Current VR Game Design Flaws!

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.

An Example:
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!!


If I am understanding you correctly you are talking about a setup similar to Trespasser ( correct? I know from past experience most people that played this at my teen center many years ago didn’t enjoy it much as it was alot more complicated then the current games of it’s time but I always felt that setup had pretty good potential. Even more when in a stereo environment.

At the end of the day though I think it honestly boils down to what type of project you are gunning for. There is more to building an Oculus project then just calling it VR. It has to be an experience, standard 3d gaming immersion or a full blow simulation (Edit: Or a hybrid of the last two). Experiences fit your first two visual examples quite well. 3D immersion will probably be played on a game pad similar to what you currently see implemented by default in U4.

The simulations on the other hand are a completely different story. You need independent arm tracking with something like the Razer Hydra / Sixsense / wiimote. Player movement from some sort of leg based controller (there’s a few in development) but worse case scenero the game pads themselves or a dance dance revolution pad with player movement tailored to it. Heavy dynamic audio bass, not that headphone nonsense and possibly a dynamic fan for airflow. That would cover sound, sight and to some degree touch. Smell and taste are extremely important but those are things we should probably tackle significantly down the road.

There are some good design ideas that you propose, but without simulating some form of acceleration in sync with your analog stick motion, it will induce motion sickness in all but the hardened VR users. You can get around this a bit by making motions slow, but it won’t have the same level of dynamic interactivity I believe VR should have. Something like what Patim has proposed could work very well for locomotion without motion sickness.

Never fully understood the Trespasser hate, when I was younger I spent way too much time in the lost world. The city level was an especially good example of what an exciting sandbox could be: full with dinosaurs, basketballs and puzzles paced with a soothing audio narrative exposing the back story. A modern VR trespasser would do very well in my opinion.

I agree this bit, except for using the game pad for locomotion as a basis.

Baby steps, we need to nail down basic limited locomotion as a priority, but all avenues should be explored.

That example is similar in same ways. Let me clarify some things. I should of preceded this whole discussion with the assumption that the player has an independent arm movement setup using something like you mention above, or even the PS Move controllers etc… I don’t think we should support this idea of giving up independent arm movement in VR. I think controllers like the DS4 will be great steering wheels, flight sticks, basically most cockpit style controls, etc. but there is so much more that can be done in VR. Let’s take some past game play design and adopt them to VR.

Managing Inventory In ZombiU:
Managing your inventory using the wiiu gamepad was only the beginning. Now we can actually have players physically look into the bag and pull out items using individual arm movement. The tension, the atmosphere, the presence, etc… It all comes together with independent arm movement.

Lock Picking in Splinter Cell or The Order 1886:
These games are the best with lock pick scenario designs. With VR it is now physically possible to make the player pick the lock.

Detective Modes in games like in the Batman Arkham Games:
In a detective mode design that changes the hud on the player or adds a post process to highlight areas of interest etc… we can now allow the player to pick up and examine clues etc…

The point is our experiences don’t need to be so generic. Game play shifts that occured in non VR games are now perfect opportunities for interactivity. It seems the market is over saturated with this idea with small compartmentalized experiences. Usually in a cockpit of some kind. usually sitting down. We need to evolve.

I agree on all accounts there. As for gamepad locomotion it’s moreso a means to an end as most of the promising leg contraptions are expensive for your average consumer. Heck even the newest version of the Hydra hand controllers are like +200 bucks. I got a few concepts of what is basically a modified Dance Dance pad that I’ve been toying with in my head, it’s nothing special but I figure it will be the only cost viable option mainstream is going to get for quite some time. I haven’t seen Patims work yet but it sounds interesting.

And I too would love to see a VR version of Tresspasser.


Ahh I fully understand what you mean now. I agree that games that are attempting to emulate virtual reality do need significantly more work in terms of the immersion department. That is of course if they are going the full VR route. I guess the best way to categorize it is that there seem to be two levels of VR, entertainment and simulation.

There are plenty of great and fun casual VR style games out there and they work extremely well with a controller but I feel that it is more along the lines of what I call immersive gameplay in which you are not trying to completely emulate VR but you are going about it in a way that does a good job throwing you into the world of that project. Something like the Doom 3 VR which was beautifully executed.

As we all know this is all early stuff so throwing VR at the end of your projects name is trendy but to simulate VR vs just making a fun 3D game are two different types of development and both have their own place in Oculus. It really comes down to us to choose which path we want to go down for our project and keep that in mind from the beginning to the end of development. Sometimes sacrificing realism in terms of gameplay is good, but that of course is counter productive if you intended to create a simulation.

I agree completely. I don’t think we will ever see a physical solution to the virtual distance vs game play space problem that isn’t janky. So that leaves only software options like faking distances walked using algorithms like Valve, Allowing limited movement in a predefined space, or allowing the player to explore using the analog stick. Don’t let this design constraint limit the scope of your games. Look for solutions!

Reading and watching alot of the stuff you guys posted, it’s pretty sweet. Totally geeking out on this stuff.

