Why I think VR really is the future, and genre-agnostic.

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jArmAhead

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I just received my Oculus Rift dev kit today. I'd been waiting for about a week, excited and impatient, to get my grubby little face in that thing. I played around with it at PAX this year and was blown away by how it imparted a sense of scale and place on me, going so far as to make me feel a sense of vertigo or giving me an intense sensation of butterflies in my stomach as I rolled and looped through the air over a tropical island. I knew immediately that the Rift would be awesome, but I didn't know how it'd apply to the industry as a whole or what role it would play, for a few reasons.

For one, would the consumer version ever mature enough to be a viable starting point? The 800p, high persistence, partially motion tracked nature of the current dev kit leaves a lot to be desired. ESPECIALLY in cases like those shown off at PAX; those demos rarely had anti-aliasing and were running natively at 1280x800, and at low/inconsistent framerates. This threw every issue at once into the face of the user. It was still a hell of an experience but it was not one that could replace a monitor, for example.

For another, I was never even entirely sold on the idea that an HMD would be applicable to all or even most genres and styles of games. While it would be awesome in your ArmAs and your Mirror's Edges and your Journeys of the world, I was fairly certain that games like Call of Duty, Unreal Tournament, Star Craft would be no better on Rift than they would be on a monitor. Possible even worse. Such twitch based, fast paced, motion-sickness packed games seemed doomed on the Rift.

Finally, who will develop for it? Even ArmA 3 has yet to get support for the device, despite being the game universally hailed as the potential killer app for the system, and the developers have said little about if or when support will be added. And we haven't exactly seen a lot of actual games announced for the Rift. A lot of small scale demos with little insight into what a full experience would be like, but no games.

Despite my reservations, I was always 100% on board with VR. I fell in love with the idea of virtual worlds a long time ago and VR has always been a dream of mine. So I bought my Rift (too impatient to wait for any vaguely future-based second DK) and quickly set it up to play with. I spent quite a lot of time trying to coerce ArmA to work, but could get neither of the most recent additions to the series to work. I tried a few small demos which were neat, but far from extra-ordinary and never really "games." Malfunction is quite impressive, but between the language barrier and lack of content, it was little more than a glimpse at what really great animation in a realistic setting does in the Rift. Which is quite a lot, but that may be a topic for another time.

The game that really shows off the Rift best (at least in my opinion), was really unexpected for me. I was curious about the premise, but had instant reservations as the one image I saw of the game looked very much like an iPhone/Android first person shooter. The game in question is called "Time Rifters." It's a first person shooter that brings elements of Super Time Force and old arcade shooters like Space Invaders together in a wonderfully unique VR experience. It has the fast motion and twitchy, precise action of an Unreal Tournament or Quake, but rather than fall on it's face it actually excels at those aspects. The game is exceptionally easy to pick up. You aim with your view, which in the case of the Rift means you aim by looking around (although you can adjust your left and right facing with the mouse/right joystick). This actually gives you a lot of control over where you are putting shots, letting you place pretty accurate shots even when having to lead for fairly slow projectiles early on. And when I say pretty accurate I mean at least as accurate as I could with a mouse, if not a bit more accurate when I really needed. Even in later levels, where the action picks up significantly, it's a joy to control. Snapping around between targets is actually really intuitive and downright fun. I regularly got so into shooting some writhing mass of blocks as it ran/flew around that I'd turn all the way around, staring at the ceiling as I tracked him around and above me.

Now, I know all of this sounds great but it's not really the complete package, is it? VR is about more than just moving your head around accurately. It needs to immerse you, even with something as abstract and arcadey as Time Rifters. And you know what? I think Time Rifters actually made me feel MORE immersed than most other demos I've experienced so far. Perhaps it was because after spending over an hour in the Rift without a break I got so used to being in the world of Time Rifters, but regardless of the reasons, I felt like the little starting area where you wait for other "players" to buy upgrades and select a weapon was basically a starting area for laser tag. Glancing around felt very natural, and the 3D/ FoV filling nature of the experience gave it a very weirdly grounded feel. It felt real in a sense, and that really impressed me. And running around in the levels had the same sort of feeling. It gave leaping through the air (and even more so: falling back down) a rush of excitement that even the most outrageous of games don't quite achieve. In fact, at one point, I was playing with the super jump ability to try and get out of the area that serves as a main menu. I ended up getting on top of the structure around the outside that formed a wall around the player, and began to jump and scurry my way from piece to piece to get at some weird little easter egg on the other side of the level. And it was an incredibly tense experience, thanks to the sense of height and risk that the Oculus gave. I'm not even scared of heights, and I got a little tense every time I looked down.

