VR: Does it still have a bright future?


#1

We’re several years into the development of modern VR tech, and devices like PSVR, the Rift, and the Vive have all made it to market. But does it really have a bright future, or is it bound to collapse like so many other tech trends that promised revolution?

I ask, because while there have certainly been excellent VR titles released like Resident Evil 7, games as equally fleshed out and realized are few and far between. When I think of other big VR titles, at least on the PS4, games that come to mind are the very short and tech-demoish Batman: Arkham VR and the Until Dawn-themed rail shooter.

And even then, RE7 isn’t designed purely for VR and can be enjoyed on a TV. Heck, I once demoed Hitman Go on a headset and that was…I mean, it was playable? But not a reason to buy into VR.

From my own personal experience, VR has been a big turn-off. I wear glasses and have terrible, terrible eyesight such to the point that when I demoed a lower-end headset at PAX a couple of years ago, the focus knob couldn’t let me see a clear image even at maximum focus. And while I haven’t experienced any myself in the short times I’ve tried VR, I know of more than a few people personally that have gotten motion sick from the experience of sitting still with a headset strapped to their face.

But my personal experience aside, where are we with VR at this point? We have multiple headsets on the market, but few titles that have been truly compelling enough beyond the tech demo gee-whiz factor. And I can’t think of too many titles off the top of my head that are coming down the line that will change this. So is VR ever going to take that next step as a gaming device, or will it remain a niche that finds better success in other industries? At this point, I’m betting more on the latter. It seems like VR will have better use in the medical field than it ever will as a pure gaming device.

What do you all think?[poll type=regular]

  • VR is the future of gaming!
  • Eh, it’s a niche.
  • It’s going to collapse. There’s no future here.
  • HAVE WE LEARNED NOTHING FROM THE '90S?! WILL THE LESSONS OF THE LAWNMOWER MAN AND VR TROOPERS GO UNHEEDED?!
    [/poll]

#2

I own a Vive and I use it regularly. So, I’m under no false pretense concerning the lack of truly great experiences for the hardware. But, to me it all feels like growing pains.

Things like Rec Room and Star Trek: Bridge Crew show the amazing ability that VR has to provide a social space, combined with a gaming one.

Again, on Star Trek, I normally play games without a mic, with all other players muted. But, there’s something about the way (other than the fact that you can’t actually do either of those things in-game) that Star Trek makes you feel comfortable about interacting with complete strangers. I’m not even a huge Trek fan, but Bridge Crew is without a doubt one of the most engaging, if not at the very least most interesting, social experiences I’ve had with a game.

In my opinion, the problem with current VR games is that people are trying to make games we normally play with controllers fit onto the headset. And that’s just not really possible. While you could point to something like Resident Evil 7, which by all accounts sounds to be the definitive way to experience that game, and say “there’s a normal game on VR!” But, I don’t really think that RE7 plays much to the strengths of VR, other than making you shit your pants a lot harder. The world isn’t too interactive, and it’s missing a lot of the smaller details that make VR experiences so special (and expensive to develop).

VR games beg to take you places that real life normally can’t, in a way that makes them feel tangible. There’s nothing cooler than when a VR game gives me something to interact with that just couldn’t exist in meat space. Like a floating computer terminal, a giant space ship, abstract floating obstacle courses, or a tiny city for me to run around and smash.

That being said, I think calling VR “the future of gaming” is a bit disingenuous. I don’t think it will ever replace the way we play games traditionally, and I don’t believe it even has to. Hell, I don’t even think VR is necessarliy best suited for gaming. That’s just where most of the money is right now. VR is it’s own beast entirely. It legitimately works. Right now, even in this early stage, which is tantamount to when Apple released the original iPhone with no App Store or 3G connection. That’s where the tech is at the moment, and I’m still gushing. It really is that good. The hardest part is nobody truly believes until you get the damn thing on their head.

I do think VR has a future, absolutely. I just believe that people are thinking about it’s place in the world in the wrong way.


#3

Kind of none of the above. We always ask these questions as all or nothing and most of the time the answer is somewhere between no market and a large market that doesn’t threaten the existing market for games playing devices and models.

