Archive for November 2017

Thanksgiving: Thank You VR Community

November 23, 2017

So it’s Thanksgiving and I’m sure we all have a ton of REAL stuff to be thankful for: our health, our families, the food on the table.

But today I’d like to say Thank You to the VR community.

Just last year, after a nearly 20 year absence, Virtual Reality made a comeback and after recieving the PlayStation VR as a Christmas gift I am convinced that while standard screen and controller gaming will NEVER go away and never should, Virtual Reality is absolutely “the future”.

…unfortunately that future is still 2 or 3 years away (I’m thinking next console generation).

Look, the technology is THERE and it works shockingly well. Can it be improved? Sure, but for the most part that’s not necessary. Rather, VR has 3 main hurdles to overcome:

1 – Price is Too High

2 – Not Enough Games

3 – Motion Sickness

I’ve heard more than a few people suggest just putting the whole thing back in the box and waiting another decade or so. That is the worst idea. See, back in the 90s when we quit making VR headsets, guess what? The prices for headsets were between $500-$1000. When we picked back up again in 2016, guess what the price of headsets were? $500-$1000. The price stagnated. Why? Because no one was making VR headsets. The technology hadn’t been dusted off and refined in a while, there was no demand for certain specialty parts, and the production pipeline had not yet been refined. If we stop making VR right now? It will be the same deal.

No, we need to push ahead. The more VR headsets we make, the more we can refine the technology, smooth out the production pipeline, and offer higher quality headsets at a lower price. But in order to do that, we need guinea pigs. We need people who can’t wait and just gotta have a VR headset even though there’s “nothing” on it. As such…

 

THANK YOU, VR COMMUNITY!

Thank you for taking a risk. Thank you for buying headsets at a rather high price so you could be one of the first. Thank you for toughing it out through these early days of VR when many games are more mini-game than real game. Thank you for providing feedback to developers and helping unravel the mysteries of how to do VR right.

Without consumers there is no point in producing product. Why make VR games if no one will buy them? So you being there and supporting these games and developers in this most experimental time is giving headset producers a reason to keep making headsets and giving game devs a reason to experiment with VR.

VR community? YOU are bringing down the price of VR.

Which brings us to…

 

THANK YOU, VR GAME DEVS!

Egad I can’t believe you all are really doing this. Right now, VR is a big risk. Though it has an “okay” install base with something around 1.5 to 2 million PSVRs sold worldwide making it one of the best selling peripherals of all time, we’re still not talking about that many players. AAA games pretty much bank on selling 3 million units minimum and aim for closer to 5 million. With less than 2 million PSVRs in the wild, AAA game studios do not see the point in even ATTEMPTING VR.

But you, you crazy indie devs with a dream, you’re doing it. I totally get it too: You tried VR, you’re hooked, and you wanna contribute to it. You don’t wanna let something with this much potential die off just because no one was making games for it. So you contributed, you helped add just a few more games to the pile and now the PSVR, the most curated of all VR platforms, has well over 100 games in just one year.

I think that’s the most amazing thing people forget: ONE YEAR. We have had VR for ONE YEAR. It’s easy to forget considering we’ve been hearing about the Occulus for YEARS but that was the beta version. The actual consumer grade Occulus Rift, alone with the Vive and PSVR, came out only one year ago. We have had ONE YEAR of this new age of consumer grade VR and we already have over 100 games on its most curated platform and FAR more on Steam. We’ve already come so far. VR is quickly clawing its way out of the tech demo and mini-game ghetto and real meaty games are showing up.

Raw Data in particular is incredible, FFXV: Monster of the Deep is a real full fishing game, and Skyrim VR is…well…all of Skyrim in VR (and with improved combat which turns the game from something I hated into something I actually ENJOY). I’ve already spoken at length about how much I like Mortal Blitz, though the full game could use more varied environments. Sparc, meanwhile, perfectly realizes and explains why motion controls have so much potential by being a legit SPORT in virtual reality. Now Rec Room is providing a social sandbox for every VR owner to have fun together in for free. Resident Evil 7 showed how it’s possible to add VR support to a AAA game and Far Point gave us a taste of what a AAA first person shooter in VR would be like. Korix showed how far one man’s dream can go.

