition of the advantages of community involvement. Last month Oculus sponsored an ESL event at DreamHack in Atlanta, where community volunteers from the VR Master League and the Collegiate VR Esports League introduced people to Onward, Ready At Dawn’s Echo Arena and Echo Combat, Phaser Lock Interactive’s Final Assault, Beat Games’ Beat Saber, and Cloudhead Games’ Pistol Whip. There were hundreds of people introduced to the games during the three-day event and it was a first time experience for many of them.
Both the DreamHack and Barcelona events were run by veteran community members who helped set up the computers and headsets, played against each other in brief show matches, and introduced visitors to the games.
Show matches were played at the beginning of the day to draw people to the exhibit and then at the end of the day as a way to close the exhibit. Some of the closing matches were played with various professional teams and influencers from a traditional gaming who are becoming interested in the new medium.
“After showing VR to more than 1000 attendees and enjoying their reaction, I can only say that VR is going to be the next step in gaming and social technologies,” says Adrian Losada, also known as Nucklear, captain of Phantoms, another Canary Island VR esports team.
“Everyone loved the game and the experience,” he continues, “and many of them left the exhibit wanting to get a headset.”
Since some people have misconceptions about virtual reality, allowing them to actually try it helps them to understand how it works and how it will feel to them.
“None of the attendees suffered any kind of motion sickness,” Losada points out, adding that everyone also seemed to enjoy “the 30 minutes of smooth locomotion gameplay.” He says this is an important fact because people need to see how easy it is to play the games and how much fun it is.
“I expect to participate in or host more events like this in the future with more support,” he adds, “as I truly think that is the way to go.”
Although community volunteers eagerly look forward to more support from industry backers, they currently sustain activities through various donations to their community-building efforts.
Oculus has been supportive of community activities and while they didn’t officially sponsor it, they did loan and ship the Oculus Rift S headsets that were used at NiceOne Barcelona.
Other sponsorship came from ProTube VR, who provided gun stocks, as well as the VR Master League, who helped cover some of the expenses.
Virtual Area, a VR center in Sabadell, Spain, contributed computers and assistance at in Barcelona.
Support will inevitably continue to increase as companies see a return on their investment.
The VR Master League, which was started in 2017 by DaKinMan as a community-driven platform, has increased by several hundred members in the past few weeks alone, since the community event in Atlanta. This is just one indicator of growth that can be at least partially attributed to recent community-building efforts. Hopefully the activities of dedicated community volunteers will continue to attract people to the numerous options they have in virtual reality, from social worlds to competitive leagues.