Carrier Command 2 launched earlier this month alongside a separate version including full VR support. While the non-VR version of the game sits at a ‘Mostly Positive’ 75% user rating, the VR version quickly tanked to a 27% ‘Mostly Negative’ rating. A desire to cram VR into the game with limited testing and a lack of feedback from experienced VR players is the root cause. While developer Geometa is working hard to deliver fixes, this avoidable stumble right out of the gate hampers the odds of success for the VR version.

User reviews of Carrier Command 2 VR are in the gutter just one week after the game launched. The core issue, however, isn’t that VR isn’t a good fit for the game, but that the developer simply didn’t take their time with the implementation.

We suspected as much when the VR version was announced just two weeks before the game was set to launch, and after the demo period for the non-VR version had passed.

Developer Geometa admitted that VR support wasn’t originally part of its development plan, but—prompted by player requests—felt it would be easy to drop VR into place considering the ‘hands-on’ design of the non-VR version where players control the entire game from the bridge of an aircraft carrier.

Image courtesy Geometa

“While VR was not originally in our roadmap, the literalism of the diegetic interfaces within the game has made it very easy to introduce VR to Carrier Command—this is the same game, with the same balance and same mechanics!” the studio wrote ahead of launch.

And to be fair, the game does look like it could be a good fit for VR. The issues that quickly earned it a 27% ‘Mostly Negative’ rating from users are overwhelmingly about technical missteps when it comes to VR, and much less about the content of the game itself.

SEE ALSO
'Shariiing VR' Adds an Incredibly Useful Tool to SteamVR That We'd Love to See in All Headsets

It’s clear that a lack of user testing across the range of PC VR hardware and players is to blame. And let’s be honest—it’s far from easy for a small developer to test with every headset out there. But to give your VR game its best chance of success, you’ve got to find a way to get that crucial, early feedback.

It took Geometa one day… one single day after the game’s launch to gather feedback from VR players and come up with this laundry list of items that needed fixing in Carrier Command 2 VR:

  • We will add a VR settings section for specific VR options.
  • We will add continuous movement / locomotion movement mode options.
  • We will add an option to not tilt or offset the camera when interacting with a screen.
  • We will add a motion smoothing option.
  • We will add controller binding information to tell players what the controller bindings are for their controller type.
  • We will add options for selecting the position in which the tablet appears.
  • We will add a VR scale slider to adjust the world scale.
  • We will investigate improving gimbal camera interactions.
  • We will investigate adding grab / touch interactions for wheel / throttle / switches.
  • We will investigate interacting with screens without having to enter a seat.
  • We will fix the issue pasting invite codes.
  • We will fix the issue joining non-vr multiplayer games.
  • We will fix the tutorial issue.
  • We will fix the orientation issue for on-screen labels.
  • We will fix the rendering issue when changing the VR render scale in SteamVR settings.
  • We will fix subtitles rendering in a narrow column.

And to the studio’s credit, it has acted on this feedback quickly. Within a week of launch two patches have been released which addressed 10 of the above 16 items the studio said it would fix. More improvements are on the way.

Serious credit to the studio for their quick work. But it pains me (and I’m sure them too) to know that the game got battered with bad reviews right out of the gate due to these relatively easy to fix technical issues. That red ‘Mostly Negative’ text is like a scarlet letter that can scare away plenty of curious customers.

‘Carrier Command 2 VR’ user reviews over time

With the fixes deployed so far the studio is steadily climbing out of the hole it dug, but it’s going to be an uphill battle.

Not the First and Not the Last

Carrier Command 2 VR is far from the first VR game to launch with VR-related technical issues that could have been fixed ahead of launch to spare the game from getting slammed with early negative reviews.

VR shooter Larcenauts is another recent example. While the game launched pretty much flawlessly on Quest and Oculus PC, it was completely broken for non-Oculus headsets on Steam right out of the gate. The studio didn’t clearly communicate that non-Oculus headsets wouldn’t be supported at launch, and it got blasted with reviews from understandably confused customers who bought the game and couldn’t play it.

