The lights are on
Sony surprised gamers at GDC when it revealed Morpheus, a VR headset that the company hopes will compete with Oculus Rift. Game Informer editors Kimberley Wallace and Jeff Marchiafava tried out the new peripheral and discuss their first VR experiences, along with what impact they think Morpheus will have on the industry.
Jeff: So despite all the hoopla over virtual reality this year, neither of us had any experience with a modern VR headset until we tried out Morpheus. We each got to try two demos: I did a space shooter named Valkyrie, you did a street luge game just called Luge, and we both tried what was kind of a medieval combat simulator called Castle. What did you think?
Kim: I wasn't sure what to expect. Experiencing anything with VR is definitely different...it takes you right into that world. Our demos were short, only six minutes, and I don't think I'd be able to stay with a game too long. But it's really cool to be able to reach into the world and grab a sword and use it. The immersive features are great, but they can be a bit overwhelming. For instance, the first time I crashed into a car in Street Luge, I startled because it felt so real.
I know we both played Castle, which had us using the PlayStation Move controllers, so let's talk about that. My first instinct is to throw punches at anything that comes at me, boxing style. I guess I learned that from Wii Fit, but then it was cool to turn to your side and see other stuff in the world, like swords to pick up, and to cut off enemy limbs. That feels weird to say, but we mash buttons to do so much action combat in games, and actually doing the action yourself is cool, but I think the novelty would wear off after a while if that's all you do in a game. That's my only worry....that VR is fun in short bursts, but I don't think I could do it for an hour. How'd you feel about it?
Jeff: Yeah, I liked the Castle demo too. At first I felt like an idiot throwing weak punches at the target dummy, but the sensation of reaching over and picking up a sword was almost powerful enough to make me forget how dorky I must've looked swinging a Move controller around while wearing that headset. I've played countless fantasy hack and slash games, but it's an entirely different sensation to actually swing a sword around in real-time, and unlike Wii or Move games, it's much more immersive with the headset. I especially liked the giant dragon that shows up at the end of the demo; I've seen countless giant boss enemies in games, and the sense of scale was far more impressive than any foe I've seen on a television screen before.
That said, it still felt more like a gimmick than something that's going to change how I play games. Granted it's only a tech demo, but the Castle demo still ran into the same problem I have with all motion-based games: I don't want to stand around and play games by swinging my arms. The head-tracking worked fine, but you still can't move around much without a controller or empty gymnasium to play in. Motion controls aside, do you think you'd use Morpheus when just playing games at home?
Kim: I honestly don't. Some of these tech demos just required you to have a lot of open space. People complained about Kinect needing a lot of space, the demos we saw, required even more than that. You'll have to move a lot of things out of the way. I don't have that much open space around my apartment, so I don't see myself inclined to use it in my family room at all. They're not really marketing it as a family experience, but still I go home to play my games, so that immediately makes it not a must-have for me. How'd you feel about it?
Jeff: I'm skeptical about it as well, but the Valkyrie demo was an interesting implementation of the headset. It put you in the cockpit of a spaceship, and you just used a controller like any normal game. It was a cool sensation to look down and see your body and hands on a virtual flight stick, and to be able to spot enemy ships by moving your head around instead of having to turn the entire ship. However, outside of the cockpit, the VR effects weren't that remarkable – it just felt like I was playing a slightly blurry space sim. I also noted blurriness during the Castle demo. Is it just my eyes, or did things seem blurry to you as well?
Kim: I had some blurriness as well. It took time for my eyes to adjust. It was like having the 3D turned up to the max on the 3DS. I turn off the 3D on my 3DS immediately because that always bothers me and gives me a headache, only using it for certain scenes. I noticed myself getting a bit dizzy after I finished both of my demos from the Morpheus' 3D. I wonder if that's something your eyes get used to, or if I'll always feel that way. I also had a little trouble lining up my reach to grab items in the world during that Castle demo. It was something that didn't take up too much time, but it does take some adjusting. What types of games do you think VR like Morpheus would be effective for? I definitely think it has potential with survival horror, but I worry that it could be a bit much for people. Like I said earlier, crashing in Street Luge made my heart jump because it felt like it was really happening, even though I knew it was just a game. The simulation gets in your head.
Jeff: Yeah, Andy and I were laughing while you were playing the Luge demo because you kept on pointing your feet while you were steering. It looked like the most impressive demo for the headset. But beyond custom designed experiences like that, I'm not sure what else I'd like to see Morpheus used for. I agree it could be really cool for horror, but I wonder how well it would work for fast-paced action games or extended play sessions. That said, I'm a lot more intrigued by the technology than I was before the demo, and I'm looking forward to seeing what other gaming experiences developers come up with.
Kim: Haha. Yeah, I really got into Street Luge, which is funny because I wasn't really doing much but swaying my body left or right. Still, I got right into the moment. Like you, I'm intrigued. I see a lot of potential, but I also have some reservations. I'll definitely be interested in seeing what Sony does in the future to showcase it.
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