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 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?