The VR Conundrum

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there's a frog in my snake oil
Made a quick scrubby vid of me trying out a new car in Dirt Rally . Excuse the dodgy border and audio levels, I'm still figuring out how to capture in VR



Obviously the depth perception stuff can't come across, but I guess there are a few bits there where you can see me peeping round the corner and stuff. And generally turning to berate my co-driver
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Virtual Reality chatter on a movie site? Got endless amounts of it here. Reviews over here



"Money won is twice as sweet as money earned."



currently editing a post...
I don't know what I liked better, the end or how you kept turning on the wipers.

A driving-sim would be the thing to get me in VR. If you do some more vids, can you pipe down the navigator? I couldn't really make you out over him.



there's a frog in my snake oil
I don't know what I liked better, the end or how you kept turning on the wipers.

A driving-sim would be the thing to get me in VR. If you do some more vids, can you pipe down the navigator? I couldn't really make you out over him.
That guy will just not shut up

Cheers man, yeah if I shoot another will def try and trim him. (I found if he was much lower I kept mishearing and driving into cowsheds tho ).

I reckon you'd love this to bits! Sounds like it's grand on the PS4 too. (My only worry with the PSVR generally is that it seems weaker in the non-seated stuff right now, tech and game wise, so maybe less bang for buck there. Right now I'm almost feeling like I could have bought the Rift just for this and got my money's worth tho!)

(PS the wipers are on auto. I've got evvvverything on auto. I'm such a scrub )



there's a frog in my snake oil
SUPERHOT!

Ok so I've only tried 30 mins, and still haven't delved into the memes, but already yeah, what a game

That 'SUPERHOT' sign-off when you've Matrixed a wave to pieces is just off the chart . Loving the air grabs and improvisation with the VR hands too. (Throwing is a bit shonky, but with with a straight 'push' you can get fairly accurate strikes, and throwing long range ones to the next realm feels really natural).

It's also sweaty as! Even in these early rounds there's been much squat ducking under punches, cowering behind desks, and dual spraying maniacally in circles... (I have also naturally given parts of my flat a light punching )



Loving the look too. There was a wonderful moment early on when I turned around to check for trouble, and saw the fine-flecked concrete detail of a white wall behind me instead, covered in diamond mesh shadow cast by the high window above. It was surprisingly realistic-looking, yet imbedded within the game's aesthetic too. (Really fitted with this VR philosophy of adding to presence in proximity but not baffling your vision at range).


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Talking of which, there was a great AMA with some of the Lone Echo devs last night. Really interesting to hear their thoughts on everything from balancing immersion against interaction (and how narratives are tricky with this novel '4th wall'), to hitting that 'real but readable' aesthetic, to... Why they think stick locomotion won't work this gen - But hey, they proved others wrong on arms, bodies and smooth motion

We aren't currently working on stick based locomotion, and our current thinking (which may very well be proven wrong) is that that it may not be possible to do on current hardware in a way that is both:

1) Comfortable to a wide audience, including people with sensitivity to motion sickness
2) Done with a high degree of convincing presence.

I'll outline a few of the reasons we feel this way after our learning experiences on Lone Echo, but let me bold the disclaimer that VR is still in its infancy and any development practices we or anyone else suggests is set in stone might be completely invalidated when someone else comes up with the secret sauce that makes it work.

Case in point: we started development on LE, the prevailing school of thought for wider audience VR titles was No Arms, No Body, No Smooth Locomotion, so it would be pretty hypocritical to suggest land-based stick locomotion can't be solved!

... That said.... I'm not sure we're going to be the ones to solve it

For a little more insight into the reasons we feel this way currently, for the experience we wanted out of Lone Echo, we found that almost anything that wasn't one-to-one player motion was either uncomfortable, immersion breaking, or both. The slight middle ground was our arm / body IK, but even with that we had to bend over backwards to not make it super off-putting to people. This is the reason pretty much all of the mechanics in the game, from locomotion, to world interactions and tool and interface usage is mapped almost entirely your your hand position. For every system we would try to avoid using secondary buttons and sticks as the point of interaction, as we wanted the player to feel like Jack and his connection to the world was one to one with theirs. This is also the reason a lot of mechanics that could have been controller button based were mapped to virtual buttons on your virtual body (cutting / scanning tool, helmet visor, headlamp, etc), and we tuned the placement and ergonomics of them to feel like your real body and headset were actually part of your virtual robot one, which formed a stronger bond with your virtual body with each press.

