Tales of the Rampant Coyote

Adventures in Indie Gaming!

Thoughts on Vive VR

Posted by Rampant Coyote on April 18, 2016

I had the chance to play with the HTC Vive VR, the product of Valve’s partnering into the wild, wonderful world of virtual reality. While the experience wasn’t quite up there with The Void, it was still a pretty cool experience.

The person giving me the demo was Bryan Livingston of Legend Studio, maker of A Legend of Luca, a room-scale VR action-roguelike game. First, I played around with a few other demos, including the tremendously awesome Portal-world demo where you try and repair one one of the robots. There was also a game where you sliced fruit, fruit-ninja style, as it launched at you. The amazing thing with this one was how natural it all felt with the wand controller. There wasn’t much training your body to do things. Tapping the fruit (or bombs) to move them off to the side, or bouncing something something on the flat of the blade, was a piece of cake.

Google’s Tilt Brush is also kind of amazing.

Playing these kinds of games in VR is a different experience than sitting down and using a controller. It’s a much more active experience, but they didn’t make me motion sick. It was really like I was just entering another world. A world constrained to about fifteen feet by fifteen feet for practical reasons, but it was effective.

A Legend of Luca has a very interesting scheme. In order to make movement and room sizes from traditional games work for the game, the world is scaled down. When the game launches, you set the height of the floor to about your waist. Once you do that, you move around and shoot like a first-person shooter / slasher. The effect feels like you are constantly leaning over (or walking through) a miniatures table in a wargame of some kind. It requires a bit of jumping and dodging.

One of the interesting ideas from this game is that the UI is located above you, so you have to glance up to see the map, etc.

Part of the discussion we had with Bryan was how VR changes the language of video games. So many standards that have evolved when presenting experiences on the screen, with a controller or the keyboard in front of you, are completely turned on their head in virtual reality. When the brain is convinced that it’s “in” a place, it expects the virtual world to conform to many real-world expectations. Anything else, and weird – often bad – things start happening.

I think we’re still in the ‘early adopter’ stages of this technology. It is really amazing,  but it’s not a case of where everything belongs in VR. It’s not a place you’d “port” a game. It demands a special kind of game, and I’m excited to see what kinds of experiences evolve over time… and how the technology itself evolves.

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