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The VR Conundrum

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The Adventure Starts Here!
Well, we'll all have to be here on MoFo's 40th anniversary then, to see if you're right. I suspect you're closer to the truth than you might have intended.



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



there's a frog in my snake oil
So I'm building the least appropriate thing ever for a 'painting blobs in the air' app. A pointy spaceship




And then I flew it around with my hand. Because, um, because puppetry is a valid art form alright
__________________
Virtual Reality chatter on a movie site? Got endless amounts of it here. Reviews over here



there's a frog in my snake oil
I'm getting somewhere.




You don't want to know where. But I'm getting there



there's a frog in my snake oil
State of the Game World: Passion Over Pragmatism

This developer quote sums up VR marvellously:

Unfortunately currently VR games don't make economic sense to make. The reason we had a huge spike of VR games was the Steam direct came out the same time as the Vive, so everyone saw a blue ocean and took a shot. Now that everyone has their first game out of the way almost everyone won't follow up with a second.

There are a few that are continuing to support their first game (Thrill of the fight, H3VR), there are a few that moved on from a semi successful game (Sword Master VR to Jet Island) but most everyone else who isn't getting funded directly has now pulled out.

That said I'm working on my second VR game personally.
Beware these painful realities though...

Subnatica added VR support and it was so much work/a support hassle they didn't even bother having the same implementation on their followup. One would assume the function was already complete but it wasn't worth the both of QA/support to release it even as a mod/hack for the expansion.

Apparently VR usage of Subnatica was roughly 1% of the user-base but they had a massive out sized amount of negative reviews/support requests. In all likely-hood all said and done adding VR to Subnatica might have literally caused them to generate less revenue, if the negative reviews/complaints caused even 1% of non-vr players to not purchase. That's not even counting all of the custom development work/QA/support that went to supporting VR, so likely adding VR support cost them a considerable amount of profit.

A VR mode, is not an easy thing, nor does it make sense in the current market for most game makers to do it. In many cases you are correct that it's relativity easy to implement a very bad VR implementation (as stated above you can even do it yourself on any Unity game you want).

FYI if you want to look it up then search for people making Ghost of a Tale act like Moss (2 different mouse 3d action adventure games).

The market proof of this argument is in the lack of VR remasters, the only company I can think of that's been doing them is Bethesda with Skyrim/FO4. Bethesda has been invested in VR since before the Oculus so they likely followed through in those releases because they started working on them before the market reality (not many PCVR hmd are used often even if there are many out there) had shown itself.
Also neatly summed up by the NMS expansion in many ways, driven by this type of fizzy giddiness:



HG are probably one of the few outfits in the position to allow themselves to get carried away and let the ROI numbers hang. Will be interesting to see if it has a mini 'killer app' effect in that sense. I kinda doubt, even if it sings, that it'll make the money bag guys perk up elsewhere. Might feed that passion loop that bit more on the dev front though...



there's a frog in my snake oil
Damnn, and here comes the first wave of new unique VR games... purely for the Quest :/



I imagine a lot of this stuff will get either a straight port or a glossy take for the PC market, but dammit. That means even longer until I get a couple of hours of physics fun at a reasonable sale price



there's a frog in my snake oil
Ok so I made a daft short with that Quill model. It's an Elite in-joke



(Riffing on this meme)



The Adventure Starts Here!
That's fun. Love how the GameSpot reporter kept hedging on whether he'd ever buy one or whether he thinks gaming would eventually go in this direction.

Of course it's going in this direction. Now, how long it'll take to become pervasive is another question, but it's clearly going to go this way.



there's a frog in my snake oil
This is intriguing...





A puzzle shooter with a nifty looking gravity-flipping mechanic. Probably one for vets with their VR legs, but the quick flip transition actually looks like it might not be too punishing.

Another early access indie, yay

---

Oh and for posterity, NMS is both thoroughly rad in VR, and incredibly sketchy

General VR blathering starts here on the NMS thread






there's a frog in my snake oil
Some VR-related musing from NMS:

On the VR, an interface issue of note is the galaxy map. At the moment the game literally moves me the opposite way to which I'm pointing... Which I can just about fix by holding my hand behind me like a dorsal fin and slowly proceeding forward . But I suspect there must be a better way... (I think you're supposed to grab first and then extend your hand out like superman in the desired direction. It's just not really working...)

Kinda leads me too...



Retro Ponders:

VR play is making me feel like a kid figuring out a hacked game again. And it's kinda a gameplay strand in its own right

It's partially the grainy, lower-poly graphics that are triggering some fond nostalgia, and partially butting wits with defeatable bugs. But also VR ports come with this expanse of unexplained and/or untested interactions and oddities.