In terms of movement it’s my personal opinion that our best option will be the “limited movement in a predefined space” route. The biggest downside with it though is the cost of getting these rigs setup. The next big VR game with an official legitimate company behind is going to be $60. No big deal… but then again you’re going to need a rig to run this thing at 4k resolution and now you staring down the barrel of a $1-2k gaming PC. Then of course there is the arm manipulation, well the Hydras when setup properly are pretty impressive but now you’re looking at yet another $600. Then of course we get to the core of it all, the movement. VR based slidepad/treadmills are going for another $500-700. So if you’re looking for that holodeck feel you’re pretty much going to be looking at the value of a used car. That doesn’t just fall out of the pocket of your average Joe which is also why we will never see that next big VR game come from a reputable company in the near future. Now we got a much more affordable option with the gear but hell just getting the phone alone cost me a two year contract and a credit check. If we ever hope to reach the levels we all strive for we are going to need to look into something different. Be it software tricks or homebrew hardware.

I completely agree. Especially for the game play examples I just listed above. The question is or the discussion should be about how do we get the player from one predefined space to the next? I’m thinking a physical equipment solution is cost prohibitive and janky. I’m thinking faking distances walked and detecting objects in rooms using algorithms isn’t going to work 100% of the time no matter how many scenarios we plan for. Play spaces are just to varied. That leaves us with a control solution. The more and more thought I put into this the more I like the idea of holding a button to move and steering with the head. The problem is you can’t look behind you while moving forward with this setup. Once you let go of the button that initiates movement the game play transitions into an interactive scene predefined play space. I still think analog sticks must be included in the VR control setups. Even Something like Eve Valkyrie, Hawken, cars with paddle shifters, etc. would benefit from independent arm and hand cockpit controls. Analog sticks could be used to create gestures for the players hands. Point the analog stick up and the virtual hand points with there index finger. Pull the analog stick back and the hand makes a fist. I don’t know I guess there is no right or wrong way to do this as long as you aren’t making players sick. I just hate the idea of constantly cutting and fading to black to transition to a different interactive scene.

I hear that. however I have also wondered though is how far do we go to compensate for simulation sickness? Something I do remember from my childhood is that people would sometimes get sick from playing Doom. Now granted it was few and far between because the game itself plays and starts pretty slow but me myself being a pretty hard core gamer at a young age could I could circle strafe pretty well and I could jet around levels rather quickly and accurately and this would often cause people watching to get sick from it.

It’s really an eye of the beholder thing and as mentioned in obe of the links you posted that the oculus team has tried many different combinations and all of them have inconclusive results it seems. For example: If my sister plays around with my Gear for about 20 minutes she needs to take a break but it appears that the more she uses it the easier it gets for her. And on the other end I have a friend in the Marines who has never seen VR before and swears he never gets motion sickness. True to his word he played with it for about an hour walking around jumping and ducking with no effect what so ever. The way he was moving about I swear I thought he was going to randomly vomit but he went ham on the thing till my phone started overheating.

Me personally I am rarely effected by it except for this one time in Arma2Dayz when I had one of those tiny gyrochoppers and I was barrelrollin into a forrest. These things make me think about the method in which your game is being played as I felt absolutely fine for a couple hours in until that heli crash.

Perhaps a good babystep to take as a precaution is if you are doing something with alot of movement to have a sort of “warm up” to prepare your body for what you might see as opposed to just unleashing the beast on someome. Honestly I just don’t really know what to do about the whole simsickness as it just seems so opened ended.

While new and exciting interfaces and the design discussion for them is a good thought experiment, it is completely irrelevant to designers creating content for today’s technology.

The best we’re going to get is something along the lines of the STEM controller, HOTAS, or even just the run of the mill gamepad.

I havent seen the latest design of the STEM, however, it should be like an xbox controller cut in half. If you’re holding the right controller, there should be a trigger button, shoulder button. To the left, an analogue stick, to the right of that (and a bit up), 4 face buttons.

Basically, sort of a tricorder / phaser (from star trek) style of design, more or less.

As far as software side of things, the camera not only needs to follow a “true first person” pawn, it also needs to affect the bones of the character as well, just like the hand controllers we see on YT do.

Transitions… well yea. Fade to black, or something similar. Why not a 360 degree panorama image with game-tips around it? Disable player movement, but not camera, and you’re good to go.

Want to play a cinematic? Make the plyer a “ghost” or add a blur type effect around the vision borders and make the cinematic black and white, or washed out (make it seem like it’s a dream). You need to make it an actual level (no pre-rendering) so that convergence / 3d works right…

I think it is quite important for the platform in which we are working on. As it stands the current viable option for mainstream is the Gear VR and currently it has two types of inputs directed at it. The bluetooth gamepad, and the touch pad on the side of the VR unit. We can change that but we must look to how it was done for the original DK1/2’s so that we may learn the best possible method to implement it in which it is enjoyable, cost effective and simple for fellow developers to implement. If it is not enjoyable then the idea outright fails. If it is not bang for your buck then you limit your playerbase even further in an already limited playerbase. Finally it needs to be easy to implement. We have enough on our plate as is… so the last thing we need is a potential game changer coming out of nowhere that requires you to rethink your entire project, most of us just don’t have time for something like that.

