2016 has been quite an exciting year for virtual reality, and it’s gearing up to be even better. Now that we are starting to see more virtual reality options hit the market, consumers are having the opportunity to choose the platform they want to play on, leading to competition and ultimately innovation in the space. Last week, Joost van Dreunen of Superdata had the opportunity to talk to once of the co-creators of Playstation VR to discuss the future of VR as a platform.
The conversation ranges from topics including inspiration for game design to Sony’s path forward, but one of the most exciting things the two discussed is the plethora of indie games which have the potential to be featured on the platform. Sony’s Richard Marks, who co-created the platform, says that since VR is still such an unexplored landscape, it is incredibly easy for any developer to pick up an idea and run with it, essentially creating a market tappable by anyone.
GamesBeat: The focus for all the console platforms has been on getting third parties to build content. But it’s not as easy for each of them. How would you go about explaining to the people who are thinking, “I need to be in VR”—what’s the path? Can you give a little clarity on how to move forward?
Marks: Right now some of the greatest ideas in VR are coming from the indie crowd. There’s no real road map as far as the “right thing” to make in VR. There are so many things that could work. People are exploring all over the place. There’s this balance of this great amount of ideas and energy coming out of the indie side. But at the same time, it’s important to have some of these titles people have heard of before to get the mainstream audience to care.
We have things like Batman and Star Wars coming to our platform. It creates this great balance of established things with new ideas. Any developer could be the one to figure out the thing that people will try. As long as enough VR headsets are out there, somebody making something new will have people ready to try it out.
The two go on to discuss the social aspects of VR among a number of other things, but one thing rings clear: VR is like the wild west of video games. If you don’t make an experience you want to create, someone else will, but you have the opportunity to create something really great. Marks comments that even if you don’t have an incredible amount of knowledge in full fledged game creation, sandbox titles have been an absolute hit for the platform. Giving users the ability to create and destroy things in virtual reality is a brand new experience, completely new and different from any traditional story-based game.
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GamesBeat: As someone who doesn’t know how to make games at all, it seems to me, though, that the first thing you do with any kind of new platform, you always look back to what came before. You’re moving forward through the rear-view mirror in a sense. What can we expect as far as the design agenda here? At E3 we saw Resident Evil. Obviously we’ll use VR to scare people. But where do we break new ground?
Marks: A lot of people ask about what’s the right kind of game to make in VR. There is no right thing. It’s easy to get things up on the screen and be in VR, but the design of what you do there is still not fully fleshed out. But we do know that some things work very well.
The feeling of presence in a space lends itself to certain kinds of activity. Actually, it lends itself to activity in general. Sitting there passively feels awkward. That’s why games resonate so well with VR. When you’re in VR, you feel like you should do something. Things are happening. You feel like they’re next to you. You want to contribute and be part of the action. Interactivity is th enumber one thing that works best in VR, we find. Keeping people busy doing stuff.
The big difference with VR, again, is that things are all around you. It’s not remote, through a window, like on a 2D screen. Things that are close to you feel very powerful, things where you can reach out and interact with them directly. That doesn’t exist when you’re doing things through a window. On a 2D screen it’s a layer of abstraction, always keeping you away. You’re one step away from what’s happening. In VR it feels like you’re doing that. That lends itself to a lot of things.
Sandbox games are perfect, where you can just play. You can take a very simple thing and tweak one factor, like gravity or friction, and all of a sudden you have a whole new world around you to interact with. Superhero games are fun to play normally, but when you’re seeing the fireball actually shoot out of your own hand, or you’re levitating something, it’s so much more visceral.
While 2016 seems to be nearing a close much faster than anyone expected, virtual reality has truely found a home this year. With the launch of Playstation VR yet to come and new versions of the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift on the horizon, its no wonder people are getting excited about the tech.