What We Learned Bringing Synth Riders to Apple Vision Pro

Synth Riders has come a long way – and to many platforms – since we initially launched on Steam VR and Meta Quest in 2019. Of course, we’ve added a lot of content in that time, but how was it developing a spatial experience for visionOS? What lessons did we learn along the way to release?

A few members from the team recently spoke with the Unity team and together we released a case study going into more detail here, but we simply had to share three key thoughts here.


1. Design a responsive UI

As our team began reworking the user interface (UI) for Apple Vision Pro, we quickly realized that Apple prescribed how to click on things and what a standard button should look like. Since eye-tracking data is not directly exposed to developers, we adapted and problem solved to create a working UI that played by all the rules.


2. Properly light up the levels

To create shaders and lighting, we took advantage of the Unity support for visionOS, including Unity PolySpatial. There are new nodes specifically crafted for visionOS especially helpful in the absence of lighting in the simulator, as well as a list of nodes that showed whether each was compatible with the platform. This proved beneficial when converting tangent spaces, managing reflection probes and view directions, and handling normal mapping.


3. Hands-on with hand tracking

With Apple Vision Pro, it was our first real foray into hand tracking. Although initially hesitant about the lack of haptics, the results were awesome. Typically, when you hold a controller, your hand ends at your wrist, but with hand tracking, your fingers become important and you can gesture and interact with the music in a different way. It brought a new dimension to the game.

Where we’d normally rely upon haptics in a controller to convey progress, we worked on audio reactive effects, lighting, and different particles that fostered the connection with the song based on action. The interaction with the rails is particularly important.



These are just three learnings from our time bringing Synth Riders to visionOS. There are many more insights to be picked up from the full report, so please do head over to Unity.com and grab the full case study.

Also, if you missed the roundtable we recently had, providing tips for creating premium graphics on Apple Vision Pro, head here.