Image courtesy Impulse Gear

While the game’s most recent reviews are ‘Mostly Positive’ at 72%, the overall reviews are clearly stained by the launch issues, sitting at a ‘Mixed’ 66%.

‘Larcenauts’ user reviews over time

Even big studios with serious QA resources aren’t immune. Industry heavyweight Respawn Entertainment launched Medal of Honor: Above and Beyond back in December, 2020. It was the first Oculus-funded title to launch on Steam, and it too got battered by early negative reviews.

Image courtesy Respawn Entertainment

While the issues weren’t only technical in nature, many of them were the kind of thing that you’d probably uncover easily by testing the game with just a handful of experience VR players ahead of launch.

Basic options like smooth turning and video settings weren’t available, and the game’s ‘face-scope’ sniper rifle and pace-breaking ‘Victory!’ screen between missions were universally disliked (and quickly removed).

SEE ALSO
'Carrier Command 2 VR' Release Date Set for August 10th

Over the course of two months Respawn released four patches addressing a litany of issues, many of which were identified by players on day one.

Like Larcenauts, Medal of Honor: Above and Beyond, has battled its way back to a ‘Mostly Positive’ 70% rating among recent reviews, but the issues clearly left a mark on the overall ratings which are now ‘Mixed’ at 62%, which can easily steer away interested customers.

‘Medal of Honor: Above and Beyond’ user reviews over time

– – — – –

So what’s the takeaway here? Making VR games is hard. It’s a science and art that is not nearly as ‘figured out’ as non-VR games—even for top industry talent like Respawn.

To send your game out the door with the best chance of success, testing early with VR users is key—Valve made a huge point about this when we talked with them about building Half-Life: Alyx. It’s hard to get your hands on every headset out there, so find willing enthusiasts and gather their feedback in a structured and actionable way.

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  • Amen to this

  • 3872Orcs

    Yes! It boggles my mind that some developers don’t get this. Just a little research into best practices beforehand or actually talking to the VR community would go a long way in making their games a success!

    I’ll be keeping this game though and not refunding it after seeing the developer addressing the issues and issuing patches so fast. I love strategy games and especially Grand Strategy games like this, it’s far too few of them in VR! if any at all..

    • ViRGiN

      “after seeing the developer addressing the issues” – this should never happen in the first place.

      • p-dawg

        It did happen. Learning to deal with life as it actually is rather than how it should be or how you would prefer it to be is a valuable life skill to learn.

        • ViRGiN

          Ah, the good old apology erases any memory of borderline scamming people with subpar product. But hey, they promised to change.

    • JakeDunnegan

      Totally agree with what you’re doing, 3972Orcs. We don’t have enough Devs doing VR right now, why penalize one who’s trying? They effed up, but they are jumping on it quickly.

      Heck, I’m tempted to buy the game right now, in support of their efforts. I hadn’t planned on it, since I don’t do a ton of multiplayer, and this looked like an aircraft carrier version of that Star Trek game. But, for a Dev who jumps on a game after they’ve messed up? Heck yeah. If they see the VR community as MORE understanding than typical gamers, they (and other devs) may be more inclined to give VR development a shot.

  • Ad

    I honestly think that for PCVR to have a future, there needs to be a number for devs to call who want to port their games to VR. A team that can walk them through it, test their builds, and help them out actively. Otherwise the answer is simply to not incorporate VR.

    • ViRGiN

      Developing for Quest or PCVR is identical, except for optimisations. Problems in this game aren’t about optimization, but everything else.

      PCVR does not have a future. Maybe it will ressurect in 5+ years, when the software is mature, but for now, it’s nonsense investment. Price is not an issue that much – it’s simply not worth it given the content. Quest 2 already has most of the ‘good games’, and it’s cheap to get into.

