Extra Credits – Still Skeptical of VR

Five challenges for Virtual Reality.

Warning: Unfortunate comparisons with the Kinnect ahead.


19 thoughts on “Extra Credits – Still Skeptical of VR

  1. bhagpuss

    Excellent analysis. What he said and then some.

    I think there are some fantastic potential applications for this iteration of VR but most of them have little or nothing to do with gaming. It’s a bad fit in so many ways. The Kinnect demonstrated the drawbacks of games that required people to jump around and wave their arms in their living rooms. Remember the vast ballroom-sized lounge the Perfect Kinnect Family used to demonstrate the thing in the original promo?

    Imagine the catastrophic possibilities inherent in three or four children or, worse, adults, in an average family living room, trying to play a game that encourages them to swing and move around while effectively wearing blindfolds. Yes, VR developers can focus on games that don’t follow the Kinnect model of getting you to wave your around and pretend to do dragon kicks but you end up with a roster of games that all involve replicating the experience of sitting in a chair more convincingly and I really don’t think that’s going to be enough of a draw.

    On the other hand, movies, TV shows, and, especially, live or recorded broadcasts of sport, music or other cultural or political events could really flourish on this platform. It could turn out to be ironic indeed that gamers funded something that turns out to be a minor novelty for gaming but a major step forward for gaming’s competition.


  2. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    @Bhagpuss – I think you might be over-emphasizing the whole idea of getting up and walking around with a VR headset on… which is probably due to one of the points listed in the video, the industry overselling the glory of VR. With the Occulus Rift, for example, you are tied to your computer via a set of cable going to USB ports and the video card. There is no way anybody is going to be getting up and running around with that configuration, regardless of what the cover of Time magazine might show.

    Right now it is better to think of VR headsets as something you use while seated. They combine decent sound, an console controller, and a monitor that blanks out the rest of the room, which has some 3D capability, and which responds to your head motion so you can turn and the view on the monitor shifts with that motion. Awesome stuff for a flight sim or a FPS. Probably a decent way to watch a 3D movie or take an interactive tour. Clearly not the holodeck.


  3. kelly64

    I’m not sure why you think the comparisons to the Kinect are unfortunate? To me, like most such comparisons, it has some truth.

    Key amongst those factors: unless everyone has a VR headset, the game developers will have to make a choice. Develop for everyone and skip VR, develop just for the people who have VR, or hack on some incomplete VR support at the end. That’s pretty identical to the original Kinect.

    Now arguably that comparison doesn’t apply to the original Xbox One, where the Kinect was bundled in. But I think that suffered its own backlash for other reasons, akin to my second worry about VR: it won’t really live up to its hype. VR may be cool, but if it isn’t totally transformational and super-awesome, it will ‘suck’ so far as many people are concerned. The hype train is running full steam ahead on VR, and frankly I can’t see any way it can live up to expectations. And that shares some similarity with the ‘in box’ Kinect on the Xbox One.


  4. bhagpuss

    It’s not just lazy mainstream journalism that’s giving a misleading impression that VR involves waving your arms about and spinning. Take these quotes from TechRadar’s Hands-On Review:

    “The games I played had me moving around too much for the demo giver to take a solid picture.”
    “A six shooter then appears holstered on your right hip. I had a hard time unholstering it because the controller wouldn’t register what I was trying to grab.”
    “You end up with two guns – both six shooters that need to be reloaded by flicking your wrist to empty the chambers, then flicking back again for bullets.”
    “This game is the reason there are no good pictures of me with the Touch controller – it was far too fast paced for me to really stand still.”

    That really makes it sound like he’s playing the game standing up and in free movement. I guess it’s going to depend on the developers. All the reviews I’ve seen do stress the lightweight nature of the headset and the high degree of comfort but still it comes down to having an opaque visor strapped to your face, which is something that, I feel, will struggle to gain mainstream acceptance no matter what.

    The application that will really make VR the new baseline for entertainment (and I do think that will happen although possibly not in my lifetime) is going to need to be a lot more unobtrusive, I feel. I guess we’re going to find out one way or the other pretty soon though.


  5. zaphod6502

    The first time I tried my Oculus DK2 was a game-changer. I am really looking forward to trying Valkyrie using the Oculus. Obviously not every game is suited to VR but for those that feature 1st person it is an absolutely amazing experience.


  6. Jenks

    That’s a nice mix of “no shit” and incredibly short sightedness.

    1) It’s silly to compare it to Kinect. Kinect is a gimmick/addon that changes the actual gameplay – move your arms or talk as input devices. VR in this form does not change the gameplay, it changes the perspective, except for camera movement – and moving your head for that is a natural progression, not a random change (wave your right arm for right trigger). Most “hardcore” gamers understand this and is the reason why Kinect was rejected at its announcement while VR has been embraced.

