Monday, July 25, 2016

Why the teleporting mechanic in room-scale VR sucks

I have been writing blog post after blog post about why I have been so utterly disappointed with VR, especially due to how "room-scale VR"-centric it has turned out to be in practice, and why I think that room-scale VR is not the way to go and has no future.

The fundamental core problem that I have been repeating is movement, movement, movement. The most fundamental core mechanic of the vast majority of video games since they first began existing. In "room-scale VR" your movement is only limited to a few steps, and that's it. (It's also limited to walking those few steps at a slow pace, with no possibility of any other kind of movement that's so ubiquitous to most games, such as jumping, climbing, running and so on and so forth.)

The kludge that room-scale VR implements around this limitation is "teleporting". In other words, because the control system necessarily limits your movement to an extremely small area, without being able to move even moderate distances, this is circumvented by you being able to "teleport" from place to place: Point to a location and press a button, and you will immediately teleport there.

I am just repeating here what I have been writing several times now in previous blog posts. One thing I had never succeeded in doing, though, was to put into words what exactly is the problem with teleporting, and why it sucks all the fun from the game.

Scott Ross (of Freeman's Mind fame) made recently a video (which is a followup video of the first one he made criticizing VR), where he succinctly puts what I have been trying to say in so many blog posts (paraphrasing):

The teleporting mechanic in room-scale VR feels like a step backwards, rather than forwards. It's like going back to the early 90's and games like Myst, where you could look around, but the only way of moving was to "teleport" from place to place.

This was of course done back then because of the severe limitations of the hardware, and the inability of rendering good 3D graphics in real time, allowing for free movement. (Instead, it used pre-rendered static "skybox" images taken from various places, and you could jump between them.)

This is exactly what I have been meaning when I have said that room-scale VR cripples games. It indeed is like going backwards 25 years, in terms of movement mechanics.

VR supporters will defend room-scale VR by saying that all the other mechanics (body tracking, controller tracking, the immersion...) more than makes up for it. I don't think so. Sure, it makes up for some of it, as an experience, but as gameplay mechanics... the fact that you are essentially playing a glorified early-90's Myst with Kinect controls... Urgh.

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