Oculus chief technology officer John Carmack suggests that VR developers need to up the ante in terms of final product, stating that VR is 'coasting on novelty' at the moment.
Although it has been a long time coming, 2016 truly seems to have been the year in which virtual reality gaming made a major push to become a part of the video game landscape. With three heavily-funded products soon to be on the market with the launch of PlayStation VR this week, gamers interested in VR tech have a wealth of options to choose from. However, VR developers are already being pushed to do more on the software side, and the encouragement comes courtesy of John Carmack.
Carmack, who acts a chief technology officer for Oculus, was speaking at Oculus Connect when he made the urge for VR developers to put more into their games. In particular, Carmack noted that current games available for VR are "coasting on novelty," rather than necessarily giving players a substantial product. In other words, outside of the selling point of the virtual reality experience, there has been little that VR games have offered that matches their non-VR contemporaries.
"We are coasting on novelty, and the initial wonder of being something people have never seen before," said Carmack at the event, adding that "we need to start judging ourselves." Stating that the Oculus Rift development community "needs to be harder" on itself, Carmack suggested that reflection on the quality of the end product needs to be more stringent. "Can you do something in VR that has the same value, or more value, than what these other things have done?"
In particular, Carmack discussed how reducing load times could also improve the overall experience of virtual reality play. Noting that 30 seconds is "acceptable" for a gameplay session that lasts an hour, Carmack insisted that this is simply too long to wait for a VR game. "Initial startup time is really poisonous," said Carmack. "An analogy I like to say is, imagine if your phone took 30 seconds to unlock every time you wanted to use it. You'd use it a lot less." Instead, Carmack has urged developers to keep load times to a maximum of 20 seconds.
Carmack's comments may certainly be warranted if virtual reality is to remain a gaming fixture beyond its initial honeymoon phase. Looking at motion control as a demonstration of how to introduce new technology to gaming, the tech demo-esque, surface-level feel of Kinect and PlayStation Move failed to make an impact on gaming, while Nintendo's Wii had much more success by implementing motion control technology into fuller-fledged games. Perhaps some of the upcoming VR horror games will give gamers something to sink their teeth into.
Oculus Connect also brought with it some other major announcements about the Rift. Perhaps the most interesting to owners of the headset was the release date and price of Oculus Touch, with the controllers set to launch in December. Hopefully, Rift owners will have some substantial games to play with the controllers when they release.