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Full indie 2016 : Leading VR beyond the zombie shooter

According to Kayla Kinnunen, today is the beginning of a 10 years journey to Virtual Reality consumption and creation for everyone. We’re still way at the 1% adoption rate, before the big scary schasm that separates failed innovations that never sold beyond early adopters to the mass market. And Kayla believes the Zombie shooter isn’t what will get VR past the Schasm.

Here’s what I gathered from her inspiring talk.

 

Thank you, zombie shooter for giving us VR

VR is born from the FPS genre

Let’s face it, if it wasn’t for zombie shooters, we wouldn’t have VR. the first kickstarters for occulus were lead by shooter fans who wanted to experience even stronger emotions, more immersive jump scares and adrenaline.

However, the FPS genre existed long before virtual reality and nothing in zombie shooters requires VR to work.

The State of VR today

It’s affordable to experiment with its benefits

Thanks to Unity’s integration with the HTC Vive, Indies can set up VR in 75 minutes, crashes included, to experiment and try new things with this exciting tech. We’re in this amazing period when there are no experts yet, and everything can be reinvented from scratch. If you have a PC with Unity installed, you have no excuse not to experiment with VR.

Current VR tech already gives the benefits of having a player focused inside the game, with a strong sense of presence in the virtual world, and  provides relatively natural controls.

Not yet comfortable and easy enough to interact with

We’re still facing the drawbacks of complex controls. Players are limited to short sessions. While sony recommends taking a 15 to 20 minutes break for each hour of play, I’ve experienced players pause every 15 to 20 minutes instead. The headsets are still quite heavy, and some players complained about their warmth too. In terms of controls, there’s also the huge challenge of how to manage locomotion.

VR games today are constrained by the current development of the tech. You need high resolution and 90fps images for them to be enjoyable – and reduce motion sickness. They better be good enough for the player to feel like going through the hassle of putting that thing on, and engaging enough to motivate them putting it on again.

What VR can be tomorrow

VR won’t replace screen based games

If you’re not into virtual reality, don’t worry about it. Players won’t leave the screen any time soon and it isn’t going to replace screen based games. If anything, players will enjoy screen based games inside of VR, but it’s not going to disappear.

VR might be mobile, but not on your mobile

Kayla also doesn’t see mobile phones be the future of VR. Smashing a finger stained screen against your eyes is great for getting a feeling of what VR may look and feel like. These kind of cheap solutions are good to solve part of the marking problem in understanding the promise of VR.

It’s great for developing awareness, but it doesn’t seem sustainable in the long run. Instead, in 5 years, you might go to your shop and ask for one VR please, the same way you’d get a hands free kit of a smartwatch with your mobile.

VR will use different controllers

Today, VR uses controllers that reinforce existing, non-VR genres. The gamepad evolved to be the most effective tool for playing existing genres, but it’s really hard to use for many poeple. Keyboards and mouse have already proven to be terrible controllers for virtual reality.

We’re just at the beginning of working with original, motion based controllers. As the technology matures, more natural touch / motion interfaces, better head and eye tracking, aswel as voice recognition will become the way to interact in VR, according to Kayla.

We already know the simple act of grabbing things in VR is a satisfying experience. AI agents and voice input starts being reliable enough to actually use, if we could mix Navi, Siri and Cortana.

Games that work well in VR today

Since FPS doesn’t require virtual reality to work, what kind of games would VR really benefit ? What kind of experiences wouldn’t work nearly as well without VR ?

It’s not about what market there is for any of those genres, since VR itself doesn’t have a market yet, but what directions would it make the most sense to explore to venture away from simply porting existing genres to a new device ?

Multiplayer games

VR has a huge opportunity in multiplayer gaming. Anyone with VR hardware will invite players over to try it out at home with friends. Playing online with others in virtual reality offers new ways to connect with others, stay in touch, interact meaningfully.

Flowstate games

The distraction free context of VR is really great for reflex-based gaming and preserving the player’s flowstate. Games like Thumpster and Rez benefit greatly from the distraction free environment of VR. Virtual reality makes rythm flowstate games shine.

Narrative driven games

VR is a great way to experience Blink and grab adventures, the next upgrade of point and click adventures, like Call of the starseed.

Narrative driven plate spinning games, like papers please and Cart life would also work well in VR. Keeping stuff functionnal at a station is both fun and challenging. It doesn’t require a lot of locomotion and works really well with motion controllers.

Exploration games or walking simulators (which is a very limitating name) also makes a lot of sense in VR. How to experience and explore a new world or story line better than by actually walking through it ? Lucid trips is a very good example of how that can work really well, including locomotion using your hands.

Conveying emotions

Interactive artworks can be experienced by players in VR in a way it’s never been done before, thanks to how virtual reality can convey emotions differently.

Creating relations with other characters or players and exploring a wider variety of emotions in VR might lead to more experiences like ico and shadows of the colossus, not in terms of gameplay, but in terms of exploring the realms of care, love, guilt, and many other emotions other games tend to ignore usually.

Creative games and development tools

Creative sandboxes like Fantastic Contraptions are probably impossible to experience smoothly on any other type of tech.

Beyond that, VR  can also let players be creative themselves, making complex things like modeling and editing games more intuitive.

Unity and Unreal have a few projects running where VR can be used to make games. Editing levels while standing in them would be so awesome, but it seems like a bare minimum. Virtual reality might also help support the cognitive processes of manipulating complex file structures, visualize how game elements interact with each other, etc.

I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait to see it all unfold !

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