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What VR Also Means: More First Person and More Motion Control


2016, and it's being called "The Year of VR" with Facebook's (*shudder*) Oculus Rift launching later and Sony, HTC, Microsoft, and others following suit probably not much later. So far, the discussion has been largely about the price, the functionality and the potential of this new tech. Plenty of people are skeptical of its long-term viability (including yours truly) but it's not from a place of desire. I'm fine with VR becoming a huge success since I don't believe new things truly preclude the existence of all older things. You may have to begin looking elsewhere for those older things, you may have to wait a short while for their return (*gasp!*), but nothing ever goes away forever.

It will be difficult to see what the future for VR is, and perhaps even more difficult to project what a successful VR future will look like, but so far we have a few good indicators. All of the VR options demoed thus far have shared a few key elements that I would fully expect to see dominate game design both inside and outside of VR. Much like mobile gaming has had its influences on other platforms, should VR become a wide success we may see the following trends.

First person perspectives are nothing new, and in the west they're particularly popular. In my opinion this perspective has much more limited application than its implementation would have one think. Given how VR is predicated on the camera being controlled one-to-one by the player's head movements, it make a great deal of sense for the perspective to be from the player character's point of view. Ordinarily I'm not a huge critic of first person games, I like many well enough (even if games like Mirror's Edge aren't for me) but when I see things like Sony showing a God of War proof-of-concept video for VR with a first person camera, I worry.

Some games simply have no business being first person. I'd argue the Bethesda's RPGs gain absolutely nothing from being first person games. And while you can usually toggle the perspective in games like The Elder Scrolls or the Fallout, it becomes immediately clear the game doesn't operate as well in those modes because of UI design choices not working with a third person camera. Neither of those games rely heavily enough on their aiming mechanics to justify a perspective that counts as its biggest (in my opinion, sole) advantage as the ability to be accurate. It otherwise limits your peripheral vision and almost eliminates your sense of depth perception.

People nevertheless find it a compelling thing to make a game first person, and while I don't agree I can at least acknowledge that games like these have been around for quite some time. What confuses me a bit more, coming from the pro-VR camp, is renewed interest in motion controls. All VR is heavily dependent on the same old IR sensors and gyroscopes we all got tired of after the Wii petered out years ago. I suspect the PR folks behind the various VR campaigns have the same worry, since we've heard very little about their motion control solutions that will come paired with these devices. Whether it's just head-tracking or full-on waggle wands, I still have the same qualms with motion control as we've all heard before.

I'm not too keen on having my head and neck be the substitute for an analog stick. While I understand the appeal from a "wow factor" perspective of being able to look over your shoulder and see something cool, it seems like it would run its course pretty quick. I'm willing to be wrong, but ultimately only time will tell. Will VR continue to progress from the mini-games we've seen so far? For that to happen, there needs to be big support for the kind of content already on offer, and that support needs to last long enough for the next wave of inventive stuff to come about. I'm not so certain that's an inevitability.

Maybe this will be just another in a long list of curmudgeonly blogs that doubted VR that someone will look back on and say, "See? People always mistrust new ideas, whatta dumby!"

Now, get off my lawn.

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About Dr Melone of us since 10:58 PM on 01.31.2012

Hello, curious browser. I've been a reader of Dtoid for several years now and continue to enjoy the unique sense of community around these parts. I think I'll stick around, if ya don't mind.