Immerse yourself before you judge! - The Doom Experience
Hello Gamers and non-Gamers,
i was really surprised as i read the following discussion on Steam recently:
The Thread was entitled We Want Full VR! and was obviously written by a VR enthusiast. What surprised me was the negativity of answers about this wish. I picked a few of the statements there and wanna disassemble them piece by piece to show what's true and what's not.
To give you a better understanding what i think and talk i'll give you some quick background information how i first came to 3D games, why i almost left all games behind and how i jumped back into VR. Everybody has it's own little story and this is mine.
I think I can count myself one of the 3D action oriented game veterans regarding playing really raw polygonish and poor textured, bit more realistic stuff. It began in the very early 90s with an Amiga 500 and games like F18 Interceptor, Indianapolis 500 or Jimmy White Whirlwind Snooker. All these games were just a few naked polygons in very low resolution (also called "Pixelbrei") and frames per second rendered on a clunky monitor without any realistic textures but they were all great fun and 3Dish enough to give the immersion in the virtual world those days. We filled the lacking details with our imagination. But it was already after the wireframe (just polygon edges) era of 3D games in the 80s.
1993/1994 was the breakthrough for 3D games because of Doom which sucked up us all who were already PC owners with decent graphic boards and if not you had to buy one. With a amazing resolution of 320x200 😂 cool sampled SFX for the weapons and monsters and metal music we immersed ourselfes into a world of horror and it was shockingly scary sometimes 😱! id Software realized realistic textures of stone, wood and metal, created a 3D sound which let you hear monsters behind a wall even if you can't see them and this combined with flickering light effects in dark claustrophobic levels. It was amazing and addicting!
After that a whole industry emerged. The first predecessors of Doom were still quite interesting for us especially with LAN play functionality with Duke Nukem 3D was great fun but over time we felt some kind of boredom. The fascination of the very first Doom was gone. Even the Doom franchise itself with Doom II tasted some kind of bland now and with the years i saw no real innovation anymore. Graphics fidelity, resolution, all the tiny little features exploded made some games partly so complicated and overloaded that we wished back this straighforward Doom experience. id delivered with Doom 3 in 2005 but i was not amazed by the game itself, just analyzed the cool new stencil shadowing method and per pixel lighting they introduced but nothing new so far.
At this time i left behind almost games completely because each new 3D game just showed the same rule based stuff i knew so well.. all based on Doom the mother of all. In 2009 i bought a PS3 as home entertainment solution and had some fun with games but it felt also not really fresh despite the cool graphics of God of War 3 for example or the Uncharted series. Don't get me wrong, it was fun but compared to the first Doom experience.. ha, forget it!
The pancake or flat gaming habit
So years passed by and 2007 i slipped into VR because of my academic background. Immersed myself in a CAVE with passive stereo glasses and created animated 3D scenes for these environments. I liked the experience to feel like being inside of a huge factory or standing in front of a machine 8 meters long. Because now we were in - not standing or sitting before flat screens, staring at projected pseudo 3D pictures with no real scale. I realized that this would be the next big thing for gaming if you had not to pay several million $ for a CAVE. 2010 the first prototype (in this VR wave) of consumer VR head mounted display came on the market. But also the Oculus Rift DK2 in 2014, 4 years later was quite low resolution, much screendoor effect, almost no games for it. They were also too expensive for mass appeal but i already knew the time would come for real mass adoption.
The second thing i realized was that we were all pancake players. It was so natural to us that we stared at flat mono screens in front of us and that we thought this is 3D which was never true 3D but just some kind of 2.5D rastered graphics. My first stereo experiences taught me that games needed that badly to create a whole new experience and hopefully the old fascination of the good old Doom!
We are bound to our habits
Now disassemble statements in 2019 on Steam forum where VR already had 10 years time for consumer market development, leading to HMD's with 2k resolution per eye (like the HP Reverb), patented 3D sound systems (Valve Index), over 500 games for PSVR, 6DOF very precise tracking of all your movements without trackers and a price point of a few hundred dollars.