Because of my experience with the game, I realized that if done right, VR could easily work in nearly any genre or style. And it wouldn't be just a tacked on novelty, it has the potential to totally change the way that games feel. Had I played Time Rifters on a normal monitor with a keyboard and mouse, it would have been a well made, but relatively uninteresting game. But because of the faux-social aspects, the VR based gameplay, the immersion, and a dash of who-knows-what, it was a striking and extremely fun proof of concept for a lot of cool things to come.

Ultimately, Time Rifters is the only traditional video-game ass video game I've really played on the Rift. And man am I excited that it was such a pleasure to play, even for hours at a time. Not to mention that it was so easy to stay in the Rift for so long, especially in such an active game, without feeling any ill effects other than the skin on my face getting a touch irritated.

Do people think that VR is the next big thing in video games? Do you have something else you're waiting on, hoping for, or have been convinced will play a major role in the evolution of "The Video Game?" I'd love to know what you think! I've always been excited and intrigued by the future of this little hobby of ours :)

Or, do you guys have any other kind of game that you wouldn't have expected to see on Rift come about? We've seen a lot of exploration and creepy naked scans of dancers and stuff, but what else do you guys want to see out of the VR community in the coming months?

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monkeyking1969

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I think VR is the future, but it is a future that is ten years off. And I say ten years off "IF" Oculus Rift sells 200K to 400K a year for the next few years. In other words, if Oculus Rift doesn't sell well out of the gate that will push VR back years. The best case scenario is ten years until a large percentage of gamers think of VR as the de facto way to play most games, and that only happend if these early devices see very strong growth right away.

We all know what we want is better than what is being offered now, right? We all can see that everything on the headset needs to be better for mainstream uptake, so I won't even discuss that aspect. However, what I will say is that in ten years a VR headset will mean a device you wear on your head that is audio & visual that most people will use with a joypad or keyboard w/mouse. The use of treadmill type devices to mimic walking will be niche, the use of haptic gloves will be niche, and I think most other peripherals will be niche. Most people will still sit while using them because it is safer, the first time you loose your balance and rip up you face on the corner of a coffee table you will be convinced to 'sit your ass' down.

There is no doubt that gaming, watching video, and even chatting will be done VR in the future. I would even say that just behind gaming 'VR Chatting' will be a huge new communication method. Skypeing in person or on a camera will be replaced with chatting on a virtual environment using a virtual avatars people will see. For business that virtual avatar will be 'clean, trim, and always presentable' version of yourself that done't look tired ruffled, or weirdly lit. For chatting with friends it might be that, or it could be a giant panda bear...or a supermodel.

Sony was on the right track with PSN Home, they were just 15 years too early and they didn't understand that "public spaces" were not what would work. Virtual Spaces WILL take off, but they will take off as places to meet with friends and the rules of engagement will be decided among friends.

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ShinjiEx

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Always remember Nintendo's attempt never forget lol ^__^

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Clonedzero

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I actually think the rift will fail. Well maybe not fail, but it won't be this revolutionary thing everyone thinks it will be. It'll have its niche and that's about it.

Personally i have just about zero interest in it. I don't wanna strap a bunch of crap to my face when i play games, I'm certain most people don't want to either. I find headphones to be uncomfortable to wear, let alone a head display. Also, i tend to multitask when i play games. I'll text a friend during a loading screen, browsing forums while waiting in a multiplayer lobby. You can't really do that with the rift, you have to commit 100% to the game unless you keep taking it on and off which would get annoying fast. It would kinda take away from the casual relaxed nature of sitting down to play some games when you gotta "get ready" and set up for it.

