Poker VR, our boldest Social VR product yet, is now live!

Poker VR is more than an update to Casino VR Poker; it is technically a completely new game that has been almost a year in the making. (tl:dr at the end).

We first launched Casino VR Poker in May, 2016. Since then, Casino VR Poker has gone on to become one of the most engaging and highest grossing free-to-play and social apps on Mobile VR! Casino VR Poker showed us that VR is working and it answered some of our critical assumptions about the medium. The crux of this was that VR is already way more engaging than other platforms, and that Social VR is the most powerful social medium ever created. More than that, Casino VR Poker enabled us to understand Social VR better. The result of which is our sequel, Poker VR! Poker VR is built and designed around those findings. Poker VR is us doubling down, confetti guns blazing.

Poker VR is available now on Samsung Gear VR and is coming soon to the Oculus Rift and launching with Oculus GO!

Poker VR is also not just a game — it represents our vision of how Poker should evolve in VR, how VR UX should move forward, and how Mobile VR is much more powerful and immersive than people realize. Poker VR also represents our continued focus and commitment to making Poker in VR the best social experience anyone can have.

There are three aspects we tried to focus on with this new product, focus on you, on your social experience, and your journey as a player.

Here is what that means and what’s new:

Focus on you — Personal Identity

1.In Poker VR, your avatars mimic your mouth movements and extrapolate other interactions!

The first time you see your avatar in VR remains one of the most magical moments of the medium. Your avatar is your identity; it represents your personality, and to a certain extent, your views. If VR is so immersive, there shouldn’t be any compromise on that personal identity. We always believed that avatars in VR should be able to look human. Human doesn’t mean that it looks like you or is realistic, it means that the avatar should operate largely as a human. With this belief in mind, we reinvented our avatars and pushed for functional realism while toning down visual realism.

In VR, it is becoming a given that the characters should be abstract so our brain doesn’t try to find reality. If the brain tries to look for something real, it becomes really picky and even minute abnormalities become very pronounced. This is called falling into the uncanny valley and it’s very real. In order to steer clear of this valley, a lot of experiences in VR focus on complete abstraction of avatars, from 2D-drawn mouths and eyes to randomized 3D mouth movements. The uncanny valley falls on a spectrum and even though it’s tricky, Social VR startups shouldn’t be afraid to try to make avatars more human. This is the reason our avatars are cartoonized but still retain most of the broader facial features as us, humans. They blink, talk and look more like humans. Pushing for this kind of realism is no easy task and it becomes increasingly difficult on Mobile VR headsets. However, we feel that this is the essence of Social VR and we pushed ourselves to not compromise on it. These facial expressions are not just there for you but everyone you interact with. Social presence in Poker VR was never higher.

2. In Poker VR, there are now over 100 million unique wardrobe combinations possible!

Apart from operating as a human, your avatar should be able to represent you, your identity and your personality. Be yourself or be whoever you want to be, it’s all there. This is just the beginning, we will be adding more selections to your wardrobe, and our goal is to get to a billion unique combinations.

Focus on you — your pace

3. Poker VR introduces onboarding and tutorials that are tied to the progression system!

One thing we learned through Casino VR Poker is that product or game design needs to be adaptable to the person playing it. Think about it, a VR scene is a lot to take in, you are all of a sudden spatially aware of your environment, everything you see is information to take in. A Social VR application or game has a lot of features to offer and in order to educate everyone about those features, many applications elect letting users find stuff themselves. While this works for PC or Console based VR, where your first impulse is to pick up everything and try it out, this doesn’t work for Mobile VR. In order to let the user have agency but still make sure that any new user gets to learn about the different features, we tied the on-boarding to the progression system. There are in total 12 different aspects of the game that a user should know about, the most important are taught in the very beginning (like how to call, bet or fold), whereas everything else is slightly introduced after each level up. This continues on for the first 5 levels. Whenever you level up, the game tries to introduce a new feature, if you are not interested in it, the pop up will quickly go away. Our aim is to make a user aware that there is something new that they might be interested in but never force anything.

