This Open World VR Game is Still Ahead of Its Time – Inside XR Design


VR-centric Open World Design

Open world VR games are very challenging to make because filling a huge map with interesting things to do is extremely resource intensive for developers—not to mention that slowly walking long distances in VR is rarely that much fun. But feeling like you’re exploring a large environment is a key part of the open-world genre.

Stormland came up with a genius compromise which gives players the feeling of exploration without expecting them to walk for minutes at a time with nothing to do. The game achieves this by representing its points-of-interest as literal islands, and then spreading them far apart while giving players a fast and fun way to navigate between them. Throughout the game players are given upgrades that make their traversal experience even more fun, like the ability to create a ramp in the clouds to launch themselves onto an island.

Most VR games never move the player as fast as Stormland’s cloud gliding. Upon first seeing it you might understanbly assume there’s no way it would be comfortable. But it turns out to be very comfortable, and that’s thanks to a few clever tricks. First, let’s talk about vection.

Vection is the sense of motion implied by what’s in your visual field. Normally when we’re moving through the world we visually see things moving past us and this aligns with the rest of our body’s senses of motion. In VR, if you have lots of motion in your visual field but your body’s other senses think you are static, the conflict between those sensations can lead to dizziness.

That’s why VR games where you exclusively stand still tend to be perfectly comfortable, while games with lots of motion can be dizzying.

In order to maintain comfort, Stormland is careful to avoid excessive vection when using high-speed locomotion. It does this by minimizing the amount of fast moving imagery across your visual field.

The game’s fast movement is only accessible on the clouds; this means that only the lower part of your visual field is moving quickly, and even then, the flat, low contrast texture of the clouds reduces the sense of vection. On the other hand, having trees whizzing past the player’s head for too long would lead to significant vection and potentially dizziness.

Another key comfort trick is that the high-speed gliding is controlled not with the thumbstick, but with your arms. Stormland’s Lead Designer, Mike Daly, told me that this was a very intentional choice. Physically involving the player’s body in locomotion has been consistently demonstrated to be more comfortable than the same locomotion with less physical involvement. Both speed and direction while gliding are controlled by how far the player outstretches their arms and which direction they point them.

There’s plenty more great VR design to be found in Stormland, but that’s all for today—maybe we’ll revisit the game in the future.

Enjoyed this breakdown? Check out the rest of our Inside XR Design series and our Insights & Artwork series.

And if you’re still reading, how about dropping a comment to let us know which game or app you think we should cover next?


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Ben is the world's most senior professional analyst solely dedicated to the XR industry, having founded Road to VR in 2011—a year before the Oculus Kickstarter sparked a resurgence that led to the modern XR landscape. He has authored more than 3,000 articles chronicling the evolution of the XR industry over more than a decade. With that unique perspective, Ben has been consistently recognized as one of the most influential voices in XR, giving keynotes and joining panel and podcast discussions at key industry events. He is a self-described "journalist and analyst, not evangelist."
  • Wait, does this mean it’s back in the store? It disappeared for a bit

    • Yep, it’s back and so is The Unspoken. Seems like it was just a technical flub up.

    • shadow9d9

      It was gone for less than a day.

  • 3872Orcs

    I wish this game was available on all headsets :(

    • shadow9d9

      It is available for the headsets that are putting $500 million into the development of vr games.

  • rabs

    Since they bought Insomniac Games, hopefully Sony will release it on PSVR2 and then on Steam one year later.

    • xyzs

      What ? That makes zero sense…
      It was developed by Insomniac games but it’s an Oculus Studios IP.
      Why would Meta offer their exclusives on PS5 VR competition ?

      Maybe you don’t know how it works, but there are key 2 actors:
      -The development studio who creates and develops the game itself.
      -The Publisher who pays for it and who owns the creation.

      If the development studio doesn’t own the title, they are just fabricants under contract.

      • kool

        I think insomniac owns the ip but meta owns the publishing rights. A deal can made between the sony and meta as they don’t really compete directly.

      • philingreat

        Why would Meta offer their exclusives on PS5 VR competition ?

        Meta released Beat Saber on PSVR2

    • MeowMix

      Insomniac own the IP, META owns Stormland 1.
      Makes more sense that a Stormland 2 gets developed and released for the PSVR2.

  • I love this genre of articles, keep writing them!

  • Lucidfeuer

    Interesting series, hope there’ll be more, but a bit more detailed/thorough and critical.

    • Jonathan Winters III

      Now that Sony owns the dev, and PSVR2 is not selling well, I don’t think Stormland 2 will be a thing. But it might, who knows.

