and VR in General.
This is surprisingly hard to write about. It’s a bit like saying to someone who has been sober their entire life, what do you think tripping is like?
They might have seen cartoons depicting melting walls and psychedelic elephants, but seeing someone else’s interpretation doesn’t recreate the experience for you. You’re only able to make proper judgements about something once you have experienced it for yourself. Things don’t click into place until you have tried it.
How can you explain or comprehend something you have never experienced first hand? Most humans are not very good at this. This is why you can give people advice, but until they learn from their own experience they don’t really learn anything. Most of them, anyway.
So I’ll start with the only VR experience I have to draw on, Google Cardboard.
I don’t know what I expected from Cardboard, but man, was I pleased with what I got. I was given it for Christmas and spent most of the evening with it strapped to my face, my forehead until I was left with red lines across my face and an unpleasant greasy spot on the cardboard from where my forehead had been resting for so long.
If you haven’t tried Google carboard before. Try it, try it, try it! I can’t say that enough. If you have a phone that is capable. Even if it makes you feel a touch sick, it’s an experience that shouldn’t be missed out on.
I started off with the cardboard app that evening, which I enjoyed. Then some app with orb like spaces and another where you could fly over a city.
When I got back home from pestering my Mum to try it, I got Vanguard V. I love that game so hard. I played it over and over and over. You’re a women, with wings (an angel?) and you’re flying through space. There are asteroids, which you have to dodge and you steer with your head. With your head!
This felt intensely good to me. I’ve always been a fan of motion games. I’ve always defended them when other people have dismissed them as gimmicks.
I thought Medieval Moves was a fantastic concept (executed not so well). When the controls worked, they felt so good. Intuitive movement is important. It gives you a sense of connection to your virtual environment and a sense of self. It’s one of the reasons the Wii was so popular and why so many people bought and loves it that had never played games before. Think parents and the elderly.
I am the only person I know that consistently plays racing games with SIXAXIS controls. Especially WipEout. When you are in the zone, it’s almost like your thoughts detach from the controls and your instincts take over. With SIXAXIS when this happens you just become one with the game in a way that buttons do not allow. In those moments when it all aligns, I am almost unbeatable. It’s a really Zen experience. You can (and will often be better) when thinking about something completely unrelated to the game. Then suddenly realised you have smashed your best times, without even remembering you were playing. It becomes that natural.
I don’t think humans are designed to press buttons all day long. My body has insisted on this often enough, actually. I’ve always believe there had to be a better way.
I’d never experienced anything that felt as natural as this though. I wasn’t doing anything natural in the game either, I was piloting my way though space without a ship.
So I guess this brings me to my first hope and the one I hold dearest. I want to experience games with movement. Ones that don’t require buttons, or have minimal use of buttons. I believe these will be the ones that allow us to keep gaming into our old age. Long after our finer motor movements have failed us.
I missed out on the 3D gaming craze and the 3D film craze. Twice actually. I can remember a time when every cereal packet came with a pair of red and green lensed glasses a brown outlined picture that looked like you were seeing in double.
I do own a 3D TV, but I like many other thousands (millions?) of people cannot see in 3D. My eyes don’t point dead straight forward, they are not even. Ordinarily this isn’t a problem, but when it comes to 3D TV it’s enough to cause the optical illusion to fail. They double image is the wrong distance apart, it can’t account for the variations in my eyes.
So all I get to see is a double image. Using the red and green glasses and the picture, if I am lucky the two outlines will come together, but look flat as a pancake.
So I hope that VR will be something I can join in on this time. It doesn’t rely on any kind of optical illusion, it simply is. I should be able to see it, just like I see everything else. I hope too that it will be something that people with worse eyesight than myself can enjoy too.
This is the reason it find it intensly frustrating when people say VR will be a fad, like 3D TV.
I hope that I won’t suffer from motion sickness. For ‘real’ motion sickness, car rides, boats, roller-coasters I have one of the strongest stomachs of all the people I know. But I have been know to suffer from FPS motion sickness.