I don't blame them for not having comprehensive guides, or for all the edge case stuff and semi-bodged functions that don't translate neatly. (The new tutorial missions are actually pretty slick here). And thankfully it's actually kinda fun conducting physical experiments on myself to figure things out . Rocket Boots? Ok not convinced right now - being catapulted sideways at speed when landing on slanted ground is fairly disconcerting...



there's a frog in my snake oil
Oo, so it seems the Groundhog Day 'remake' may actually be pretty decent:



More reviews here.

The studio have a good rep. I never quite got along with their lauded The Invisible Hours (a real time / rewind time murder mystery in a hotel where you can follow whichever narrative you fancy). Have been meaning to return with my new GPU powers and see if I liked it more when de-fuzzed some though.

I could def forgive the simple looks of GD if the efforts have been poured into frivolous interactive puzzle gameplay

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IN OTHER NEWS:

Facebook enlists Ray-Ban to help develop ‘Orion’ smart glasses, a secret project underway for years

Having a tilt at 'the next mobile phone' for 2023 on, so it seems...



there's a frog in my snake oil
FUTURE TECH:

Ok this is intriguing. Facebook's latest acquisition is CTRL-labs:



TLDW: Wristbands that detect electrical motor activity & translate that into hand gestures / interface inputs. And which can also work via 'intention', rather than full motion, with practice.

Intriguing potential. If they can get it fine-grained enough you could dump clunky controllers. Non-invasive (just a wristband etc). Hmm.



there's a frog in my snake oil
Retro Re-Gaming in Modland

So I'm on hols, and my phone has no sound, but it seems the modding community has been busy....

Half Life 2 with Hands!



I'm assuming that's this

Physics interactions and everything. This looks super tempting. Also potentially terrifying .

Iron stomach doubtless still required for vehicles and locomotion, but snap turns should take some edge off. Just having free gunplay & interaction is major though!

GTA V via controller



(I'm so glad I don't have sound, I know this Youtuber )

Less sold on this, but it looks almost worth a dip now just for cruising around. No 3rd party apps required any more (although dirty 'alternate eye' tricks used for performance). Gaze still tied to ragdolling animations and stuff, which is rough. Not quite at play through for fun levels for me. But intriguing



there's a frog in my snake oil
GTAAAAAAARRRR!

Wasn't convinced by this at first. Took a few goes to get it looking right, and then there were some obvious issues front and centre. Your vision being head-locked into the lengthy car entry animations for a start, suggesting a whole narnia of nausea awaited...

And then I jumped a stolen moped off a bridge, and drove it straight along the roof of a handily passing lorry. And god damn this is amazing!



Immediately set about all my favourite vehicular pursuits, and they were great

Doing taxi jobs with neat precision or dramatic upside-down flips. Flying planes inadvisedly. Doing improbably wide drift turns around sun-baked three-lane corners in a battered 'Ruiner' as the West coast punk plays. Playing hide and seek with a cacophony of cops. Sweeeet as

The vehicle stuff just works and is super robust. Even the pilot & motorbike helmets slot on surprisingly nicely and add to the vibe. (They appear broken in these screenshots, but in-world they're simplistic, but effective).

Ok so like, it's clearly heavily compromised and bodged together. Your vision blurs during intensive changes of direction, clarity isn't that great to start with, and inhabiting the cumbersome R* walking model is a test of your VR legs from the off. I've been closing my eyes for the baked in animations, and I ended the session with nausea tinges for the first time in years.



But it works . The alternating eye technique they've used is clearly a bit grungy and sub-pro, but it means performance in this giant game world is surprisingly solid. You can free-look around even at times of high drama, checking over your shoulder while doing a bike wheely. Flick a look out your window to clock where the blues-and-twos chorus is coming from. (I had one moment of hitching when I was spinning a truck through a lot of trash on its rims, but that's been it so far!)

The vision based navigation and gun reticule are actually surprisingly functional. I reckon I could absolutely do some gunplay missions with it. Just closing my eyes periodically to spin on the spot . But just in terms of being able to hang out with passer bys, getting into and out of scraps, it's just good to be able to free roam for a bit. (It was only due to my rustiness with the menus that I ended a street brawl by pulling out an 18th Century blunderbuss, rather than with the gentlemanly jabs I'd started with )

I figured initially I'd have one go and then wipe it. But this is gonna stay on my drives for a bit





EDIT:

Oh dear, this stream is giving me ideas...