There's the issue of it being pretty much limited to first person experiences. That's extremely limiting from a design standpoint. I've been preferring more 3rd person games as of late myself. I mean in theory you COULD perhaps manage to have some sort of weird scheme to it and pull it off well, but the ways it could be done poorly are just staggering. 3rd person action RPG such as dark souls, what would you do for that? your head is a floating camera behind the character? That sounds super awkward. I can't imagine a good use for it outside of the first person perspective because that's the entire point of the rift.

The social aspect of playing games with people on the couch would be utterly destroyed by VR taking over. Everyone would be isolated in their own immersive headsets. No more high fiving your friend because you made it through the level. No more jumping up and trash talking your brother because you finally beat him in a fighting game. It'd be a solitary isolated experience that you couldn't share with anyone.

The rift will end up being its own little thing, supported by first person perspective games on PC, some specifically made rift games. But it'll be a niche thing. It's not going to take over or wildly change the industry and frankly i don't want it to. It'll be a neat little accessory that can do some cool stuff and that's about it.

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TheManWithNoPlan

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#5  Edited By TheManWithNoPlan

At this point I've seen just about as many people say the Rift fail as I've seen them say it'll succeed. There's merit in both arguments, but in the end we can really only speculate. We'll just have to see how big it's audience ends up being. Till then, fingers crossed, because it really does look promising, and leagues ahead of that shit in the 90's.

My personal hope is that it succeeds as a parallel to regular gaming as we know it, and doesn't out right replace it. Which I'm pretty sure the latter won't be the case.

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TowerSixteen

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#6  Edited By TowerSixteen

@clonedzero: I actually think this is more of the majority opinion, just that the sort people who get gadget-lust hard are a very vocal group on the internet, and well represented in the press.

I don't think VR will ever be more than a niche product, or at least not for a long time. Consider- one of the primary reasons 3d TV failed so hard was that the average consumer had no desire to have to wear glasses to watch TV. How much more of a turn-off for the average consumer would the inevitable clunky headsets be? On top of that, not all games want the first-person. A list of things that the forced-first-person of VR doesn't benefit but actually hurts:

RPGs with multiple party members to control

Games where the protagonist is a distinct, fleshed-out character whose face we need to see

Strategy games of any sort

Most platformers

Third-person action games,Dark souls, DMC, God of War and Assassins creed types inclusive

Fighting games

And more. This list is hardly exhaustive. My point is that VR can't be default, and the vast majority are not gonna shell out for an expensive, bulky peripheral that isn't even a smart choice for many games. Then, the fact that the install base will be smallish means that it's not going to get the AAA development support it needs as it wouldn't make business sense.

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jArmAhead

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I actually think the rift will fail. Well maybe not fail, but it won't be this revolutionary thing everyone thinks it will be. It'll have its niche and that's about it.

Personally i have just about zero interest in it. I don't wanna strap a bunch of crap to my face when i play games, I'm certain most people don't want to either. I find headphones to be uncomfortable to wear, let alone a head display. Also, i tend to multitask when i play games. I'll text a friend during a loading screen, browsing forums while waiting in a multiplayer lobby. You can't really do that with the rift, you have to commit 100% to the game unless you keep taking it on and off which would get annoying fast. It would kinda take away from the casual relaxed nature of sitting down to play some games when you gotta "get ready" and set up for it.

There's the issue of it being pretty much limited to first person experiences. That's extremely limiting from a design standpoint. I've been preferring more 3rd person games as of late myself. I mean in theory you COULD perhaps manage to have some sort of weird scheme to it and pull it off well, but the ways it could be done poorly are just staggering. 3rd person action RPG such as dark souls, what would you do for that? your head is a floating camera behind the character? That sounds super awkward. I can't imagine a good use for it outside of the first person perspective because that's the entire point of the rift.

