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A Third of Valve Is Now Working on VR (uploadvr.com)
296 points by jn1234 on June 21, 2016 | hide | past | web | favorite | 197 comments



The by far most interesting comment from the thread is this one (It's by Alan Yates who works on Vive/SteamVR) https://www.reddit.com/r/Vive/comments/4osav8/lighthouse_tra....

>Of course. We want AR/VR/MR to be ubiquitous. Over the past four years or so I've seen many companies big and small bring their demos to show and tell. They all have bits and pieces of the larger puzzle. Good eye tracking, interesting haptic techniques, next generation display technologies. But most of them are narrowly focused on their thing, and struggle alone to make a successful product. Partially this was just because the market didn't exist but also many of them were/are just trying to boil the ocean. The minimum viable product is now a pretty high bar and that can stifle innovation. We can offer a running start, the traditionally "hard" parts of HMD technology, the things other than GPUs that kept VR niche for so long. In return we ask that your device leveraging our technology works with our platform. And mostly that is it. We won't ask that it only works on our platform, we won't stop you from targeting other industries. This gives both you and your users freedom of choice and security that isn't dependant on either party's future decisions. It is a pretty good deal really. Our platform has a rapidly growing collection of great content for your end-users so your product won't be an orphan and you don't need to convince anyone to author for it. Day one people can fire up Tilt Brush and have their minds blown by your awesome new hardware.

If Valve games are "locked" to SteamVR and won't play on Oculus, then nobody is going to buy an Oculus. Does Facebook really think that people are going to choose Lucky's Tale over Portal 3 or Half-Life 3? Facebook is going to have to capitulate and focus on their hardware advantage.


It's the opposite. I think you might have misunderstood the quote. SteamVR fully supports the Rift. It even supports the unreleased Touch controllers which likely won't be out until the end of the year. And Valve has made no indication that they're going to change this. In fact, they've suggested that they're very serious about always supporting all HMDs.


Yeah, there was no mention of locking out other HMD:

> In return we ask that your device leveraging our technology works with our platform. And mostly that is it. We won't ask that it only works on our platform, we won't stop you from targeting other industries. This gives both you and your users freedom of choice and security that isn't dependant on either party's future decisions.

As long as the HMD supports the steamVR platform requirements, it can play steam/valve games.


Because VR is just another way to sell games. They want you to know you can play your steam games on everything and that is their primary priority, and since things like games from steam can run on your Oculus (or whatever) they can sell you on a thousand experiences instead of one original sale.


Until Facebook decides that it wants a cut of all the sales on Oculus and locks down the platform, hence Valve's concern. There's only one App store on iOS vs Android.

Valve's main bargaining chip would be not allowing their games to run on Oculus. The recent push back on Oculus exclusives and Valve willing to float cash to developers means they are well aware of their situation.


If Valve lock out the rift from their games, it just reinforces the exclusivity, lockouts and polarisation. Means less sales through steam, less profit for valve. If they lock out the rift, will they lock out all the other HMD that will surface in the next couple years? That will likely stunt the VR industry given how central the steam platform is to games distribution. Thats not what valve want. Valve want it to grow rapidly and sell as many games on their platform as they can. That means supporting as many HMD's as possible. Which entices developers to use the steamVR platform as it will reach the largest audience, which entices HMD makers to support steamVR... etc.

So I really don't see how Valve is too concerned about this. If facebook locks down the rift so that it can only play rift games, more fool them. Many people just wont buy a rift.

Even if the Vive fails in the long run, there will likely be many other HMD's that will work with steamVR. Valve can still make a nice profit from all the VR games sold on steam.


To go back to the mobile analogy, I don't think Google chose to not compete on iOS vs the App Store. It's a large possibility that Facebook would be willing to lock down Oculus for more profits and Facebook has shown it wants to play hardball. I don't think developers would be able to ignore the Oculus demographic and they would be forced list their games on the Rift store.


That would kill new Oculus sales. Sure if Facebook gained a monopoly they would do all kinds of shady things, but there is little evidence that's going to happen.


Embrace extend extinguish. Valve is not going to block the rift but they will make it's users second class citizens, until VR hardware goes the way of monitors and sound cards. Facebook adds little to this as they don't know gaming and don't have a history of keep multiple businesses going at the same time. So really it's the same company that originally developed the hardware with access to more capital and the risk of being shut down.

In the end VR is going to be on a tiny fraction of computers for a long time. There will be waves of improvements and a few hype cycles (3D TV anyone?)