      Of course there is always loud minority who already played Alyx 4 times, spent 500 hours in Elite Dangerous, and bought steering wheel and flying sticks for other simulators. Those people are even less than niche, but they think because they already got 5000 hours of joy, so will everyone else.

      • Ad

        Preach the cult of quest somewhere else.

      • JakeDunnegan

        I have two Quest 2s, a Rift and Rift S, and you’re on crack. PCVR isn’t remotely dead, anymore than PlaystationVR is dead. I mean, PSVR is so dead, they replicated their PS4 version into PS5, and they’re now producing a new version for the PS5 (with cable, I might add).

        https://www.androidcentral.com/psvr-2

        Believe it or not, ViRGiN, more than one type of VR can exist in the market. And not every developer wants to create tiny games that can exist on the Quest running on Android.

        Streaming games (like Oculus Airlink) is a lot more believable than waiting five years for some future SteamDeck technology to adapt to a headset.

        • ViRGiN

          PCVR is dead, both by numbers, and by development. PSVR always surpassed it, like massively, to a point PCVR is a joke, yet here you are putting it together in one sentence.

          You desperately wanting something doesn’t make it any more real – consumers decided for themselves. You’re all acting like there is a huge amount of developers who want to developer great polished titles for PCVR – there aren’t! And Everytime this subject comes up, pcvr fanatics always name the same old games, alyx this, boneworks that, blade and sorcery etc.

          The most popular pcvr games, CONSTANTLY, FOR 4 YEARS STRAIGHT, are bsaber, recroom and pavlov. EXPLAIN THAT! These games definetly aren’t worthy calling them PCVR, but that’s all that is relevant on that platform. Nobody is playing cause these games are so awesome – it’s just there is nothing better. Even Skyrim is like dead game in comparison, and that’s a full blown game, isn’t it?

          PCVR is a joke, and for serious gaming, it’s definetly going to be PSVR2.

          • JakeDunnegan

            Not sure why you seem to think that. I mean, you really do sound like you’re in a cult, you know that? I’ve never seen any other Quest user have quite the same…je ne sais quoi as you have.

            And it’s easy to explain your shoutedly named games. For one, RecRoom is free, and nothing beats free. Just look at all those battle royale games, like Fortnite, etc. They play on phones, PC, etc – and no one is screaming about “PC GAMING IS DEAD!” like you are, wierdo.

            Beatsaber is cheap. It also doubles as an exercise game, and it was around before Quest was ever launched. So how do YOU explain it’s popularity? Heck, it sold a million units before Quest ever launched.

            May 1, 2018: Beat Saber Launches
            Mar 16, 2019: Beat Saber sells 1M units (https://www.roadtovr.com/beat-saber-sells-one-million-copies/ )
            May 1, 2019: Quest Launches
            Nov, 2019: Oculus acquires Beat Games and Zuck states that it will not effect development on other VR platforms.

            Pavlov was also popular long before Quest ever came out. Pavlov released in Feb. 2017. It’s even available on the Windows MR set. Has nothing to do with Quest, except that Quest is lucky enough the developer decided to create a compatible version.

            If you weren’t so drop dead serious (and seem to bring this up on every thread) – I’d think you were a troll, your argument is so ridiculous.

          • ViRGiN

            So skip any free titles – rroom is the only one in top 10 lol.

            There is no discussion with you, you don’t think it’s dead cause you’re having fun with it. Enjoy it. You’re literally in pcvr cult.

          • JakeDunnegan

            The difference is I have facts on my side. You have… a smaller wallet? I dunno. Quest 2 is a decent product, though, it’s made annoying by Zuck’s need for every bit of private information a person can have.

            Btw, top ten games…where, exactly? Number of sales? Where are your figures? You’re just spouting nonsense with no proof.

            The thing is, the PC can do everything a Quest can do, and a whole lot more, as it should, as you have to pay for a lot more. I mean, Asgard’s Wrath? Played that recently? Or how did Half-Life: Alyx look on the Quest 2? Pretty good, right? Not without a PC it doesn’t. Boneworks? What, you missed that title too? Ironwolf? Okay, okay. Surely you’ve seen the new Medal of Honor game?

