Yesterday I went to a virtual reality club for the first time to have my first virtual reality experience. I was with a friend and we knew nothing about virtual reality gaming. They asked me what I wanted to play and I said: “Just find something beautiful and exciting so we could play together!”
Well, the choice of virtual reality games in that place was not very broad. We could either shoot zombies from a gun, kill mermaids with arrows or fight with some heavily equipped machos. We chose zombies, and it was the game called “Arizona Sunshine.”
The guy working in that center warned us about one thing that I could only understand when the game started: “Don’t be scared, you both will look awful!” When I put on my VR goggles and looked at my friend, I started shooting immediately because he was so scary. That was one of the first serious disadvantages of that game. There were more.
All in all, it was not the best possible virtual reality game though we enjoyed it. Yet I wished that first virtual reality experience was more engaging. I would also want virtual reality games to be more capturing, moving, beautiful so even my granny could play them with a crazy smile on her face!
After all, the market of VR games is growing fast and it will probably reach the size of $45 million by 2025.
That’s why on my way back home I started thinking about what makes a really good virtual reality game… and that`s what I’ve come up with:
What Will You Expect from Good VR games?
We all expect this famous total and absolute immersion but what does it mean? It is basically the transformation of physical self and its final disappearance for the sake of absolute merge with the character.
The algorithm is the following: we recognize that the game/book/movie is just an illusion, but then we start believing in this illusion (or rather forget about it) and start perceiving it as a reality. Psychologists call it suspension of disbelief.
There are 3 most important categories of immersion:
Tactical/sensory immersion is when your sensory experience is so overwhelming that the rest of the world simply disappears. It happens to most football players when they score a goal.
Strategic/cognitive immersion is engagement into cognitive operations on such a level that the real world stops being important to you. That’s what happens to chess players who start thinking as if they were figures on the chess board.
And emotional immersion is when the feelings you experience are so strong that you forget the movie you’re seeing or a game you’re playing is just an illusion.
So in order to have a good virtual reality game, you need to experience total immersion.
How to check if the game is actually immersive? Watch if the sense of time disappears!
If you’d ask me to think about a really immersive game, I would mention Subnautica built on Steam. The game is the exploration of a huge, no, a HUUUUUGE underwater world. There is an unimaginable amount of various creatures with which a player can interact (some fishes even bite).
There is an interesting field for strategy elaboration, and the emotions created by the graphics are very strong. The atmosphere is majestic and a special “thank you” for the soundtrack which adds to the immersion. This is actually one of the best virtual reality games from the perspective of immersion.
The more elaborated and intense the plot is, the better the gameplay is. The more rounded heroes in a VR game are, the more intense emotions you experience.
VR games` lovers claim that some games can be exceptionally good in terms of plot, and others are all about crushing, killing, and destroying. So a good plot keeps the player in suspense and makes him/her think harder and deeper.
Batman Arkham VR is one of the most popular VR games that users see as AAA quality. For instance, Batman uses some exciting tools, such as a grappling hook or a forensic scanner to explore the environment and scan evidence, and that stimulates player’s attention to the narrative a lot. Some sort of a detective story inside a superhero action. That`s virtual reality gaming that deserves respect.
How to understand that the plot is really cool? You keep solving puzzles and rewinding dialogues at 3 am.
Most players are capable of recognizing high-quality graphics intuitively knowing nothing about the texture details or peculiarities of the right lighting. You don’t need to be Tim Burton to understand that this game looks realistic while this was created by some fresh inexperienced 3D painters.
There are more and more virtual reality games with amazing graphics on the market so it’s getting harder to choose. I would say that Lone Echo (the game Mark Zuckerberg wrote about on his Facebook page) is probably one of the most stunning in terms of realistic graphics: colors feel natural, objects are almost palpable, and the light… it can blow your mind.
How to understand if the graphics are really good? You actually “feel” the touch when a 100% virtual butterfly sits on your hand.
This concept describes the subjective experience in virtual reality. It signifies the psychological sensation of being present in a virtually simulated environment.