For other functions that didn't quite fit the mold above we would still make sure there was a clear abstraction of the mechanic that was intuitive to the fiction of the world and the character. This is why the face buttons are reserved for things like micro-thrusters and boost and break. As a human being we don't have these things, and we can see mechanically what is happening in response to the button press with the notion of the futuristic robot, so it is a lot easier for us to accept this as second nature to our virtual character.
So, long story short, our takeaway is that until there is a mainstream tracking solution that gets some degree of one-to-one with ground-based-humanoid movement, given our goal of maintaining a high degree of presence and having a more broadly comfortable experience, we will probably stay away from the walking ourselves.
We're super excited to be proved wrong though!

-Nathan



The People's Republic of Clogher
Superhot VR is one of the handful of things I'd want to play in VR. I know it's a separate, shorter game but does it have any of the outside-of-mission meta lunacy that the original has?
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"Critics are like eunuchs in a harem; they know how the Tatty 100 is done, they've seen it done every day, but they're unable to do it themselves." - Brendan Behan



there's a frog in my snake oil
Superhot VR is one of the handful of things I'd want to play in VR. I know it's a separate, shorter game but does it have any of the outside-of-mission meta lunacy that the original has?
I suspect yes. There have been some meta-games and sidestep breaks from the carnage already... (won't discuss in case they're distinct 'n spoilery like...)

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Also driving games T, you'd probably like driving games in VR . Get DD online as well and you could both destroy me in some cruel and unusual race format. Like one that requires driving nous or something. (I'd win at swearing tho )



currently editing a post...
Absolutely. I am the worst driving, over hyper car enthusiast on the planet. I've played every GT, have the original "bible" instruction manual and still can't set up a car.

It would be great!



The People's Republic of Clogher
I suspect yes. There have been some meta-games and sidestep breaks from the carnage already... (won't discuss in case they're distinct 'n spoilery like...)

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Also driving games T, you'd probably like driving games in VR . Get DD online as well and you could both destroy me in some cruel and unusual race format. Like one that requires driving nous or something. (I'd win at swearing tho )
Is there a messaging client? That's all I'm sayin'



there's a frog in my snake oil
Nah just floppy discs and subliminal instructions so far

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Skyrim VR jank will be a whole new dimension of jank...

Around 50% of the time my right hand, with my sword, was floating in the air several feet away from me. It popped back in place seemingly randomly, and I never really figured out if there was a 'right' way to hold my move controller to prevent this.



there's a frog in my snake oil
Indie Odds & Ends:

Oh god, players hack cyberpunk horror game... activate VR...



(Well actually, it turns out most games built in Unreal probably come with VR capability built in. But still, that looks spooky...)

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On a more calm and soothing note, it looks fun to be an incarcerated potato...




there's a frog in my snake oil
Tech Tests & Future Fun:

Liking these shonky attempts to turn simple 360 footage (just filmed with the classic bundled GoPros) into '6 degrees of freedom' 3D vids, allowing viewer position to move around within the footage etc. There are a ton of artefacts and glitches, and all of this will probably get superseded by 'lightfield' or something sexier, but still, pretty neat



Examples with positional tracking and lighting effects etc:



The middle clip in this one looks pretty classy too. Not sure what the CGI-looking treescapes are about though.




there's a frog in my snake oil
Ok two epiphanies!