I’ve heard some people say they build up a tolerance for VR sickness. I too build up a tolerance for FPS sickness after a few hours and can then play happily. But if I have a long break, I have to re-build that tolerance. Turning down the sensitivity so the screen doesn’t whirl round so quickly also helps.
I’ve also heard about some developers talk about slowing movements to counter this and moving in difference ways, or finding ways so that movement doesn’t have to occur at all. I wonder if this technology will force people to learn more about what causes motion sickness in games, so perhaps it can be over come all tonight in the future.
So these are three problems that I hope VR can help me (us?) over come.
Many people when they see how excited I am about VR are very dismissive, they tell me I will be disappointed. Even though they have never tried it themselves.
When I ask the why, I have had difference responses. The first one is usually:
The graphics will be rubbish. It’s going to be all pixelated
My first thought about this is, I can’t honestly see why I would care. If all I cared about was high resolutions and draw distances, then I would be much better off being a PC gamer and not a console gamer.
I am not the type of person that discards an old console just because a new one comes out either. Underneath my TV, I have (multiple) PlayStation 1s, 2s, 3s and a 4. I still play all of them. They don’t suddenly offend me just because something has come with better graphics. Sure, smooth graphics and high resolutions are nice. But graphics don’t make a game. Game play makes a game.
You could have a 4k game that’s smooth as silk. But if it isn’t fun to play, it will still be a turd.
This what excited me most about VR. We will have to find new ways to play. I am so looking forward to that!
If that creates new genres of games in the process, which it is almost certain to do, that is fantastic!
It’s just another way for your to cut yourself off from the world. Put your headset on about forget about everything.
Well actually that sounds brilliant! I wouldn’t mind that at all. But I don’t think it is true either.
PSVR has the social screen so it almost because a local team sport in the same room. While I like this idea, I don’t see me using it often. Having a local gaming session is a very rare occurrence for me these days.
Then their will be social spaces, like Atom Universe who played a large part in PS Home.
One thing that shocked me about PS Home is how powerful it felt to have a 3D avatar that was actually based on me. I didn’t expect ‘me’ being in a game to affect how I felt about the experience so much. I felt less removed from it. This is what I liked about PS Home.
I can foresee that this could only get stronger with VR. If you’re playing as yourself, actually looking around the world like you were there. I think actually, the pre-alpha I played for Atom Universe was the in the third person, but I am not sure that will detract too much from the effect. Perhaps it will even pop into the first person when you move? I don’t know. Home was always slow moving, you couldn’t jump and you could barely run.
There were many aspects I didn’t like however. I found most of the social interactions repugnant. Usually people saying exceptionally creepy things. Or unbearable cliques, bringing all the worse aspects of play ground social insecurity into a virtual space.
I hope that VR will give me a sense of scale and presence. I want to feel like I am there. I’ve heard people talk about seeing giant creatures and them feeling like giant creatures. Not just knowing they are in realtion to other things.
I hope suppose truthfully I want to have my mind blown a little bit. Being able to lean and look is something that hasn’t bee possible before. I hope that feels as new and exciting as I imagine it will.
I suppose there’s the practical stuff to consider too. I hope that it is as comfortable as people have been saying. I want to be able to use it for an extended session.
I hope that my glasses do fit into it. Especailly after my nightmare about it not fitting my eyes! I also hope that it is also able to accomodate my friend with a cochlear implant.
I hope that is not fragile. I know that motion games can be tiring, especially for the not so sporty amongst us gamers. So I hope that leaning your head on the back of a chair will not damage it in any way.
I suppose the TL;DR is: I hope VR will fix some of my current problems and that it will offer me new and exciting experiences. I can’t remember the last time something happened that could change the way I play games and maybe even in the future, work as much as this could right now.
Given a) my love of motion controls, b) my burning desire for new experiences and c) my lack of desire for fantastic graphics. I think I am quite well placed to appear VR! Lets see if it proves me wrong…