    2) VR isn’t good for all games – no shit. Neither are gamepads. On whether “head look” being over/underpowered in CS:GO making people not buy it – gamepads aren’t good in CS:GO, people still buy them.

    3) Combination of no shit and short sightedness. No universal standards are an issue. It will be addressed at some point, the major players have talked about it publicly. They’re waiting for the dust to settle.

    4) Things get delayed, no shit. Was this video time filler?

    5) It’s not the holodeck – no shit. That said, someday it will be.

    When the price comes down (and it certainly will), it’s going to take off. It’s the future. In 100 years people are going to look back on primitive nerds hunched over their 24″ monitors playing DOTA and CS:GO the same way we look back on kids playing with a ball in a cup or slinky – suggesting VR is never going to take off because it doesn’t fit the competitive nature of those games is so short sighted it makes my brain hurt.


  7. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    @Jenks – The video said those were five challenges currently facing developers looking to support VR today. You writing “no shit” doesn’t make them any less so, so I am not sure what you even mean by that. Are you trying to say that these are so obvious that literally everybody knows about them to the point that they merit no discussion whatsoever? Do you also say, “no shit” when the weather report says it will be warm during the summer? Not every discussion has to be about the deep, arcane aspects of knowledge and not everybody is always as up to speed as you think they should be. I would be willing to wager that all five issues brought up would be news to many people.

    On your first point, you seem to be angry as though VR was being compared to the Kinnect based on game play. If you were actually paying attention, that was not the argument at all, so your statements are nice, but off topic. The comparison was made based on adoption, as in “Why would I develop for Kinnect if only a subset of Xbox 360 owners bothered to buy one?”

    On your second, as noted, “no shit” is pretty much a meaningless response, and gamepads are a horrible analogy as their cost, and the investment to support them in a game, are both tiny relative to VR.

    On your third point, if you’re a developer how are the various standard not an issue? Saying that it will be solved eventually would make me, as a dev, say “Good, I’ll start supporting it when we get there.” That doesn’t get you any VR software today.

    On your fourth point, please go look at that link a few comments above about the Time magazine cover. If you go there and scroll down there is a 1996 magazine cover referencing the hype around VR. There were Bloom County cartoons in the 80s that were picking up the hype for the whole VR thing. Things get delayed, but when were more than a couple decades down the road thinking that statements dismisses the concern is silly.

    On your fifth point, it isn’t the holodeck. Even you, in your comment, note how little gameplay can be impacted. You get head turning and maybe some 3D perspective. Again, that Time magazine cover, that is what is being pushed as the VR vision, a holodeck-like experience. Just a few comments up I had to explain to Bhagpuss, who is more informed on video game issues than the average person, about the limitations of VR as he was on the holodeck bus. You writing “no shit” doesn’t make that misapprehension go away.

    Yes, 100 years from now I have no doubt that technology will have changed. However, you and I and most everybody reading this will be dead by then, so you’ll have to excuse people from discussing what they plan to do in the here and now.


  8. Soge

    @Jenks Neither Kinect nor the Wii were “rejected” on launch. Precisely the contrary, with thousands claiming it as the second coming or something – pretty much the same reaction to VR right now.

    VR will never take off with any kind of technology that might be envisoned at the present because it is necessarely A: Cumbersome and B: Uninmportant. There is nothing being done, or even planned with VR that isn’t already able to be done with current technology. It isn’t all that immersive because the controls are clunky, and not as versatile as M+K or controllers. I am sure that in about 5 years it will be where 3D Cinema is right now, and being relegated to very niche enthusiast markets, such as simulators – where this type of technology is already being used.


  9. Jenks

    It looks like you skimmed what I wrote without realizing why. What I said about Kinect was very much on point. Kinect wasn’t adopted (beyond the pack ins) because gamers rejected it at announcement. They’ve embraced VR. There was never buzz for Kinect beyond the marketing, the buzz for VR is enormous. It’s a terrible comparison. tl;dr Gamers want VR, gamers never wanted Kinect. Get it now? Kinect didn’t fail because there were no games for it. Kinect failed because no one wants Kinect.

    “gamepads are a horrible analogy as their cost, and the investment to support them in a game, are both tiny relative to VR.”
    Price will come down (as I noted), and the cost to support in game is how much exactly? Can you give me a breakdown on the costs of adding support for a gamepad, kinect, and VR to a game? Anyway, he’s worried it will fail because it’s not good for all games. Gamepads are not good for all games and are wildly successful. This worry is unfounded. If you want to talk price, it’s a different argument.

    So you think VR will never take off, because there’s no standard today? Sounds reasonable (lol). What did you think about video cards in the 90s/early 00s? Doomed?

    The tech wasn’t even close to ready in 1996, might as well talk about flying cars in the 50s. It’s irrelevant and the virtual boy was laughed at. Compare that with the vast majority of people who have tried early versions of OR/Vive, who all sound like Zaphod above. Disingenuous argument, at best.