            You see, in my world, I can have a Quest 2, AND play those great games. Apparently, in your world, you cannot. I like a world where developers have an incentive to make involved, great games, as opposed to rather repetitive, though good for exercising, games like Beat Saber. Even well made games like Vader Immortal aren’t really replayable.

            Since you’re stuck with the Quest, you HOPE that PCVR is dead. Not realizing that that is a dead-end. If developers HAD to rely on Zuck and the limited capacity of the Quest 2, they’d stop developing AAA games for VR completely except in cases where Zuck keeps underwriting them, like he has most of the current batch (like Vader’s Wrath).

            Thank God, that’s not the case. Nor will it ever be.

            Think about it. Why would Zuck and Oculus have pushed the Airlink through NOW, in April of this year, if his Quest 2 ecosystem was going gangbusters? If he has developers jumping all over themselves to release AAA games into the Quest 2 android ecosystem, he’d have no need to stretch out a hand towards Steam.

            You are right, I am having fun with it. Oddly enough, I’m having more fun with the Quest 2 than I ever did with the Rift. Because I have the freedom of no cords, and the horsepower & game selection of the PC.

          • ViRGiN

            This is so long i can’t be bothered to read in full, but I’d rather have a single game for $100, than tons of $15 indie crap that never held over time, and again, top 5 list confirms it. It’s not a question of wallet at all. You can invest 5k in pc and dedicated pcvr, yet there is absolutely nothing worthy calling it pcvr, outside of simulators. I’ve been into VR since real inception in 2012 – tech went a long way, software barely improved. With current VR status, the more you spend on hardware, the less “investment” you get back, and all public numbers and developers testaments confirms it. In confident Q2 RE4 is going to be the most polished, broadly understood as “full” game, can offer, no matter the hardware.

    • Cless

      Most AAA studios have a bunch of people working on experimenting with VR, but games from them should not be expected for a few years yet… Maybe some will test the waters, but if nothing is in the works NOW, we are years away from anything.

      • Ad

        I think a lot of old games could be ported and be fun. Take a lot of fps games and give them good VR controls and interactions with the guns, and they would do well. Wolfenstein Cyberpilot did a hundred times worse than a straight port of Wolfenstein TNO would have done.

  • thgc

    VR design & development needs complete dedication. Much more than, say, porting a game to PC from console.
    To get a really good game done for VR that just “feels” right, you have to spent countless hours on prototyping and optimizing for the actual experience with HMD + motion controllers. There are few games that really do this well on PCVR right now, like Pistol Whip, Walking Dead and Everslaught.

    • wheeler

      This is why a good modding platform makes a lot of sense for VR right now. Devs need a platform that solves most of these problems and then can mostly focus on content while making some tweaks to mechanics here and there. This is an opportunity for Source 2 IMO.

    • User_Name_24601

      NoMansSky did a decent port of their game for VR. I actually enjoy playing in more in VR than I did in pancake mode.

  • DjArcas

    Carrier Command 2 is absolutely brilliant tho. It’s glorious to stand on the deck of the carrier in VR. It’s just not… playable. I’ve put a number of hours into it in pancake mode now, and it really is sublime. I look forwards to going back into it in VR once they make it… well. Playable.

  • Bob

    This seems to be a trend these days with VR games constantly being released in bug-ridden states with poor design choices even with “AAA”development studios. Unfortunately when it comes to porting to VR, developers simply don’t give enough crap because of the additional time and resources it takes to make something that works really well in VR.

    Why bother when most of our money is made through the traditional flatscreen market? VR is simply an afterthought.

    And that sort of mentality needs a shake-up if VR is to get anywhere close to the level of quality and consistency only found in flatscreen gaming.

