I was firstly introduced to the concept of VR gaming while I was playing an MMORPG back in the summer of 2012. Someone spoke about a newly released anime called Sword Art Online where it had an interesting concept of being stuck in a VR game. I decided to check it out, and ever since I had watched it, it left me wanting for advancements in VR tech at that level where we could not distinguish between what is real and what isn’t. Being able to travel between worlds was so amazing to do.
There are some things that are still nitpicked about. Since the technology isn’t perfect, there is no standard way of doing things, the comfort of size and weight of the VR headset is still a thing people complain about as can be noticed by my classmates giving me comments on it. Not to mention the issues with mobility.
~The first step~
Gamepad input/keyboard and mouse is the most basic form of movement, the tried and tested, easy to get used to. However, this offers little room for immersion into the VR world.
Locomotion is aided with various equipment you are able to link with VR headset and the controllers you are given. You can teleport from using the controller in a point-and-click manner, however, this could give you motion-sickness from appearing at place without your brain registering you moving from point A to point B. This can also feel gimmicky and doesn’t give the player a large sense of exploration. Another way to use the sticks is by hooking up a sensor on your body, holding the stick in front of you and stomping. This can be harder to get used to with the player needing to alternate between moving and using their hands. Another simple form of using the sticks happens to be by simple:swinging the sticks to walk around, the only drawback being tiring your arms down.
A more innovative way to aid locomotion is by the shoes and “treadmills” being developed. Cybershoes show some potential, they have the rollers in the bottom and require the player to be seated. However, players can get sore legs from swinging their legs front and back. It is also not supported in a lot of games that still use gamepad movement styles which can mess the movement in-game.
Sony has a 3D rudder for the feet which requires minimal movement and supports a seated style of playing. Essentially making your feet a locomotion tool while you can focus your hands to do other things like attacking/grabbing/interacting with objects. Unfortunately, this could be low-value for money for consumers, seeing as it is only supported by 30 or so games for now. It will take more time for this equipment to be fully supported by more VR games.
The more exciting form of movement can be done with the treadmills and large movement rigs. Something akin to “Ready Player One’s” omnidirectional treadmill is being developed. It’s called the Infinadeck. It is still being updated and you can expect more improvements in the future.
Another popular equipment is called the Kat Walk. It allows strafing with its wheels in its shoes(which is important in games as it allows players to move diagonally which other equipment may not). And it is also consumer-friendly(Kak Walk Mini) with cheaper prices, lightweightness and size which makes it easier to keep in your living space. However, it is not perfect and users have commented about how it is difficult to crouch/stop and pick items up which may hinder the gameplay experience.
The last locomotive equipment I am going to introduce is the Silvercord support rig. I find this the most impressive way of moving around in VR. This rig allows a lot of freedom of movement. Allowing players to “float” mid-air with the support of the rig, opening doors to flying and swimming features in games. It also allows users to sit and move around. The need to actually stomp while walking also lowers the chance of getting motion-sickness when climbing up stairs or descending.
Learning to move in VR using the various methods available is a difficult thing to grasp for the first time. It feels almost like you are learning to walk for the first time, or learning to cycle/rollerblade/skate. It is somehow fitting, as if you are taking your first baby steps into a new world.
Another thing that has been introduced is mind-control! (sort-of) Nextmind allows users to play some games using just their brains. It requires players to focus on objects in order to lift/break/move them. This gives a feeling of having mind powers in game which is an intoxicating feeling. Not to worry, this is non-invasive and doesn’t rewrite the commands of your brain, it merely reads and communicates your brainwaves back to the game. You don’t have to implant any chips in your brain so it is looking all good on that front. Some cool ideas I got from the Internet for this technology is being able to mind-control npcs in say an RPG game to do your bidding. Or if the game could read your brain is bored with the pace or difficulty of the game and bump it up a notch, or vice-versa if it is feeling overwhelmed(up to the settings of course!) Right now, it can only register one message of our brain at a time and the translation of the reader to the game still takes a few seconds to fully interpret which may be off putting to some players. This is still a new technology and it still has a lot of potential.
The final thing I will introduce is Haptic technology. Adding tactile sense in games allows one more sense for the players to feel compared to just audio-visual. This gives players an advantage in games when they can locate where they are getting attacked from faster or get used to the enemies’ attack patterns more easily. It also allows a gateway for human interaction in the VR world(Social VR). In the world we live in right now, we cannot go see our friends and families easily(especially overseas!) But with the help of Haptic suits, we are able to meet people in VR and interact with them physically. Hugs, high-fives, massages are all possible. This improves the immersion of people in VR. For example, feeling the recoil of our gun while shooting, a headcrab jumping on our faces in Half-life, our heart beating when we have low health can make us realize the severity of the predicament we’re in, as well as pumping ourselves with a health syringe and feeling our health go back up with some soothing vibrations.
abduldattijo (2020). The Best Virtual Reality (VR) Games You Need to Know About In 2020. [online] Computing News. Available at: https://www.computingnews.com/best-vr-games/
Finally Functional (2020). 12 VR Locomotion Solutions/Concepts You Probably Haven’t Heard Of. YouTube. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5PFM9KESnH8&list=PLnRGS-ZphN4RVEXHffWW4mWVuD-8qih35&index=7
NX Gamer (2019). 3d Rudder VR | PSVR Controller Review. YouTube. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O32mXRZxye8&list=PLnRGS-ZphN4RVEXHffWW4mWVuD-8qih35&index=3
SilverCord-VR omnidirectional treadmill (2019). SilverCord-VR omnidirectional treadmill 2019. YouTube. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JS7GW33rUWQ&list=PLnRGS-ZphN4RVEXHffWW4mWVuD-8qih35&index=2
SilverCord-VR omnidirectional treadmill (2020). Сomfortable VR movement for anyone! With detailed explanations. YouTube. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rxZzPmarMsk&list=PLnRGS-ZphN4RVEXHffWW4mWVuD-8qih35&index=4
ThrillSeeker (2020). The most Immersed I have EVER been in VR. YouTube. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wBV9hDNd2ws&list=PLnRGS-ZphN4RVEXHffWW4mWVuD-8qih35&index=5
Virtual Dreamers (2018). The VR Locomotion Problem. YouTube. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_b0QhXgwlvQ&list=PLnRGS-ZphN4RVEXHffWW4mWVuD-8qih35&index=8
Virtual Reality Oasis (2021). VR Mind Control Is HERE! And It Works! YouTube. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SMXfyZc_Gvg&list=PLnRGS-ZphN4RVEXHffWW4mWVuD-8qih35&index=6