Virtual Reality & The Dawn of a New Medium
“Finally, VR is coming. It’s inevitable. And it’s going to change everything.”
So says our CEO, Patrick O’Luanaigh, in one of his recent thought pieces. His passion for VR and virtual worlds stems from two decades-worth of experience within the videogames industry, including a six-year stint as Creative Director at Eidos/SCi, where he was responsible for game design, gameplay and overall quality on such titles as Tomb Raider: Legend, Hitman: Blood Money, Just Cause and Conflict: Desert Storm.
Since the start of the year, Patrick has been asked to share his thoughts on the fast-moving world of VR development more and more frequently. This comes after nDreams has grown into the UK's largest developer/publisher solely focused on creating VR games and experiences. We’ve gathered together all of Patrick’s insider knowledge for you to peruse below – take a look for a glimpse at what we think the future holds for VR.
In this article, Patrick gives a potted history of VR’s technological evolution from the realm of science fiction to its journey to your living room. He shares exactly why he’s so excited by VR, as well as highlighting some of the best examples of VR in action that he’s experienced.
“It's all about one word - presence. Presence is the feeling that you're actually somewhere else. It makes you believe that what you're seeing and hearing is real. With presence, emotions become much more powerful - fear is so much more intense when you believe you're there, and emotional attachments to characters are much more powerful.”
Polygon caught up with Patrick about the various controllers and input methods currently in development for VR experiences. He likens it to the early stages of flight, where early pioneers tried and tested all manner of wacky shapes before people collectively settled on a few basic airplane and blimp designs.
“[We're] not even close to the potential this stuff has. The dual analog controller has been around for 20 years, and it's just not equipped to truly handle that next big leap. … It's the most exciting time. We're still facing a lot of challenges, but we're genuinely on the edge of the sci-fi fantasy of VR, the kinds of things you see in Snow Crash or Ready Player One. That's just around the corner.”
Here, Patrick delves into VR design and discusses the importance of player position in virtual experiences. He describes the advantages and disadvantages of the various approaches to designing movement in virtual space, as well as some of the potential solutions.
“Movement is one of the biggest game design challenges that we’re facing. Some people find using the right-stick of a controller to rotate whilst simultaneously rotating with their head quite unnerving. There are a variety of control schemes that help alleviate this, but it’s still unclear what will emerge as the best standard.”
Given the immediacy of VR, Patrick explains the need for responsible VR design and dealing with player fears. For example, if a game contains elements that may freak some players out, it should display this at launch – he feels players should be treated with respect and given advance warning.
“Good VR acts like an emotion amplifier. This amplification is most easily demonstrated with horror – try playing a horror game in VR and it can be scarier (by an order of magnitude) than on a TV. Rather than empathising with a character who is being chased by a poltergeist, you are that character.”
We’re looking forward to talking more about the entirely new and barely even dreamed of possibilities made palpable by VR at E3 next week, as well as leaking revealing more details about our upcoming adventure game, The Assembly. Keep an eye on our Twitter feed and Facebook page for all the latest info we have to share from the show.
In the meantime, we’d love to hear from you – head on over to our forum on Reddit to share your thoughts with us.