Virtual Reality: The Holy Grail of Gaming
SXSW Interactive, Austin, TX, 2013
Nate Mitchell - Oculus VR
Cliff Bleszinski - Former design director at Epic Games
Paul Bettner - CEO of Newtoy, Creator of Words with Friends
Palmer Luckey - Founder of Oculus VR
Chris Roberts - Wing Commander, Star Citizen
Virtual reality has captured the imagination of everyone, permeated our culture
Resurgence in VR technology, especially in Games
Oculus Rift, virtual reality headset for gaming.
“Once you put that headset on, ... boom done”
Lawnmower Man, Neuromancer, Snow Crash
The kind of experiences you can create, making people feel something as well
Hardware finally being ready to be good at VR
“I can’t think of anything more immersive than being in a virtual reality environment”
John Carmack raving about the tech early on
PC is the best platform for new tech
What sort of new design opportunities does that open up?
- The less that you can make any kind of game feel like a game, having the ability to look around makes it feel more immersive, and opens up things in terms of gameplay
- e.g. controllers, keyboards and mice
- something like the Oculus removes the interface
- experience becomes more connective
- It’s all about making you think you’re in the world, suspension of disbelief
- combine the headset, tracking hands, interacting with the environment
- Leap Motion
- Next 5 years you’re going to see some amazing stuff
- Price point is right for people to take it up
- Biggest challenge is how you manage people to get to experience it themselves.
- Dedicated experiences crafted for the Rift will be much more interesting
- Whole different level of pacing
- Shorter span, more intense game
- ‘Myst’-like games, slowly exploring
- Scuba diving game
- Going into a dream or another world is like magic
- You don’t realise until you use it that you realise that you’ve lost as much as you’ve gained
- camera control, motion, cutscenes, etc. go right out the window
- replaced by an even more powerful set of tools
- you can make people feel something with it
- e.g. walk people up to ledges, push them over
How is multiplayer impacted by VR
- If the game is built for it, it becomes a very different and unique experience
- When you take it from third person to immersive first person, the level of impact is so much more real
- One thing they discovered, kind of lonely when you’re in a world by yourself.
- When there’s no one else there, you realise people are going to want multiplayer experiences
- It will remove one level of thinking
- huge amount of possibility as it feels much more natural
- when you’re in a VR experience you want to share it with other people much more than standard single player games
- working together cooperatively
- the rift wil take it to a whole new level
- Throw and catch demo will be the next cool demo
- reaching out and handing something to someone
- Currently, if games were like 3D movies, everything would be like ‘the arrow coming at you’
- Slenderman would be great
- lot of little moments can be very compelling
What are going to be the key input devices for VR? How do you control your player
- Key input device is hands.
- Put the headset on, you look down and you have gauntlets on, hulk fists etc.
- Experimenting with Xbox controller, moved onto Razer Hydra
- representation of your hands is a whole level beyond.
- e.g. flying a spaceship is naturally with a joystick
- track your hands and interact with virtual controls
- Next stage of peripherals is tracking position in space
- Spaceship games are perfect for VR, because you’re sitting in a chair
- FPS games, moving around 45miles/hr you feel sick with a headset
- Need new interfaces for VR.
- You don’t want to be using a controller, kb/m.
- Controllers are superhuman interfaces, control schemes need to be more natural
- Hands are the ideal end goal, but the razer hydra etc. are a massive step forward
- You don’t necessarily want it to just be hands
- Controllers give you haptics
- Things you can do with haptics that aren’t being explored, e.g. textures
Rift provides visual experience, but what other senses would you like to explore in regards to VR?
- Flight game where you wear a neural headset where relaxation controls altitude
- Picking up apples with your mind
- ‘Virtual Haircut’ (3D Sound)
- VR equivalent for sound
- The second you put the headphones on you feel you’re there
- Sound is extremely complex, so many variables that make sounds sound different
- How do you make a game engine that makes sound perfect for everyone?
- A lot of room for improvement
- Walking around that feels natural
- Omnidirectional treadmill
- Galvanic simulation - eletrical impulses that make you feel like you’re moving
- when we’re turning we use our visual system to know how far we’ve turned
- little bit of predicting you can make people feel they’re walking around forever
- Resurgence of next-gen arcade?
- Downfall of arcades were because you could play everything better at home.
- e.g. DDR
- Crazy hardware, 20ft rooms
- Cockpit automation platform with VR headset
Game mechanics - from a storytelling perspective
What do you think in terms of storytelling, what doors does VR open up?
- Feel like motion pictures were just invented again
- Initial reaction was- you can’t do a cut
- How do you move the player around without being disorienting
- We will learn from live theatre experiences, haunted house etc.
- We haven’t even solved storytelling in video games yet.
- If you’re doing it with the rift it will be better.
- If it’s our character, it’s in first person. Put away first person when it’s not your character.
- Whole system based on eye contact.
- NPC programming and AI will be extremely important for immersion
- Rift will help remove barriers and help AI become more believable
- Uncanny Valley?
- Very different medium to a movie
- You have to embrace what you get with the technology
- Movies are a much more mature medium
- Interactive, world immersion will be more powerful than traditional mediums
- Biggest challenge in a movie is getting an audience to care about the main character
- In an interactive environment you will always care about what you’re doing.
Day zero for VR- prototypes, etc.
What are you hoping for for Day 1 and beyond that?
- There will be a lot of tinkering going on
- The first killer app needs to emerge
- Community driven development is key, people learning off each other
- Next big thing in technology, the community/internet increases the probability of success
- Don’t need to go on a PC
- Takes video of your hands?
- Target regular consumers, fewer barriers to entry
- massively powerful, can do things PCs were doing 5 years ago
- devices will be powerful enough to be completely on board
- not only all in one, but portable.
- opens up opportunities for things like laser tag
- empty room business
- because PC is at the forefront of innovation, you can test new technology. once it’s vetted on PC as a legitimate medium it will be taken to mobile platforms
- PC is capable of linking with other hardware
- Higher resolution screens, lower latency
- Latency can get better
- Higher resolution is going to get better no matter- it’s being driven by mobile
If you’re an average gamer, what’s the one thing you should be most excited for?
- “You are going to finally have a portal to a million other worlds” - Cliff
- At the point where the technology and price are good enough that it’s no longer a novelty
- “Ability to experience the worlds I love in a completely new way”
- look at a block on a screen, it looks a certain size. once you put on the rift you can see it.
- Hardware, immersive games
- hardware is going to get so much better
- what keeps people playing MMOs isn’t necessarily gameplay or graphics, but social experience
- going to be better than being with someone in real life?
- The one thing the rift does, works better for games because you’re rendering left/right separately
- the thing you get from looking around the environment, you get the sense of scale
- 3D movies don’t work that well, but things like flying experiences, where there’s a lot of separation work really well.
- a lot of the time you’d watch a 2D film intentionally
- Rift feels much more immersive
- head tracking, latency, refresh rate makes things much more immersive
The arcade thing seems like such a good idea - scan in peripherals, interact with real life objects and people
How do we get from peripherals to real life objects?
- It’ll be obvious once we get into it because controllers will feel obsolete
- Mixed reality not AR
- Not overlaying things over the real world, but incorporating real objects into virtual world