Virtual reality isn’t like other forms of gaming media.
It’s not just about the headset or the 3D sound—the entire experience of playing games in VR is different, and when it comes to game development, studios working on VR titles are going to rely on completely new ideas and directions to take advantage of the unique virtual reality perspective.
While it’s not entirely easy to predict what gamers will see from the future of VR, some trends are already visible. Here are a few things that all gamers can expect to see change as virtual reality finds its audience:
More First-Person Titles, Fewer Distractions On-Screen
VR works better in first person.
This is logical—the immersive nature of a moving view screen in front of the player’s face means that looking through the player character’s eyes is the most natural way of interacting with a game world.
While there are third-person titles for VR (Lucky’s Tale for Oculus Rift is a great example), don’t expect these to be particularly common. The majority of games will be built to take advantage of VR’s strengths, and that means more titles where the player sits behind the ‘camera.’
This means some changes for gameplay—developers of platformers, adventure games, and RPGs will plan around this perspective. Efforts will be made to simplify screen displays and remove any clutter that might get in the way, as the games work to feel more immersive and realistic rather than being bloated with health bars, stats counters, or other distractions.
This can be seen with games like The Gallery: Call of the Starseed, which lacks any detail on the screen such as menus, objective markers, or maps, typical appearances on most first-person titles for non-VR platforms. Players will likely find that virtual reality games’ displays become a lot less clunky as developers find more streamlined ways to let you know all the necessary details.
Motion Controls Without Much Walking
Get ready to wave your arms a lot more—motion controls are back in fashion.
It’s kind of strange how quickly the motion control bubble burst—after the enormous popularity of the Wii, for a while it seemed like everyone wanted to get in on motion controls, before quietly, quickly, dropping all support for devices like the PlayStation Move and the Microsoft Kinect.
With VR, though, motion controls not only make sense, they’re an enormous part of the experience. It’s important that the player can not only see the VR world around them, but interact with it in a meaningful way that’s not restricted—for this, motion controls come back into the forefront of game development.
That said, VR technology hasn’t removed any of the previous barriers that were experienced with motion controls. Gamers need to be able to move around in a space, and considering that the average living room isn’t the same size as a football field, this means most games will have the player standing and moving around within a small, confined space.
Games like Portal Stories: VR get around this problem by allowing players to teleport across a larger map while remaining stationary. Alternatively, expect to see VR games that take place in a limited area—games that confine the player to a small platform or tiny room will be common, as developers try to keep the action within the confines of the player’s physical space.
With games like Loading Human, a hybrid approach to motion controls will be used. Manipulating objects is done as the player moves their arms around, but walking is achieved with the directional controls on the game’s controller—a method of movement that players are already used to and that feels more natural than teleporting around a map. This way, the player can explore a larger area without having to physically walk around.
Greater Emotional Weight
With VR, moments of action and excitement will be all the more tense, as the player feels that they’re genuinely in the center of a gunfight or car chase. These moments will be potentially very emotionally impactful, meaning that developers are looking towards ways to reduce the stress the players feel, or balance the narrative arc of a game’s story in such a way that the player doesn’t feel overwhelmed.
Regardless, be ready for games that come with a powerful emotional punch. VR is in a position to dramatically impact the player and really make us care about the characters in games, and many developers will look for ways of using that to create more powerful pieces of art.
Expect to spend longer talking with NPCs, engaging in real conversation. VR has the power to help make these characters come to life in a way that hasn’t been seen before, as they look directly into the player’s eyes and engage with us on a personal level.
Final Fantasy XV VR splits up gameplay between quieter moments of character interaction and fast-paced action combat.
These kinds of moments are already being seen in the trailers for various big games such as Final Fantasy XV VR, which will revolve around a balance between intense virtual reality combat and quieter moments of relationship-building with fellow party members.
This balance of ultra-intense action with relationship development will likely become a mainstay of VR as developers find better ways to create meaningful interactions in virtual reality.
Get Ready for a Wild Ride
Just like when 3D polygonal graphics reinvented gaming, or when games moved from the arcade to the home console, there are going to be a lot of differences in the way VR games play when compared with other kinds of games.
While to a certain extent we can predict what will come in the future, what’s most exciting is the kind of changes that will take us by surprise. Game developers are going to find a wide range of new ways to reach their audience through VR that would never work in other forms of game design.
So get ready for a wave of innovation—virtual reality is going to change the way we think about video games forever.
The first chapter of Loading Human will be available from October 13. To experience the future of VR gaming, preorder the game today.