In Space Things Are Big (but you are always the same size):

I've figured out why the scale really kicks home in VR. It's not just the stereo imaging. It's that you've got a point of reference! Even when not in my ship, just floating in the CQC menu screen looking back over my shoulder at the echoing chasm that is the bay behind me, it feels enormous because I know how big I am compared to it. We are the scale. In my case I know that I'm 1.80 metres, and that thing over there is ****ing huge

So sure, there's always been points of reference. I know that this perk disc is wider than my ship, but now I know just how big my ship is compared to me (in a way that just doesn't bite until you're 'in' the game, 'being' the av, rather than just jiving with the idea of seeing from its point of view). Something about the stereo view and the precise head tracking really does kick in an extra convincer for your brain that this sh*t is actually there in relation to yourself. Some extra hard-wired world-perceiving part of you really does buy into it, and brings a few more instincts and calculations than normal along for the ride...

This thing is fricking massive



Can confirm Arena is even more insane in VR!

It really is space pew daydreams writ real . I'm in a weird niche position in that I'd gotten a handle on it when it was still properly alive, so despite being VR-bedazzled, after a small amount of shooting the wrong team (due to to my new VR friendly HUD colours I swear ) I was able to not get totally murderised. Finished mid-tabley each time, and had an absolute blast

A few vague thoughts on the VR side:
  • You can track fleeing ships a lot better, no doubt. The 'visual lock' system is also totally suited to it. (Being able to 'lock target in front' just by looking in their direction is dead handy too).
  • You do have to scramble around to refind the actual radar sometimes, so busily are you rubbernecking at all the predators and the pretty
  • The enormity of the infrastructure made me feel like I could go for even small escape gaps then in the past.
  • It was the closet to vom-comet city Elite has taken me too, but it still felt fitting given the manoeuvrers. Wasn't ultimately that bad, but when the numbers dropped I was happy enough to step down after 45 minutes. It's pretty fricking intense!



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I've also bought this IndieGala VR bundle for £2.78. Possibly more than just fool's gold in there. It's easier to take a punt on Early Access games at 30p a pop anyway .

The more promising looking ones are...

A pretty-looking semi-on-rails solo & offline shooter/brawler:


An RTS played at the scale of your choosing...


The rest are all swatting bees, defending towers, flimsy Steampunk chuminess, and bow-and-arrowing Unity assets. Also a really terrifyingly bad horror one about riding a paperboy's bike through a terribly rendered forest. Not doing that one


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--EDIT--



Damn, SuperHot lives up to its name like this! It's getting me doing squats and all sorts. I'm genuinely hot! (Although most of the Neo-feeling moments probably look more Drunken Lemur, Upset Turtle in reality )

They have also made me do... things. No spoilers, but... I feel dirty. Oh the things...

EDIT: PS, I totally smashed my lamp, trying to throw a gun around a corner on a plane. Lamp still works though

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EDIT:

Form Over Substance:
(-)



Snagged the puzzle game Form for £8. Knew it was short and simple even for that cash (think it was something ludicrous like £25 at launch), but wanted something on the slick end. It's definitely that. At points it's almost horror-like in the world it takes you into, of shifting forms and half-seen intangibles, at others pretty resplendent, when it takes you into the light. Unfortunately the puzzles, despite some classy visual design, are best compared to the most grandiose, operatic, slightly unnerving version of Simon Says ever committed to silicon :/

Do feel like I've got my money's worth, purely in terms of actually feeling like I was a lab toy in an alien thoughtscape at points, periodically being bestowed with aesthetic rewards. Just unfortunately, it was also like being inside the mind Jean Michelle Jarre. While he's playing snap...



EDIT: Well ******. I flung it back on for what I thought was the third act. Instead I was presented with a quick epilogue at the final 'door' which was both visually stunning, and narratively incredibly trite. I guess it fits

To sum up: It's a terribly thin puzzle game. What it does very well is to lavish the vibe and tone. I'm not entirely convinced that 'escape room' style puzzlers should be enjoy evoking claustrophobia quite so much, but it was effective at times, and made the catharsis of the 'light' sections more effective too. Even with such novel light licks to the cerebellum, still gotta highlight the lack of gaming gumption in the score though:
(-)



there's a frog in my snake oil
The 'Experimental 360' Sensor Setup:

All done, and working nicely . Nabbed a pair of GoPro 3M adhesive mounts for £15 (Prime deal), the cable extension they recommend, and some cable tidy odds and ends. Was pretty painless:







Helps that my playspace is like 1.5m x 1.5m. Two sensors can totally handle those distances, the tracking is pretty flawless.