4. Poker VR introduces progression system (levels), there are 50 levels and 50 distinct trophies to get!

While onboarding is an integral part of a user’s experience, gamification or progressions is the biggest one. Poker VR introduces a progression system or levels that are built through our understanding of user behavior in VR. Essentially what this means is that every level up is fine-tuned by looking at our data. Levels are optimized for the average 1st, 2nd, 3rd…. 50th session.

To level up, you have to gain XP points. Every level represents 100 XP points but as you level up, each XP point becomes more challenging to get. Progression in Poker VR is engineered for both new and power users alike. There is always something new to achieve or become better at. Every new level gives you free gold bars and a trophy to show off at the poker table. Social or competitive achievements mean so much more in VR, as you get immersed in a virtual world you interact with that world on a higher level than you do to with app on your phone. So, if you are achieving something big, there is no reason why that achievement shouldn’t become a prominent part of your identity. This is why, every trophy you unlock is automatically displayed in front of your position in VR.

Focus on your social experience — your expressions

5. Now you can gift actionable items to anyone at the poker table!

Poker is inherently a very social experience. One second you might be ecstatic after winning a big hand, another second you might be pissed because the other person is taking too long to do an action. We are introducing gifts to reflect these highs and lows in the game. Gifts are another way to express yourself but they are not just mere badges, gifts like trophies are a prominent part of your table and come to life in the beginning. There is a backstory, a personality trait behind every gift. This is just the beginning, there will be many more gifts to come later.

Focus on your social experience — your voice

6. Your voice in the game is now clearer and more immersive than ever!

VoIP or voice chat is the only intuitive way to communicate in VR. Emotes or text is just cumbersome and is sometimes immersion breaking. If the face of the person you are talking to contorts, the first thing you think is that I am not talking to a real person. While you are at a table in Poker VR, you will be able to talk to everyone and your avatar’s mouth movement will exactly mimic what you are saying. This is truly the magic moment of our game, the first time you hear someone and look at their avatar. To encourage social interactions, your mic is automatically turned on when you enter a table but can be turned off whenever you want. Your voice is now clearer, and more immersive than ever!

Focus on your social experience — your friends

7. Your old and new friends are much easier to access and maintain. Now, you can directly join or invite friends to a poker game no matter if they are online of offline.

Poker VR is finally introducing a friends system. While not all our real life friends have a VR headset (yet), we are making new friends everyday in VR. Social VR is very powerful and we believe in facilitating these new friendships as much as possible. There is a lot of stuff happening under the hood in Poker VR to do just that.

Whenever you open your friends section in Poker VR, there are two lists available: Friends and Recently Met.

Friends lists all your poker vr and oculus friends, here you can view what your friends are upto, which level are they on and join them directly if they are playing at a poker table.

Recently met lists all the players that you recently played with. Here you can add them as friends if you missed the opportunity earlier and also join them at their table if they are playing. Recently met is an amazing feature developed by Oculus and we are proud to be working with them in developing this into a prominent feature for all VR users.

This is not it, when you are at a poker table, you can invite your friends to play with you. If they are online, they will get a pop up notification, if they are offline, they will get a push notification. Clicking on the notification will directly push them to your table doesn’t matter where they are coming from! We believe that this seamless integration is an important of making VR frictionless and social.

Focus on your social experience — your competitive drive

8. Now you compete directly with friends with a dedicated leader-board that dynamically tracks your rank.

In Poker VR, now you compete directly with your friends. The friends leaderboard is the main area where you see how you are performing against your friends. Every leaderboard now shows your relative position, how many chips do you need to jump one more level and who is the user that holds a position higher than you.

9. Tournaments are also getting a revamp and are built to scale

Poker VR is also introducing bigger and better tournaments. It’s now much easier to check out upcoming events and sign up to the ones you are interested. Once signed up, we will take care of reminding you about the event no matter whether you are in VR, offline or in Poker VR. All tournament tables are now also accessable from a single place. If you win a tournament, you get a cool crown and a very prominent place in the leaderboards for everyone to see.

Tournaments are more competitive and serious than normal cash games, to better reflect this, the sound design adapts! The music changes to get your prepped up!