    • Psycold

      That’s not a problem exclusive to VR, it’s a problem with gaming in general. Look at Cyberpunk, it had more money thrown at it than god and to this day it is still a buggy mess for many people. I blame us, the consumer. We keep paying for things that don’t exist yet. We pay for an idea of a game, not a game that has already been made and proven to be good. That’s how we ended up with stuff like Back 4 Blood charging people over $100 just to play the version that has everything included that was created for the game.

      • Christian Schildwaechter

        But this is also how we ended up with Witcher 3, that started as a buggy mess, because CD Projekt tried to force the release by crunching, which failed in the same way as it did with Cyberpunk 2077. They went back and fixed the frame rate, the wild clipping, the crashes and the control system, and ended up with one of the most beloved titles of all time. Many people forgot it didn’t start that way. Most of us will lively remember the No Man’s Sky launch disaster, but they too went back to work, and now it has become a highly praised game.

        I agree with presales being a bad idea, but unfortunately the industry uses presales to estimate interest in a title, meaning a title with lots of presales will get a higher budget. And this regularly backfires: presales on Cyberpunk were huge, so they could assume that they would sell more, so they could afford a bigger budget and make the game world larger. Unfortunately increasing the scope of the game also requires more people to work on it and complicates the development, so you actually increase the chance that the project will get into trouble. We have seen this many times with Kickstarters that started small, got a lot of money, increased the scope beyond what they could manage and crashed spectacularly.

        Game development is hard, and you have to make many predictions about future market and technology development that may be wrong. That doesn’t excuse CD Project’s management failure with crunched, buggy releases, but it also means that you can simply avoid “bad developers” or presales, because a lot of the problems are inherent to any type of complex software development.

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  • Christian Schildwaechter

    I fully agree they messed this up, many of the missing features could have been fixed/implemented in a short time, and a lack of play testing is basically inexcusable. The studio released “Stormworks: Build and Rescue” a year ago, which stands at 92% with almost 18,000 ratings, they are obviously capable game developers, and there is no chance that they weren’t aware of the issues before release.

    So how did this happen?

    Probably multiple factors. While they had a lot of experience with game development, they lacked the experience in VR. This isn’t only critical while implementing VR, but also for estimating how difficult it will be and if you should try at all. They added VR support at a later point based on user suggestions and clearly underestimated the difficulty.

    But they must have noticed the problems, so why didn’t they delay the release until after things were fixed?

    One reason seems to be that they sell both versions as a bundle, you always get the flatscreen version, VR version and soundtrack. I don’t know why, but this means that delaying the VR port would have also delayed releasing the main game, which might have been unacceptable for numerous reasons, mostly contracts with the publisher.

    But if they knew they had to release both versions at the same time, why didn’t they allocate more resources to improve the VR version?

    The current count of reviews is 790@75% for flatscreen and 54@26% for VR, so 15 times more for flatscreen. It is hard to tell how many players bought the bundle just for VR, but with the bad ratings even fewer people would have bothered to buy and rate an unbundled VR version. From a purely economic standpoint it makes more sense to throw your resources at the flatscreen version to make sure it gets decent ratings, esp. if you have to hit a release date and are running late.

    This is still a case of bad management, and in some ways an argument for Facebook’s highly curated Quest Store, requiring approval first, but then also supporting game developers to assure a proper VR implementation and optimization. The resulting bad ratings are a problem for PCVR in general, because other developers will think twice before spending resources on adding VR to their games, esp. if they don’t have the necessary experience yet. The studio will try to fix the issues with Carrier Command 2 VR, and their next game will probably not support VR. If they knew what they know now when VR support was first suggested, they probably wouldn’t have implemented it at all.

    All the criticism in the reviews is justified, though it should be noted that a number of reviewers love the game in VR, despite its shortcomings. But VR gamers are at least somewhat digging their own grave when they ignore that they are part of a very tiny niche, which means limited resources, and use HL:A or Boneworks as a watermark for proper VR implementations. Games get review bombed on Steam for only supporting gamepads or teleport motion, while games like RE7 get praise on the PSVR.