As freeing as it is to be able to spin 360 completely now, it does also open up the 'I wish I had more room' pangs. (I was genuinely opening doors to allow me to reach things in Rick & Morty's Accounting ). Has opened up more games and more locomotion methods though, which is all cool.

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Some '360' Games:


Robo Recall:

Pros:

Much more enjoyable to play like this. Felt like I was 'in the middle' of this ridiculous 80s wave shooter, allowing for more fluid and coherent teleporting about and setting up strategic angles of fire painlessly. Was very freeing not to have to care about my real-world orientation throughout.

Cons:

Forgot about the real world and shinned a small table really hard. I believe I was leaping into action at the time

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SuperHot

All pros here. The game is very front-facing-friendly, but being able to pull off ridiculous behind-the-shoulder shots without worrying about it was cool. Also meant I could reach every potential weapon (previously a few directly behind me were unusable)


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Echo Arena

Lots to learn here, but the vaunted locomotion method is very cool. I was mainly a lost zero-G duckling in the one online game I played though. Very easy to get stranded miles from the action. Also crazy just how much rotation and free-motion is involved (conceptually, not physically). It all works, but I'm pretty sure something's gonna get smashed in my room... I was losing my real-world bearings instantaneously. Which is cool, but... dangerous


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Looking forward to trying the 'point and move' locomotion some more in Minecraft. Felt I was nearly onto something cosy with the old set up, reckon 360 could actually be practical / enjoyable



there's a frog in my snake oil
Just bought two games in the £10 range thanks to sale savings. They're launch titles that both come highly lauded . They both also clock in at around 2 hours long (and were both initially £20+)... :/

The price-to-content continuum still crazy out of whack then. Reckon I should have some pocket fun with these though:


^^ Vanishing Realms: Zelda-ish dungeon-crawling mini-RPG-lite ^^


^^ The Gallery: Puzzle-lite '80s action fantasy movie' ^^



there's a frog in my snake oil
Biiiinge Tiiiiimeee

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REVIEW: ROBO RECALL


Despite the fact that this is essentially a wave shooter, with only 9 short-ish maps spread over 3 locations, and with heavily recycled boss battles to cap it off... they still knock every aspect out of the park

Pros:
  • Locomotion: The teleport system is particularly fluid, allowing you to dictate your facing position on arrival and allowing for seamless and coherent consta-zipping around the playspace. From vertical leaps to progressing down streets you don't really feel the lack of classic locomotion, and focus instead on the advantages of strategic mobility. (The UI is nicely tailored to help 'front facing' set ups work, but it really comes into its own when you can move freely in 360 degrees).



  • Great weapon system: Pulling your chosen weapons from 4 holsters (hips and shoulders) is very satisfying, and then the customisation unlocks allow for plenty of tinkering and tactical shake ups (and also add replayability to the maps). The ability to slot the new additions onto your weapon 'physically' (above) is a cute touch. (And makes up for the lack of physical 'reload' functions, which while cool in other games, would be too much upkeep amongst the anarchic abandon here).

  • Physics fun firestorms: You can get pretty playful here. Want to ride out a round purely armed with a robot's arm? You can do that, swatting bullets and bopping fools madly. Grabbing and flinging low moving projectiles, using foes against each other, seeing how many times you can chain-shoot a robot through the air, catching their falling weapon and charging on without a care. These are the core mechanics, which are all gaudily encouraged.




