5 Games that could save VR

After the launch streams for the Oculus Rift and the HTC Vive, it seems a broad segment of video game enthusiasts and Giant Bomb users got cooled on virtual reality, which is a shame.

The reason why those launches felt like a wet blanket, wasn't because of the technology or the hardware itself, because that part of the equation absolutely works. The real reason is the software.

Due to the hype around VR, we've seen a veritable gold rush of small indie developers and upstarts pushing their try-hard "emotional experiences" at ridiculous price points. It was especially the Oculus stream that showed just how poor the launch library was, lacking any quality games about destroying stuff or killing something... Which is what real games are all about.

The one stand-out VR game for the Oculus launch was EVE Valkyrie, but even that somehow managed to make full use of CCP's talent for making any genre seem dull and it has micro transactions.

The HTC Vive did one better with Hover Junkers, which thanks to the special controllers, put 2 and 2 together and came up with an actual game about shooting guns at other people.

Laaaame!!
Laaaame!!

I'm not trying to be down on walking sims, because they were pretty novel a few years ago, but now that we're figuratively swimming in them, it's just too much. Listen here; if I wanted to experience a flower or be sad about my own mortality and identity in an oppressive dystopian future ruled by mega corps, I'd go outside. One thing I can't reasonably do outside is to murder someone or destroy something. This is why we have video games!

It doesn't have to take a lot. Even the simple pleasure of smashing plates at a carnival fair could be multiplied 100-fold in VR by giving you a bat and just letting you go to town in a nice looking kitchen or glass boutique. It's frustrating when a simple piece of Unity-store-asset-flip-Youtuber-bait looks a 10 times more interesting than most of the other VR "experiences" available right now, by virtue of allowing the player the simple pleasures of having a handgun and stuff to shoot at.

Not all hope is lost though. PlayStation still have their VR headset on the way, with promising titles such as PlayStation VR Worlds, Battlezone and Until Dawn: Rush of Blood. Even at their basic techdemo-ish state, they still look like actual games that are improved through VR, with the kinda gameplay familiarity VR really needs to be marketable.

Coool!!
Coool!!

The real challenge to making a game for VR is that the player need an anchor point. You can't just slap VR onto any old FPS game, because it causes the players to get motion sick. If you put players in a cockpit or make something that effectively utilizes the limited area that Vive's Room Scale allows, they won't get motion sick, so the question remains: How do you make a VR game with actual substance that makes you want to come back and keep playing?

I've thought about it for quite a while and come up with 5 ideas that I think could save VR.

List items

  • For as poor as their table designs are, Zen Studios had the right idea with Pinball FX2 VR: A virtual arcade where you can play virtual pinball. If Namco and SEGA teamed up, they could port their lightgun games to VR, creating a virtual arcade where you could collect and play faithfully recreated cabinets of Virtua Cop or Time Crisis. It would be brilliant.

  • While the arcadey space combat games have already been done a couple of times for VR, nobody's done it with the production value and storytelling of classic Wing Commander. Imagine multiple branching paths and missions based on your performance and choices. Imagine 360 filmed FMV cutscenes where you could tell Tim "Maniac" Wilson to fuck off, but then you end up flying so many missions together that he becomes your bro? If it wasn't because the actors had all gotten so old, I'd totally be down for Wing Commander 3 in VR.

  • In this classic 3DO and MS DOS game, you play a cab driver in the year 2048 where something in the water supply have turned most people into crazies, but you still pick up fares and run missions in an effort to earn enough cash to escape Kemo city. Perhaps overly ambitious for it's time, it didn't look great, but it's the first game I remember playing where you could do drive-by by shooting an uzi out the window and THAT'S cool. With free head movement in VR, it would feel even more natural to shoot out the window like that. Check out this FMV intro for the game to see what it was all about: https://youtu.be/6lDlDLvC4TU

  • Here's an idea that utilizes Room Scale. It's pretty basic: When the enemy swings you parry or move out of the way. PlayStation VR is already getting something like it in the form of "Golem", but wouldn't it be cooler to be faced off against a giant intimidating knight with a flaming skeleton head, rather than some dull rock thing? Maybe Golem will end up having something like that and be alright.

  • Valkyria Chronicles is a turn-based SRPG that uses an unique system where you don't just roll the dice to hit the enemy, but aim with your characters gun during the attack phase. Something similar could work great in VR, where you move your characters in an overhead 3rd person view and then switch to first person cam for aiming and shooting, taking stuff like wind and obstacles into consideration when lining up your shot. It wouldn't HAVE to be a Valkyria Chronicles game, but anything with a compelling story and squad management would keep it from just being a gimmicky tech-demo.