Thursday, 22 September 2016

Technical Blog Post #1 - VR's Influence in Games

I’ve decided that for my technical blog posts I will go into video game designs and technologies. In this article I will cover virtual reality (original I know) and what exactly it can bring to the games market, if it can contribute anything in the long run to games and their development.

So first a quick breakdown of current existing technologies and competitors. The main devices are the Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, Project Morpheus, Microsoft HoloLens and Google Cardboard. Each provides differences between, but all use head mounted displays to display perspective corrected content to the user. Currently prices range from £15.00 for a piece of foldable cardboard that can hold a smartphone to act as both screens to a £759.00 HTC Vive, currently only a developer edition of the HoloLens is available for a whopping $3,000 per device, though this price will most likely drop for consumer based products.

This post isn’t going to cover exactly what each device does and how it does it, there’s 101 other articles that break that down for you. Instead I’m going to cover more what these devices can actually do as a whole for gaming.

First came the fun little cinematic demos using the Rift Development Kit 1 (DK1), having owned one myself it made a great party trick, first coerce a person to sitting down and putting on the device and some headphone turned up to loud, launching the rollercoaster application and watching them scream as it dropped, jumped and swerved. Unfortunately the DK1 never amounted to more than a proof of concept, widespread motion sickness due to the relatively low update rate of 60hz compared to real life was an instant turn off for many. Also the low resolution of 640x800 made near impossible to distinguish fine details, the comparison to real life was stark.

Skip forward a couple years and great strides have been made to improve immersion and resolution. We’re now up to a 2160x1200 resolution and a higher 90hz refresh rate will drastically help in reducing motion sickness. Nvidia has also made great strides in supporting rendering for multiple simultaneous viewpoints ( requiring only a single pass for each type of shader, drastically improving performance. VR now seems like a plausible subset of gaming, while it’s not going to drastically alter the way the majority of games are currently played, it is going to attempt to co-exist with them.

When a headset is strapped on there’s a large disconnect between moving in a game and sitting still in a game, as such typical first person shooters, especially those with a great fluidity and speed of movement actually feel worse to play. Team Fortress 2 (Valve) was one of the early adopters to native VR support yet despite its flawless integration, it does not provide a fun experience due to this disconnect with seeing your body doing things its actually not.

Games since have shown that to provide movement, they must use the logical step of using vehicles for movement. This can be seen in Hover Junkers (, this involves first person shootouts on hovering platforms.
Hover Junkers (Stress Level Zero)

Simulations also prove great worth in investing with VR technology for diehard fans that can immerse themselves in in their universe such as in EVE: Valkyrie (, Star Citizen ( and Elite Dangerous ( all are new space simulation titles, which have gained huge momentum in recent years. Use of joysticks or provided controllers prove to be a great way to immerse and create believable universes.
EVE: Valkyrie (CCP Games)

Overall VR helps a few niche genres bringing them into the spotlight if only for a decade or so. The majority of other genres simply are not applicable with current iterations, drastic changes to core mechanics would have to be made to make a game playable, let alone fun. Would then they still even be define in those original genres they attempted to be?

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