  • Ploulack

    very nice analysis, thank you for that!


    Great Article. I fell they did a lot of great things for VR in this game.

  • CharlieSayNo

    I bought Stormland on release but only got properly into it last year and really enjoyed it (enough to play through the 3 cycles to get the ‘proper’ ending).

    I don’t usually like live service or roguelite games (give me a straight narrative everytime) but the core game loop of Stormland was so good that I was happy to grind.

    Asgard’s Wrath 2 was a nice surprise, but I miss the days when Meta were funding multiple AAA releases like Stormland & Lone Echo 1+2.

    • Tanix Tx3

      I wont rely on meta for pcvr anymore. Try uevr and other modded games instead.

      • ViRGiN

        stick to your echo chamber of uevr awesomeness.
        nobody cares outside burned out pcvr abusers like you.

        • Tanix Tx3

          Why so salty? Sounds like pcvr took something away from you.
          You know, you could make use of it by yourself.

  • david vincent

    Unfortunately the game looks pretty bad on a LCD screen (blurry with TAA, aliased without) as the game was made for the Rift CV1 (OLED screen).

    • Runesr2

      That’s exactly true, and the main reason I still have my CV1 connected – and the game looks awesome using Rift CV1 ss 2.5 with Ultra settings in solid 90 fps – but could not do that before I got the RTX 3090. Ss 2.5 is 27 million pixels per frame combining both eyes – higher than the panel res of the Vision Pro, so very demanding with such level of super-sampling.
      Now, Index looks great with res 400% too, but might need a RTX 5090 for that, lol.

      • david vincent

        SS > 2.0 is overkill, no ?

  • ViRGiN

    I’m so glad this is not on Steam.
    We need more competition, and steam should focus on playing dumbed down versions of games through Steam Deck, the glorious 30fps 720p handheld.

    • Tanix Tx3

      Not realy, since everytime I tried to buy it in metas store it was not available. How is this gona work with their drm after I bought it, not promising.
      Hardly had this kind of trouble with steam.
      If you want competition, dont forget to compare more than just the raw price.

  • Hussain X

    It’ll be much better if they remained on Meta store than also come on Steam. Instead find a way to allow other non-Meta headsets to access Meta store natively without needing hacks like Revive. Meta PCVR store needs to succeed as a store and be around so players and developers have choices and competition. Like the choice of having cross-buy and cross-save (even the 25% referral discounts on newly released titles, which may not last long). Or like Viveport giving a Netflix style option to gamers and developers getting 90% revenue cut. If all Meta exclusives came to Steam, then gamers and developers will lose in the long term.

    But I love to see it coming to PSVR2. Different market. In fact Sony and Meta should do a deal for their older VR titles so more players can enjoy these great games.

    • XRC

      More than happy to purchase from whichever storefront works with non meta headsets!

      Please take my money, happy to pay as long as it works.

      My issue with Revive (which is/was a one man effort) is spending £40 on an Oculus game that doesn’t then reliably work, is not a great value for the customer.

      Oculus funded some amazing PCVR titles, would be great for the wider PCVR community to be able to play (and pay the developers).

  • Traph

    One thing not mentioned about the climbing mechanics: flicking down/pushing off to jump up a bit while climbing. It feels absolutely great (like a perfect VR implementation of BotW style jump climbing) and I was extremely disappointed when no other studio lifted the mechanic even in a scaled down version – particularly The Climb 2 with its dumb dedicated jump button.

    Honestly, Stormland’s traversal mechanics are why the game is still worth purchasing in 2024. Roguelike shooters are a dime a dozen in VR now, and many of the more recent games handle the core gameplay loop objectively better than Stormlands.

    But nothing comes close to the experience of cloudsurfing around lightning into some crazy vertical boost and then gliding to a cliff and snap climbing up to the top.

  • Tanix Tx3

    They sent plenty of mails before the account shuts down. Did u ignore it.

    • XRC

      No emails from Oculus apart from receipts for store purchases during Rift CV1 ownership. They couldn’t do anything to help recover my account but wouldn’t give a reason for it’s closure.

      • Tanix Tx3

        Weird. I got at least 4 mails over time to change my oculus into meta accont. Otherwise I would loose it now.

  • Wildtz0r

    It had terrible performance, and and a ton of bugs that the devs didn’t bother fixing.
    RIP POS game

  • Jonathan Winters III

    Great article, but what does this game have to do with “XR design”? It’s pure VR, not XR.

    • Ben Lang

      Much of the industry uses XR as the umbrella term for AR, VR, etc.