Stories, Not Graphics, Are VR’s Most Immersive Feature

About Loading Human Virtual Reality Game

VR is beautiful. That’s what we notice first about this new technology—it’s visually striking, drawing us into three-dimensional worlds in a way no other medium is able to do. It’s a beauty that can be seen from all angles, and you can inspect it like a sculpture or appreciate its staging like a film.

VR’s incredible visual potential often leads us to assume that graphics are what’s most immersive. And while the way a game looks is not unimportant—in fact, it’s a large part of preventing motion sickness in players—there’s more to VR than that. Immersion goes beyond looks, and the best VR stories are proving that it’s narrative, not graphics, that makes the difference in immersion.

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The Little Things: Why Small Details Make a Big Difference in VR

Loading Human Details in VR

At the start of the 2010 movie Inception, a movie about creating believable dream worlds that fool their occupants, Saito, a wealthy businessman, realizes he’s dreaming thanks to an out-of-place detail. He spots that the material his rug is made out of doesn’t match up with reality, thus breaking his immersion and revealing to him that he’s trapped within a dream.

Virtual reality can be very similar to the rules of dreams within Inception—it’s the tiny details that make or break immersion. The believability of a game world hinges on the tiny touches that developers put in to make their worlds feel lived-in. Continue reading

Is There Room for Mods in Virtual Reality?

Mods in VR

There are few communities surrounding video games that are as dedicated to innovation and creativity as the modders.

Whether they’re recreating the entirety of the Gameboy title Link’s Awakening in the game engine for The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, or simply hacking Skyrim to replace all the dragons with Macho Man Randy Savage, there’s no denying that gaming has more variety and flavor as a result of the modding community’s inventive adaptations of popular titles. Continue reading

See You in the Movies: How VR is Changing the Meaning of Cinematic Games

Exercise restraint in VR game design!

If there’s one word that describes many of my favorite games, it’s cinematic. What that means, however, can be a little nebulous. When I call Final Fantasy X cinematic, am I talking about the long, beautiful cutscenes, or the epic battles? When critics refer to the Uncharted series as cinematic games, does that mean the Indiana Jones-inspired stories, or the action sequences?

When we call a video game cinematic, we’re saying it somehow reminds us of a film. As games become more immersive and distinguish themselves as a unique art form, the exact elements that constitute a game being cinematic evolve, especially in the light of virtual reality.

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Depth in VR: How Three Dimensions Make Virtual Reality Feel Real

Believable NPCs in VR Games

At this year’s PAX West, there was a singular moment when I discovered how powerful virtual reality could be. I was playing a demo for a VR title and found myself struggling with the controls, repeatedly moving my hand while trying to interact with an object. After a couple of failures, it dawned on me what the problem was—I was only thinking in two dimensions, not three. Sure enough, I extended my hand a little further and hit the sweet spot, allowing me to continue with the game.

Suddenly, it was like somebody had flipped a switch in my brain. This is what VR can do that no other gaming form can. I’ve traversed a multitude of gaming worlds, appreciated small details in any number of gorgeously-rendered titles, and engaged with more expertly-crafted environments and cohesive worldbuilding than I dare try to count—but never have I felt as though I, personally, was really, physically there. Continue reading

Virtual Vacations: The Hitchhiker’s Guide to VR

Virtual VR Vacations

How many cities have you visited in your life?

Ten? Twenty? A hundred? No matter how many you’ve seen, it’s a miniscule number compared to the variety that planet Earth has to offer. This is to say nothing of all the incredibly uncharted locations around the world—rich, thick Amazonian jungle, snowy arctic fjords, and vast, arid deserts that no human has ever fully explored.

With virtual reality, gamers have the opportunity to see the world, all from the comfort of their own living room. Beyond real world locales, it’s even possible to play the tourist in an imaginary setting, traversing Middle Earth or exploring the galaxy. Continue reading