For those who have been playing or developing VR content for years, it might seem ‘obvious’ what kind of settings are expected to be included for player comfort. Yet for new players and developers alike, the confusing sea of VR comfort terms is far from straightforward. This has lead to situations where players buy a game but find it doesn’t include a comfort setting that’s important to them. So here’s a checklist and glossary of ‘essential’ VR comfort settings that developers should clearly communicate to potential customers about their VR game or experience.

Update September 27th, 2022: Added new sections in comfort checklist and glossary for ‘quick-turn’ and ‘dash’ to further specify the difference between instant vs. fast motion. Added ‘comfortable for most/least’ for some glossary items as a starting point to understand which VR settings tend to be more/less comfortable for most people.

VR Comfort Settings Checklist

Let’s start with the VR comfort settings checklist, using two example games. While it is by no means comprehensive, it covers many of the basic comfort settings employed by VR games today. To be clear, this checklist is not what settings a game should include, it is merely the info that should be communicated so customers know what comfort settings are offered.

ℹ We chose these two examples because a game like Beat Saber, despite being an almost universally comfortable VR game, will have many ‘n/a’ on its list because it completely lacks artificial turning & movement. Whereas a game like Half-Life: Alyx uses artificial turning & movement and therefore offers more options for player comfort.

Half-Life: Alyx
Beat Saber
Turning
Artificial turning
Snap-turn n/a
Adjustable increments n/a
Quick-turn n/a
Adjustable Increments n/a n/a
Adjustable speed n/a n/a
Smooth-turn n/a
Adjustable speed n/a
Movement
Artificial movement
Teleport-move n/a
Dash-move n/a
Smooth-move n/a
Adjustable speed n/a
Blinders n/a
Adjustable strength n/a n/a
Head-based n/a
Controller-based n/a
Swappable movement hand n/a
Posture
Standing mode
Seated mode not explicit
Artificial crouch
Real crouch
Accessibility
Subtitles n/a
Languages English, French, German […] n/a
Dialogue audio n/a
Languages English n/a
Adjustable difficulty
Two hands required
For some game modes (optional)
Real crouch required For some levels (optional)
Hearing required
Adjustable player height

If players are equipped with this information ahead of time, it will help them make a more informed buying decision.

VR Comfort Settings Glossary

For new players, many of these terms might be confusing. Here’s a glossary of basic definitions of each VR comfort setting.

Turning

  • Artificial turning – whether or not the game allows the player to rotate their view separately from their real-world orientation within their playspace (also called virtual turning)
    • Snap-turn – comfortable for most
      Instantly rotates the camera view in steps or increments (also called blink-turn)
    • Quick-turn – comfortable for some
      Quickly rotates the camera view in steps or increments (also called fast-turn or dash-turn)
    • Smooth-turn – comfortable for least
      Smoothly rotates the camera view (also called continuous-turn)

Movement

  • Artificial movement – whether or not the game allows the player to move through the virtual world separately from their real-world movement within their playspace (also called virtual movement)
    • Teleport-move – comfortable for most
      Instantly moves the player between positions (also called blink-move)
    • Dash-move – comfortable for some
      Quickly moves the player between positions (also called shift-move)
    • Smooth-move – comfortable for least
      Smoothly moves the player through the world (also called continuous-move)
  • Head-based – the game considers the player’s head direction as the ‘forward’ direction for artificial movement
  • Hand-based – the game considers the player’s hand/controller direction as the ‘forward’ direction for artificial movement
  • Swappable movement hand – allows the player to change the artificial movement controller input between the left and right hands
  • Blinders – cropping of the headset’s field of view to reduce motion visible in the player’s periphery (also called vignette)

Posture

  • Standing mode – supports players playing in a real-world standing position
  • Seated mode – supports players playing in a real-world seated position
  • Artificial crouch – allows the player to crouch with a button input instead of crouching in the real world (also called virtual crouch)
  • Real crouch – allows the player to crouch in the real-world and have it correctly reflected as crouching in the game

Accessibility

  • Subtitles – a game that has subtitles for dialogue & interface, and which languages therein
  • Audio – a game that has audio dialogue, and which languages therein
  • Adjustable difficulty – allows the player to control the difficulty of a game’s mechanics
  • Two-hands required – whether two hands are required for core game completion or essential mechanics
  • Real-crouch required – a game which requires the player to physically crouch for core completion or essential mechanics (with no comparable artificial crouch option)
  • Hearing required – a game which requires the player to be able to hear for core completion or essential mechanics
  • Adjustable player height – whether the player can change their in-game height separately from their real world height (distinct from artificial crouching because the adjustment is persistent and may also work in tandem with artificial crouching)

– – — – –

As mentioned, this is not a comprehensive list. VR comfort is a complex topic especially because everyone’s experience is somewhat different, but this is hopefully a useful baseline to help streamline communication between developers and players alike.

For developers exploring various locomotion methods for use in VR content, the Locomotion Vault is a good resource to see real-world examples.

For players with disabilities who want more options for VR game accessibility check out the WalkinVR custom locomotion driver.

