Jumping into a virtual world for the first time with an HTC Vive is nothing short of a thrilling experience. The VR games transport you to new and foreign worlds where you can fly space ships, see the depths of the ocean, and take steps in the real world and those steps happen in the virtual one too. This is commonly know as room scale, and it can enable realistic experiences that’ll leave you speechless. The technology lets you explore an alien planet, dodge incoming projectiles, or use the room around you as a canvas to paint on.
Room Scale VR comes built into the HTC Vive, but brings up a lot of questions of how much space is need and even how well it works. A lot of consumers buying the Vive don’t have a dedicated VR room, but HTC knows this. They’ve worked hard to enable users to play in the smallest place as possible, but also let some users have larger spaces if they have them.
The HTC Vive ships with “lighthouses” which use invisible infrared to track where the headset is within a predefined area. The full room-scale mode lets you map out space as small as 6.5 ft by 5ft, but you can plan an area as large as 15ft by 15ft. These sizes makes it possible to play games in your living room or office, but you always have the option to move into a dedicated room or area to play Vive games. There you can walk around your psychical room, and in the virtual world, you can be walking on the moon.
If you lack space to try these room-scale environments, you can also use standing the only mode. This lets you stand while you’re playing a game, but instead of walking around to mimic it in the virtual world you can use the motion controllers to move. You’re able to lean, duct, and move your arms around freely in the game. The games in standing mode aren’t limited by your space as your still able to make a lot of motions you’d be able to do in full room-scale.
When you’re looking at games Steam makes it as transparent as possible on how much room you’ll need or if the games work with room-scale or standing mode. Most of the games in the Steam store work with both room-scale and standing mode, ensuring your selection of games aren’t limited in the space you have. There are games which work best when you use room-scale, though. The Universes Sandbox lets you explore space by walking around, crouching, and leaning around. The experience is best had with room-scale, because with standing you’ll have to make more motions with your controller which feels less native and neutral.
Obviously, room-scale is the better experience, but it needs a larger amount of space then many of us have. In many ways, VR is bringing back the computer rooms a number of people had in their houses in the 90’s. When I was growing up, we had a dedicated computer room for our desktop computer, and this will likely become the new standard for many homes in America. Thankfully, HTC understands we don’t all have the luxury of having an extra room. HTC’s set up video for the Vive suggests you can just move furniture out of the way in your living room and be ready to play your game. In many cases this is true, but as the games become more advance, some games could start to require more space to play.
HTC and Steam both make it clear and easily understandable how much space you’ll need for a game before you hit the purchase button. If you’re plotting out a space in your home before you buy the HTC Vive this should help you understand you can use the standing mode, or room-scale in space as little as 6ft by 5ft. Either way, there is a lot of fun to be had once you start exploring games, apps, and videos in the HTC Vive’s virtual worlds.