Virtual Reality (VR) is setting the tone this summer.
This week, the Oculus Rift dropped its price to make the goggles more affordable. During E3, Sony introduced both new games and localized games for the PSVR, as well as HTC announced the Vive will have a wireless component. Mixed reality is ramping up and showing no signs of slowing down for the rest of 2017.
I’ve messed around with VR and I enjoy it as a means of enhancing my gaming experience. I produce content and R&D these machines for part of my 9-5 job, I’ve attended a few talks on the subject, and I’ve also played with them as a consumer. VR has some little ways to go before it becomes a staple for the mainstream gamer, but I see the potential.
What exactly is potential and what does it mean for gaming? Along with VR, Augmented Reality (AR) is making strides for the user to create surroundings they never thought possible. It’s a medium to invent new worlds just as it is to mix your personal reality with outlandish possibilities. You can be a spy trying to escape your car and diffuse a bomb, or you can be a hacker fighting off robots in a futuristic world, or you can fight orbs coming off the beat of your own music playlist. The player is no longer stationary, but using basic human intuition and interaction as a way to integrate within the game. The player is more thoughtful than ever, analyzing every corner of their eye for the next move.
Beyond the positives, there are some important reasons why VR has yet to enter the mass-market and be widely accepted by gamers.
Some gamers are calling VR merely a gimmick, and it’s going to take a while for those graphics and UX to catch up. Especially when VR comes in the form of localizing already-made games and slapping them into the goggles. Examples of this include Resident Evil 7, becoming one of the first franchise games coming to PSVR. The horror game’s graphics weren’t as nice as it’s console counterpart, and some of the controls and don’t match up with what you’re seeing on camera. Minecraft is also on VR, and E3 introduced Skyrim VR. Games meant for powerful computer engines may not look as great through the lens. Also, where I believe VR faults is when simple actions require a lot of interaction and attention. Are we doing VR for the sake of its existence and without completely mastering the art? The answer is yes, to an extent. People like novelty, but it can only last so long when it’s not embedded with functionality.
More importantly, the VR headset is too goddamn expensive when a person can buy a console for $300 or use your current computer for gaming. Vive for a while costed $799 before having a temporary $100 price cut, Oculus Rift started off at $599, and PSVR comes out to $399 with the $59 camera if you don’t have one yet. PSVR is the most accessible to gamers; you can find it bundled with the PS4 and one game for $599, making it one of the most affordable in the market. VR games tend to be cheaper, but combining the main machine price and quality received makes this unappealing to most.
I have no doubts the imperfections can be righted down the line for gamers to enjoy. I want everyone to be excited for this, but as a gamer I empathize that this is not complete or something I would invest my money in at this time or for the rest of the year. I do appreciate companies lowering the price for the masses, and more developers are learning the ways of Unity and Unreal production. What I do suggest for gamers? Whenever you have a chance to demo a VR/AR headset, do it. Immerse yourself with the environment and give your opinions about it. Mixed reality is in what I Iike to call an “alpha” stage, where developers, artists, and UX designers are learning more about what gamers want and how they want to use the device. There’s no better feedback than one of the biggest targets of VR: gamers.