"You cant get a truly fast paced action service out of vurrent vr since they are very bulky and expensive as hell and no one really knows how to properly make games"
answer: just partly true but no obstacle because current headsets like PSVR, Valve Index, Rift S are well designed headsets which you can wear for many hours without any headache and with the new Oculus Quest even completely wireless, absolutely no issue! Next gen HMD's will be all wireless hopefully and even smaller. Or do you talk of the old Virtuality HMD's.. ehm these are already history. It's 2019, we have not to live like Big Daddy from Bioshock! 😂
"expensive as hell?"
answer: just partly true because a PSVR basic setup you can easily have for 400$ with the console, headset, games and controller and looking to the mobile sector you can get the Quest for about 400$ and you'll get also a nice VR experience full 6DOF 360°. If you look for a Mixed Reality headset the Lenovo Explorer was on sale for just 200$ included the standard Windows controllers, almost just plug & play. Games ranging from 5-40$, there are different sales over the year where you can pick up the best games for less money on PSN Store, Steam VR or Oculus Store. Just the full blown PC setup is still quite expensive if you want the high end graphics, best tracking with a Valve Index for example. This will cost you about 3000$ or more i guess. But the same is valid for a good gaming PC. The early VR heads costed about 25,000 $, hmm this was expensive as hell!
"no one knows how to properly make games?"
answer: just wrong, we have already so many examples of great VR games like Astrobots, Doom VFR, Blasters of the Universe, Borderlands 2 VR, Superhot VR, No Man's Sky and many upcoming titles who will us blow away like After the Fall. Developers learned their lessons and the best time is yet to come for games. The picking up things experience alone is worth to try VR. Just use your hands and arms like in real life, not geeky devices like a mouse and feel how you get immersed!
It's true that we are still in the beginning of using all the possibilities of VR but there are already enough games who show this new level of immersion. Throw a donut with natural movement of your arm at your neighbor in Job Simulator, hold a gun with two hands in Farpoint like you do in reality, make gestures with your weapon in combat in Online Multiplayer of Firewall Zero Hour, climbing a ladder in Blood&Truth with characteristical movements of your arms, punch-out your opponent in Creed: Rise to Glory until you sweat like in a real fight followed by sore muscles the next day, build a safe tower of bricks with sure instinct, swing your light saber like Luke in Beat Saber and Vader Immortal, dodge bullets like Matrix.. i hope that are enough examples to show that VR is different and enhances the experience significantly! Do you know Boneworks? Then you should look into that to see how developers use VR to create absolute gorgeous experiences with realistic physics and controls.
side note: We still need controllers within our hands like the PS Move, Valve Knuckles or Oculus Touch, but the picture above is not so far from reality when precise hand tracking solutions reaching product level for gaming.
"no not vr at all in doom eternal vr sucks"
"VR sucks because it sucks"
"no not VR at all, VR sucks"?
answer: Uff hard stuff and very sad, maybe he/she never had the experience to be IN THE GAME, IN THE WORLD instead outside in front of a monitor, staring just through a window into this fascinating world. Just try it to DIVE IN.. TO BE THERE! You know the movies like Matrix, Lawnmower Man, Tron Legacy, Ready Player One? Humanity is dreaming of that! Immerse yourself! It's the next logical step for gaming! Try games like Doom VFR, holding a 2 meters long Alien gun and feeling the sheer size and power of that thing in your hand you can't as a flat gamer or if you want something more peaceful like Astrobots, standing on meadow or in a pond playing with tiny little robots like as you did as a child, feeling your hands, grabbing things in Job Simulator.. VR can bring those feelings back!
"VR sucks because it sucks"
answer: hmm, maybe the author of this comment had some other problems, i simply ignore that.. he will come back at some point. 😃
"No we don't" (answer to "We Want Full VR!")
answer: the same like above, i don't get the naysayers because VR is a significant improvement, the next logical step and we should be happy that gaming gets to the next level and evolving to a much more fun and natural experience.
