Game Selection, Part 2: Immersion

For part 1 of how we choose games, head here. This is a continued discussion of our game selection process.

Use the hardware

 The HTC Vive

The HTC Vive

Our 6 stations all use the HTC Vive. This hardware has the ability to be tracked with 6 degrees of freedom (6DOF). Without getting too technical, this means that you can move in the 3 dimensions (left-right, backwards-forwards, up-down) and that you can rotate around each of those directions. For a more thorough explanation of this, head here. In our space, we have 10’x10’ spaces set up that take advantage of the Vive’s room-scale capability. While the Vive can be used in a seated or standing mode if a player requires that, room-scale VR allows free movement within the designated space, and helps players forget where they are as they get fully immersed into the game.

 This "dog" greets many of our players in The Lab.

This "dog" greets many of our players in The Lab.

Essentially, the Vive allows for a lot of detail to be placed within a small space along all dimensions.  A game or experience that takes advantage of this capability will generally be more immersive than one that doesn’t. We want to get people fully engaged within their space, whether they’re playing fetch with a robot dog on a mountaintop or spinning around wildly to blast monsters.

 

Interactivity

 In Space Pirate Trainer, you use your guns to interact with the menu.

In Space Pirate Trainer, you use your guns to interact with the menu.

A game that provides a distinctly-VR experience, beyond that of PC and console gaming, will rank more highly for us. Something as simple as a welcome menu screen where you actually have to reach out and grab levers or push buttons to select options rather than “clicking” on them really makes a VR experience unique from the beginning.

Picture a cutscene in your average PC or console game. It may have tried to implement interactivity using a quick time event: something like “press A to take the sword” or “press X to dodge the punch” pops up on screen partway through the scene. In VR, that can be taken to the next level. We don’t want to see games that say “press trigger to take the scroll.” We want to actually reach out and take the scroll. Or, a game can combine the full use of space and tracking with this - dodge the incoming punch by literally ducking down to dodge it.

 A player casts this spell in The Wizards by thrusting their hands forward with the triggers held.

A player casts this spell in The Wizards by thrusting their hands forward with the triggers held.

Another great way to make a game interactive is to include the use of actual hand gestures to trigger certain events. The Wizards is our best example of this: to cast certain spells, it requires you to move your hands in a particular way in relation to each other, and it feels incredible the first time you find yourself holding a fireball or launching frost arrows just from moving your body and hands. This is a particularly powerful VR-specific mechanism.

Full immersion

 Having that plank under your feet makes you feel like you're actually there.

Having that plank under your feet makes you feel like you're actually there.

Small ties to reality really do make a huge difference in VR. Plank not Included is one of our most popular experiences because it is extremely immersive. When we put out that actual wooden plank, and you can both feel it under your toes and see it in-game supporting you over the Golden Gate Bridge, it’s very hard to convince your brain that you’re not actually there.

Or take a first-person shooter game. If a developer integrates a realistic ability to crouch behind cover to protect yourself from incoming fire, that’s going to make the game stronger. Or perhaps certain weapons have scopes that you can actually hold up to your eye to use, rather than hitting a button to zoom into scope view. These small touches really serve to increase the immersion of the game.

Finally, one thing that we find occasionally breaking immersion for players is an inability to match the in-game character to race and gender. Games may have users play characters that are genderless, like robots, or they may not show hands and arms in-game. However, if you look down from a first-person view in a game and see hands that don't match yours, this can cause a disconnect in the immersion. Games that offer even the slightest of customization options that are easy to modify are likely to allow greater immersion for a wider audience.

Part 3 of game selection: how we decide if games are arcade-ready.