Friday, October 16, 2015

Q Attack, Round 22 - Is VR Here to Stay?
VR gaming seems to be all the rage these days with multiple companies producing their own headsets. Tiger and Rabbit share their thoughts on VR and examine what this could mean for the future of gaming. Is VR the next big thing in gaming or just another fad that will fade away?


Tiger: I think I’m ready to jump into this whole VR fad.

Rabbit: Wait, really?

Tiger: Yeah, there are some pretty interesting games and the tech has come a long way.

Rabbit: It’s still really pricey, which is a big drawback for me.

Tiger: There are so many options nowadays and some of them aren’t too expensive.

Rabbit: I know Valve is working with phone manufacturer HTC on Vive.

Tiger: Our phones are from HTC, I’ve always liked them but they’re pretty simple. I’m curious to see how this marriage will work out for Valve.

Rabbit: Supposedly, the Vive has some of the best graphics compared to the other competitors.

Tiger: We already know what Oculus Rift can do. The big question is the price tag.

Rabbit: With the controller attachment and the PC needed to run it, I bet it’s going to be pretty high. Still, they are the most experienced, so it may be worth the entry fee.

Tiger: Samsung’s Gear VR is also powered by Oculus and uses a smartphone, but it’s limited to Samsung phones at this time.

Rabbit: Carl Zeiss VR One uses the same concept but supports the iPhone 6 as well.

Tiger: I’m not a fan of mobile gaming so mobile VR is an even less appealing idea for me.

Rabbit: There’s Microsoft’s HoloLens which is more of an AR headset than a VR one.

Tiger: I’ll be interested to see what they can really achieve with it. It’s a cool idea but also limited I think, since developers won’t be able to port other VR games to it easily.

Rabbit: We also have FOVE Eye Tracking VR which is backed by Microsoft Ventures. This headset needs no controller and relies on the user’s eyes to track movement.

Tiger: My eyes hurt just thinking about playing a game that way.

Rabbit: How about Google’s Cardboard VR headset?

Tiger: Backhand to the face, anyone? There’s also Razer’s OSVR which is an open source system supported by Gearbox Software.

Rabbit: We seem to be missing one.

Tiger: And that is the one we’d most likely get if we get one, Project Morpheus, now known as PlayStation VR.

Rabbit: I really hate the idea of it being paired with the PS Camera and the Move controller.

Tiger: *shakes head* PS Move, that controller is a big waste of space.

Rabbit: Yet, we have four of them.

Tiger: To my defense, I got a second pair for cheap. Plus, you were the one that complained about not being able to play the multiplayer games with me.

Rabbit: I’m still not sure if I’m sold on VR, I can see the benefits for some types of games, but it feels a little gimmicky.

Tiger: Especially with some of the headsets. Like with Morpheus, did you see how they did multiplayer with some of the games?

Rabbit: Having one person use the headset and the rest using Move controllers with the PS Camera? Lame.

Tiger: I think the games I’m most interested in using VR with are the flight simulators, like piloting a mech or something.

Rabbit: You just want to make your childhood dream of piloting a Gundam come true.

Tiger: You know that game will happen, it just has to.

Rabbit: FPS games could be interesting with VR and I like the concepts behind a few of the horror demos too. I just don’t see VR having a huge impact on gaming in general. The price point is going to be steep for a lot of people. You already need to have a console or PC that can run the games, now you need to get a VR headset and maybe even a new controller! Gaming is already an expensive hobby, adding all the extra peripherals has made this a working mammal’s hobby.

Tiger: Well, we’ve only experienced the Oculus Rift so it’s kind of hard to say how VR may change video games, but there were some notable things to mention with our experience. One was depth perception; I was super impressed with how everything made sense visually. The demo was placed inside a room that was connected to a long hallway. It sounds weird, but I actually felt like I was as tall as I am in real life.

Rabbit: I totally get where you are coming from. In a lot of FPS games, I feel exceedingly tall, it’s a strange feeling. That Rift demo made it feel like I really was in the game because the placement of the walls felt normal. It didn’t feel like I had Mr. Fantastic arms or I was a giant.

Tiger: It seems like such a little concept but I figured it would be really hard to get that to feel accurate, so I was really impressed with Oculus Rift regarding that.

Rabbit: I also liked how it fit. We both wear glasses and have major issues with 3D TVs, so I was worried that it wouldn’t function well for us. Not only was the headset really comfortable to wear, the VR effect was not distorted by my glasses. The headset was a little heavy after you added the headphones, but overall, it was a comfortable design.

Tiger: While the game we played wasn’t very graphically detailed, the visuals still looked amazing. That screen was really high quality. I can see a lot of potential in VR. Could you imagine playing Fallout or Skyrim?

Rabbit: I want a VR Hakuouki game so I can see Saitou in all his high definition glory.

Tiger: Do you think we’d get motion sick playing an FPS game?

Rabbit: All the action could get a little hectic, maybe a game like the Vanishing of Ethan Carter or Everyone’s Gone to the Rapture would be a better fit.

Tiger: I’d really like to play Firewatch on a VR headset. The game’s artistic graphics would be amazing that way.
Rabbit: So what say you, oh illustrious Tiger. Is VR going to be commonplace for gamers?