Did mobile (GB era onwards or mobile as in phone gaming - take your pick) become a revolution that swept away non-mobile gaming? No, it did nothing for years (US people: smartphones existed for a lot longer than the iPhone and they did games, there was a long time where various success and failures existed before Apple remade the Palm Vx with a cellular modem and the capacitive touch sensor that was just becoming popular) and then broke the mainstream as those devices suited to playing them because popular.

I think that’s also a critical point to think of right now because Google Daydream 2.0 is about to arrive that adds outside-in tracking (position, not just orientation) to mobile devices attached to a headset. There’ll also be dedicated devices. HTC are making Vive wireless modules to cut the cord at home, and I’m sure Oculus are also looking at getting that sorted sooner rather than later. We are very much in the experimental phase and so anything is possible. But a lot of mobile phones with high res, low latency screens are going to be sold in the next decade with advanced sensor blocks built in and a pair of cheap lenses will turn that into a great VR device. So the floor for buying into VR is about to come down hugely.

Of course, we can also look at stereoscopic 3D and see that while cinemas still do push it a bit that that hasn’t worked out (2017 TV do not support 3D, the home technology is effectively relegated to enforced niche status despite many of the nicer new 4K TVs running high refresh rate panels so could theoretically be made tow ork with 3D with only a marginal cost increase). We should also consider that that isn’t the first time home stereoscopic and even games to play with it took off. I’ve still got my Revelator 3D glasses, which are nVidia 3D Vision 0.5 from 1999. I fully expect there to be another attempt to popularise 3D Vision in the future, even if all of that effort is currently going into VR and possible AR rather than 3D monitors. A lot of that earlier understanding actually went into this VR tech.


#4

I can think it could be more than a niche without also thinking it’s the future of gaming. I’d say it’s somewhere in the middle in terms of potential.
Also, I see the most significant use of VR outside of gaming in medical treatments and simulations - I’ve seen a bunch of recent BBC documentaries which have featured it in this context.

Nevertheless, I think it’s a little too early to tell. It seems like sales of PSVR were very good entering the holiday season, but post that have been slower that expected. It could just be the cost factor means people will only invest in it for big presents. I could definitely see another push this Winter bearing fruit. How much it appears at Sony’s press conference at E3 next weekend is going to be a big hint as to how much of a push they are going to give it. I wonder if the rumours/early talks of Microsoft working with Oculus to bring out VR with the Scorpio might make an appearance.

The costs of building this tech is dropping fairly quickly, so I could see a much cheaper model in a few years time really making a splash (but hopefully people haven’t just written it off by then as a glorified version of phone VR). Regardless, we’re going to need a lot more developers working on games that aren’t just short First Person Shooters or Horror Games if it’s going to take off.


#5

I get motion sickness rather easily from a lot of normal(non-stereoscopic) 3D games now, which has led me to avoiding many of them(particularly first-person or over-the-shoulder-style), so I’m not really in a rush to try VR(although stereoscopic games, like on the 3DS, has helped).

That said, it’s always felt like it’s a bit too early for the technology? At least in terms of getting big. I think something like that would take some time, like 5-10 years or more from this big “push” to normalize it for the mainstream. I’m of the mind that VR making it big is something that’ll take a number of years to accomplish.

Regardless, I’ve some interesting things happening with it in Japan, like an Evangelion game, although I don’t really have much hopes in these being done outside of Japan.


#6

TBH… Rez Infinite, Thumper, RE7, Dirt Rally, Job Simulator, Headmaster, Bound, Tumble VR, the Here They Lie demo, & the VR animated movies - I’m already at the point where PS VR probably has as many very memorable experiences as most recent Nintendo platforms. It seems like that’s done a great job from a platform that only launched in late 2016.

I’ve also been able to share this immersive view of gaming with friends and family and really look forward to how that’ll happen via mobile devices in the future. It’s already an interesting way of sharing a screenshot from a traditional game.


#7

I think the future of VR is entirely dependent on it’s ability to become normalized, used not just for entertainment but for professional needs. When you think of a tv or a computer, you can easily think of uses in both environments. If VR can take root as a piece of hardware and not just a toy, even if it’s in a niche, it’ll stick around and grow. If it’s only in the gaming niche I don’t see it surviving long term, even at a better price and with more titles.


#8

I remain curious to see how large the physical (i.e.: motion sickness) entry barrier ends up being as the tech continues to progress. I feel like I still occasionally hear people in the press talk about how something started to make them feel sick or how something started to give them a headache, and if stuff like that persists then I can at least speak for myself when I say that I’ll probably continue to opt out.