When I first acquired my DK1 I spent most of my time using and manipulating third party plugins to bring support in to already released games so that I could experiment with many different setups for what I call entertainment based projects. Entertainment based projects in my opinion is what is going to fuel the upcoming battle for VR headset superiority as simulation based projects require simulation based input which can get really expensive. Anyways I’m going to do a short list of how different setups worked out for me in terms of entertainment based VR:

At my desk with the keyboard and mouse I found that I had the most potential in terms of input however I was running purely off of muscle memory which can sometimes be inaccurate. I also noticed that I used my mouse significantly more then I used my head, again my muscle memory dominates my input and as such the mouse is an extension of my arm where as the Oculus feels more like a set of stereoscopic goggles.

At my desk with a gamepad I found that if it was setup properly then you can get a level of input that rivals keyboard and mouse when you use your gamepad as a keyboard and your Oculus as the mouse. To be honest I almost feel that I can be more accurate with this setup then I could with a K&M setup however with the low resolution of the headsets this is difficult to test in terms of online gaming. The benefit the gamepad has over keyboard and mouse is that it’s controlled space gives you perfect accuracy off of your muscle memory. You never need to worry about hitting the wrong keys and the lack of a mouse while using the gamepad setup forces you to use your headset which basically forces you to use your head. Ultimately what you end up with is one step further into the world of immersion.

Next I tried playing with the gamepad while standing up. Obviously the control is no different then when sitting down but the feel when standing up is different. It is almost as if you are putting your body into the perspective what you are doing within the project. This grants yet another step into the world of immersion, and that is the backbone of VR. However… in the back of my mind I couldn’t let go of the idea that the magical world around me was being manipulated by a little box held between my hands. Resting at the level my of my waist. Nothing can change that feeling unless I submit my wallet to the Ferrari’esk VR pinnacles of laser guided hand controllers and stationary treadmills running projects that were built from the ground up to support these units and/or specific heavily modified retrofitted titles. That is of course nothing that we currently know about…

Finally I took the guts out of my gamepad and slapped them onto an airsoft rifle. The outcome input wise was no different the standard controller setup, however I did notice that I no longer questioned the idea of the magical world being manipulated through the use of a little box. What I did however question is how is this rifle manipulating my feet. Overall two steps forward into the world of immersion and one step back.

In the end the VR wall is limitless, no matter how hard we try we will never break the barrier of VR. That is of course until we reach the point in which it kills us, but that is a terrible cost to go to in order to break the barrier. No… all we can do is step further and further into the world of immersion and simply enjoy the ride along the way, and I know that there are infinite ways to do this without significantly limiting our limited playerbase. From hardware to software, the two are fused together and to blindly accept any option is to limit your perspective and that of our future enthusiasts. To put it simply… designers creating content for today’s technology have been conditioned into the acceptance of boundary. These types of discussions are extremely important if we wish to add or subtract ideas from the accepted boundary pool.

That’s why it’s a thought experiment :stuck_out_tongue:

Here is how it’s going to play out on the mass market:

  • People get headsets, great (mass adoption)
  • These people use gamepads (or suitable device) and voice input to interface with the environment
  • The “reach out and touch something” becomes wanted… however, you can’t just have “hand sensors” (lump term here), people go back to using the gamepad since they still need to perform actions (like… walking)
  • Something akin to the STEM becomes cheap enough and wildly adopted, people can use their “hands” and still have control
  • We play like this for several years while the medical field starts making breakthroughs in neural interfaces
  • Culturally speaking, we start using tech for everything (the internet of things)
  • Someone comes out with a consumer level neural interface
  • Humanity goes extinct.

Now, this timeline isn’t necessarily a linear timeline, as several things are happening at once. Sure, you can have huge VR setups, however, I’m not entirely sure we will see those being mass adopted. Perhaps in “man-caves” / VR Arcades / Exhibitions / etc… but for the everyday person? Not so much. It’s not even about the price, but the room you need. At the smallest size, you need at least a 12ft x 12ft space or a 12ft diameter circle (this should be a bit bigger than the average distance between the feet while running - center of the pad + 6ft distance). Even the Omni isn’t truly big enough. At the most, you can slowly jog in place… full out run/sprint? Forget it.

Does this disregard anything about alternative inputs? Na, by all means, support alternative stuff! However, just keep in mind “the lowest denominator”, unless, of course, you’re making an experimental title not suitable for mass purchase / consumers.

I feel that train of thought and it is widely accepted amongst the VR community. However I feel that there is a step that is being skipped between gamepad and hydra+omni “holodeck” layout. I am doing some R&D on my end but as with all unorthodox ideas it is but a candle within a unlit room… but I promise I will return to this thread with this idea once it has more room to grow. Be it failure or success.