I was one of many who got to experience GDC for the first time last week, and as many people noticed, there was an overwhelming demand for virtual reality, evident throughout the talks and the expo alike. VR is clearly making some kind of impact, and as someone who wants to develop for it, I figured a list of things I’ve seen being used in VR would be useful.
Locomotion’s been a huge problem in VR from what I’ve seen, just because it causes so many people to get sick from it. I’m generally someone who doesn’t experience nausea at all in VR, so it’s always interesting to me when my friends tell me about which experiences made them feel sick. At GDC and in the ETC, I’ve seen a number of ways people have handled VR to combat motion sickness.
“I Expect You To Die” by Schell Games
Staying Still: The most obvious solution games have found is to simply keep the camera still. This is a fairly logical move, and makes sense for puzzle games like I Expect You To Die or Floor Plan. A few shooter games also employ this, like EVE: Gunjack. This is especially helpful for games on devices such as the GearVR, which don’t have positional head tracking, which only increases the chance of nausea.
“Job Simulator” by Owlchemy Labs
Roomscale VR: The next most obvious solution would be to use the HTC Vive for its roomscale functionality. This allows players to move around in a space and interact with objects in this space, but players are still severely limited within the room.
“Smash Hit” by Mediocre
Constant Forward Movement: Moving at a constant velocity without introducing any rotation seems to do a fair job of preventing motion sickness. Games like Smash Hit and Super Hypercube take advantage of this.
“EVE: Valkyrie” by CCP Games
Moving Through Space: Games like EVE: Valkyrie do this, and I’m still unsure why the experience didn’t make me sick at all. Thinking back to BVW, my Round 5 team made a game called BUCKiT which used a moveable cockpit and an Oculus Rift DK2 headset. Like I mentioned earlier, I’m someone who seems to be extremely good in VR and doesn’t feel motion sickness at all generally. However, the one time I played our build without the cockpit and with just a joystick, I felt really dizzy within seconds of playing it, so I assumed that it was the fact I was staying still in reality while spinning around in a virtual space that was making me feel sick. However, I didn’t have that kind of reaction at all when playing Valkyrie, and my assumption is because the playing field is much, much larger in that game, so most things in the distance are moving very slowly and acting as a point of reference for me to stay grounded.
“Budget Cuts” by Neat Corporation
Flash Teleportation: Budget Cuts is an interesting stealth game that uses flash teleportation using technology similar to that of the Portal Gun in the Portal games. People don’t seem to feel any motion sickness at all when there is a lack of motion of snapping to different locations, as opposed to accelerating and decelerating in different directions.
Omnidirectional Treadmill: I had the opportunity to try out the Virtuix Omni at GDC, and has an overall underwhelming experience of omnidirectional treadmills. I can see them becoming more feasible in the future, but currently, they throw you around a lot and take some getting used to before they’re something I would willingly use to navigate around a field. On the bright side, I felt absolutely no hint of motion sickness in the demo that the Virtuix team provided.
“Eagle Flight” by Ubisoft
Restricting Peripheral Vision: I didn’t actually get to play the demo for Eagle Flight (Ubisoft’s new flying game which is probably the first game that takes advantage of this), but the game seems to show movement in the direction the head is facing, and allows for acceleration and deceleration. Based on previous experience and the Oculus Best Practices guide, this game should make people intensely sick. However, because it blacks out the edges of the screen to remove sight through your peripherals, it seems to ease the experience considerably.
Clicking: Most games use clicking in the direction you are looking in as a control. Games with positional hand tracking will also use grabbing or other gestures with hands as well, like in Job Simulator.
“Fantastic Contraption” by Northway Games
Game Controller: Some games are allowing controller support, and have virtual controllers which are positionally tracked as well. Super Hypercube does a great job of allowing the player to see the controller and see which buttons do what. Games with VR specific controllers, like Fantastic Contraption, do this as well. There’s the limitation that mobile VR (like the GearVR) typically can’t use these controllers unless wired by bluetooth, and then there’s the further limitation of a lack of positional tracking, but judging by how GDC went and Sixense‘s GearVR compatible positionally tracked controllers, it might not be long until those controllers become commonplace as well.
“Between Lands” by Secret Portal
Alternate Controllers: Between Lands had a very interesting controller which involved a lantern which was visible both in the physical world and the virtual world. As an experience viewable to both the outside audience, the participant in reality, and the participant in the VR headset, it made for a logical choice to make a controller which could be seen in both dimensions.
“EVE: Gunjack” by CCP Games
Shooter: Shooters fit easily into VR games, since FPS games generally involve a straight line of trajectory from the player’s eye to directly forward to the target, which complies with how the line of sight in VR is as well. EVE: Valkyrie and EVE: Gunjack both fit into the EVE space-themed world, fulfilling a space fighter pilot fantasy better than games could have achieved before due to the advent of VR.
“Please Don’t Touch Anything” by BulkyPix
Puzzle: There’s a huge number of puzzle games appearing in VR, creating what feels like a more immersive point-and-click game. I got to experience Please Don’t Touch Anything, an originally PC game, on the GearVR, and I found the game to be much more enjoyable in VR. In the first place, the game wasn’t intended to be a long experience, and so it felt right for the GearVR in that sense. The puzzles also did interesting things when solved that felt better in VR, like flipping the entire world upside down. I think in general, puzzle games will continue to be strong in VR, especially since VR allows for creators to explore spacial puzzles more deeply.
“Adventure Time: Magic Man’s Head Games” by Turbo Button
Adventure: I think it’s interesting to note that most games I’ve played in VR fall into one of the top two above categories, while adventure games, a giant in the game industry and a staple of most large game companies, aren’t as widely found in the realm of VR. I’m curious to see if the genre will grow more, since storytelling in VR is definitely something people are pursuing due to the level of immersion people are experiencing. Current adventure game available in VR are Adventure Time: Magic Man’s Head Games and Lucky’s Tale, though as far as I know, both are primarily platformers.
“Tilt Brush” by Google
Creative: Creative games and tools are also becoming more popular, as people are experimenting with spacial manipulation in virtual reality. Fantastic Contraption and Tilt Brush both demonstrate this, and allow guests to manipulate objects in space directly rather than through a 2D portal of a monitor.
“Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes” by Steel Crate Games
Social: VR seems to be bringing a lot of potential to the social game space. Social movie theaters within VR is a genuinely engaging experience to many people. Games like Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes also take great care in tying together cooperation between the player within the headset and the player(s) outside of it.
“Audioshield” by Dylan Fitterer
Rhythm: There hasn’t been much about the game, but Audioshield (which seems to be a VR equivalent of Audiosurf) seems like a game that might engage people for simply being a rhythm game, judging by the success of games like Audiosurf and osu!
I’m mostly curious about the general opinion of VR. Like Jesse Schell mentioned in class, it may as well be a fad that blows over within a matter of years, or it could be the next serious technological advance, which creates a huge paradigm shift for many game and experience creators. Right now, VR is not as suited to long experiences (such as the 45 minute+ games of League of Legends, for example) as PC games are, which will definitely influence developers to pursue shorter games. However, VR is also known for potentially increasing immersion, which might imply that someday, VR would be much better suited for longer, more narrative driven experiences.
What’s your opinion on virtual reality? Have you experienced anything interesting, sickening, or just fun in general in virtual reality? Would you ever prefer it over PC, console or mobile games? Where do you think VR is going to explore next?