The social aspect of playing games with people on the couch would be utterly destroyed by VR taking over. Everyone would be isolated in their own immersive headsets. No more high fiving your friend because you made it through the level. No more jumping up and trash talking your brother because you finally beat him in a fighting game. It'd be a solitary isolated experience that you couldn't share with anyone.

The rift will end up being its own little thing, supported by first person perspective games on PC, some specifically made rift games. But it'll be a niche thing. It's not going to take over or wildly change the industry and frankly i don't want it to. It'll be a neat little accessory that can do some cool stuff and that's about it.

There is absolutely nothing about the Oculus or VR in general that requires first person. In fact, I think with the tracking, Oculus fixes issues I have with third person cameras today. It's way easier to see what is going on around because you have that awareness of your character's flanks, but now you can glance from side to side (it doesn't pivot you around the character but rather you would be like a floating head behind the character, which can look side to side or even completely behind itself) which gives you greater awareness. I'm a first person gamer first and foremost, and it's why I'm so excited for VR. But I think that VR still has applications for other games. And I think that you need to try a first person Oculus game before you say "first person just isn't for me." In fact, I think the deciding factor for VR will be how long it takes to get people to try it and see how different it is from a traditional experience.

I cannot stress how much the "first person only" thing is a total farce. I played a bit of a simple space combat game, and it had a third person camera. For the most part, it was fairly standard, but it made looking around, especially left and right of the ship, WAY easier. Plus the added information from the 3D, and it was actually pretty cool. I think RTS style games, once resolution is high enough, could be another genre that could benefit in some really surprising ways. It may not seem like it on paper, but trust me when I say that head-tracking is an extremely useful input and by far the best way to experience it is with an HMD.

And I don't think that VR will be the ONLY way to play video games for a long, long time. And eventually, VR will be at a point where you will totally be able to high five your buddy. But you'll do it without leaving the game. I know that was an urge I had a couple of times playing Time Rifters, to have a way to interact with the other characters. Eventually, VR will make it EASIER for you to feel like you and your buddy are together in the game. You won't need to leave the game to interact because you can look over your shoulder, and he'll be there, or you'll be able to make a motion that he can see. Maybe even give him a celebratory high five.

@clonedzero: I actually think this is more of the majority opinion, just that the sort people who get gadget-lust hard are a very vocal group on the internet, and well represented in the press.

I don't think VR will ever be more than a niche product, or at least not for a long time. Consider- one of the primary reasons 3d TV failed so hard was that the average consumer had no desire to have to wear glasses to watch TV. How much more of a turn-off for the average consumer would the inevitable clunky headsets be? On top of that, not all games want the first-person. A list of things that the forced-first-person of VR doesn't benefit but actually hurts:

RPGs with multiple party members to control

Games where the protagonist is a distinct, fleshed-out character whose face we need to see

Strategy games of any sort

Most platformers

Third-person action games,Dark souls, DMC, God of War and Assassins creed types inclusive

Fighting games

And more. This list is hardly exhaustive. My point is that VR can't be default, and the vast majority are not gonna shell out for an expensive, bulky peripheral that isn't even a smart choice for many games. Then, the fact that the install base will be smallish means that it's not going to get the AAA development support it needs as it wouldn't make business sense.

I don't want to A) spend thousands of dollars on a TV and then several hundred on the glasses needed to watch generally poor 3D in a movie. That doesn't appeal to me. It's a movie, and 99% of people (even VR fans) don't want that because it adds next to nothing to most movies. It's still, basically, the same thing. A static viewing method of a static medium.

And I'll re-iterate that there is absolutely no reason the games in question couldn't be Rift games. And I'll also make the point that you don't have to play as the interesting character in an RPG. I'd be fine playing the second hand guy that just kind of comes along and watches and interacts in a less on-screen capacity, while watching the other characters form the plot and all that.

And I never said that every game will be VR, or needs to be VR. Just that there aren't really any genres that won't work with and in some way likely benefit (how much is maybe debatable). I think it'd be pretty cool to feel like you were actually in the world of some epic fantasy RPG rather than just watching it through a window from a distance. You can still see all of the cool stuff, still watch the plots unfold. You can still have cool characters to watch go about their various plots.

