Saturday, June 25, 2016

So what do VR games look like?

Now that VR has had a bit of time to mature, what do the best-rated VR games on Steam look like?

(Now, don't get me wrong. I understand that developing games takes quite a lot of time. For example, it took over a year for the PS4 to have a sizeable library of new big-budget triple-A games. But on the other hand, the Oculus Rift development kits have been available for like 3 years, so developers have had plenty of time to make games, or even add VR support to existing games.)

Note that I'm not cherry-picking the worst examples. These are literally the top-rated VR games on Steam as of writing this blog post. (You can click on the images to get slightly larger versions.)

The Lab:

Valve's flagship tech demo is not exactly bad-looking at parts, but on the other hand, it's pretty crappy at others, like above. (Note that the guy in the picture is not part of the game. That's just video footage of a real person.) I think even the PlayStation 2 had better graphics than this.

Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes:

Yet another barely-even-PS2 game. And what is it about? I think the Steam description says it all: "Find yourself trapped alone in a room with a ticking time bomb. Your friends have the manual to defuse it, but they can't see the bomb, so you're going to have to talk it out – fast!"

So it's a party game, which may entertain you for... what? Fifteen minutes? Yay. What a blast.

Vanishing Realms:

While at first glance it doesn't look really bad at first, if you look more closely (especially at full resolution), you'll start noticing that this is, yet again, at PS2 level. Low-polygon, low-res textures, simplistic lighting, and models look like crap.

The FOO Show featuring Will Smith:

WTF is this? We seem to be descending to PS1 territory. This looks almost like a MS-DOS game. Look at all those flat-shaded untextured polygons, on low-poly models. Which are posed like geriatric dolls.


Again at a quick glance it might look better than it really is, but a closer look reveals, once again, PS2 grade graphics. (Are we seeing a pattern here?) In fact, I think many PS2 games had better graphics than this. And of course gameplay consists of you standing still like a buffoon shooting around.

Battle Dome:

This is getting ridiculous. Save for the higher-res photo of the Earth in the background, this looks like a PS1 game.


Yay. Look at all those graphical effects. Ok, there aren't any, but I'd look at them if there were.

Unseen Diplomacy:

I have no words. Is this some kind of joke?

Maybe the only two games in the top rated list that slightly resemble modern games are Pool Nation VR and Space Pirate Trainer:

And with "slightly resemble a modern game" I mean perhaps barely an early PS3 game.

Not much of a story in a pool game. Might be fun to experience, but I don't envision myself playing it for hours. Although if I had to choose from all these games, this one would be the one, by a really large margin.

As for the "Space Pirate Trainer", it's once again just you standing still like a buffoon, shooting at incoming little robots. Yay.

Is this really the best that VR has to offer?

And no, the answer is not "but VR requires so much rendering power that games can't look like the best modern games!" That's just not true.

The minimum required specs for a VR-capable PC is a fast i5 CPU and a GTX970. Take the best-looking PS3 game you can think of, and such a PC will be able to render it at 2160x1200 @ 90Hz easily. It would probably not even get close to 100% CPU/GPU usage. And we are talking about PS3 games that look like this:

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