…and StarBlood Arena shows the tenacity of a single developer to try and keep a dream alive. Egad, Whitemoon Dreams, are you all okay?

What’s even more amazing, however, is how VR game devs keep showing up on Reddit and talking with the community! From update blogs, to listening to requests and patching in features. Raw Data wouldn’t be anywhere near the game it is now if the developers hadn’t patched in a smooth movement option and smooth turning is now promised for Skyrim VR. Not to mention Ancient Amuletor now has a left handed option thanks to developers listening to fan complaints. In these early days of VR, patching has never been more important. You never know when a design decision that sounds great on paper utterly ruins the game for half of your audience.

So thank you VR game devs. Thank you for taking a risk on VR and thank you for listening to your consumers and patching your games to accommodate.

VR game devs? YOU are making “enough games” for VR.

 

But there’s one last group of people I need to thank:

 

THANK YOU DETERMINED PEOPLE WITH MOTION SICKNESS!

I don’t know any other way to put it. I’m lucky, no game in VR has made me really motion sick, but I showed the PSVR to a friend and he instantly got ill with a single step. Motion sickness in VR is not to be taken lightly, but you all have shown that it CAN be overcome!

See, this is where we need more help: We need more researchers studying what makes people sick in VR and the best ways to avoid it. I know some research has been done and I thank those researchers, but more is clearly still necessary.

But while all of that is going on, the personal experiences and anecdotes provided by motion sickness sufferers on Reddit have helped shed light on VR’s most complex, confusing, and definitive problem.

According to the tales I hear, Dramamine CAN be used to overcome motion sickness in VR but of course you do NOT want to be taking medicine just to play videogames every time. Thankfully, prolonged exposure to VR eventually gives people their “VR Legs” and it stops bothering them. But how do you tolerate VR while it makes you sick? Well that’s apparently a combination of playing good stationary and teleport movement based games and…chewing on ginger candies?

Apparently you just chillax in virtual reality, standing in one place, until eventually it just stops bothering you and you can move smoothly in it? I admit I do not know the full details.

The interesting thing is that all of these people tell different stories about what aspects of VR make them sick, which games make them sick, and so on. It really shows how individualized the motion sickness problem is and going forward, a full suite of VR comfort options will need to be necessary both to turn ON for those with problems and to turn OFF once everyone gets their VR legs.

But either way, thankyou for your determination in sticking with VR even though it makes you physically ill. That cannot be an easy task and I applaud your tenacity.

Determined and tenacious people with motion sickness, YOU are helping solve the motion sickness problem

 

 

So in conclusion, thank you all for making VR a thing. Thanks for toughing it out, thanks for sticking with it. If it weren’t for all of you, VR would have no future no matter how awesome it is. Everything starts from somewhere, a single step. You can’t instantly have hundreds of top quality AAA games in VR right at launch and expect it to work perfectly for everyone.

Perhaps that’s the thing people forget: You had to have Atari before you could have Nintendo and you had to have the NES before you could have a SNES and eventually a PS1. Videogames have been evolving for decades. You can’t just magically skip to PS4 right at the start.

Same thing with VR. Except since VR is an accessory to gaming and the base technology has evolved so much, we’re making much faster progress. In one year we’ve cleared the Atari 2600 age of VR (simple mini-games) and are rapidly dashing towards mid to late NES era of VR (more complex and fleshed out games). Keep it up, I’m predicting some real classics on the horizon next year (I hear Sairento is good and can’t wait to play it in PSVR)!

So Thank You, VR community.

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Sonic Forces: Well *I* Liked It

November 23, 2017

I’m doin’ a real good job keeping this blog updated, huh? Anyway I just spent the past two weeks enjoying the controversial Sonic Forces. Is it as good as Colors and Generations? No. Is it BAD? No. Is it FLAWED? Yes. Is it some of the most fun I’ve had all year? Yes.

So I spent an hour and a half reconciling why I liked it so much.

If you don’t believe me, I streamed my whole first playthrough as well (volume warning: I had the Gain up to high)

Part 1 Part 2 Part 3