    On the one hand it is very important to demand good VR implementations, so that new gamers are not turned away by bad experiences. On the other hand dismissing games for not fully supporting VR, e.g. being only seated, means that there will be a lot less high budget productions that will bother to implement VR. And while VR remains a niche, basically nobody else will start any VR only high budget games.

    Again, they fucked it up, VR could have been properly implemented with a little more effort, and they failed to do that. But some adjustment of expectation is required due to the economics of game development and the rather minuscule sales VR generates. In many cases the choice will not be between good VR and patched in VR, but between patched in VR or no VR, and this will not change significantly until the VR market is much larger. Which is most likely why Sony is pushing developers to create hybrid games for PSVR.

    • jthill

      Management who don’t see anything but dollars, the sort who basically hate everything about their business but the part where they put other people’s money in their pockets, are extremely difficult to get rid of once they’re allowed in. Focus on profits is necessary, to a point, just as drinking water is necessary, to a point, but these clowns think it’s a fucking contest.

      • Bob

        Management are usually overpaid, useless and lazy. But unfortunately that’s how the system works; you need higher-ups to give orders to the worker bees. We don’t like it but that’s a system we created for ourselves.

  • ale bro

    Play testing VR must be quite difficult because it needs five times more room than someone sitting at a desk playing flat screen. I’m sure some studios play test while seated which also isn’t great – look at the Star Trek game which greys out if you move your head slightly. Fall Out 4 was hilariously blurry on release because all the testers had 4K monitors and the game adopted the resolution of your monitor.

    • ViRGiN

      No it’s not difficult… and if they can’t “afford” space or get off their chair, maybe they shouldn’t be developing for VR, or face consequences.

  • xyzs

    Also, selling a second version for VR support is a disgusting practice.
    They could simply add it to the original as an option, but no, they want you to cash 2 times instead.

    • doug

      I don’t think so. I’d never want the flat version.

    • Christian Schildwaechter

      The aren’t selling a second version. You always get both plus the soundtrack as a bundle, there is no way to buy only one or the other.

      They only deliver the VR version as a separate app instead of integrating it as a mode in the flatscreen version. Which seems to be a good decision, as otherwise the miserable ratings for the bad VR implementation would drag down the pancake version too.

  • Mateusz Pawluczuk

    “Option to not tilt or offset the camera when interacting with a screen.”

    I’m glad they’re leaving this as an option, hardened VR gamers love a good camera tilt out of nowhere ;))

  • JakeDunnegan

    This is an important article, and good on RtoVR for writing it. Here’s to hoping devs read it to save themselves a lot of headaches. I hope more devs jump on the VR wagon and stick with it, and don’t get discouraged. Every game needs good playtesting,

    I also hope VR users give some credit to devs who work to fix their games (and update reviews to reflect that).

  • shadow9d9

    The lesson is not “vr is hard.” The lesson is don’t add VR at the last second with no testing.

  • Smegheid

    One of the things I just don’t get is the dismal dead set support.

    The game’s steam page lists two supported headsets: the Vive and the Index. By the most recent steam hardware survey, these account for about 27% of VR users on steam.

    Love or loathe Facebook, their headsets make up over 60% or the user base, and 3 of the top 5 headsets are from Oculus. Even the original rift (which I have) is in 5th spot at a little over 5%, which is more than Vives Pro, Cosmos, Pro 2 and Elite *combined*.

    Yet, for all that, the game launched oblivious to all of Oculus’ systems.

    Given the current market, who does that? Who in their right mind releases a product that’s intended for a little over a quarter of the prospective audience? What made the devs think that was a sane approach?

    I’m hoping that the VR version can be brought up to scratch. Carrier Command was one of my favorite games on the aspect back in the day, and later on the Amiga. I’ll likely pick up the flat version once I’m less busy, and hope that the bundled VR version will become usable at some point in the future.