This post talks about technical implementation of movement from different VR experiences I’ve tried in the last 2 months. All of them delivered great immersive experiences without breaking presence, and wanted to share my analysis of their techniques. Part 2 will analyze environment interactions. All the experiences I’m talking about showcased different hardware (Vive, Touch, Omni and Gamepad) and genres.
Teleportation is one of the best techniques to use for movement. If you don’t want to use Teleportation, use constant forward movement. If you want to implement strafing, make sure its smooth and continuous and try limiting the degree of movement.
So the past 3 months have had me traveling around the U.S. enabling me to take part in many amazing Gaming and VR conferences: Pax West, GaymerX4, Oculus Connect 3. I wanted to use this post to talk about some of my experiences on the different games and hardware as well as dive into the unique technical solutions that each of these experiences implement. Most of what I talk about will revolve around player movement and environment interaction; two of the most common areas where presence is broken.
Velocibeasts by Churroboros – HTC Vive Multiplayer
Technical Highlights: Attack and Movement Controls
“Have you ever wanted to throw something at someone? VELOCIBEASTS can make that dream a reality. Pick a weapon, throw it, teleport, and kill your friends.
Battle as a variety of animals equipped with floating mecha suits in this fast paced multiplayer battle arena VR title.”
I managed to get a pretty in depth demo at GaymerX4 this year. The highlight of this game is the attack and movement controls. In VR, player movement is one of the fastest ways to break a users sense of presence. So, why am I impressed? I’ll explain. In the game you are a mecha-suit beast in a large arena, trying to kill your opponent.
You attack by throwing your weapon, similarly to casting a fishing line, toward your enemy. Pressing and holding the trigger grips your weapon, and releasing the trigger to throws it. However the interesting part of the game play is when you press the trigger again. When you do, you instantly teleport to your weapons location. The mix of coordinating attacks and movement simultaneously creates a fun, fast pace experience that immerses players.
Now in general I’m not prone to motion sickness in VR. However, in most first person shooter/fighting games, falling and strafing cause the most motion sickness issues for me. Velocibeasts avoids both by allowing your beast to float (because it’s in a mecha-suit), avoiding falling, and teleportation avoiding strafing. The floating mechanism also gives users complete 6 degrees of freedom for moving around the arena.
I’m impressed because many games use the teleportation technique but not many of them make it so well integrated into game play. The movement controls were also very easy to use and only took a few throws to get the timing and rhythm down. Below are some pictures of me playing the game, getting really into it.
World War Toons by Reload Studios – Omni, Gamepad, Rift, PSVR
Technical Highlights: Full FPS style game, Good use of strafing controls, and Omni integration
“World War Toons is a cartoony first-person shooter where you never know if you’re going to turn the corner and see a rocket rushing towards you, grand pianos falling from the sky, or a massive tank staring you in the face.”
– Reload Studios
Technical Review and First Opinions:
I played this game at PAX West and got the opportunity to play with the Rift and gamepad, as well as the Rift with the Omni. It was a very polished game, the mechanics played like an FPS, which isn’t always the best thing in VR. World War Toons is one of the few games that I’ve played that has strafing (lateral movement independent of camera position) in VR. The reason why VR experience shy away from this? Because users get sick, really, really quickly.
Now, despite having strafing, I only felt nauseous a few times during game play; specifically when my character was falling off the side of a wall, and when being launched in the air by trampolines.
The creators limited movement to just the d-pad directions (left, right, forward, backward), to limit the amount of discomfort when players were strafing.
However, when playing the game on the Omni, I had no issues with nausea. The hardware made a huge difference when the character is launched about the arena, and falling off drops. It was also completely immersive, compared to full game pad controls.
Eagle Flight by Ubisoft – Ubisoft
Technical Highlights: Player Movement, Gamepad, Multiplayer
“50 years after humans vanished from the face of the Earth, nature reclaimed the city of Paris, leaving a breathtaking playground. As an eagle, you soar past iconic landmarks, dice through narrow streets, and engage in heart-punding aerial dog fights to protect your territory from opponents.”
Technical Review and First Opinions:
I first saw this game at GDC this year, and at Oculus Connect 3 I was able to play it. A 3 v 3 multiplayer, capture the flag, game. My team won 7-0. YAY!
Game start: The opening of the game you can see your fellow teammates as Eagles in a for match making. You are able to look around at your teammates’ eagle bodies, whose head movements correspond to the players’ head movements. I mention this because these little details increase player immersion. Once everyone is ready in the lobby the game beings.
Game Play: When the game finally starts the camera, fades in onto the scene. You as the eagle, is already in flight. In VR, if you want to have the player move around your scene (not teleportation) there are only a few ways to do it without getting them sick. One of the ways is to have a semi constant speed, and always have forward movement in the direction the player is looking. Eagle Flight employs this technique, with head tilts, to turn yourself left and right. However, I did still feel some discomfort as I was getting used to the controls of moving around Paris.
The other thing Ubisoft does to help immerse the player, is add a beak to the players view. There have been VR studies that show adding a nose, or a grounding element to the player’s view helped to immerse them faster and alleviate motion sickness. I hadn’t seen any games employ this technique though, until this one.
The third technique Ubisoft uses for movement and immersion is vignetting the players view, when increasing speed; similar to tunnel vision. I’ve seen this technique a few times when player movement is increased. I like this technique since it eases my motion sickness by limiting the amount of visual inputs.
Eagle Flight is an Oculus Rift Gamepad game, it’s also coming to PSVR. I usually dislike gamepad games for VR because I think it takes away from presence, however this game only used a few buttons, for firing, shield, and speed controls. If you are going to use a gamepad for your First Person VR game, I suggest simplifying the controls, keeping them as intuitive as possible, and styling your game on a third person view.
You can see some of the gameplay from E3 here:
Figuring out which technique you want your user to use to explore your Virtual World is important. Take into consideration the limits of hardware and style of gameplay when making your decision. In Velocibeasts I doubt I would have enjoyed the game play as much if I had to alternate between teleporting and fighting my opponent due to the game’s fast pace flow. Eagle flight had to center it’s gameplay around a constant movement since players are birds. It would have felt super disconnected if our birds were teleporting everywhere instead of peacefully gliding.
Now that I’m done traveling more videos and posts about how to implement all the awesome techniques I talked about to come =)
– The Napping Kat