How To Keep The VR Newbies

VR has benefitted from a huge influx of new users this holiday season; how do we keep them coming back for more?

At the time of starting with VRFocus I was a relative newbie to the virtual reality (VR) world. I didn’t own a dedicated VR head-mounted display (HMD), though I had dabbled with mobile VR. I’m also old enough that I remember playing Dactyl Nightmare at the arcade back in the 90s on the old Virtuality machine. What I am is a geek and a gamer. What I want from my videogames, as well as TV and films etc., is pretty simple: I want to be told a story and I want to have fun.

Pico Neo new

One of the things that has cheered me considerably since I joined VRFocus nigh-on a year ago is the number of VR and augmented reality (AR) titles I’ve seen which are bright and colourful and interesting. Like the fascinating clockwork/steampunk design of RTS Brass Tactics, or the brash, colourful look of World War Toons, or the frankly adorable Lola and the Giant.

I’d love for videogames like these to continue being made, to get high praise and great sales, because otherwise I fear the VR videogames industry will wander down the same rabbit hole as the AAA videogames industry, churning out safe sequels to popular franchises all sporting an identical grey and brown colour scheme. Looking at the recent blockbuster VR titles, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim VRL.A. Noire: The VR Case FilesDOOM VFR and Fallout 4 VR, there`s already a shift towards this supposed `gritty realism` taking place.

Despite misgivings during the first years of modern VR, it’s no secret that the medium has eventually become well suited to the first-person shooter (FPS) genre. Sadly, though, among the wider console and PC market, that genre has become very stale, with many titles in the genre being almost identical to each other in appearance. I can but hope that the introduction of new players in VR shakes things up a bit. I hope the fun can come back to the videogames industry, inspired by the creativity and diversity of VR, instead of everything being so terribly serious, as modelled by the stereotypical ‘game protagonist’ – the angry guy with stubble toting an oversized gun.

Story, though. I am a fan of role-playing games (RPGs) – of both the table-top paper-and-dice variety and the hit-people-with-enormous-swords-on-a-screen variety. When I am playing a videogame, I am here for the story. I want to get to know the characters, to understand their motives, to step into someone’s shoes, to see where the plot will lead me.

Final Fantasy VII screenshot

One of the things I have noticed about VR is that despite it’s immersion, it is presently difficult to spend too long in the virtual world. Most videogames are not very long, for starters, presenting only 2-3 hours of content. Don’t get me wrong, a great story can be presented in that time frame, but it’s a long way removed from the hours I would pour into videogames like Final Fantasy VII or the Dot Hack series.

Some of the problems here are physical – the simulation sickness issue is still present for a large proportion of people. I’m pretty lucky in that I don’t suffer from simulation sickness as a rule. However, I am very short-sighted and I do suffer from migraines occasionally, which are known to be triggered by long-term VR use.

As the technology develops some of these issues will be solved. Display framerate will increase, reducing the migraine issue, haptic feedback and motion effects can mitigate the simulation sickness problem and the HMDs will get lighter and more portable. Most importantly, however, as has been the case in recent months, the price will come down.

The stage has been set and the audience are now filling the stalls as well as the boxes, it`s time for VR to give them a reason to offer a standing ovation.


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