In other words, though the person who experiences virtual reality understands that it’s created with the help of technology, some part of his/her consciousness chooses not to acknowledge the role of this technology in the process of stimulation.
There are four basic elements that create presence according to the book “The VR: Human-Centered Design for Virtual Reality” :
The possibility of social interaction Yeah, it may sound strange (like you wanted to escape the reality- and here you are, in a virtual world, missing people and communication). But we are social animals, so even if we’re killing zombies in a lonely Arizona desert, we still lack communication.
Physical interaction with an environment To actually feel inside the game, a player needs to understand that his movements stimulate at least some feedback. However, this feedback can take any form: visual or haptic, for example.
The illusion of self-embodiment The presence in the game that is created with the help of some minor things like the presence of one’s hands or this elusive feeling of being “in one’s shoes.”
Spatial stability in a virtual environment is probably the most important category. If a person can really feel that he is physically present in a virtual world, the sense of presence increases.
Fallout 4 which was released on October 17th is quoted as “freakingly immersive” which creates the total feeling of total presence. They have already called it the game of the year, have you tried it? And if you still haven’t tried it go ahead and do it!
How to know is the game is good in terms of presence? Try Fallout 4.
How about Virtual Reality Sex Games?
That’s the part my granny should skip. Don’t pretend you are shocked: virtual reality sex games are changing the porn industry from the inside. Since 2014, the search of “VR porn” increased on 9.900%. I must say that’s what most marketing specialists would love to see in the analytics stats.
You see my point, virtual reality sex games can have a huge share of VR content. So at the moment, you wonder how virtual reality sex games will look like, here is the example.
Take BeacHouSeX, for instance, a solo-player game created by Imagine VR. The plot of the game is pretty simple: a man meets an Asian maid after spending a day on the beach and gets horny. The game takes place in the same environment- a bungalow on a beach somewhere in Eastern Asia.
The creator of the game says that motion sickness is the biggest problem of virtual reality sex games so far that’s why developers stick to a fixed camera perspective.
Best Headsets for VR Gaming: Oculus Rift or HTC Vive?
Now there is no doubt that if you want to have an extraordinary virtual reality experience, you need to go for high-quality HMDs, the best ones at the moment: HTC Vive or Oculus Rift.
HTC Vive is probably the most popular headset today because of its immaculate motion tracking, rich graphics, and an incredibly stylish look. It also has the biggest field of view compared to all other devices and effective and easy to set up room-scale.
Oculus Rift is usually raised for its excellent controllers which have great ergonomics. Most users claim that it’s cheaper and that’s the main advantage of this headset. And it is.
But they basically compete in content because each VR gadget has a number of games created for it. More than that, more cool things are coming:
virtual reality suits, haptical VR gloves, omnidirectional VR treadmills…
Will Virtual Reality Games Bring Back Arcades?
Everybody thought that arcades were dead. But no, VR games can bring arcades back and they are doing it already.
Asia went nuts about VR arcades and is investing billions in huge VR parks. VR arcades have obvious benefits: high-quality hardware and the possibility of playing as a team player. Yes, the investments are huge but experts don’t doubt that they will pay off really soon.
Some sceptics say that hardware (which is not very good now) will evolve so much that people will stop going to VR arcades and will play at home. Really? Buying all those top-notch devices for playing VR games?
Well, we can watch film on huge screens at home but we still go the cinemas just because it’s fun to share intensive emotions together with other people.
Brace yourselves, we will become witnesses of gaming arcades again: yet there will be no huge plastic dinosaurs. It will be open space with millions of shining stars and sophisticated spaceships. It will be possible to restore the setting of your favorite movies so that you could become a Jedi or a superman. Flying, diving, skiing, racing with the help of intuitive motion tracking devices will be accessible to anyone.
So virtual reality gaming can be an overwhelming experience, it can give you all you were asking for: the sense of flow, the disappearance of time, and total merge with a virtual hero. You just need to pick the best VR games and high-end devices for playing VR games (and you know how to do it now).