Thursday, October 6, 2016

PSVR, yay or nay?

If you have been reading this blog, you'll know how greatly disappointed and disillusioned I am about how VR turned out to be.

(If you don't want to wade through miles of text where I rant about it, here's a super-condensed summary (you'll have to read the blog posts for the actual arguments and reasoning): Enormously expensive, way out of my budget range. Abysmal game support: virtually zero support in any existing games, almost zero support in new games of existing genres. Room-scale VR cripples game mechanics and gameplay, it's physically straining and unfeasible for any actual gameplay, and I doubt it has a real future. I highly doubt many big-budget 50-hour triple-A games will ever be made for room-scale VR.)

But what about PSVR?

PSVR seems to lack many/most of the problems I have seen in VR: It's significantly cheaper (although still a bit on the expensive side), it's focused on sit-down VR, and at least at this point it appears that there will be a much healthier game library of triple-A titles than for its PC counterparts (although here, too, there will very unlikely be any added support for existing games, although this might be slightly more understandable given the limitations of the platform. It's not like a PS4 game can suddenly require more efficient hardware, because the PS4 being a console is fixed.)

The pricing may still be an issue here, especially since, in a manner of speaking, and like with its PC counterparts, it kind of has "hidden costs" attached to it, in the form of requiring, at the very least, the PlayStation Camera peripheral. The headset alone will, at least as of writing this post, cost 400 USD. Unfortunately that means that it will probably cost at least 450-500€ (ie. about 500-560 USD) here, because that's how it seems to work, for some reason. That's still cheaper than the Oculus Rift (750€) and especially the Vive (980€), but still a bit on the steep side. Especially since that's the price of the headset only. It won't work on its own; it requires the PlayStation Camera, which is not exactly cheap either (60€).

Moreover, it might be necessary to also buy two PlayStation Move controllers. Sony will be releasing a pack containing all three things (ie. the headset, the camera and two Move controllers), and it will be about 100 USD more expensive (which, once again, means something like 150€, ie. about 170 USD, more expensive here, because reasons.)

It's not clear whether the Move controllers are actually needed or not. Sony has announced that most games will not require them, and will be playable with the DualShock controller alone (with former enhancing the experience but being optional), but has also said that some games will require the former, but it's unclear how many, and how the trend will develop in the future.

It also doesn't help that I'm not exactly thrilled about the Move controllers. While they allow for some gameplay that's not possible with the gamepad, I'm not exactly thrilled at the prospect of playing 50-hour games by flailing my arms around. There's a reason why gamepads have become as they currently exist, through several decades of development: They are ergonomic, comfortable, and playable while resting your arms. You can play with a gamepad literally for hours on end without any problems.

Yeah, good luck playing a game for hours on end like that. I dare you: The next time you have a long game session, hold the controller with your arms extended like that. Let's see how long you last. I dare you.

The Move controllers will also, necessarily, restrict game mechanics and gameplay (and they are in this sense going to the room-scale VR territory). This is a Move controller:

Notice something that's conspicuously missing from it? This:

Yeah. How exactly do you move around with a "Move" controller? You don't. Which is why it gives me so much "room-scale VR" bad vibes. (And if you have read my previous blog posts, you'll know how highly skeptical I am of gameplay where movement is restricted due to limitations in the control system.)

Incidentally, there exists a version of the Move controller, called Move Navigation, that actually has a thumbstick. The problem is that it's not the controller that will be used for PSVR.

So what's my verdict of the PSVR based on the information so far? Well, so far it looks much more promising than its PC counterparts, even with its slightly lower technical specs. However, I'll have to wait and see how it develops after launch before I even think of purchasing one. (I'm not expecting it to become any cheaper over the next couple of years. I am going to wait to see how its game library develops, though.)

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