Focus on your journey — Navigation

10. Poker VR now has a holographic UI that can take you anywhere in the game!

Poker VR introduces a main holographic UI that can take you anywhere in the game! Apart from looking dope af, this holographic UI is the main navigation portal of the game. Poker is a seated experience, no one plays poker while standing up. Instead of making you move from one place to another, the holographic UI brings stuff to you. Open the trophies section and the trophy case comes up infront of you, open the wardrobe and the mirror does the same. At the table, this holographic UI can open up your gifts, friends, turn off your mic and much more! While this UI is the main navigational mechanism of the game, it is not the only way to access information. Clicking on the mirror for example also opens up the wardrobe.

11. Poker VR is also making all the poker tables more accessible than ever!

Now, any live table is just a click away. We overhauled our infrastructure to make this kind of navigation possible. Not just that, but now you can view who is playing at a poker table before joining and access other information about the table as well.

Focus on your journey — your controls

12. Poker VR uses the Gear VR controller to imitate your actual hand movements!

Virtual reality has too many controllers right now, there is the touchpad, gamepad and 3 DoF controller on Mobile VR headsets. PC or Console based VR has gamepad and 6 DoF controllers like the Oculus Touch or Vive Wands. Honestly, its a pain developing a cross platform app that not only can use all these different kind of controllers but also portray their use to everyone in a social environment.

This is our boldest assumption with Poker VR but we believe that 3 DoF controllers can be improved a lot and even though they can never induce actual hand presence like 6 DoF controllers do, they can come close. In Poker VR, you literally move your hand towards the chips to raise your bet size! The hand also becomes a pointer to look at information around you, for example the pot size, someones’ level at the table etc.

We highly recommend to try the game with the Gear VR controller, however the same ease of use of gaze is also there. Everything in the game can also be accessed by just looking and tapping.

What’s ahead

I wrote a bit earlier that VR needs experimentation to progress. There is still a lot of stuff to be figured out and the last thing VR developers should do is adhere to a pseudo standard. If anything, Poker VR represents that passion for experimentation. As with any experiment, we can’t say for sure that this is it or that this is the way to do stuff in VR. What we can say for sure is that this is our vision of how Social VR should progress on Mobile VR headsets. This vision is based on our data and some hardcore assumptions about game design. Poker VR is also not a one time update, this is just the beginning. Expect Poker VR to improve every month from now on. Poker VR will also come soon to Rift with native touch support and will launch with Oculus Go. Every version we launch will be cross platform also.

All of us at Mega Particle had a lot of fun building this for you and we cant wait to hear your thoughts!

Best,
Everyone @ Mega Particle!

Poker VR is just starting, help us improve it

Join the Poker VR community discord to give feedback and suggestions. Discord is also great for keeping in touch with people you meet in Poker VR, take part in exclusive quests and if you are pro enough, be able to host your own events and tournaments!

What is Poker VR?

Poker VR is a free to play multiplayer poker game available on Samsung Gear VR and coming soon to Oculus Go and Rift. If you enjoy real life poker, Poker VR is the closest thing to that awesome experience.

TL:DR
Here’s whats new in Poker VR:

  • In Poker VR, your avatars mimic your mouth movements and extrapolate other interactions!
  • In Poker VR, there are now over 100 million unique wardrobe combinations possible!
  • Poker VR introduces onboarding and tutorials that are tied to the progression system!
  • Poker VR introduces progression system (levels), there are 50 levels and 50 distinct trophies to get!
  • Now you can gift actionable items to anyone at the poker table!
  • Your voice in the game is now clearer and more immersive than ever!
  • Your old and new friends are much easier to access and maintain. Now, you can directly join or invite friends to a poker game no matter if they are online of offline.
  • Now you compete directly with friends with a dedicated leader-board that dynamically tracks your rank.
  • Tournaments are also getting a revamp and are built to scale
  • Poker VR now has a holographic UI that can take you anywhere in the game!
  • Poker VR is also making all the poker tables more accessible than ever!
  • Poker VR uses the Gear VR controller to imitate your actual hand movements!