  • To Do:
  • Skydive
  • Take peyote and turn into a dolphin
  • Re-do that mission where you have to fly a plane into a plane... and then drive a jeep out of it

**EDIT**

Managed to film some footage. There is skydiving involved




there's a frog in my snake oil
I have been mainly...

Knocking riders off their bikes with a gaze-guided hose...



Giving lifts to random getaway drivers who've crashed their cars...



Taking on stunt challenges (you can't see the icons here, but it was a challenge, honest )



And all of this is badass in VR . And loads more. I never would have thought I could get more time out of GTA V, but everything from the small details (the expressive faces of street side conversations, the signs pinned in obscure corners), to the mad gameplay scale (walking, driving and flying all have their pleasures), to the reams of content (driving a buggy offroad to sneak to a drugs meet one minute, rescuing a passer-by's pink cadillac the next) is fresh again like this

Flipside Caveat: The cut-scenes are murderously horrible in VR. The fingers on the chalk board to the cartoon joy of the in-game 'acting'. And the whole game is a blur when taking corners at speed, or bumping over rough surfaces. Which you do a lot . It definitely needs an iron stomach all round, although it is currently proving good training. Because there's loads more I want to do



there's a frog in my snake oil
GTA VR


Good Thing Bad Thing:


So I've started the campaign again from scratch

It's not without its issues. The duller missions are even more of a grind the third time round, and that's only just balanced out by the new immersion. But the main payback is arriving now in the form of the heist missions. Which are much more varied, and build nicely towards the grandiose set pieces. (The tunnel escape was pretty badass done this way )

One key challenge I'm facing though is the infamous R* walking style. I'm finding I'm getting pretty immune to the actual classic 'smooth' motion itself, which is a great string to have in my VR bow now . (There's that HL2 mod waiting out there after all ). But damn is it eccentric to manoeuvre around still. The weird shoulder sway that kicks in, tilting you 35 degrees off target, really does not help in getting where you want to be. I did not, for example, mean to be here while casing a jewellery store...



The biggest issue is definitely the cut-scene psychodrama though. It's like being forced into a fishbowl in an alternate dimension, where everything is flat, yet surrounds you perpetually, migrating into your view as you instinctively look away from its dimensionally compromised horrors. It's all kinds of wrong...

So I'm skipping ever single one I can. Which cuts out a lot of colour, but does speed up this play through. Some you cannot skip though, like the heist planning scenes... I have to view them with one eye closed



On the whole though, when you hit a set piece, or stitch together smaller missions as part of a broader story, this is all working out great . The modder himself set out to make the game playable from end to end. And with the working scopes and other neat fixes I'd say he's done that. (Although aspects like the phone being stuck to your face, while the background goes 2D, are... they are sub-perfect . The fact that it's almost impossible to shoot behind you in a shared car, due to a view snapping issue, is also a fairly major bummer). Broadly speaking though, it's do-able. And I'm doing it .


Techno Toggle:


The most intriguing aspect of this mod is that you can toggle the '3D effect' on and off. (IE the bargain basement trick of alternating the eye being rendered, allowing them to fake '90 fps' in each eye for less processing power). It's necessary to record footage, as otherwise the capture window 'flickers'. But what's weird is it's still quite compelling to play like this. And actually nicer in some ways, without the added eye-grunge the technique brings.

What's interesting is what you miss without the stereo vision. Driving around, with all the kinetic action, and your own head bobbing in the seat, or scurrying across roads as the centre of the action, you can still get a decent illusion of depth. Because you're moving amongst stuff. But the minute you, say, stop and check out a passer by, you notice the lack of magic. Toggle that 'magic button' back on, and suddenly their faces come alive. The old lady giving you the suspicious side-eye behind the plume of her dangled cigarette is suddenly a much more compelling presence. It's really intriguing. (Obviously we're super hard-wired to analyse faces, and something about getting that full stereoscopic information just lights up those receptors). They suddenly strike you very much as a person. Whereas before they were just a graphic. It's very odd


Lots of Character:


Given the above, the absolute best thing about this is the expressions and surreal exchanges between the supporting characters & random street citizens. This guy for example, rather than chucking out a 'sup' in reply to me, said 'Well I'm glad you asked me that...' in an out-of-town drawl, and proceeded to ponder the rudeness of city types at great length...



Franklin's aunt will flap you away, while airing snatches of backstory into her handsfree. The street huddles will follow a familiar pattern of 'eccentric statement' / 'negative or positive response', but it's the outlandishness of the phrases & combinations, the fittingness to their appearance & behaviours, and the long-form telephone conversations that they'll wonder off making, that all add up to some mad effort. All of this is dev is just 3x more beguiling in VR.

