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Is VR Really the Future of Gaming - or Just a Fad?

Peer Reviewed by Khatharr, BHXSpecter, newtechnology


VR
Is VR all it’s made up to be? And should games developers be investing in it? Packt asked three expert developers – Alan Thorn, Maciej Szczesnik, and John P. Doran, for their thoughts on whether Virtual Reality will ever become a reality.

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You only need to watch the movies to know that predicting the future is probably a waste of time. In 2017, we don’t have hoverboards (Back to the Future II), time travel isn’t a thing (Timecop), and we haven’t colonized the moon yet (2001: A Space Odyssey). But still, VR is lauded as “the next big thing” in just about every industry there is – from healthcare, to marketing, and of course, gaming.

Admittedly, 2016 was a year of really significant change for the games industry – we saw the launch of Amazon’s Lumberyard, CryEngine became 100% free, and of course, the Sonic the Hedgehog franchise celebrated its 25th anniversary. Most notable, of course, was the fact that AR and VR really caught the attention of the mainstream thanks to the launch of Pokémon Go, Oculus Rift, and Playstation VR.

But is VR all it’s made up to be? And should games developers be investing in it? Packt asked three expert developers – Alan Thorn, Maciej Szczesnik, and John P. Doran, for their thoughts on whether Virtual Reality will ever become a reality.

Definitely

John P. Doran, a Lecturer at DigiPen Institute of Technology and author of Game Development Patterns & Best Practices, is certain that the future of gaming lies in VR and is even working on a couple of VR Projects at the moment.

“The introduction of virtual reality and augmented reality have been quite exciting to me over the past year or so,” he says. “I’ve already been working with both VR and AR applications and am very excited to see how we will go about building projects with them in the future.”

“I’m still not quite sure what version of virtual reality will be the “standard”, or even if it exists already, but we have already seen quite an impact with casual users.”

“Right now, the costs are prohibitive for most people to start playing with VR, but assuming that one of the headsets gets a “killer” app that everyone will want to play, prices will come down over time, and we will see more and more people developing for it.”

So why does Doran think VR will be such a success? The answer lies in VR’s counterpart in altering our world - Augmented Reality.

“Augmented reality (AR) games have been quite interesting to examine in the industry. In the case of Pokémon Go, I am fairly certain that it was the IP and not necessarily the gameplay that got so many people playing it, but given its success I am sure we will see games borrowing concepts from it in the future.”

The Undecided

Alan Thorn is the founder of Wax Lyrical Games, a Visiting Lecturer at the National Film and Television School and London South Bank University, and author of Mastering Unity 5.x. Like Doran, Thorn recognizes that the influx of interest in VR is interesting and holds serious amounts of potential.

“VR, photogrammetry, and the quest for photorealism are unquestionably changing the landscape”, he says. Perhaps surprisingly though, Thorn isn’t as quick as Doran to say absolutely whether VR will be the future of the games industry, even though he is currently working on VR projects himself. “I’ve already worked on VR projects, and I do think the future for VR is bright,” he adds. “However, it’s important to recognize that VR is but one medium, alongside other existing ones, which can tell great stories and support interesting mechanics.”

“Right now there is an intense focus on VR, both in the Unity and Unreal world, but whether this will remain the case for the next two years is an open question.”

Probably Not

Maciej Szczesnik, freelance developer, Lecturer of Game Design at Warsaw Film School, and author of Unity 5.x Animation Cookbook, is arguably more skeptical about VR’s place in gaming. While the growing popularity of VR games suggests that the technology could be about to become more affordable and accessible to more casual gamers, he believes there is one significant challenge to mass adoption of VR in gaming – the fact that it’s simply not practical or comfortable.

“Yes, we’re having a huge VR boom, and I do think that VR is the biggest change in game dev in recent years, but I also honestly think that people won’t use VR to relax after work or school,” he says.

“I make VR apps, but these are mostly business, marketing, and medical applications, not games.”

“In my opinion, VR will most probably end the same way as all those motion sensors or 3D TVs – it’s cool to use it once in a while, but can you play a VR game and drink your favorite beverage at the same time? Or would you like to put a small LED screen 10 cm in front of your eyes after a full day of work? Maybe I’m old-fashioned, but I still prefer my couch and console.”

About the Author(s)

Maciej Szczesnik is a game industry veteran, working as a designer and developer since 2004. Formally of CD Projekt Red, creators of the award winning Witcher series, and 11 Bit Studios, who were responsible for This War of Mine, Maciej now works as an independent developer working on an unannounced title while also teaching game design and Unity at Warsaw Film School. Maciej is the author of Packt’s Unity 5.x Animation Cookbook.

