Here’s a list of features in various media, including some VR games themselves, that I would like to see implemented across most if not all VR games. I may have to come back an update this every so often as I remember or come across things. I’ve separated them into things I think are needed, things I’d like, and things that would be cool but I don’t expect to have anytime soon.
Depending on the VR developer, they will choose different control schemes based on what the developer thinks is a good idea. In particular, the control to grab or to interact is often moved around between the A button, trigger, and grip on the Oculus Touch controls, which gets confusing when switching games. “Let me just grab this item from you… HOLY CRAP, I DIDN’T MEAN TO SHOOT YOU!”
I don’t know why we’ve gone backwards on this, but most VR games do NOT have a controls screen that allow you to remap the controls at all. It can be difficult to even find instructions on what controls do what within a game.
Sometimes I disagree with what a developer thinks “makes sense” for controls, or maybe I want to unbind a command entirely. For example, Skyrim VR puts the Shout command on the right grip… and the grip button is the easiest to accidentally activate. (Sorry, Companions, I didn’t mean to Fus your guildhall up).
In-game height adjustment:
I’m looking at you, Portal Stories: VR. The game appears to have my eye level set at the floor, and I have yet to be able to get it to work with me being at the correct height. It’s kinda hard to interact with the puzzles when I can’t reach the buttons, objects, or get enough altitude to aim the teleport.
Go figure, the treadmill owner wants games to take treadmill input. Anyway, I tend not to buy VR games that don’t have the inputs for it, but that is troublesome to determine, which I’ll get into below. I know that those of us with treadmills are early adopters, but we would like at least some support for them.
Adequate Labelling in Stores:
There isn’t standardized labelling for certain aspects of VR games in the Steam or Oculus stores. The following items need to be addressed/identified as features when they are present and/or explicitly being listed as absent:
- Peripheral Compatibility
- Keyboard/WASD input accepted (this also ties into peripheral compatibility)
- 1st person / 3rd person / variable
- Flexibility (again, this ties into the treadmills. Games that require picking stuff off the ground do not work well with treadmills that have a solid ring around waist height.
Currently I have to go asking around their forums and hope someone responds to figure out some of these things. You don’t always get answers, and I’ve seen gamers being ridiculed for even asking some of these questions. I mean, come on, peripherals are thing, and they’ve often used keyboard input mapping to interface with games for decades at this point. False superiority among ignorant people bugs me. The Dunning-Kruger Effect strikes again!
Swipe to open in-game menus:
Obligatory Sword Art Online reference is obligatory. I like the idea of a standardized gesture opening things vs fiddling with controls on the controllers breaking immersion more. I’d just like for the rest of the menu to actually be made sensibly instead of their insanely nested menus. I didn’t notice how insanely nested/badly designed the menus were until I watched this video on youtube channel “Mother’s Basement,’ but I still like the gestured-based menu opening.
Partial/Full Body tracking:
Immersion currently has issues with free-floating hands in VR. Also, for more social games such as VRChat or Altspace VR, a lot of body languages is lost with only the headset and hand controllers tracked. And, sometimes you wanna dance… and it just doesn’t come across. Or maybe that’s just me. Then again, with using a treadmill your body posture can be altered oddly, so it might be for the best that we don’t have that much body tracking for now. Maybe we just need some upper body tracking. I know that there are ways to get this in your own rig, but I don’t see it widely supported right now, and the main method I know involves a Kinect camera, which has been discontinued and requires digging through secondhand stuff.
This pretty much requires hip and possibly shoulder tracking. It would be great to have a belt inventory and possibly a back inventory for a lot of games, but so far I don’t usually see this implemented often or well. I want to reach for something on my belt, but the few games that do have a belt inventory are having to guess at what the appropriate spot is, based on the current position of your headset. I would like to be able to reach for items on my belt or weapons on my back without having to look and hope that I’m reaching in the correct spot. Then again, the belt is a more difficult place for me to use things now that I use a treadmill. It would still be nice to have the option, though.
Once again, kinda requires some body-tracking for the arms to not drive you nuts, but freefloating hands can get weird. I have run into some odd implementations at times, where the avatar’s arms are shorter to mine and the game doesn’t somehow make adjustments for it, so I end up in situations where I’m still extending my arms and the character’s arms are at full extension, which is a weird feeling. I also find it kinda odd when in most games you look down and you are still a free-floating head with no body, and your in-game shadows reflect this. It breaks immersion to not see “my” body and to see a headset and controllers (or hands) via my shadow.
Avatar-Centric Persistent Space Through Loading Screens:
I know it’s a mouthful, and I might need to change what I call this. I don’t know of an actual term for this, but many games completely remove even the rendering of your controllers, let alone your avatar’s hands and body when you go into a loading screen. You go from being able to perceive your own body location and orientation of your hands via sight to suddenly being bodyless, and in some cases blind. Star Trek: Bridge Crew is bad about this, everything goes to black when you load during warp from one location to another. It’s disorienting and uncomfortable.
We should have at least a digital skeleton of some kind (think of what Neo sees when he uses his code-based vision in the Matrix movies) when loading from one place to another, and not suddenly lose all reference points. In other games we might need even more, as whether you have a weapon drawn when you walk into a place can drive an entire interaction, and it would be great to be able to see whether it is still drawn and possibly do some inventory management. You might say “you should remember whether you have it out.” Well, first, depending on the user’s equipment, loading screens can take a while, to the point you would almost feel more comfortable taking the headset off, and you can forget in that time. Secondly, the loading screen can trigger the doorway effect, like when you walk to another room to do something and you forget what it was when you get there.
In any case, I would like to have some persistence in my experience through the loading screens, particularly since they block out the rest of your world. I would have listed this as a need, but I get the feeling that the code and hardware requirements would be driven up a good bit by this, so it’s in the want category.
Would be awesome:
Yeah, I know it’s cliche to mention this from Ready Player One, but they would really make interacting with objects more intuitive. Grabbing objects to pick them up, turning doorhandles, and similar interactions would be more comfortable.
I know this is a niche thing, but it would also be really helpful for thrown objects. With controllers in your hands, throwing objects without throwing your controller is a pain, even if you keep the wrist-loop on so you don’t accidentally throw the controller through a window. I wanna be able to use grenades, throwing axes, throwing knives, etc. in games, but having a controller in my hand and not actually letting go while still throwing the object correctly in game is difficult.
Again a feature from Sword Art Online and from Ready Player One, but I would like to be able to create an avatar that I can carry from game to game, probably with different resolution scaled between games. This would particularly be great for people wanting to do VR livestreaming from within VR.
Well, there you have it. My current list of things I think VR games need, things I want, and things that would be awesome. Feel free to comment what else you think it might need, I’m looking forward to seeing what I’ve overlooked… and if any game devs are reading… PLEASE READ THIS POST AND THE COMMENTS AGAIN. It will improve our experiences and likely improve your sales.