Every since the first virtual reality (VR) videogames and experiences started to become available they all shared the common goal of putting you, the player, at the center of the action. From shootouts with robots, driving fast cars, or flying in the air, each and every title made sure you were fully immersed. The same goes for those titles which see you being a spectator within the virtual world and being able to interact with objects and characters. Now however, it seems as though developers are taking a new approach to interaction and immersion within VR videogames in the form of building relationships between the player and the player-character.
PlayStation VR owners were treated to the magical adventure of Moss back in February of this year. Embarking on a grad journey in which players needed not only control and guide the lovable Quill through this title, but where they themselves were a character within the virtual world that Quill would interactive with. The developers at Polyarc implemented sign language into the title as a means for Quill to talk to the player who would be watching from above. This was not only a bold move in terms of design and communication between player and avatar, but a move that made Quill real. It gave a sense of identity and life to Quill, more so then players had seen in a VR title before and it resulted in an unforgettable experience.
Jump forward to the past week and the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) 2018 and it seems as though a theme has appeared within VR videogames. To quote Justin Roiland of Squanch Games talking about his upcoming title Trover Saves The Universe, “It’s co-op with yourself.”
“Your in the game as a first-person character but then there’s a third-person character that your also controlling,” Roiland explains: “we want the player to feel like their the star of this game and their doing things with Trover that’s like typical gamer stuff like jumping over something, and Trover will responses in real-time hes like ‘Why you over here doing this thing you should be over there’ or like ‘we’re not on track!’ so we continue to build it that way”
This level of interaction between player and player-character offers a greater sense of immersion, building a more believable emotional connection between the two. Though VR is an immersive experience by nature the move to build more realist relationships with the player at the center of the action is a powerful and interacting design choice by developers. It could, in fact, lead to more impressive experiences by offering a stronger sense of care for the characters.
Ghost Giant by Zoink Games is another PlayStation VR title which builds a similar connection between player and player-character into the core of the experience. Players will be helping out a character called Louis who is very alone. It’s during this time in need that the player appears and starts to build a bond with cute character, helping them through a number of different challenges. A similar set up was used in Along Together, where players act as an imaginary friend to a kid who they must watch over and protect, alongside helping find their missing dog.
Even the recently revealed Astro Bot Rescue Mission puts more focus on the player and player-character relationship but having the player once again be a part of the world and not just a spectator. Players will be able to interact with Astro more than just controller input and one of two actions. They are present in the virtual world and need to ensure that they work with Astro in order to save the lost crew members. Though not as much of an emotional connection as other titles, it is still a bond that will ultimately be at the core of the experience.
Emotional, believable characters have always been a dream of content developers for years ensuring that players will invested in the experience and care about the characters within a world. What is interesting though is this shift in reinforcing the player as a living part of a virtual world, with real interactions and relationships to care about. With the release of Moss really pushing this connection forward, it now seems that developers elsewhere want to take inspiration and deliver equally, if not more, emotional bonds within their work.
The VR offerings at E3 2018 might have been small in number, but those titles which were revealed look to offer something more than just a standard videogame experience. It seems that emotional connections, bonds, and relationships with believable characters is the way forward. No matter the direction the industry takes however, VRFocus will make sure to bring you all the latest.