  • Consistently fun 'retro future' stylings: As the credits rolled, the future-blimps roiled over the rooftops, and some tongue-in-cheek song called 'Shooty Face' played, I could definitely say they've done a fine job with the presentation overall. My system struggled with the visuals, but ultimately I acclimatised and got pretty embroiled in it. The lurid Robocop-meets-iRobot setting worked well, the audio was all grand playful fair (despite the comedy baddie and 'plot' being exceptionally slight). Little touches like robots bewailing their handles as you hurled them about never really got old.

Cons:
  • Short-ish, recycled boss, a bit of a struggle with a 'front facing' set up

Rating:
(Based on it being free - If it was a full fat £40 price it'd be a
just due to length).


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PREVIEW: REC ROOM

It's a fricking creche! The few adults in there tower over the diminutive hoard of youngsters, drawn by the cartoon style, cute upgrade system, and accessible mini games and quests. We try to corral them, but their flitting herd mentalities and gaming acumen dominate all corners of this world. How this many 8-year-olds have access to £400+ kit I have no idea...

Stand Out Quest: Jumbotron



This was an absolute blast, Lazerquest made 'real' . Yes I had to accept many high-five revives from a 5-year-old, and yes we perished horribly to lurid robot lasers in the end. But everything clicks here, this would be a blast with mates

Teleportation really fits here, zapping from cover to cover, and the giant clunky white blasters all have some great reload actions that really add to the strategic peep-and-pew gaming. Laying down covering fire while others advanced felt great here...


Mini Games: (& the meh of PvP teleportation)

Mainly underwhelmed, although they're obviously proof of concepts for the most part. Might be more fun with a mate in tow. Frisbee golf could be a chilled distraction. The most fleshed-out, but the most disappointing, was Paintball. Although it was very cool in many ways, with solid map design and great 'blindfire round corners' action, teleportation is much more irritating in a PvP environment. It's on a cool down, making your own movement feel sluggish, but equally opponents zap in unpredictable fashion. The winning strategy was to teleport-mash, never staying still, which was frankly annoying to do, and annoying to play against. Needs some work

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PvP LOCOMOTION MUSINGS:

Possible solutions here might be the 'animated teleport' option that others are trying. Games such as Sairento (vid) have used the 'leap to location' animation to good effect in PvE, and I've tried something similar in the freebie 'RPG' The Ranger: Lost Tribe. No motion sickness at all weirdly, and would at least give opponents more chances to hit you and clues as to your actions.

It seems that the upcoming 'FTL meets Borderlands' space-em-up From Other Suns is going for a 'quick walk animation' that might fit the bill, but weirdly it seems you go into a third person view for the process. Unfortunately the article suggests it's good for general movement, but falls down in combat. Hands on description here (vid). I could imagine a faster first person 'rush' option (which blurs peripherals to smooth the experience') could go somewhere though...

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Wallowing in DIRT

Earned my Renault Turbo. Turned off all the visual aids....

Of course I got Greece for my first Rally... Of course the second stage was at night. Of course you can smash out your headlights... of course you can...

This game is so fine . Front wheels skating over the abyss when you power slide that corner he told you not to cut. Moonlight peeking between mountain peaks to give you desperate glimpses of detail (when you've foolishly smashed your headlights out). So many classy touches



there's a frog in my snake oil
INTRIGUING UPCOMING VR GAMES:

Stealth Games:

Espire 1: - 'Metal Gear Solid meets Goldeneye'

Some neat touches here. Climbing is a good fit, and the sound mechanic looks neat (anything can make a noise, either deliberate taps of your gun on a surface, or accidentally knocking things with your swinging arm etc). The nausea-reduction viewing options make sense, given it uses 'sliding' locomotion (IE classic stick motion), if not immersively ideal.

This is paid up propaganda, but demonstrates the latest demo build:


The Dev on the project:


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Budget Cuts:

The other big stealth contender is this cartoonier teleporter. The gimmick here is that you can use your teleport destination as a spy portal. Some fun body stashing and scalpel throwing physics on display...



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Space Games:

From Other Suns: - 'FTL meets Borderlands'

As mentioned upstream, it's kinda a ships, stations and away missions affair, in co-op format, with rogue randomisation n'est pas...