Tiger: I think it has the potential to be. We haven’t seen technology in gaming that could really change the way we play since motion control. Granted, I wasn’t a fan of motion control but you cannot deny the success Nintendo had with the Wii. With 3D TVs, they weren’t necessary to experience certain games but a nice add-on feature. I think that was one of the main issues why it never truly saturated the video game market. With VR, if they can get the right games for it, I think they have the opportunity to really penetrate the market and carve out a niche for themselves. The software is going to be a key factor with how quickly and expansive gamers will adopt this new way to play. We already mentioned pricing as being a factor but I think something as simple as how quickly it is to put on and play will also affect whether gamers adopt VR fully. That was the one thing I hated most about the Move, I had to recalibrate it every freaking time I wanted to play a game. Adding five extra minutes to the boot up of a game doesn’t sound like much, but when you can just hit start and be playing within 20 seconds on other games, you start to notice the difference. I don’t want to feel like I’m putting on firefighting gear every time I want to play a VR game.

Rabbit: What kind of game would prod you to buy a VR headset?

Tiger: An actual game and not a tech demo. Many of the Move’s early games felt like glorified tech demos. I want an AAA game, built from the ground up for VR. Like with the Move, even games that came out later in its life cycle felt like the motion controlled gameplay was tacked on. I think with the right price and game, VR could become a staple for the hardcore and maybe even casual gamer. After all, casual gamers seem to adopt new tech like motion control pretty quickly. Who knows, get the right kind of commercial and holiday buzz, and we may see VR dominate sales.

Rabbit: I don’t think VR is going to revolutionize video games. Sure, it’s a great concept and will definitely be fun to play but I think there are too many barriers to overcome. One is definitely the entry fee. Consoles are already super expensive and so are games. Now you’re adding another peripheral that you won’t be using with every game, that could cost hundreds more. I do agree with you about the software side of the discussion needs to be strong. A killer app is a must but I’m not sure that will do it for most gamers. Harking back to the Move, we adopted pretty early but still have less than a dozen games that utilize the controller. I can’t imagine paying three to four hundred dollars for a headset that we may play for a few hours here and there. And while there were games I liked for the Move, it never replaced my Dualshock and I don’t think VR can do that either. Yes, I know you use a controller with it too but what I’m saying is, I don’t think VR can force me away from traditional gaming for an extended amount of time. Speaking of extended play sessions-

Tiger: You going to rant how you may accidentally walk into a wall while wearing a headset?

Rabbit: Chigau! I’m gonna go all scientific on you now. I think motion sickness and fatigue are going to be huge problems and difficult to overcome. Time to use my handy-dandy education in neuroscience! The fundamental problem with VR is this little problem called vergence-accommodation conflict. Your eyes do a couple of things when you look at something. First, your eyeballs move to ogle an object. If it’s close, they naturally converge on it but if it’s far away, they diverge. When your eyes don’t line up properly, that’s when you see double of what you’re looking at. The next thing that happens is your lenses focus on the object, or accommodate. This works perfectly well when looking at reality but with VR, all bets are off. VR creates 3D images by showing offset images to the left and right eye. The more offset, the closer an object appears. While your eyes are still accommodating, they're converging to the image in the distance. What does this mean, Professor Rabbit? This means that your eyes are overworking which causes fatigue, discomfort, and what has become known as virtual reality sickness. There also isn’t a great solution yet as many have suggested basing tech on light fields but none have done so.

Tiger: I’m really surprised that you remembered that from school, I thought you just slept through all of our classes.

Rabbit: ^sticks out tongue^ Anyway, while I think there will be those gamers who will adopt the new tech, there’s no way that VR will become mainstream and replace gaming as we know it. At least not in the state it’s in now, maybe in a decade when the tech is better, but not right now and not for the next few years.

Tiger: I don’t think it will take ten years for VR to saturate the market, not at all. Just make a great game that has you piloting a Gundam and you will own the video game industry!

Is VR Here to Stay?

Tiger     vs     Rabbit


  1. Definitely with Rabbit on this one. But, bravo you to both for running down all those different headset (I'd forgotten there were so many), and the technical problems behind the tech today.

    It was also surprising, Rabbit, to hear you say you felt the headset you tried made the virtual world's proportions feel more believable. That is fascinating. I'm still to try any of the VR headsets myself. The tech seems cool, and some of the game look like mildly fun distractions.

    But, honestly, I agree with everything you said about the VR sickness, the additional time it takes to set up the kit, and the lack of essential software.

    Frankly, I'm surprised so many companies are jumping into the this second wave of VR technology right now. I don't see there being nearly enough interest, or disposable income, to go round for even half of them. For the multiple reasons Rabbit pointed out, and the chief reason being that, to me, the whole idea of VR headsets is fundamentally flawed - at least for a go few generations.

    All entertainment and media has been impacted dramatically by mobile devices, and their immediacy especially. For the millions that are satisfied with mobiles and tablets - and aren't attracted today's console/PC games, regardless of whether they tired motion control - I just can't see VR appealing to any of them. The cost is too great, the useful applications too few (Facebook VR? Not until we're in mid-life at the earliest), and the immediacy of it will always lag behind mobiles, browsers and even print.

    Personally, I don't see VR taking off until the technology for a Matrix-style world or Star Trek Holodeck is available and accessible to all (but, not like Second Life). And, crucially, it's socially acceptable for us to move many more of our interactions and activities into the virtual world.

    1. I'm still surprised by how many mobile companies seem to be on board with VR. I definitely don't think of mobile games as being big into shaping VR but apparently some companies see it that way. We'll have to wait and see how things turn out but there's a different feel with the hype this time around vs the camera peripherals. I still don't think it will saturated the market quickly but VR could be poised to at least stick around a lot longer than previous attempts.


    2. For now, I still see this as a big 'ole bandwagon that companies are jumping on to make a few quick bucks while the fad is still hot. I still can't see the hardcore gaming community adopting VR fully and to me, that's the community that will keep it alive. It's too expensive for casual gamers to adopt like motion controls via Wii was. We'll see, still have some time before these really hit the retail market.