    Not sure what your point is about the holodeck stuff, I’ll stick with no shit. If there’s people that think OR is a $600 holodeck then show them this video – it’s less inaccurate than wherever they’ve gotten their information from previously.

    I’m sorry, this was not an informative video, unless I wanted to know about one misguided person’s thoughts fears.

    Again, if you want to say VR won’t take off in 2016, I would agree with that. They’re priced themselves out of it doing well out of the gate.


  10. Jenks

    “@Jenks Neither Kinect nor the Wii were “rejected” on launch. ”

    They were by hardcore gamers which is what I said in that sentence. The Kinect in particular was designed to broaden the appeal of Xbox, not entertain its core users. Gamers aren’t stupid, they understand that a massive marketing campaign on shows like Oprah and Jimmy Fallon for games like Dance Central and Kinect Adventures is not targeted at them. They understood that the control scheme would be awful, because how can a camera be as accurate as a gamepad? Kinect was absolutely rejected by whatever label you want to use for “gamers,” “hardcore gamers,” “core audience,” whatever.

    Conjure up whatever hardcore gamer means to you. Did that person in 2010 want to play Halo and Forza on Kinect? Now in 2016 – does that person want to play those games in VR? One is **extraordinarily shitty for controlling games** while the other makes the game incredibly immersive. Gamers are clamoring for one (although price is now an obstacle), while the other was a gimmick to sell xboxes to non gamers.

    As for the rest – Control scheme has nothing to do with VR, you say a controller is more accurate than VR – the OR comes with an xbox one controller. Maybe you mean the other controllers they will be adding later – different discussion. KBM and gamepads work fine in VR. You also fail to account for pornography when talking about how irrelevant and niche VR will be.


  11. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    @Jenks – No, I read what you wrote fully, though I had the very same thought about both what you wrote about the video and your response to me.

    For the first point you are arguing about adoption rates, and seem to think you’ve made some sort of decisive statement when arguing that VR>Kinect. But the video is arguing that since the adoption rate will never be 100% and, for at least the foreseeable future, it will be very low due to a variety of reasons including price, that studios need to decide what to spend limited resources on; a small sub-segment or the entire audience. Any comparison of actual gameplay features between VR and the Kinect is demonstrating that you missed the point in its entirety. It is a simple analogy between two extra cost options that will never be 100% of the market.

    Or are you arguing that VR headsets will be 100% of the market at some not-too-distant date?

    “Can you give me a breakdown on the costs of adding support for a gamepad, kinect, and VR to a game?”

    That isn’t necessary unless you are going to argue that implementing VR is on par with a gamepad. Are you going to make that argument? If you are, I will laugh at you, because we would not even be having this discussion if it were that easy. Also, again with the Kinect?

    Meanwhile, the price will never come down to gamepad prices, which you can get for $10 easy. So, gampad analogy for consumer behavior remains bad.

    And have you actually used a VR headset? I have! I played Valkyrie at EVE Vegas. It was really neat. It solves a bunch of problems that have plagued a very small sub-set of the video game industry. But so do expensive flight stick controls complete with throttles and foot pedals. Yes, Zaphod says it is a game changer… for a very narrow part of the video game market.

    Finally, “no shit” remains a non-argument, demonstrating nothing, regardless of how many times you write it, and does nothing to support your statements since one must read them as confirmation of the issues being raised. Basically, every time you write “no shit” you may as well write, “yes, this is so.”


  12. SynCaine

    This will likely go two ways if its successful. Either a true killer app pushing this outside of niche territory, or niche territory is enough to keep it profitable.

    Killer app would be something like Wii Sports on the original Wii, which worked perfectly with the motion controller and basically single-handedly made the Wii such a huge hit. Of course there was never a second killer app for the Wii or really motion control, so while motion control DID go mainstream, it failed to remain there. I don’t see this happening for this generation of VR, in terms of someone releasing a game of LoL-like success that is 10x better with VR that pushes a lot of people to buy into the tech.

    The second scenario is that VR is popular-enough for a niche of gamers, and that popularity is enough to keep the lights on and to keep things going forward. It’s like a niche MMO, not everyone needs to be WoW to make some money and keep going. I could see this happening for VR, although again it would require something akin to a niche killer app (I don’t think EVE Valkyrie is it), and then a second and third as time goes on. That’s pretty unlikely IMO.


  13. Pingback: MrLuvva’s Luv-In #35 | mrluvvaluvva

  14. Jenks

    Because this isn’t really a debate since my points are being ignored and more like tedious repetition, I’ll close with 5 reasons I’m worried about electric cars:

    1) Submersible cars aren’t popular
    2) They don’t even use gasoline
    3) There aren’t even standardized yet!
    4) Not every car will be electric
    5) They don’t fly

    Suck down some helium and make a fun animation to go along with it, bloggers apparently will eat it up.


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