"It's way too fast for VR" (Doom)
answer: wrong, Doom VFR already shows how you can realize a fast paced action game in VR and it's fun! Run for your life and shoot them to hell! Maybe it's the opposite, the VR experience is so intense that it's too fast and scary for some people. VR enhances the experience because of seeing and feeling real depth. You have immediately a gut feeling of real size and distance and that is also very important fast racing games like Dirt Rally. It's a perfect example how VR improves the whole experience and makes it easier to recognize dangerous situations in a fraction of a second. You not just see it, you immediately feel it in your stomach even if we have no hydraulic simulator with all the car movements but the depth of the race track, obstacles and slopes helps a lot.
"VR atm cannot handle the requirements of modern games purely because of the GPUs required."
answer: simply not true, what's true is that there are always two pictures to render instead one but if we look at current gen HMD's with up to 2k per eye a RTX 2080 Ti can handle it very well with high details to create a truly amazing experience which is far better than flat gaming. What many people miss here is that the immersion is much higher than in the pancake version and that a bit less detail or resolution don't matters. YOU ARE IN this game, not staring just on a flat mono screen, huge difference!
To reading all these negative comments from real gamers was some kind of ridiculous to me because they should feel happy because we are now on the brink to greatness of VR! Hardware and software reached a level to launch a broad mass market for consumers.
In this regard it's also very important to talk about 6DOF or six degrees of freedom which means you can turn your head in all directions to see the virtual world from different angles but can also walk in the real world to walk in the virtual world. Games like Blasters of the Universe and many others use room tracking to let you make side steps to dodge bullets or to head a ball like in Headmaster.
With the Oculus Quest it will be even crazier because it allows in theory to walk 20m with your headset and Inside-Out tracking in order to travel great distances. Imagine what possibilities for VR! This gives a much deeper immersion into the virtual world. Basically it's one important factor to get completely lost in VR and makes you wonder in what a boring environment you are really are if you pull off your headset 😜. I had one experience where i saw my wife watching a TV series in our lighted living room and a moment (in reality it were several hours) later as i pulled off my headset all lights out and my wife was away.. creepy and fascinating at the same time. But this happens if you fully immerse yourself into VR.
VR brings people together
I mean that in three ways. That sounds counterintuitive because we shutting ourselfes off with a closed headset but:
First veterans like me have a new playground. It opens like a new gate which was closed for decades now (like the end boss in Doom VFR 😁). We have these nice and fresh possibilities now in VR we missed so badly in all the boring pancake experiences (grabbing all the things around us with our hands, feeling mass and size) which felt like Groundhog Day sometimes. We can now jump into these worlds we played from the outside, we can step through the window we stared at for decades now (imagine a prisoner who managed to cut the rods). This is amazing! We can bring our love back for games, not just a bland habit but a whole new experience we can talk about like in our childhood!
Second it's a fact that especially older people can have a rejuvenation due a VR experience because memories kick in while they exploring a virtual world which feels so realistic. They get above the stimulus threshold they need to remember of the good old days to feel alive again and much more important to get wired to younger people who play the same games or have similar experiences. That's true magic of VR in my eyes. The other good thing is also playing in VR gets more natural, it's not anymore this geeky stuff we did as pancake players, try to convince people to sit and stare at a monitor, hacking on keyboards and mouse, no, just must convince them to wear the glasses and if they are in they are lost in VR! 😁
Third you can meet each other online in VR and wave your hands naturally to greet your buddy or pick things up from the ground while if you bend down. The interaction is different because you do things like in real life and others can see that, your character, your attitude with your movements and not just with audio chat. A good example for a VR online game is also Lone Echo VR where you play in two teams and floating through a arena to catch a ball. You can also hold on to others make funny gestures like in real life and each session creates enough giggles to make you happy, great fun!
Another positive fact is that also disabled people can dive into virtual worlds, goto places even if they lie in their bed in the hospital and can get new courage to face life.
That all is not the result of a scientific survey but i already experienced such effects in my family if you give somebody who never tried before just a 3D environment with a simple control scheme and magically they begin exploring it like they would do in reality.
