Is VR Really the Future of Gaming - or Just a Fad?
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.
DefinitelyJohn 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 UndecidedAlan 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 NotMaciej 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.