Finding the Future
Spring 2018, HTC Vive Pro + SteamVR Knuckles
Experimentation has always been the way forward, especially in VR. Aldin Dynamics introduced Telepath locomotion late last year, a hybrid of both teleportation and free locomotion. More games are experimenting with climbing and Arm Swinging, and we’re seeing new locomotion and comfort options releasing every month.
But that great divide between comfort and realism is still going strong, and it becomes increasingly challenging as we fight to increase VR adoption. Current VR owners are desperate for realism and freedom, while the non-owners will never be sold unless they’re comfortable.
Teleportation can allow developers to know and design where the player is able to access and see at all times, but it can also feel limiting to the player—like digital training wheels.
Free locomotion can allow players a boundless experience, but it typically requires an acclimation period. Some people simply can’t handle it, and others don’t find it entirely immersive.
Implementing one method into a game that was built for the other can break the balance, or sometimes the entire experience.
Simply, there are sensibilities in designing locomotion for VR. We, as developers, want to push the boundaries of immersion, but we should also strive to maintain a comfortable and considered experience for all players.
In the future, we want to release a ‘Mutant Locomotion’ scheme, a culmination of all our various methods with no compromises. On the right hand you can Blink, with Comfort Turn inputs on either hemisphere of the analogue stick or touch pad. On the left hand is free locomotion. Buttonless Arm Swinger heuristics are ongoing and always sensing for oscillations to occur. We want to put it all on the table and really know how players want to explore. One distilled option, one integrated experience.
That’s the important bit: give players those options, but remember to tailor the locomotion to the experience you want to create. There are too many independent developments out there attempting the shotgun approach with 50 different locomotion schemes. The options are good, but no game could be specifically designed with all of them in mind. At the end of the day, ask yourself what you want your player to experience. Take the lessons learned, the methods you’ve enjoyed, and listen to the feedback from your users. Ultimately, those are the people who are playing your experience at great lengths, and can let you know what they enjoy about it and what they don’t.
The next step is when we have additional tracking points in the mainstream, or perhaps galvanic stimulation of the inner ear. Then we can get into the snowboarding and the skateboarding and the hoverboarding. It opens up a huge new window for experimentation in locomotion.
And honestly, I like that stuff—it’s what made those early days so exciting. We have a game to make and things to do, but in the end it’s still about pushing boundaries together. There’s a huge risk in pouring time and money into experimentation in VR, and a lone developer can’t climb to the finish and fully realize it themselves; it takes a village to move a medium.
One day, through a collective effort, we’ll find a better way, something far beyond the standard motion and teleportation. The walls will open on all sides to reveal a skyline with infinite possibilities and directions to explore.