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  • u guys forgot “playspace -base or always forward” mostly used by those who play seated but it’s not offered in most games

  • Jan Ciger

    The accessibility part lacks the non-VR specific but very useful colorblindness and high contrast options. Quite a few games are starting to include these.

    • benz145

      Thanks for the feedback Jan. The accessibility section could have gone very deep as it’s an important topic. I had to hold myself back from adding more, as I was trying to keep this highly focused on comfort specifically (I may have even gone too far with audio and subtitles, as they’re something of a stretch from ‘comfort’). Developers can of course add or subtract any elements from the list—and expand beyond ‘comfort’—to fit their communication objectives.

  • neodraig

    We always talk about comfort settngs for people who are sick in VR but we never talk about the opposit, options for people like me that are never sick in VR.
    An option that I really would like to see, and that would greatly improve the immersion, is a head bobbing option.
    Sliding in VR when using smooth locomotion is just awful and breaks the immersion as it doesn’t feel like you are walking at all (it feels like you are moving on a conveyor belt).
    I used head bobbing in many games (using vorpX) and it greatly improves the immersion (as it makes you feel that you are walking, and not sliding).
    Just like with most FPS pancake games, I really wish this option was available in VR (except it would be deactivated by default).

    • Gato Satanista

      Interesting. I never played a VR game with headbobing to test if it really enhances immersion. Do you know some game with this feature? A native VR game? (I dont have vorpX)

      • neodraig

        I’ve played a lot of VR games in the last few years, and the only one that had a headbobbing option was POLLEN if I remember correctly.

        When the first games were released for VR, they were only using teleportation as they said using smooth locomotion would make people sick. Now a majority of the players prefer smooth locomotion.

        So instead of banning head bobbing from VR (as they did with smooth locomotion), why not offer the option for those who can stand it? From my experience it greatly improve the immersion (I already hate flat games that don’t have head bobbing like Deus Ex Mankind Divided). Moving in VR without head bobbing is immersion breaking as it feels like you are glidding, which is not realistic at all.

    • Gato Satanista

      I used to suffer with motion sicknes on the first weeks with my old rift cv1. Now they’re long gone and I can play smooth locomotion games for hours without any problem on my Quest 2. I don’t have motion sickness in plane or spacecraft simulators either… Playing Star Wars Squadron and doing fine… But I do have a problem with racing games in VR. They cause me a lot of motion sickness. But I do have some motion sickness in real life, when I travel in the backseat of a car (no problem if I am the driver). Curious about head bobing

    • Denny Unger

      The reason people like you aren’t highlighted Neo, is that the majority of players (especially onboarding new users) have vection sensitivity. Yes, acclimation is “real” and you can train a fighter pilot to overcome nausea but that’s a poison sentiment for VR adoption.

      That being said, there are people working with us who have been at this for 8 years that are still intensely sensitive to vection. Broadly, that’s the norm, not the acception to the rule.

  • Very good guide for newbies!

  • dracolytch

    It’s a good list of settings, but it’s not a comprehensive list of content that could make users uncomfortable. Artificial movement could be forward/back translation, lateral translation (usually more problematic), and vertical translation (also often problematic). There’s also a form of discomfort from objects passing through the player (usually doesn’t make people sick, but it’s often considered ‘weird’ or ‘unpleasant’)

  • Pablo C

    Funny enough, once I fully overcame my VR motion sickness, I automaticly overcame seasickness as well: after a couple of years in VR, haven´t been on a ship for years (because it made me very sick), I went on a 3-days trip on hard seas. Many of my friends got bad. Guess what: I didn´t get dissy at all. On the next days I was continuosly working on a small boat in the sea: no seasickness. I was very (and gladly) surprised.

    • Ookami

      oh, that’s really awesome and fascinating.

  • HL:A plays shitty seated. forward is ever lock to ur head or to ur hand. one ever forces you to look straight ahead or hold one hand straight ahead. which mean i can’t look around while moving when it’s lock to head or i can’t aim with the hand forward is locked to cause to do so changes my direction i want to go in. this is the number one reason i will refund a vr game. if it doesn’t have the right setting setup for seated it’s not worth my time. seeing as this is most vr basically don’t play vr anymore

  • m0useCat064

    it’s important to consider the divergence of XR design paradigms: Games based off artificial movement and games based off real movement only. i.e Boneworks and Alyx, vs Beat Saber, Superhot, and Space Pirate Trainer. It’s the idea of having a VR omni treadmill vs a massive playspace (or even a less defined playspace such as for AR), and both will be very important to the future of XR.

    I do know someone who absolutely needs smooth turn, as they find snap turn very jarring and uncomfortable. I’m on the opposite end and need snap turn (or at least quick turn), as I can’t stand spinning in place.

    Both are necessary for artificial locomotion based games, particularly when a wire is involved. Wireless/untethered is not yet ubiquitous, nor suitable for all use cases.

    Vignettes are interesting, as I’ve seen some very good implementations of it. Apex Construct has one that shows a background grid cube in the vignette, which grounds the player’s peripheral to show that nothing is actually moving. Most games with vignette/tunneling lack this, severely limiting its benefit. But with it enabled, I’d imagine a lot of additional gameplay/cinematics could be done while remaining comfortable.