The Doom VFR experience!
As i wrote long time before my first really great gaming experience was Farpoint on the PSVR. Now i wanna go back to Doom because it's the mother of many 3D games. In 2017 we got the first VR version of it especially designed for it. id Software is well known as one of the most technically advanced studios we have in the industry. John Carmack who wonders worked on the Oculus Quest (the first truly mobile 6DOF HMD) which was released in 2018 and was also responsible for the game engine behind Quake, Doom. He was also one of the first who opensourced the game code for modding (Joe Rogan interviews John Carmack). So how it feels to play Doom in VR now, is it fast paced, is it any better than the pancake version?
Short answer, Yessss!!! Like in Farpoint, when i first approached at the space station of the UAC, looking into a metallic tunnel, seeing sparks emerging from the ceiling, flickering lights, the great shading of the environment, feeling the size of any object in this fictional world of terror made me instantly smile, feeling like the kid i was before! I'm back to the Doom experience, jay!
I played with the Aim Controller which has honestly a lot of controls and is not for the fainted soul. But after figuring out the movements, teleport, telefrag (you can jump into battered enemies), grenade, switching weapons, strafing (yeah, the good old move) it worked like a breeze! Wave after wave of enemies burst in blood fountains and the funny thing they are all based on the original characters, like the fire ball throwing imps, the fierce rocket skeletons, the strong pink pig like monster and of course the big red one-eyed flying ball with his giant mouth. Good memories! Seeing these creatures in full size in VR is great, especially enemies like the huge minotaur who can kill you with one hit and each attack feels now much more threatening in VR because you see them in full size in front of you!
Funny fact, the developers implemented some classic levels from the original game and optimized it for VR. You'll get the pixelated look, sfx and music but with the new 3D monsters. Memories came back to life for me.
I'll never go back!
Going back to the pancake version? Hah, sounds like a joke! I can't imagine to play Doom in flat again, maybe in a VR headset in cinematic mode on a 6 meter sized virtual screen (another advantage of current VR headsets) but not on a small 50-65 inches TV or something else.
I can hear you and i can understand you but i can just recommend to really dive into a good VR game with current gen headsets, i mean a really great game, not just the mini games (they are good for the start). Go to a friend, borrow one, give you the time to try it out for hours or even days and then decide. If you get sick by motion, take a break, then try it again. To get familiar with VR it takes time. Teleporting and black vignette could help in the beginning and after a while you are able to switch to full free locomotion without vignette for full immersion. After months now it's a natural way to play games for me. I was not aware of the fact that for me it took such a long time until it feels 100% right and maybe you are much quicker in adoption to VR.
I can't go back or i won't go back! Sometimes i think of a game i didn't played for a long time but then i stop because i remember "Nah, it's not VR, sadly.." The difference is to big for me. I don't wanna waste time with this blant experience on a flat screen anymore. But i can also understand hardcore gamers who play pancake versions because currently we are just in the beginning of the really big AAA productions. Sony continues to invest in VR with the upcoming PS5 and PSVR2 and also mobile and PC VR is improving day by day.
If you look to my introduction chapter i wrote about the wireframe era of the 80s. The funny fact is that even those games look amazing in VR! A good example is Rez Infinite, a game developed for Dreamcast and PS2 around 2001/2002 was ported to PSVR which uses heavily wireframe visualization together with stereoscopic view it creates a Tron like environment where you are inside. And just look at this new Kickstarter VR Bladerunner-like-game LOW-FI! by IRIS V.R.! Isn't that fascinating?
I see great times ahead with really big games, cheaper and more affordable VR hardware, stunning quality in next gen headsets (natural FOV of about 200°, wireless, 2-4k resolution per eye, eye tracking, perfect 3D sound). But even the current PSVR, where i played Doom VFR and Farpoint you can have a great time if you are open minded and give your brain enough time to learn VR vision.. but wait our real world is the best VR we already have, we never stare just at flat screens in our world, we know what's real 3D! 😉 and for what stands the VFR in the title of Doom?