Alan Thorn is a multidisciplinary game developer, Packt author, and educator, with 16 years industry experience. He makes games for PC desktop, Mobile and VR. He founded Wax Lyrical Games and created the award-winning game Baron Wittard: Nemesis of Ragnarok, working as designer, programmer and artist. He has worked on over 70 games and created learning content for Microsoft and Packt, among others. He is currently a Visiting Lecturer at the National Film and Television School and a Visiting Lecturer at London South BankUniversity.

John P. Doran is a technical game designer with over 10 years of experience. Over the years he has worked on projects in multiple roles from Game Designer to Lead UI programmer at companies such as Lucas Arts and Interceptor Entertainment. Currently John is employed as lecturer at DigiPen Institute of Technology’s Singapore campus. He has written 7 books on game development that have been published by Packt and also occasionally writes about game design and development on his website.

License

GDOL (Gamedev.net Open License)

6 Comments

Apr 11 2017 09:38 PM

Title's a little clickbaity, but the article is good.

Apr 12 2017 03:36 AM

Well, sums it up pretty nicely. The truth most probably lies somewhere in the middle, with VR becoming a new niche in gaming, instead of a fad that just passes.

I just don't see how the early bird devs could make the same crazy amount of money that was possible during the early days of the mobile gold rush, given we are talking about WAY higher cost of ownership and WAY less mileage you can get out of your VR device besides gaming compared to a mobile phone.

People paid 800 bucks for early iPhones because they wanted to replace their dumb phone, and their iPod, and surf the web on the train, and see what other uses the Apps could bring in the future. And then they found out that the iPhone was also decent as handheld gaming device.

Will People pay the 800 bucks to get bargain basement VR today with the PSVR? Will they pay the 2000 bucks for top of the line PC VR gaming? When all these things run at the moment are Tech demos and some very limited gaming expieriences?

I'd say adoption of VR might take off when VR Movies, VR TV and Windows Applications in VR are becoming a thing. And prices for the high end expierience stay below 1000 bucks. Even then, it will most probably just be a niche...

 

I would be very careful to invest into VR now....

Apr 12 2017 03:45 AM

The VR may become more of a specialty product. Just like steering wheel controller. 

Think about movies in VR, still people would prefer the conventional 2d/3d movie over VR.

People do not prefer to wear anything on the eyes. It will always be the same. Its not that simple to sell sunglasses for the eyes of every consumers,but a fancy handbag is. Same goes with the classic game controllers, which match the tendencies of the human hands so well.

Apr 12 2017 03:52 PM

This is a complex topic, and this article is shaving ice flakes from the top of the tip of the iceberg. I don't think it's very useful to read in its current state.

I think the underlying question is, "Is VR going to be successful?".

To answer that question, you really have to spend some time defining what success looks like.

Then, you also have to spend a lot of time doing expectation management and comparisons to other revolutionary forms of media and look at their adoption curves. Where is VR today in relation to those historical adoption rates?

Then, you have to also spend some considerable effort defining what actions it will take for VR to become "successful". What needs to happen for success to be achieved? Are those steps currently being executed? Are we on track, exceeding predictions and expectations, or lagging behind?

On the game dev side, you are also asking whether a game developer should "invest" in VR. If you ask this question, I'm hoping for a clear answer or a list of things to strongly consider (I already know the answer, since I'm an invested VR dev). Again, this is going to come down to making business decisions based on the current state of the market and the anticipated direction of the market in order to make a return on investment. The key question to answer: Can you run a sustainable VR development studio with current market conditions?

Apr 13 2017 12:45 AM

VR is still a new technology, or recently accessible to normal consumers. The price still needs to be more accessible.  I think adoption will be slow, but increase as the price (and tech) improves, at least among gamers. A few "killer apps/games" that make really good use of the tech might speed acceptance greatly, especially on console platforms. I believe comfort and convenience will continue to improve and become less of a deterrent.

I could see AR becoming fairly commonplace, and maybe even required for certain occupations, as it improves.

Assuming these technologies don't end up causing eye cancer or having other detrimental side effects, then all bets are off. But these kinks will be ironed out too, eventually, after a few "unforeseen consequences."
 

Apr 17 2017 01:39 AM

The way it is broken down right now it is like so:

Gamers on a budget consider VR a fad due to not being able to afford the equipment for it.

Hardcore gamers with money to burn make it a niche market. 

To make it a mainstay the VR set prices will have to drop drastically for more gamers to buy them, but the recommended PCs also will have to undergo price drops as the range I saw when VR first launched was ~$1300.

To give you context of my income, it broke me for the month just buying my son a Playstation 4  at $350. While I would love to play around with VR and even try to develop VR games, it isn't going to happen unless I win the lottery.

This is a great article and makes me wonder if we will see VR go mainstream. I know Youtube content creators do a lot of "Let's Play" videos for VR games.

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