Games for the virtual reality resurgence

The Occulus Rift is a virtual reality headset coming out a couple of years or so. Their kickstarter is already successful and the re-release of Doom 3 (BFG Edition) will support the rift. But what kind of games will this thing, and VR in general, be best for?

flight sim on many monitors

Flight sim photo by wlodi

First on the list are driving and flight sims. Sim fans already spend loads of cash on multiple screens and shiny head tracking gadgets. A relatively cheap VR headset like this is a no-brainer for them. It works well because both the player and their in game avatar are in the same position – seated, immobile, and holding a steering wheel / joystick. There is little to break the immersion.

I’m hopeful that this could also lead a resurgence in a dead genre – space flight combat games. X-Wing vs TIE Fighter 2 anyone?

Any game shot in first person will probably work well, but the nature of the beast will mean a few incongruities. Natural head movement and vision is great until you combine it with gamepad or mouse and keyboard controls. Wiimote style position tracked controllers or kinect style full body tracking might be a step in the right direction, but you are still tethered to the computer via a cable. I wonder how many headsets (or people’s necks) will be broken when their owners lose themselves in the game and bump into real world space constraints?

For the love of all things, don’t let Frictional Games (makers of Amnesia the Dark Descent) get their hands on one of these, players will literally shit themselves or die from a heart attack.

Those are the good applications for existing genres, but what new ideas might work in this system?

My first thought is “player as Godzilla”. Replace with “player as giant robot / mech / king kong” as your fetish dictates. Use full body tracking and have fun kicking down office blocks and swatting attack choppers like flies (sidenote: if that sounds like fun, go play roar rampage). Make it two player and have some Godzilla vs Megalon fun while you are at it. Giant things are giant and lumbering for a reason, so force the player to move slowly or make them fall over (in game). This will also minimise full body tracking’s main downfall, the high latency between real world movement and in game response.

Another pitfall due to the uncanny valleyness of VR is the lack of physical feedback. Without such sensations the player may feel disembodied. I say run with that and make the player a ghost in the game, perhaps with the goal of spooking the residents of your haunted house. Other forms of disembodiment would also work well, such as the hacking in Dystopia.

Those are my ideas, what would you do with VR?

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5 thoughts on “Games for the virtual reality resurgence

  1. Virtual tourism. Maybe on a wheelchair/golf buggy so you stay seated. Those 360 panoramas they have at the moment are dizzying enough.
    Godzilla sounds fun, and theurapetic.

  2. God-style war games like Dune and all that used to be, but instead of a static view-point, you can actually fly in and out. Nah – actually that would suck, now I’ve thought about it.
    How about games where you are the ghost? It could be narrative-heavy and you’d be flying through walls and shit, trying to work out why you were assassinated. No one can see you, but you’re able to slightly manipulate the physical environment and affect the game that way.

    Have you read the Cracked.com articles where they asked commenters for games they’d like to play and wrote them up? I’m pretty sure I sent them through.

  3. Sitting at a desk or on a couch is the way to play with VR. Practically no one is going to wander around their house or even mess around with a swivel chair.

    Retaining traditional controls is the way to go. Just because you change the display device doesn’t mean you have to change the controls. It’s not really going to break immersion all that much … how often do you think about your hand moving the mouse when you’re playing a game? You’ll think about it even less when you can’t even see the mouse.

    We won’t need motion controls until motion controls themselves can rival the precision and accuracy of mouse / keyboard / controller.

    I’ve used a VR headset with head tracking and mouselook at the same time. It just kinda works. You just look around while walking, but when it’s time for turning around corners or shooting your mouse hand takes over and you don’t really move your head. A lot of the time you’re combining the two inputs without even really thinking about it.

    Seperating the two inputs, so the mouse controlls the gun while the head tracking controls the head sounds appealing, but I actually think it would be disorientating and difficult to aim. When are you not looking directly at something you want to shoot anyway?

  4. Oh, and without a doubt, the best game to play on this would be something like Skyrim. While it would be merely useful in driving sims and gun-based first person shooters, with skyrim or fallout it would be like a teleporter to another world.

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