One last (I hope) word about VR

27 Jun

I got an email this morning from a friend who’s working in VR. His comments made it clear that I hadn’t been particularly clear in some of my statements and, certainly, not in my motivation for making them.

So here’s one (last?) set of observations/clarifications on VR and then, if you folks will let me, I’m going to sit back, watch what happens and let history take its course:

1. As an individual, I find VR cool, interesting and compelling. I’m not anti-VR. The content is coming, I have no doubt – I know too many super-smart, super-creative people working to create the unique content that will make the VR experience desirable if not irresistible.

2. As a developer, speaking strictly personally, I’m not much interested in making VR games. That could change, but right now I’m interested in other things. That isn’t to say other developers should follow my lead. I’m just a guy whose head is in a different space these days. (Mostly a mobile space, if you want to know…)

3. As a friend, I hope I’m wrong about VR’s long-term commercial future in the game space. I have lots of friends working on VR projects and I genuinely, truly, unreservedly want their hard work in the VR space to bring them satisfaction and success.

4. As a consumer, I’m torn. I’ll probably buy some sort of VR gear when I can because I’m affluent enough and enough of a geek to be intrigued by new tech, cool content and potential new futures. The question is, am I anti-social enough not to worry too much about isolation from the world or how I look to anyone observing me wearing a goofy headset? Probably, but I’m still wrestling with that.

5. As an investor (not that I am one!) I’d be pushing VR developers to explain how they’re going to overcome non-technical challenges for which I, personally, see no answers. There seems to be an attitude in the press and among fans, at least, of “If you build it they will come.” I suspect that same attitude prevails among VR hardware and software developers, but I don’t know – either because I haven’t paid close enough attention or because they’re just not talking. “If you build it they will come” works really well in movies but not so well in real life. This is the heart of what I’ve been saying about VR and despite trying to be as provocative as I can be without getting downright offensive, I still haven’t heard anyone address the ergonomic and user challenges VR faces – all anyone wants to talk about is content. Maybe there are answers to the non-content questions, maybe not, but I’d love to see people in and out of the field at least try to address them.

So that’s it. To summarize: I’m a VR fan but not a true-believer. I believe VR will be a game-changer (as it were) in many aspects of our future lives but not necessarily in gaming. I want to see VR succeed as a gaming device, but see potential roadblocks being ignored. I see history working against this new tech, but hope smart people can write a new kind of history.

In closing, I’ll just say that if anyone working on VR stuff wants to show off their work I’m always up for demos. Despite appearances, I’m not the enemy and I am interested in what you’re doing. Like I said, I think VR is challenged, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t damn cool…

3 Responses to “One last (I hope) word about VR”

  1. Taurevanime (@Taurevanime) June 27, 2015 at 9:14 pm #

    As someone whom has owned TrackIR for many years. For those that do not know, TrackIR is a headtracking tool and software. You move your head and the camera moves with it, but not in a 1-to-1 ratio, so you can look behind you in game but still look at your screen in real life. It is basically a VR light. It’s not total VR but it gets you some of the stuff VR does. (google it if you want more info)

    Not all games support TrackIR, but you find that the support for it generally comes from one scene of games. namely sim games. This is because headtracking works really well in games where your camera is relatively stable (seated in a vehicle) and you have a good frame of reference which way your vehicle is pointed while you look at a different direction. Due to the cockpit around you in a flight game for example. Once you take out that reference material by flying without the cockpit rendered and it starts getting disorientating and you lose which way you are looking and which way the vehicle is pointing more often.

    The one game I own that supports TrackIR and has you play as a person on two legs is ArmA. And it works because the ArmA series has always supported the player being able to move the camera independent of the player’s body. And it works because ArmA is by no means intended to be franchise of fast paced twitch shooters.

    It is with this background experience in mind that I think VR is mainly going to be niche. Since I just don’t see a fast paced twitch shooter doing well with VR. So that means your Counter-Strike or Unreal Tournament player would likely not bother with it. Since they have better control over their vision and movement with both being controlled with mouse and keyboard. RTS and MOBA players won’t see much benefit from it either, other than nicer visuals (so stereoscopic 3D would suit them just fine). The one thing I am not sure about is third person games. They may actually see the greatest benefit from VR outside of sim games.

    And that is my main gripe when it comes to the press talking about VR. They all talk about how great it would be. But none of them ever seem to have tried the products that do parts of what VR already does to see it’s limitations. Nor do they ever ask the question “What games will benefit most and which least from VR?”
    Everyone is just too excited by those two letters to think critically in my opinion.

    One thing I can say in support of VR. Is that due to my experience with TrackIR, now every time I play a game where I get to drive cars or fly planes, and TrackIR isn’t supported, I really miss it. To the point where I even move my head to try and move the camera to no avail. So if it does get a decent enough userbase, games will start supporting it more because people will miss not having it.

  2. ehcmier June 28, 2015 at 10:27 pm #

    I thought you were clear in your previous blog, and that no clarification was needed. You cannot be responsible for people being defensive to the point they don’t see any of the concessions being made, but the attempt is hopefully appreciated and respected for what it is, not as obstructionist, for example. Oof.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. show #75: hifi | the drax files radio hour [with jo yardley] - July 3, 2015

    […] – good read [even if jo disagrees]: warren spector on vr issues […]

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