Especially as it pertains to first-person games, as somebody who enjoys first-person games and has been playing them for a wwwwwwhile. It has always sounded to me like in order to get first-person working in VR games that developers have to make concessions (like teleporting around instead of analog movement), but a lot of those concessions just… don’t sound appealing to me? Like, if my choice is between “get motion sick” or “have to teleport,” then I’m going to just ask if I can play it on my monitor instead.


#9

At this moment there are multiple barriers for me:

  • Money
  • The setup process always sounds horrible (cables, cables and cables + lighthouses/cameras + USB ports)
  • My PC may not even be powerful enough to properly use VR
  • What the fuck am I going to do with it besides Google Earth VR? …Probably watch movies in a simulated cinema experience.

In short: I’m too dumb and poor.

VR for phones seemed like a nice alternative. The thing is that I don’t have the right phone either (Moto G4, meaning: no Gear VR, no Google Daydream).

The dream is to experience VR with some sort of omni-directional treadmill and gloved controllers. Suit me up, make me look ridiculous. I don’t care, I’m in another world!

…Is 2020 realistic?

Edit:

For the people worried about getting sick, apparently getting your “VR legs” may be a thing? This is a fairly short video touching on the subject.


#11

I’ve got my eye on an upcoming “stacked reality” event. It’s an immersive theater piece with guests exploring a real house and interacting with live performers. The hook is using Vive to incorporate “room-scale VR.”

Embedding VR in another form of entertainment intrigues me. If the rest of the show does the heavy lifting in terms of narrative, VR is free to do what it does best: put the user in an unreal but visually specific space populated with things and people they can interact with. A lot of immersive theater around here is explicitly structured around secret locations, dovetailing nicely with VR’s ability to generate/reveal hidden spaces. And VR might be a way to bring puzzle elements into an immersive without the need to reposition props, reset actors, etc.

On the flip side, this particular show/playtest addresses my biggest barriers to VR. I don’t have to buy any gear or magic another room onto my apartment. I’m hoping “room-scale” means wearing the headset in only 1 or 2 locations with plenty of time to rest my eyes & reset from any quease.

Of course, it might turn out to be clunky as hell. And immersive shows haven’t historically been scalable. Still, I find myself more excited about these playtests than I’ve been so far about any of the VR video games.


#12

My answer is somewhere between “future of gaming” and “eh, it’s niche.” Maybe if there was a “Me and my VR headset are having a great time” option, I would have chosen it.

REZ Infinite in VR, however, might be one of the best gaming experiences I have ever had.


#14

#16

For those talking about business uses, I believe it stretches far beyond just medical uses. I know someone who works at a company that builds off-beat roadway solutions, such as double crossovers. They use VR to demonstrate to the client (usually a local city official) what it will be like driving on a path that the client has literally never driven on. For her company, VR makes a lot of sense. I also know friends that did IT for an architecture firm that heavily invested in VR. For clients, it’s a lot nicer to be able to walk through their building before the foundation is even poured. For those purposes, I think it will stay.

As far as the population is concerned, I think it requires more awareness and availability. So, I work at a nonprofit organization dedicated to education and the literary arts. Every year, we have a giant party for adults based around a book where we get between 250-400 people to enter our building. In the past, we’ve done The Great Gatsby, The Catcher in the Rye, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, and 1984. We have had fire dancers, jazz musicians, projection lighting, drone operators, musicians, and visual artists. This year, we’re doing the Alice books and we’ve actually contracted a local VR studio to create an Alice VR experience for our guests. I’m the only person on staff who regularly plays video games, but everyone is really excited to try the VR experience. Now, I’ve seen people try VR and get immediately turned off. My wife put on a headset once and, after 3 seconds, took it off. Some people aren’t used to it, but some people pick it up immediately. I’ve been to exhibits at a local museum where people tried VR for the first time and instinctively knew how to control it with the Vive controllers and look around. Even after so many years after their release, it’s all about getting people to try it out.

And as far as cost and accessibility, have you tried YouTube’s 360 videos? Here’s one Drew Scanlon made at California Extreme. As technology advances to the point where more advanced and interesting VR experiences can be done with a phone and some Google Cardboard, then we’re going to get a LOT more people doing this.