REGINA — Regina tech firm Melcher Studios has created an immersive virtual reality hockey game that puts the user into the action on the ice.
The new VR title is unique due to its use of a real hockey stick in its gameplay.
The origin of Hockey VR started three years ago when Melcher Studios created a simple version of the game to entertain fans at a hockey game. It was then that Dwayne Melcher and the rest of his team knew they needed to expand on the idea.
“We said, ‘we should take this a step further’ and actually build out a more proper version of it,” he explained. “With full AI integration and peripheral development.”
The studio designed and fabricated the “RealStick Attachment” so that the Oculus Quest controller can be connected securely to a hockey stick. Inside the game, the stick is fully rendered. This process came with a few issues according to fabricator and software engineer Rene Dufour-Contreras.
“What we’re doing is taking Oculus controllers and we’re using them in a way that’s not how you’re supposed to be,” he said. “You can’t have the controller too far away or else Oculus says ‘no the arm shouldn’t be that long’, so there’s things like that where we just learned that ‘oh we can’t actually do it that way.’”
Eventually the challenges with the software were overcome. However, the team had to constantly check that the controls and physics of the game emulated real-life hockey as realistically as possible.
With something like this, we’re making sure the calibrations are correct, making sure that it feels real,” said Melcher. “We’re lucky enough that down below (the studio’s offices) actually is a hockey training facility, just by chance. They sent up some of their students at different times to test it out and give their feedback.”
The feedback from the students along with members of the team that are lifelong hockey players has allowed the game to feel extremely immersive and real.
Besides Hockey VR, Melcher explained that there are many applications for VR for use in training. The studio is currently working on a training program for firefighters that will allow trainees to wield a real fire extinguisher that’s outfitted with attachments similar to the RealStick.
“It feels very realistic and very natural,” he said. “And you feel like you’re in that surrounding of say an area that has started on fire, and now you have to put it out.”
As for the use of Hockey VR, Melchar said that the feedback online is immensely positive and people are using it for both training and fun alike.
“Some people are just using it for fun,” he said. “But we’ve actually had some parents get back to us, where they’ve downloaded it for their kids and their kids have actually used it to practice their training, practice their shooting, or even get a few more reps in the garage.”
Melcher and his team are happy about the good feedback, and plan to support the game with free updates to expand the game experience.
“In the next couple weeks, we’ll be releasing a one timer feature, kind of thing,” he said. “So, you can actually do one timer shots. And we have some other stuff planned as we go into Q1 of 2022.”
Hockey VR can be accessed and downloaded from Melcher Studios website