Making sure your game passes submission requirements on any store can be an ordeal, but it's even more critical for VR content, which has more technical constraints. During GDC week, Facebook held a Game Developers Showcase and shared best practices for releasing a VR game on Oculus.
Hosted by store operations manager Richard Duck, the presentation focused on the crucial moment between the end of development and launch. That's when you'll have to check that your game complies with Oculus' technical and content guidelines. While this advice is focused on Facebook's VR ecosystem, most of it can apply to any platform.
And don't forget that if you need advice on developing a VR game, you can also read our GamesIndustry.biz Academy guide to making games for virtual reality.
1. Be thorough with your testing
The most important thing to do before submitting your game is making sure you've tested it as extensively as possible.
"The earlier you include testing in your application and assets, the sooner we can prepare you for launch," Duck said. "It's important to remember that all customers want a consistent experience, but this doesn't just help them, it helps you. Testing early and often -- not just your title but your metadata -- can save you time and help propel your launch to success a lot faster."
VR developers should aim to launch their games on as many platforms as possible since the market is still niche. That means testing should be thorough on each ecosystem. And in addition to that, you need to test the game on the right hardware.
"This may feel like a moving target, but it's important to have your application run on as much hardware as possible," Duck continued. "By verifying that your application is performant on minimum spec hardware, you save time during the technical review process and are one step closer to launching your application.
"You may find that your machine will run your application with no issue, but another computer might not. It's important to test, test, test."
2. Perform virtual reality checks (VRC)
Duck highlighted the multiple facets of VR software that need to be checked in order to be allowed to launch on the Oculus store. You can find more details for each of the following categories on this page for the Rift and on this page for the Quest.
- Assets: are you following Oculus' assets guidelines?
- Audio: does your application target the right hardware?
- Compatibility: are you using the right SDK? The right version of Unity? The right version of Unreal?
- Functionality: does the game have all the functional requirements? Can it run? Does it support HMD tracking and orientation?
- Input: does it support all of the right inputs? Does it pause when the Oculus dashboard is open?
- Security: have you done entitlement checks? Is your app free from debug files?
- Performance: does your application meet all the performance requirements, for instance displaying graphics in the headset at 90 frames-per-second for Rift?
- Tracking: does your metadata match the different possible play modes, such as sitting and room-scale setup?
The VRC Validator runs automated tests on most of the points mentioned above to facilitate the technical review process.
"This is an abbreviated list, but you'll find that a lot of these can be resolved by following the test plans we provide on the developer site," Duck said. "[The VRC Validator] tool is your friend, it'll help you find out if your application has any issues before submitting it to us. Again, this will save you a lot of time ahead of submission."
If you don't have live testers available, you'll find the Oculus debug tool very useful at this stage. It lets you view performance or debugging information within your game.
"Just like the VRC validator, [it] will save you time and help verify that your application is ready for submission," Duck said. "Keep in mind that you'll need to have the minimum spec hardware during development to ensure that your applications are meeting their performance goals. This tool is especially useful in my experience as you can track with extreme accuracy when your application may have performance issues."
3. Look out for the most common failures
There are three common PC failures that leads to apps being rejected on the Oculus store:
- Entitlement checks
- Application pausing
"Please memorise these," Duck said. "By focusing your time on these three, you can reduce the number of VRC failures and the number of submissions before you launch your title. Each time you fail you need to spend development, creative and testing time before resubmission. By spending time trying to eliminate these top three issues, you're helping move your launch forward. You should be creative -- an entitlement check doesn't have to be boring."
An entitlement check verifies that the user is entitled to your app -- it is required when you sell on the Oculus Store. Duck gave an example of a creative entitlement check from Pistol Whip by developer Cloud Head Games (see right).
"This could have been just a dialogue box, yet it's engaging and a reminder for the user that's in line with the theme of the game."
4. Make sure your content meets Oculus' expectations
Once you've passed the technical requirements, you need to make sure the content you're submitting complies with Oculus' policy. You can find content guidelines on this page. Oculus' content review also evaluates how polished your game is, as well as its value and completeness.
"Please submit complete apps," Duck said. "Applications that are not complete or functional but can still pass technical review will not pass content review. We'll review your assets, your metadata, the application itself, and so much more. So in order to save time, send in your application when it's fully ready to be reviewed by our team."
As mentioned earlier, there are assets guidelines to follow too. That means banners, logos, screenshots and trailers, among others, all need to comply with certain rules. Beyond these requirements, there's also some common sense practices to follow.
"You'll want to come up with something compelling and interesting for your assets," Duck said. "This example (see above) technically passes the requirements for hero art [the main asset on the product page]. But what does the art say about the game? Is it clear to the consumer what title they're about to purchase? It's unclear. You can be extremely creative with your art while following our guidelines. Take the time to test your assets. It's important to get feedback early and often from testers and your potential customers."
It all comes down to reading and following the guidelines available on Oculus' website. The company's developer website is full of resources, including this article on the lifecycle of an Oculus app that will give you a good overview of what the process is like.
"Follow the guidelines -- I cannot say that enough," Duck concluded. "We do review all of your metadata. By sticking to the guidelines, you can prevent failures that aren't caused by anything technical and can most likely be resolved well before submission.
"We will communicate with you when your application passes all of the review cycles. From here, we work with you on the launch date, categorisation and more. And if you have any questions, please don't hesitate to email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We're always here to help."