For many years game designers have tackled the art of game design by using subtle and unsubtle triggers to lead the player though our levels. Most likely through repetition of objects or patterns, in your face signs with flashing arrows, or UI indicators. It all boils down to leading the player down a critical narrative path. With the dawn of VR that has changed. We now need to embrace the openness that VR can provide and let player’s experience our worlds on their own terms, discovering, exploring, & interacting with our games in new innovative ways. This creates the “presence” everyone is searching for! The biggest hurdle and problem keeping us from accomplishing this task is the player’s actual physical gaming space. It will never equal the game world on a 1:1 scale. We as VR pioneers can not force our player’s to have to move furniture to play our games. We can not rely on software solutions, sight direction & duration for movement, and algorithms that attempt to fake distances walked in the virtual world vs steps taken in the physical world. None of these solutions are simple enough to work 100% of the time, every time, and none are accessible enough for even the most casual of gamers. That being said, I would like to propose a new game design strategy around a simple object in gaming that’s been around since it’s creation. THE ANALOG STICK!
The Dawn of True VR FPS Adventure games is approaching, but for a player to truly explore a planet in a game like No Man’s Sky we need analog movement. What I am proposing is simple. Allow player movement via an analog stick and then dynamically transition into interactive VR when the player lets off the analog stick. This essentially appears in visor like a fly through camera to the player. The player still has independent control of all limbs and they still control the camera with their head. This allows infinite exploration of the game world. When the analog stick is not in use allow the player to interact with the game world in a 4ft square area.
When designing the VR FPS Adventure game in this way we can still manage to lead the player down the critical narrative path using many of the techniques used in years past. Repetition like fence posts, signs, sounds, and textures all now lead to the new most important aspect of VR. Key areas of interest.The player can now explore at will, finish missions, skip missions, etc… all on their terms. You can give hints and make things interesting, but you can’t control them. In this new dawn of VR Interactive elements are located all around the player. It is now up to us to saturate the play space with key areas of interactivity making the worlds believable.
The player sees a small structure in the distance.
Using the analog stick they approach the building.
The walk up on the door and the game transitions into VR interactivity allowing the player to reach for the door handle and open the door.
Once inside the player can interact with cabinets and explore the room.
At any time the player can decide to use the analog stick and continue exploring until they find another interactive scenario.
This prevalent design decision that only these small interactive experiences is enough is bunk! Step your game up people. Player’s shouldn’t be stuck watching a fade to black transition screen or loading screen or cinematic while the next interactible scene loads. The player should be able to choose which scenes to visit and in which order.
To the diagrams!!