And I don't necessarily expect the Rift to be the device to launch VR into the mainstream. It's going to be relatively niche, but I think within the industry it has the potential to spread if it gets the support. And I am fairly confident that we will eventually be able to cut down the size and weight and comfort issues until people are more than willing to put on glasses to have a very significantly altered experience. Because that's what you'll get from a game made with VR in mind. And it doesn't really even have to be all that different of a game mechanically. Time Rifters would be fine on a traditional set up with a modified hud. But at the same time, with VR it's a very different experience.

I should make this totally clear: I don't know if Oculus will be the catalyst for VR. It very likely won't be the success story. It'll be close, but I don't really expect it to take off like wildfire. But down the line there might be a Rift 2, or some other VR venture. And eventually the technology will get to a point where it is totally viable for the mainstream gaming audience. And I don't think it'll take the crazy far flung future tech we often think of when we think of VR. I think it's fairly close. It may be years away, but not quite decades.

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TowerSixteen

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#8  Edited By TowerSixteen

@jarmahead: I would buy this whole thing as more of a possibility if your big example wasn't an FPS, a.k.a. one of the genres which is an obvious and easy match for VR. You talk about world immersion and whatnot, but there are tonnes of games for which that is not the draw. You want me to consider it? Explain to me two things. Explain to me what a fighting game or a strategy game has to gain from VR. Explain to me how any game where you need to rapidly flit between characters, areas or perspectives isn't a TERRIBLE fit due to motion sickness issues. Finally, you may be fine with saying, oh, just don't focus on the player for stories, but that's a broken idea for storytelling as a whole. The player should be the one whose actions drive the plot. Not every game needs to make the protagonist a developed character but story-driven games are instantly crippled by having the primary mover and shaker of the story be a functional nonentity.

You're focusing on the strengths but you're not addressing the weaknesses- primarily, how little it has to contribute to anything not first-person, if it doesn't actively make things harder due to motion sickness.

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Seppli

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#9  Edited By Seppli

I agree on both accounts. VR is the future of triple A gaming. As soon as Head Mounted Displays get affordable and wearable enough for the likes of Apple, Microsoft, Sony, Google etc. to take a serious stab at it. Expect Oculus to sell for a billion bucks to the highest bidder.

VR is genre agnostic. I don't see why any genre wouldn't work with it, and I can imagine countless cool possibilities. Like watching onto an RTS battlefield like a God onto ants from his mighty throne above on Mount Olymp. At worst, it doesn't add anything worthwhile to some games - but that's hardly a detractor.

I predict both Sony and Microsoft will come out with some minor stab at VR this generation, and go full-hog next generation - a step that also makes certain the need for local hardware, since VR doesn't tolerate any input latency whatsoever.

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Superkenon

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I don't have a clue whether it will become THE FUTURE or not, but I will say I hope it doesn't. Don't get me wrong, I think the Oculus is great, and I want it to live on as its own thing that spawns lots of interesting experiences, but I never want it to take over and become the only way we play video games.

I guess it makes me the fogey here, but I can't stand just completely cordoning myself off from the real world like that. I like to at least be aware of my surroundings, be it audio or a quick glance away from the screen -- but both of those avenues go away at once when you're in your VR rig. It's fun now and again, but I'd never want to play a game for even an hour in that state.

That's just me being obstinate and a little neurotic, maybe, but I think a more important point is that you can't really share the VR experience with anyone around you. It's a personal, isolated method of playing games, which again can be great, but my most fun with gaming comes with playing with friends and family there in the same room with me, and that'd just stop happening if all video games became VR. Even in some weird future situation where we all had multiple goggles or something, it'd be about the same as having a conversation while we're all staring down at our phones.

Gonna stop before this keeps going deeper into curmudgeonly territory. Oculus and its future ilk is great and should absolutely continue to grow, but I don't want traditional gaming to go away.

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Skooky

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VR sounds great, but I only have enough interest in it to come into this thread and say that I don't have any interest in it.