As more well-known titles get their own virtual reality versions, the gaming industry holds its collective breath. The companies that are working on VR right now are many, and some are in a better position to come out ahead of everyone else than others. Some are even working together as pseudo-partners to better the technology as a whole. No matter the players, the end game is really what has everyone trembling. Will VR be here to stay, will it become a household necessity? Or will it go the way of 3D and find minor successes here and there over the decades? Personally I hope for the former, but it's always possible that it might be the latter. Perhaps VR will only become a fad every so often before it goes back into people's closets and under their beds.
Here's hoping it doesn't, but in the current landscape, VR might have taken too long to get off the ground. Only now are we really seeing some massive names like Doom VFR and The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim VR making their way to headsets near you. There have been tons of fantastic indie games on VR headsets leading up until now, but it's those games from the big boys in the industry that really get people excited. When the large companies get invested in new technology, it's only then that it can have a fighting chance of surviving. It would seem that this is finally happening, but is it too little, too late? Has VR already climaxed and fizzled out before we even got a chance to truly get excited?
It's really hard to say, but conversations about the tech with certain industry bigwigs make the fight seem impossible to win. Rob Pardo is a game developer that worked with Blizzard for a very long time before creating his own company: Bonfire Studios. He worked on titles like Warcraft III, StarCraft, and World of Warcraft. It's because of his experience with these games that Pardo is in the proper place to speak on whether or not VR will be in MMOs in the future. He believes that this is definitely possible and likely, but it's a long ways off. He even went so far as to say “I'm sure one day we'll see the Holodeck – I just don't think it's any time soon,” in a Games Industry interview.
This is a big of a let-down for anyone hoping that the current gen VR could become it's own gaming system in its own right. According to Pardo, VR could come, but possibly at a much slower rate than we initially thought. With the way this generation of VR exploded, it seemed like the sky was the limit, but perhaps we've reached the proverbial ceiling. VR games, as they stand right now, are in their infancy. Ports like Skyrim VR and Doom VFR are just slightly modified versions of games that people already loved. Games that were designed for VR, like Paranormal Activity: The Lost Soul and Narcosis, are pioneers in the field. These are developers with boots on the ground trying to discover what makes VR games tick.
The way we play VR games is and will continue to be very different to how we play other games. The inclusion of the headset and a 360 degree field of vision drastically changes the way we play. We don't necessarily always think of it as a consumer, but from the developer standpoint, how do you direct attention? There are always audio cues, but what if they player misses them? What if the audio cues are annoying? (Accounting, I'm looking at you, and loving you for it.) How would this brand new way of storytelling transfer to MMOs? The point of them is to attract as many players as possible, but what if half of them are unable to play due to motion sickness? These are all major questions that have to be asked, and very few (if any) have solid answers right now.
As much as I personally want VR to be the gaming platform of the future, I realize that my expectation timeline needs to be longer. It's just not possible for VR to advance as fast as I would like to. The evolution we've already seen thus far is massive, and that will continue, just at its own pace. As much as I want a wireless headset that will transport me to my favorite worlds without motion sickness (right now), there just aren't many that know how to make that happen yet. Some may think that VR has already lost its chance and that it will go down in history as a fun fad; they may be right. But I'd like to think that it's going to advance even further, just at a slow and steady wins the race kind of pace. What do you think?