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Navigating comfortably in VR

By Katie on August 20th, 2015

In Smash Hit Plunder, player enjoyment and comfort is our goal. As many in the VR community have started shouting louder about how important comfort is for VR applications, I’ve decided to record a new video and cover a little of what we’re doing for our Gear version.

 

 

Since August 2014 we’ve been play testing various walking styles and comfort options to allow players to explore at their own pace, anywhere around a 3D environment. Our demo launched in March 2015 has these options in, and I’ve been doing talks about them around the UK and even at Google I/O.

 

Hopefully this video will help you see how they can work;

 

We do a lot to make sure players are comfortable. As an overview;
-Only players control their movement
-Ask, and ask the player again if they get motion sick and how they are feeling
-Allow the player to change the comfort options dynamically at any time
-Always show where you are heading with the feet icons
-Hands and a book for conference reference to where you are in the world – acting as a cockpit
-Snap turns while playing in sit down mode, so no angular movement
-Stabilization cubes acting as a static skybox, making it feel like the world is moving rather that the player
-Normal walk mode has is immediately up to speed, so only one frame of acceleration and no forces felt
-Blink mode moves players via teleporting over small steps, with no acceleration at all, so players experience no forces
-Dark mode for players that don’t like any visual movement at all, which darkens the view but still shows where players are heading

 

Why we don’t teleport players straight to somewhere they want to go?

 

It’s important that players know where they are at any time, and where they have come from. Teleporting players to a position means when you arrive you end up looking around trying to see where you have come from. It’s disorientating unless you have used the system for weeks.

It feels fake, as it’s not something humans experience every day of their lives. It breaks any sense of immersion you had, even if it’s for fractions of a second.

It’s also potentially ‘game breaking’. If players can bypass the navigational challenges by using a comfort option – then they are at an unfair advantage and cannot use navigational challenges in your game. For us, as players are timed around a dungeon – and have a time limit in some modes – then teleporting players will have much larger scores. I can imagine this being much worse for a platformer!

 

What else do we have?

It’s a surprise! We’re investigating other platforms which means new controls, new challenges. We are currently play testing some more interesting solutions out at events around the UK. But we can say we are at least currently investigating merging both Blink and Dark into a combo mode, and enabling a Dark Snap Turn if you have Dark mode on.

 

Further Reading

If you’re interested in learning more, here’s a clip of one of the talks I did;

If you’ll like to read a little more into the thought processes we go through in designing a VR game, check out this write up I did of a presentation I made back in February

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