Although getting beaten up by firemen if you steal their truck is genuinely harrowing




Quiet Times:





Similarly, the quiet times and the smaller details can really sing here. I have sat and watched more TV in this variant than in any other. Because it actually does feel like you're kicking back and watching Michael's giant projector screen . (And the production values of the programmes are just completely off the scale). The above image is a stray reference to an unflagged murder mystery that I know is dotted throughout the map, but I've never followed it to the end. Feeling like I should now!

Lots more to do out here, it feels




there's a frog in my snake oil
GTA WOOOOOO

When this mod came out, some internet bod said: 'That's Project Cars uninstalled then'. And they're not wrong. Project Cars is totally uninstalled. I don't need any other driving sim right now. Or flight sim. This thing is absolutely knocking both out of the park.



Ok... it's definitely not a sim... But where else do you get asked to bomb a moving drugs train from your plane? Just as an incidental thing? Or get told to hide your stolen industrial helicopter from attack copters, with no further advice... (and end up barreling it's coughing frame down gorges, amongst trees, skimming over spuming waterfalls, until you make your escape?)



And in between that, the views just look immense. Crowning over the vinewood sign with your latest stolen 'copter. Seeing the dust in the arid folds on the other side. Seeing the fog forming over the lake as you hit another mountain chain, the setting sun illuminating it in shafts. Seeing all that with free look, and '3D'? Just, god damn. It can do top down cruising too



And on the car front... Where else can you pick up a tiny DeLorean-looking hatchback thing and spin it sideways down alleyways while retro 80s synth-pop plays on the radio? Only to be interspersed with news of that time you drove a lovely sedan through the upper stories of a hospital to help out some nice old crazy English folk?

It... just... does so much . Even though it's arcadey, the car-love really shines through. The ludicrous mini-Monster-trucks of the outback really will jelly-wheel over suitably shaped donor cars. The rains will come down and you'll be glad of its absurd tires as they grind through the mud and squeak over the shiny asphalt. The electric rocket-mobile you snagged uptown torques you over snaking hill estates and sneaks speed up on you before you've even figured out how it corners...

I've found myself avoiding cops by driving through a whole pedestrian section of mini Italian piazzas behind the cinema. Dodging drug dealers by tracking a dried out riverbed in an offroad buggy. Slid some car that I can't even remember sideways off the brownfield slopes of an industrial estate onto the welcoming tarmac of an interstate and burned back into the city's embrace. Stuff I never knew was there, despite 100s of hours in this game. Stuff you can react to and seize the moment with. Just.... nowhere else has playgrounds like this



Oh yeah and there's gunyplay and weird characters in spades. Gotta remember to go bounty hunt some guy for Trevor's mom soon



there's a frog in my snake oil
Wolves in the Walls is now free on the Oc store. Well rated interactive story it seems...




there's a frog in my snake oil
Damn, the modder behind the GTA mod has bad news on a RDR2 version...

So, I just finished a few benchmarking sessions with RDR2, and the news is not good. With Balanced (default) settings, at the resolution and FOV needed for "real" VR, Red Dead Redemption 2 struggles to reach 40 fps on a system with i9-9900K, 32 GB dual channel, GTX 1080 Ti, and of course SSD.
To be clear, that's less than 40 total frames per second, or less than 20 per eye, even with alternate eye rendering.
With Performance settings, i.e, basically everything on Low, it runs at around 60-70 total fps (30-35 per eye, still not enough), and it looks like... well, you can imagine.
Please don't take this to mean that the game is not "optimized" as kids on the forums love to say. At 1080p, it pushes more than 80 fps (in other terms more than needed) while looking gorgeous. But there is no way that during 2020 a new GPU will come out that will be able to render RDR2 at the combination of quality, resolution, FOV and frame rate that is needed for proper VR. With SLI completely dead and no longer supported by either games or VR runtimes, there is not even the possibility to throw heaps of money at the problem.
Additionally, my GTA V mod was built around 3Dmigoto, which is limited to DX11, whereas RDR2 surprisingly came out supporting only DX12 and Vulkan. Unless 3Dmigoto is extended to DX12 (extremely unlikely), or RDR2 is backported to DX11 (yeah, sure), the mod would need to be rewritten from scratch, together with a new hooking library.
TLR: Don't hold your breath for a proper VR mod that displays RDR2 in its full glory, the software and most importantly the hardware is just not there.
As he points out later, it’s a real shame RDR never made it to PC... :/