2016 is expected to be the year of virtual reality, in that we’ll finally see some major headsets become available to the mass market. We’ve also already seen some interesting innovations from leading VR companies, which have served to expand our understanding of what the virtual reality wave really means. For instance, in February we covered the idea of a film-based interactive experience on the Samsung Gear, which demonstrates the potential for viewing content (rather than simply video games) on virtual reality. The truth of it all is that this is a market we won’t fully understand until we’re a few years in; VR is going to have countless uses in entertainment and across various industries.
However, gaming is still commanding the biggest spotlight, and it’s the games that many consumers will be purchasing VR consoles for. And recently, The Guardian posted some interesting comments from the head of Sony Computer Entertainment about what exactly gaming will look like once the major VR consoles are rolled out. Essentially, he stated that virtual reality “throws out the game-design rule book”
The indication in a statement like that is that we just don’t know what’s coming, because it’s a new method of gaming and developers are working on brand-new concepts that won’t be familiar from experiences on other types of consoles. But it also makes you think: what will be familiar on VR consoles? While it’s clear that there will be some bold new ideas put forth in VR gaming, it’s not as if each and every title will be ground-breaking from top to bottom. And in fact there are a few types of gaming that would appear to be pretty well-suited to VR adaptation without a great deal of tweaking or reinvention.
This isn’t exactly a category that people readily recognize, but it’s one that’s subtly become a major factor in some of the most modern branches of gaming. Most notably, mobile developers have excelled at creating games that revolve primarily around exploring areas and conducting investigations through simple point-and-click navigation. Fireproof’s “The Room” series comes to mind as a leader in this area, utilizing very simple gameplay but exceptionally intricate and beautiful environments. But any number of escape-the-room or otherwise exploration-based games fit in the category as well. These would seem to be poised to adapt nicely to virtual reality because they’re all about interaction with an environment. Movement and action are relatively marginalized.
Digital casinos as we’ve long understood them would seem to be just about the most ready-made games out there for VR adaptation. There’s almost no movement or action involved, which means you could just about simulate a virtual reality experience merely by putting existing online poker games into headsets. However, in their constant quest to become more like the real thing, online casinos have actually improved upon basic gaming formats in ways that approach virtual reality. They are different to the normal online gambling games you can play such as the ones on cozino, but you might not see any difference. Gala Casino’s range of live casinos demonstrates some of the leading ideas in this effort. Roulette, poker, blackjack, baccarat, and other games are all available with real, live dealers calling the shots. Such games moved to virtual reality would truly give the player an experience like sitting in a real casino.
There are some concerns about how well movement will translate to virtual reality games when the players will in actuality be sitting still while playing. In fact, some have even suggested that VR games with more movement involved could cause motion sickness issues for players. This would initially seem to make racing games tricky to deal with, but that might not actually be the case. In an action/adventure or shooter game, players are moving more slowly but they’re also moving with a lifelike range of perspectives by being able to turn left, right, back, and able to climb or fall. In a racing game, though, the perspective never changes despite fast, 3D movements. You’re essentially always moving ahead, even as you turn and swerve. This could make things more natural for a VR gamer sitting still and using a steering wheel controller. It’s also why a number of the titles that have been demo’d for VR fall into this category; Eurogamer wrote up a very strong review for the debut of Playstation’s existing Driveclub game on VR.
There will be plenty of games in other genres that will be released on VR consoles, and there’s sure to be a lot of unexpected innovation and creativity as well. But these types of games are all very popular today and seem ready to go for VR. As such, they may give us an early preview of what to expect in the first year or two of the new consoles.