Cloudhead Games, the developers behind one of the first successfully Kickstarted VR dedicated games, have announced their technique called ‘blink’, a locomotion system they claim eliminates nausea entirely from VR gaming.
VR hardware is improving and the display techniques such as low persistence of vision, pioneered by Oculus and Valve over just the last couple of years mean perceiving VR imagery inside VR headsets is a whole lot more comfortable these days.
But now that nausea and VR sickness brought on by lacklustre hardware is quickly becoming a thing of the past, why is nausea still an issue for today’s VR game designers? It turns out, once you’ve removed all hardware barriers to perceive virtual worlds, you’re left with much more fundamental issues to deal with at the software design level and chief among them is locomotion inside VR.
The Oculus Rift DK2 brought us optical positional tracking, freeing our heads and bodies from a purely rotationally tracked virtual world. The system allowed free movement within the confines of the tracking camera’s FOV, which when positioned correctly was relatively generous. The HTC Vive and its Lighthouse laser tracking system expanded upon that freedom, introducing what they termed ‘room scale’ tracking – pitching their VR system as one you could explore both physical and virtual spaces with.
But no matter how good your tracking is, you’ll always be constrained by the physical world your body is occupying, especially when it comes to moving around a virtual space with boundaries beyond your physical environment. This means, designers must find ways to move players around their virtual worlds that are not natural. Using a gamepad’s analogue sticks to move around is one traditional gaming technique of course, but one that causes jarring feelings of disconnection when in virtual reality. Essentially, your inner ear disagrees with your brain – you’re moving in virtual space but not in physical.
Cloudhead Games, who have been grappling with the difficulties and intricacies of VR input since their appearance on the scene back in 2013, now claim they have a solution to VR nausea, physical playspace restrictions and locomotion with a system they’re calling ‘Blink’.
Subtitled ‘Elastic VR Playspace’ the solution comprises a number of techniques (as outlined in the video above, presented by Cloudhead Games’ Denny Unger) which, when combined tackles all of the above issues: Cinematic Blink, Precision Blink and Volume Blink – a “locomotion mechanic which ensures player safety, deep traversal and complete spacial awareness in both the virtual and real world.”
Essentially, Blink employs a point, click and teleport system which removes the uncomfortable elements of virtual travel by snapping you to a position and orientation defined by you instantly thereby essentially sidestepping the issue. This technique works hand in hand with Cloudhead’s elastic playspace too, a system which subtly reminds the player of their custom sized playspace with visual cues within the game.
The techniques described in the video, will debut ‘Blink’ in the first episode of their forthcoming ‘The Gallery‘ saga. This new episode, newly revealed as ‘Call of the Starseed‘ is scheduled for release alongside the HTC Vive, currently pegged for delivery towards the end of 2015.
You can find out more about The Gallery saga over at the game’s website here.