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VR vs. Stage Demos

Last weekend saw London’s biannual MCM Comic Con event take place as usual at the Excel Exhibition Centre. It’s a packed weekend that features comic books, movies, cosplayers and, of course, videogames. In fact the show’s focus on the latter has grown significantly over the past few years, with a dedicated stage showing off demos of the latest titles with developers presenting their work to fans. This past event marked a first for said stage; a live demo of Loading Human using an Oculus Rift virtual reality (VR) headset.

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At VRFocus we’ve often spoken of the difficulty of portraying the effects of VR to an audience without them actually experiencing it. This demo, which can still be seen on Resero’s Twitch page, did its best to address some of those issues but ultimately felt like it had fallen victim to them. It wasn’t so much the developer’s fault as it was the struggle of delivering the message of what the person using VR on-stage is really feeling and thinking. It’s something that every developer will struggle with when called upon to show their title off live.

The 15 minute demo featured a first-time Oculus Rift user navigating a small section of Loading Human. It involved puzzles and exploration, utilising the Razer Hydra motion controllers. As the demo went on, creative director Flavio Parenti and designer and programmer Matteo Sosso did their best to explain what the player was experiencing. Naturally, using the Oculus Rift’s first developer kit (DK1), the issue of motion sickness was brought up and the audience witnessed the player wrestle with the motion controls. This was all shown on a giant screen that awkwardly displayed the two images on-screen inside the headset, without the stereoscopic 3D effect. This also had to be explained. Clearly, showing off VR isn’t as easy as it is for standard videogames.

Given that we’re now less than 2 weeks away from E3 2014, arguably the biggest event in the videogame calendar and the very best place to see the latest live demos, this poses something of a problem.

We’re anticipating an update on Sony Computer Entertainment’s (SCE) Project Morpheus VR headset during its E3 press conference on 9th June this year. Perhaps not a flood of coverage given that the device likely won’t be here for another year or so, but enough to keep mainstream audiences interested in it, maybe with the reveal of some official software. What happens when SCE wants to show off these titles on a much grander stage? Is it a recipe for disaster?

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Not necessarily. VR might not be as simple to show off as Kaz Hirai putting on a headset and saying ‘wow’, but perhaps SCE can try something else. The company has, in recent years, kept its E3 stage open post-conference with an arcade for fans and press to try out the titles they’ve just seen. Perhaps the best option is to avoid a demo all together and provide ample headsets to try out at this time.

If we dare to get a tad more ambitious, how about planting a headset in every seat in the room? Granted that’s a lot of seats, but imagine if the world’s videogame press was able to slip on a headset for every VR demo and experience it themselves. SCE would be getting immediate and likely overwhelmingly positive feedback to the device as the conference went on. It might sound ridiculous, but it could be an incredibly effective way of convincing the audience of VR’s potential there and then.

Of course, not ever company has the resources to pull this off. A lot of developers for Morpheus and Oculus Rift titles that don’t have the luxury of appearing on the SCE stage still face issues. Perhaps the answer is in compromise. Not everyone will get to see the title in VR, but if the screen showing the demo could at least provide a clear, single image as opposed to the normal output for the Oculus Rift, then audiences may be able to gain that bit more of a link to the experience.

Seeing SCE, Oculus VR and developers tackle these challenges at this year’s E3 is going to be interesting to say the least. VRFocus will be at the event to bring you all the latest on each and every VR headset and videogame.

‘VR vs’ is VRFocus’ weekly feature that takes an issue currently challenging the VR industry and discusses how to fix it. Looking at everything from the videogames in development to the strength of the technology, we highlight the problems and try to come up with the best solutions.