Trailer:


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Dungeon Crawlers:

VR Dungeon Knight: - Dungeons meet crawling...

Some great Knightmare-style tongue-in-cheek Dungeon Master narration here. Sounds like it might sling comfort out the window by animating your body, lack on the sword and board, and still need some more time in ye olde clay oven. But the co-op aspect and deeper-content-than-most-Early-Access games aspect, well, well they're something. Vids intrigue...

Steam Co-Op montage thing:
Online Co-Op Gameplay

Some randoms Co-Op-ing...



there's a frog in my snake oil
Just The Weirdest Thing:

A hologram of Buzz Aldrin just tried to convince me to 'cycle' to Mars. Then he exploded. It was properly odd.







Some pretty grand depictions of lunar mining and his weird solar craft in there, with crazy scale. I was too taken aback at the time to take screengrabs of that tho

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Also tried this utter oddity: Flicking switches to get the first manned Mercury craft into orbit:



A strange project, but on an educational front, it did at least highlight just how damn cramped and rustic that module was. And alongside the audio of the time, and the flickering flames, just how damn terrifying that first re-entry must have been! ('Ok....' 'Ok....' 'The Pilot is saying that he's ok.' '.......Ok...............')



there's a frog in my snake oil
First Impressions: The Gallery - Episode 1


Oh damn, this is pretty neat. Pix don't do it justice (yadda yadda), and it's just a familiar mystery / puzzle narrative affair, but the fit is good. The teleport system works fine here, and there's a gentle pacing which is a cool change of beat. The use of a backpack which you grab from over your shoulder works really well - it's a gimmick but a pretty seamless and somehow comforting one. Dropping new finds into it over your shoulder works particularly well. The retro 80s 'Goonies' vibe is also pretty ace .


That note is more tongue in cheek than it appears. The big font does help in VR tho




It looks a bit odd when slung open, but the mix of UI and 'grabbable' works well with the rucksack menu.


Mmmm, torch . (Lord this looked better in motion )

But hey, I'm just past the first puzzle. Should probably judge it properly down the line



From what I've heard about VR, I actually think that VR arcades would do extremely well (it would be pretty awesome if arcades made a comeback in that way)

Have a car seat and steering wheel for racing games, plastic machine guns for shooters etc.

The main thing I hear is that all the games just feel more like tech demos than real, full-fledged games. Now granted I don't follow VR closely, so I don't know if this is already being done in some way, or if they're still just trying to do PC/PSVR stuff. I just know that the extreme hype for VR last year has really cooled down since they were released, and am unsure if VR has really been as successful as people predicted.

Just a thought.
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there's a frog in my snake oil
From what I've heard about VR, I actually think that VR arcades would do extremely well (it would be pretty awesome if arcades made a comeback in that way)

Have a car seat and steering wheel for racing games, plastic machine guns for shooters etc.

The main thing I hear is that all the games just feel more like tech demos than real, full-fledged games. Now granted I don't follow VR closely, so I don't know if this is already being done in some way, or if they're still just trying to do PC/PSVR stuff. I just know that the extreme hype for VR last year has really cooled down since they were released, and am unsure if VR has really been as successful as people predicted.

Just a thought.
Yeah Arcades might be the big public access route for now. The kit costs are still pretty high for anyone other than hardcore gamers.

I've only just bought in, but it does seem like they're slowly lifting out of the indie-freewheeling of the first year. Oculus have been averaging around one big 'exclusive' launch a month recently, which suggests the dev pipelines are opening up, and they've been big glossy well-received things on the whole, with more matured takes on interfaces & game mechanics etc. (Although we're still talking about games with 6 hour playtimes for £30. The bang-to-buck is still heavily reliant on the novelty factor etc).

Think they're turning that particular corner in terms of getting 'AAA' content out, but if the tech's gonna make it to broad accessibility (and more accessible pricing / meatier content investment) it's gonna be a lonnng road. The VR Reddits console themselves with things like this