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How virtual reality tech will change the future of games

Alex Wawro | April 1, 2013
Thousands of programmers, artists and designers flock to the Game Developer's Conference every year to discuss the state of the games industry. A significant part of that discussion revolves around gaming technology, and the GDC show floor is filled with companies showcasing their latest game-changing hardware.

Everything will be bigger: Wearing the Oculus Rift makes you feel like you're living in another world. Problem is, that world is rarely built to actual scale. It's an unfortunate side effect of first-person games that play fast and loose with realistic perspective, casting the player as a disembodied camera with a gun that floats roughly four feet off the ground. Play those games with a VR headset on and your natural sense of scale kicks in, telling you that you're only about four feet tall and thus the rest of the world--which has been built to fit your size--looks like a disconcerting virtual dollhouse.

In the future, games are going to have to adapt to VR headsets by taking real-world measurements into account, creating taller player characters with realistically-modeled bodies and increasing the size of the worlds they inhabit.

Games are going to become more realistic:  The neat thing about current game controllers is that you can make amazing things happen by just tapping a button. That's part of the appeal, but it's going to cause problems in virtual reality games because superhuman abilities don't mesh well with a camera that moves like your head does naturally. Leaping tall buildings in a single button press while being able to look around the virtual world in a realistic way is amazing, but it's also a great recipe for acute motion sickness.

When I tested the Oculus Rift protoype this problem was alleviated by tying camera control to the right stick of my gamepad in addition to the headset, so that I could look around by either moving my head or using the controller. Problem is, in that demo I couldn't jump or interact with objects, both physical actions that will need to be carefully adapted to more limited physical controllers for future VR games.


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