Then and Now: How the Rules of VR Have Changed
Times are changing, and so is our understanding of what are the dos and don'ts of VR.
As we all know, there are no written rules of virtual reality (VR), neither will there ever be. However, when I first get into the VR community it seemed as though there were a few set rules that many people abided by, the main two being no horror titles, and don’t let the user walk around freely. Now, it seems as though through example that they have become outdated.
Over the past few months there has been a drastic change in regard to how we can engage with VR, and what we can develop for it. Time and time again it has been said that the rules are still yet to be made, but it seems we are not very much closer to any solid ones, neither should we expect us to get to that point at this stage. The first unwritten rule that inspired this discussion point was the rise of The Brookhaven Experiment. Many people have gone crazy for this zombie shooter, but when it was first announced I was somewhat taken aback.
Then again, when I heard that horror was initially looked down upon, by heart sunk a little as it was the first genre I was looking forward to exploring endlessly. It is a triumph that stigma has already been thrown out, and that VR is the type of industry to welcome introductions and changes as part of the way things have to be.
The next cardinal sin of VR that was less of a snobbish one is letting users roam freely. You have to admit, you hear much less of motion sickness as what you did a year ago when it was one of the biggest threats to the mainstream adaption of VR. One of the first times I took off my head-mounted display (HMD) with a sigh of relief was when I played PlayStation VR title Loading Human, and there’s a few reason as to why.
Firstly, it was down to the speed of which you’re allowed to run, which was relatively moderate in this compared to other experiences. The second point ties into the first closely, that being in a title like Loading Human, you don’t want to run around all the time, you want to explore, and so you regulate yourself accordingly. Of course you won’t put fast-speed running mechanics in a game where you have to run long distances, round corners, jumping off of high ledges. No, instead it works perfectly in slow-progressing ones such as Loading Human and The Assembly.
These rules have changed, and there were many more that have been overcome, and it is down to one thing: a better understanding of VR. Developers a year ago will have had much less of an idea of how to avoid these risks than what they do now, and from past mistakes come new skills. In a way, VR is like a child. Really, hear me out. We were all so scared of what could have happened at the beginning that we wrapped it cotton wool and looked down on those who did otherwise. Now that we have gotten past that point, and most of us have a healthy respect for VR, it is easier to find new ways to immerse ourselves in it.
So, what are the rules now? One that is reoccurring lately is to refrain from letting users’ faces collide or go through objects, or else their sense of presence is completely messed up. When walking around, or teleporting which is the main way in which you’ll achieve this, feeling your head enter a solid object often results in the user trying to move their head backwards while cringing from how strange it is compared to reality.
Other rules, much like the no horror one, will come from the aforementioned snobbery, and that is something I haven’t shied away from. Can we all agree on no more Tetris in space, board game sims, anticlimactic rollercoasters, and stationery shooters? I’ll get the stone tablets.