News Round-Up: Nausea, thrills and dildo-shape remotes as Playstation VR hits

PS4

By Neil Merrett

With Sony threatening to bring virtual reality into the mainstream this week with the launch of its Playstation VR system, playtesters have painted the picture of a thrilling technology that is exciting, “nauseating”, underdeveloped and just possibly, the future of gaming.

Writing for The Independent, Andrew Griffin noted that unlike other VR technologies like Oculus Rift or HTC Vive, Sony is looking to dominate the emerging market with technology that is hundreds of pounds cheaper than rivals, supported by the existing user base of the PS4.

Regardless of the fact it is releasing souped up and streamlined versions of its flagship PS4 console in the coming months to better support VR exclusive titles, Griffin looked at whether the Playstation may in actual reality be able to redefine gaming as a medium.

“Introducing people to VR means introducing people to an entirely new, virtual world – and getting it that wrong could change the future of an entire medium,” he writes.

As part of its coverage, The Independent interviewed developer Brynley Gibson, who has worked on the ‘VR Worlds’ launch title, noting that it was early days for Sony’s system and understanding how the technology might redefine gaming in terms of simulation.

Gibson is quoted as saying that the titles available for the technology will improve, with developers working on the system having already gained an appreciation and better understanding of the different rules of VR to standard games.

The developer noted that from a technical standpoint, seemingly mundane tropes like in-game text like are hard to read and do not work in the more visual, simulator-like nature of virtual reality.  Even the most simple choices things can become significant in a real life VR world, or so the theory goes.

However, Griffin argued that via the use of specially developed headsets rather than a television or device screen, interactions can appear more realistic, as well as potentially more numerous than other games.

“In one of the VR Worlds experiences called London Heist, for instance, you’re thrown into gang warfare and at one point find yourself in a car,” he wrote.

“You can shoot at people like you might expect; but you can also pick up and interact with other things in the van, opening the glove compartment and turning up the radio. In a normal game those things would be fairly boring and not at all notable.”

Launch title horror

Like any successful console or gaming system, it will be the quality of games that make or break a system.  A number of titles like Batman adventure ‘Akrham VR’ and the aforementioned VR Worlds already have been released in order to showcase what the technology can do.  But are they any good?

Focusing on one of the tiles, The Verge found horror game ‘Here They Lie’ to be “surreal, nauseating, and oddly compelling” introduction to the type of experience Playstation VR owners may find themselves engaged in.

Despite a stellar development team and taking a simulation approach to survival horror in the vain of lauded filmmakers like David Lynch, the publication found the title to ultimately fall short of the potential it promised as a launch game.

“Like many VR exploration and walking games that use an analog stick, the game makes me sick, even when I take the periodic breaks suggested at the end of each chapter. Its black-and-white environments quickly become repetitive and look alternately fuzzy and jagged on the relatively low-powered PSVR system. Its creepiness is overwhelmed by a coating of banal, ‘edgy’ seediness,” wrote Adi Robertson.

“Like many VR games of all genres, it feels under-polished and under-playtested. The objects you can interact with are inconsistent, the level pacing is erratic, and the whole thing meanders in a way that is less meditative than frustrating. In many ways, it is neither a particularly enjoyable game nor a particularly satisfying one.”

In reviewing the entire Playstation VR system meanwhile, The New Atlas said that while Sony’s competitive price strategy appears to make the technology the obvious leading consumer choice, the quality of the overall experience risked underwhelming.

After a four hour trial of the system back in March, Will Shanklin argued that the “dildo-shaped” PS Move motion controls still lack the accuracy and ergonomic quality of those supporting more expensive VR technologies. This could yet kill interest in the system beyond being a household novelty.

“Bringing PSVR home, I’ve experienced the exact same major tracking problems. Look down at your virtual hands in any game that uses the Move remotes and you’ll see them shaking, pulsating, and drifting forwards and backwards as if you’re hopped up on amphetamines,” he said. “I peek out from under the headset: The camera is set up perfectly and my real hands, along with the remotes, are perfectly still. I don’t need to get tested for Parkinson’s, the tracking is just that bad.”

Rather than just comparing the controls to more expensive rival technology, Shanklin argues Playstation VR fails to capture sufficient realism in its controls and interface.

“In real life, if you look at your hands or pick something up to swing around, you have a clear idea what the physics of that should look and feel like. By the time we’re little kids, our brains know exactly what to expect from physical movement: One false note sticks out like a sore thumb,” he argued.

“For VR to be effective, it needs to respect the mind’s ability to separate natural from unnatural. And ‘natural” certainly doesn’t involve my hands chopping, juddering and pulsating, jumping straight from one point to another, and sometimes flying two feet in front of me and back again.”

In the decade since Nintendo last utterly dominated the video game market via the Wii console – which used rudimentary, but innovative motion controllers – that ensured millions of UK homes could function as virtual bowling alleys, whether Playstation VR can emulate this success is unclear.

In the end, the notion of reality and fears about the tightness of the Wii’s controls did not dent huge consumer interest in the innovative novelty of a console promising a new form of gaming, even if the new age of motion control it introduced is still often passed off as a fad.

From the BBC’s perspective, questions mark remain over how successful the system will be in becoming a crucial part of, or even replacing the traditional video game experience.

However, a report by BBC Click’s Marc Cieslak suggests that Playstation VR may be the most likely system to bring technology to the mainstream at present.

“Many analysts think Sony’s kit will outsell rival headsets from HTC and Facebook’s Oculus division because of its lower price and the fact that more than 43 million PS4 consoles have been shipped,” reported the broadcaster.

“Even so, they add, it is likely to remain a niche product for some time to come.”

While the Betamax home video standard was offered seen as the higher quality, more reliable brand, Sony’s VHS standard eventually dominated the global home video market until replaced by the DVD.

The company would no doubt settle for a similar performance over its more sophisticated VR rivals.

Advertisements

2 responses to “News Round-Up: Nausea, thrills and dildo-shape remotes as Playstation VR hits

  1. I’m interested to see what happens with this technology. Hopefully it won’t wind up like the Vita, when developers were afraid to risk developing for the technology, which meant the devices did sell because of the lack of good games, so developing for it became a greater risk, and so on…

    Although, I do agree that if there is going to be a way for VR to hit the mainstream in an accessible way, Sony seems like it will be the most successful of the current available options.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s