Virtual reality has arrived in full force in 2016. Several very impressive headsets have hit the market and, as we wrote about previously, there also seems to be some developing potential for VR arcades to become popular. For the most part, however, the excitement about VR revolves around the headsets we can use in our homes, and the games that come with them. And this presents a unique challenge for game developers: how can they make fully immersive experiences to be used in an environment with limited space and movement capacity?
The simple answer is that the immersion is essentially about the visuals and audio, while movement will depend on controllers. While that’s not universally true of all VR games or systems, it captures the idea of how these headsets put gamers in virtual realities and allowing for freedom of movement without actually expecting people to get up and move. It sounds straightforward enough, but this setup actually figures to have a lot to do with which types of games are developed most effectively. So let’s take a look at what virtual reality appears to be best at.
It sounds a little bit strange to say that some of the best features of virtual reality gaming are augmented reality titles, but at this stage it’s true. To clarify, the difference is that a virtual reality game presents you with an entirely different environment as soon as you slip on a headset. An augmented reality game, by contrast, simply shows you the room you’re already in, with game elements invading the space.
So for instance, a VR boxing game would put you in a boxing ring against an opponent. An AR boxing game would show an adversary coming into your living room (or wherever you may be) to fight you. There are a few examples already of effective AR games on VR headsets, though perhaps the best indication of this format’s popularity at this stage is Pokémon Go. As one review put it, the hit mobile app is showing the potential of AR, and once games like this are more popular on VR headsets they’ll likely be among the most popular titles.
Table & Casino Games
One of the most interesting early releases, for Samsung Gear VR and Oculus Rift, is Casino VR. This is a competitive poker game that’s designed to allow the player to sit still and simply look around an alternate reality consisting of a poker table, dealer, and opposing players. It’s a fairly effective title, and would seem to open the door for VR developers to embrace some of the highly sophisticated additional casino activity that’s already thriving online. All that would be needed is a livelier atmosphere. These days, online slot, bingo, and roulette games exist in a variety of themes and formats that make for exciting options that help to add a fresh spin to familiar gaming genres. This further lends VR developers a lot of options to that stick with the basic concept of Casino VR while infusing unlimited styles of table and casino gaming.
Somehow or other, the most popular genre on modern consoles has become one of the most promising on VR, despite some glaring limitations. Shooters, more than many other games, have always required quick and frequent movements, and would have seemed at one point like very challenging games for VR adaptation. Yet we’ve already seen several very creative takes on the shooter genre resulting in some impressive new titles.
Indeed, looking through a single list of some of the best VR games available, you can see a few different takes on the shooter. For instance, Hover Junkers for HTC Vive puts you on a hovercraft to solve the movement problem, challenging you to shoot out other players as you hover along. Viral for Gear VR explores similar mechanics by putting you on a continuously moving rail and presenting you with enemies along the way. Other games, like London Heist, have been designed as situational shooters, putting you in missions to shoot from cover or from a standstill before moving on to the next stage.
Detailed World Adventures
Finally, it should be stated that some of the most incredible VR experiences to be released or shown off this year have been those that involve big, detailed worlds. These games have yet to be perfected, and in all likelihood they’ll all feel a little bit stunted for a year or two as developers work out the kinks. But people who are buying VR headsets are eager to dive into exciting new environments, and while some of the smoothest games at this stage are the simplest, that doesn’t stop people from being amazed at visual quality and environment immersion.
From new experiences like Edge Of Nowhere to the chance to dive into the worlds of franchises as seen with Star Wars: Battlefront or Batman Arkham, VR games with exciting worlds are hard not to appreciate.
It’s still early, but these are the types of games that are standing out in 2016 on VR.