PSVR Day… 21? When VR becomes the new normal

I guess when you have to consult a calendar to count the days since you started doing something, it’s time to stop counting days. I think VR and I are now past our honeymoon period and have settled into a routine.

I have to admit there was a point between Christmas and New Years when I was starting to feel the magic slip away. I was still jumping from demo to demo and doing the various “experiences” but it was just starting to feel a little shallow. I was ready for a ‘real game.’ My bundle had come with Skyrim but I’d been warned not to start with that for motion sickness reasons, so I hadn’t. It was time.

And I did try Skyrim but bounced off it to some extent. This really didn’t have to do with the gameplay, but just the sheer length of the game. My VR sessions at the time were often as short as 30 minutes and I knew that by playing Skyrim 30 minutes at a time I was going to be playing Skyrim for a LONG time.

And then it happened. I’d ordered the Farpoint/AIM controller bundle, but it’d been out of stock. And it finally shipped. I was honestly a little dubious about the AIM controller. It’s a ridiculous looking thing in real life and pictures made it look kind of cheap. Back in the PS3 days when Sony was pushing the Move and PS Eye for motion games, there’d been a little gizmo that you snapped a Move into to make it seem like a gun, and I feared the AIM was the same thing. Not so.

In fact, the AIM controller is pretty awesome. It has all the controls of a dual shock so you’re not really giving anything up, and it adds the trigger for shooting. When I booted up Farpoint and held this thing in my hands, and my in-game character was holding an assault rifle that I could turn and check out… it was a magical experience. When I looked at the ground and could see my shadow and the gun in my hands there, too.. it’s hard to convey how cool really simple things can be when you experience them in VR for the first time, but this was really cool.

And Farpoint is a ‘real game’ that is very enjoyable. In my opinion, this is the “system seller” app for PSVR. It’s a 1st person shooter set on an alien world. In non-VR terms it isn’t super remarkable. It’s really a corridor shooter. But everything just works so well in VR. Even the ‘cut scenes’ are amazing since you’re really in them looking around. Controls are super-intuitive. To shoot something, duh, you aim your gun at it and pull the trigger. There’s no reticle floating in your field of view. To aim ‘down the barrel’ you hold the gun up to your face and look down the sights. To change between your two weapons, you put the gun you’re carrying onto your back by kind of lifting it up over your shoulder (though you CAN use a button to do this if you prefer).

Farpoint features smooth locomotion which can (and in my case, often does) cause motion sickness problems but somehow the Farpoint devs have done it in a way I find very comfortable. I’ve never quit a session of Farpoint because I was feeling ill (though I have quit because I was kind of exhausted from the tension and excitement of playing it…even though it isn’t a physically demanding game I find I’m often sweating when I come out of the VR world). They offer a nice variety of comfort options. You can ‘click turn’ (which means your view rotates in chunks rather than smoothly, which helps with sickness), you can choose to have a ‘focus dot’ pop up when you turn (giving your eyes something static to look at) and you can choose to have the view blur a bit while turning. Chances are one or more of these options will work for you. I went with smooth turning (after a couple sessions of click turning) and the blur effect.

Anyway, enough about Farpoint. It’s awesome. My favorite VR experience.

I’ve also been dipping my toe into flight sims. Starblood Arena is free for PS+ member, and I bought EVE Valkyrie on sale. I should decide which one I want to play and stick with it. Both of these still make me feel woozy after maybe one match, Starblood is probably worse. Starblood is like playing a Descent 3D Deathmatch in VR…you are REALLY swooping around. Still, I feel like with every session my motion sickness issues diminish.

In fact things I used to dread — like the roller coaster segments of Until Dawn: Rush of Blood, or the catapult launch sequence in EVE — I now look forward to. I still feel them in my belly when they happen, but rather than make me feel uncomfortable, they’re now kind of fun in the same way that a real roller coaster makes your stomach kind of flutter in a pleasing way when you go over a peak.

So yeah, I’m a total VR convert now. I play a couple sessions most nights, though I’m sure at some point I’ll burn out on it a bit. But absolutely zero regrets. I’m really glad I picked this up, and I’m looking forward to the next gen of headsets. I’m still hoping Microsoft will put out a mixed reality headset with inside-out tracking for Xbox One X.