It was around two decades ago that the gaming industry first welcomed virtual reality – in the form of the Virtual Boy, a device that promised to deliver truly 3-dimensional graphics and immerse players in a virtual universe. The Virtual Boy was designed by Nintendo, and it was expected to sell just as well as the Super Nintendo and Game Boy. However, it proved to be a complete disaster. It was heavily criticized for its subpar graphics and inaccuracy in tracking players’ movement. In fact, the Virtual Boy did so badly that other companies were scared away from pursuing virtual reality options, even though VR technology continued to improve.
Now, virtual reality is poised to take the gaming world by storm. With the Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, Microsoft HoloLens, and Sony’s Playstation VR, fierce competition has developed among many gaming companies, all striving to top the list of 15 best virtual reality games and dominate the new market.
But exactly how will virtual reality impact the inner workings of the gaming industry? As with the shift from 2-D to 3-D games, game designers and developers are preparing to meet the challenges of creating an immersive virtual reality experience. At this point, we’ve barely scratched the surface in terms of what VR can accomplish. Virtual reality technology has grown increasingly accessible, creating many opportunities for game developers to enter the field. One key advantage of the VR field is that screen-based gaming expertise is no longer a key requisite in developing a superior game. That’s why we’re seeing ports of existing games rather than new and original games.
So what can VR do? Let’s take a look.
Games are Becoming More Immersive
When people think of VR gaming, they imagine an incredible experience in a newly created digital world. While there are a number of games being designed from scratch, there are also many developers working to incorporate VR into existing games that have already been met with success. If players were blown away by a game’s virtual universe on a flat screen, then experiencing it with a VR headset would no doubt enhance the game considerably.
Several games have already been developed to support VR. The Oculus Rift is compatible with many games including Dragon Age: Inquisition and The Witcher 3, not to mention classics like Bioshock and World of Warcraft. VR technology is particularly effective with horror games because it realistically recreates the tense atmosphere of a scary situation.
The gameplay itself doesn’t necessarily need to change when one is playing through VR. Aside from using a headset, there’s no need to worry about new control schemes or major changes to mechanics, but in terms of graphics, developers will be pushed to create clearer, more vivid visuals as technology continues to advance.
A Focus on Atmospheric Gameplay
Some developers have managed to create successful games for platforms that aren’t well-suited for them. However, as the field is only now beginning to expand, virtual reality developers must consider which games will be most compatible with the medium. Typically, games with simpler mechanics and a focus on exploration provide players with a much better virtual reality experience. Star Citizen and Windlands are classic examples of games that don’t require excessive input; instead, active exploration of surroundings is a much more important aspect of the game. These are games that are well suited to VR, and we can expect to see a variety of simulation games released for VR in the coming years.
New Gameplay Styles
If virtual reality is truly to have a revolutionary impact on gaming and game design, then it has to be able to present something entirely new and unique; it must offer a truly interactive experience that is made possible exclusively through the use of a VR headset. Unless game designers incorporate unique elements and original gameplay styles, VR will be limited to offering only slightly improved versions of what other platforms are capable of producing. In addition, there are certain bugs in VR that game developers will need to address. A prime example of this is a negative side effect that VR users may encounter: after 20 minutes of use, many players get uncomfortable headaches, taking them out of the experience and putting a damper on their overall enjoyment. If the ultimate goal of VR technology is to create a fully immersive experience that allows for extended periods of playtime, this is a significant hurdle that must be addressed.
Think back to when motion controllers first became popular. The original Wii console remained a popular bestseller for a long time. Why? Because it provided players with a new way to interact and play their games together. This release from Nintendo was soon followed by the Playstation Move and the Xbox Kinect.
While motion control failed to become the norm, those system still had their time in the limelight because they provided fresh experiences. So what does that tell us about where VR is headed? Virtual reality has the potential to expand on what the very definition of a “game” is. Many VR games don’t require players to reach certain points in order to move forward, and they tend to be built around the experience itself rather than accumulating accomplishments. Designers have the chance to expand on what the essence of a game is by putting in more emotion, substance, and story than ever before.
Designers that come up with new ways of thinking and fully utilize the unique strengths of VR will be able to ensure that the VR platform has a major and lasting impact on the world of gaming.