I didn’t have time before work to write up a blog post and now I’d kind of rather be playing than writing but wanted to jot down some thoughts quick, mostly for my own sake of recording where my VR journey started.
So setting up the PSVR wasn’t too bad, except camera placement is a bit of a challenge. When I put the camera on top of the TV, the couch was right on the cusp of the “play area.” If I perched on the front of the seat is was OK but as soon as I leaned back I’d get an alert that the camera couldn’t see the visor. So I have to noodle with that. I don’t really want to have to move furniture every time I want to do something in VR.
I had a few tracking issues. Sometimes it was like the camera thought the visor was moving forwards and backwards about a foot. Another problem was that one of the Move controllers wouldn’t track well. The other worked fine, so I’m not sure what the difference was. I even switched them around in case one side of my body wasn’t tracking as well. No difference, but wonkiness followed the one controller no matter where I put it. One was fully charged, the other (the problem one) less so. I wonder if that factored in?
Overall though, stuff worked pretty well but I can really see the appeal of the ‘inside out’ tracking systems where there’re cameras on the visor rather than an external camera. I popped in and out of a lot of the stuff that folks say are easy in terms of motion sickness, and overall I did pretty well. One game (VR Luge) made me pretty queasy but the only other times I felt really bad were when a demo glitched out and put up a 2D static image that didn’t move, which made me sick almost instantly (but was a bug) and when I watched a 360 degree video on YouTube where the person was carrying the camera around.
I had two moments that really floored me. One was doing the tutorial of London Heist where the Move controllers are your hands in VR and you have to pick up a gun in one hand, a clip in the other, and load the clip into the gun. Sounds simple but that was amazing. But this was also where one of the Move controllers was being pissy so I set it aside until I figure that out.
The other was a demo of a game called Moss. Moss has you looking down on a level/landscape, and you have to guide a little mouse through it. You control the mouse (I guess that’s Moss?) using a dualshock like you would in any non-VR game. But you can also ‘reach into’ the world to help him out. Like you know in adventure games where maybe your character has to pull a block over to a switch or something? Moss the mouse is too little to do that so you have to reach in and move things for him. It sounds simple again, but it was really neat.
Moss seemed kind of tiny on the screen…then I realized I COULD MOVE! So I leaned down to peer at him and I swear he peered back at me. Maybe it was programmed, maybe it was a coincidence, but OMG it was ADORABLE.
One other thing I did was watch some of an ‘experience’ called Allumette. This isn’t interactive, you just watch it. It’s an animated story with a kind of claymation feel to it. It’s about a little girl who is selling these things that look like giant matches. The city she lives in is a series of elevated platforms and at one point a gust of wind blows her matches over the edge of the platform she was on, and sure enough I reached out (in real space) to try to catch them for her. 🙂 But again, what it took me a moment to realize is I could move around while I watched this story unfold. I’d be frustrated that something was happening too far away, then I’d remember “Oh yeah, I can go over to it.” I even walked around a bit for this one.
Probably the game I played the most was Danger Ball which is a kind of 3D Breakout game. Your paddle is a square that you control by just moving your head, and you’re standing at the end of a tunnel that you send the ‘ball’ down. It wasn’t fancy but I was stunned at how precise the controls were, and it was all done just by moving your head. It felt like a great game to play to just get used to wearing the visor.
Speaking of wearing the visor, it was pretty comfortable and oddly when I put it on and was in this dark space with just the PS4 dashboard floating in front of my face…it felt kind of cozy. I had anticipated it being an experience that put me on edge a little, but quite the contrary. I didn’t really want to take it off. I liked being in the virtual world!