PS: Sure this time it's different, and next time it will also be different, and the time after that...


I think valve would argue that if the Rift delivers a second class experience of the SteamVR platform that that is nobody's fault but Oculus's.


Valve doesn't seem interested in a monopoly, after all a lot of the Rift tech started AT Valve.


> There's only one App store on iOS vs Android.

maybe I misunderstand but Adroid is targeted by many app shops.


But Valve hasn't locked out the Oculus. Plug one into a computer with Steam and it'll pop up a prompt to setup SteamVR just the same as plugging in a Vive. It even includes a link to Oculus-specific instructions: you need to set it up with the Oculus app and change a setting there to enable the Oculus device for use outside the Oculus store.

(Source: anecdotal experience from plugging a Rift into a computer that didn't have a real GPU; no idea if there are any other issues.)


True right now they are compatible, however it seems like that Facebook and Valve are on a collision course over what they think the ecosystem should be (and who is going to be the "winner").


Sounds to me more like the Apple Vs. Google "ecosystems".

Sure, Google has a Play store and a competing OS, but it's not like you can't find Chrome in the iOS store.


its interesting that you picked chrome as an example, with it being a wrapper around Apple's webkit on the iOS platform


Chrome has had more than one JavaScript engine. They're all still Chrome to the user, and that's all that really matters. If they decide to rewrite the UI in Lisp and use Servo, it will still be Chrome in the ways that count, just like nobody cares if a game has DirectX and OpenGL versions.

Different HMDs are arguably more similar than different GPUs, and they manage to support the same software, but in the early days there were plenty of Glide-only games. That didn't work out so well. Most people will probably just use tools that optimize for any popular HMD with little enough effort that only contracts will make exclusives make sense.


There's a lot of features that Chrome on Android supports but that can't be added to Chrome on iOS because of Apple's policies. Important features, like fully offline-capable webapps.


I can see your point, but every platform has its own restrictions. Desktop Chrome can do a lot that Android Chrome can't. There are real security benefits to not allowing downloaded code to run on a device without passing through Apple's JavaScript engine. Of course security and features are often at odds. Outside of tech forums, I've never heard anyone complain about missing features in iOS Chrome, so I'm just saying that to most people, the interface, bookmark sync, etc. is what makes it Chrome, not the JavaScript engine, and the tech it's built on will continue to change over time, bringing new features and new restrictions.


Yes, because it shows Google's dedication to not leaving people out. Apple doesn't allow Google to use the real chrome rendering engine, and instead requires that every webview be webkit-based. Google would absolutely use their own if they were allowed.


Exclusivity is a two-edged sword. What will happen to Steam if Valve locks others out of their market, but then one of those others produces the magic ingredient that makes VR really work well for the vast majority of people? For example, what if magic leap's multiple virtual focus planes turns out to be simply that good.

This paragraph indicates that Valve seems to appreciate that no one company has really put together the whole package yet. If they know that, then perhaps they will be smart enough to open Steam's VR to the open market, even if that means supporting competitors like Oculus.

At this stage, VR could still implode again like it did in the nineties. The smart move is to do what it takes to ensure there is a VR market a few years from now, not hamstring yourself worrying about who gets the biggest slice.


> At this stage, VR could still implode again like it did in the nineties. The smart move is to do what it takes to ensure there is a VR market a few years from now, not hamstring yourself worrying about who gets the biggest slice.

Definitely. And this is exactly why Oculus's emphasis on exclusivity has been so disappointing and short-sighted. Fragmenting the already small market consisting of people who believe in VR and are willing to invest in a VR platform at this early stage seems like it might have devastating long-term effects.


The VR market right now feels kind of like the 3D accelerator market in the '90s, before Direct3D really came into its own, hardware manufacturers were still half-assing OpenGL support, and lots of games were programmed against vendor-proprietary APIs like Glide.

Would be nice if people had actually learned from that and rallied around a standard API/middleware for VR to start with, rather than trying to "console-ize" VR with hardware-specific exclusives. Maybe Valve/SteamVR will end up being that middleware?


That middleware exists: https://github.com/ValveSoftware/openvr

It supports both the Vive and the Rift, though I believe the Rift implementation is just a wrapper around Oculus' own SDK.


Since people are still figuring out what makes good VR and good paradigms for programming with VR, I think it'd be likely that any design by committee API would be a disaster


It wouldn't be the final word on VR API for all eternity. It's a starting point for the spec, which will change as the industry grows.


It doesn't matter much in practice - most people just use Unity or Unreal, which make it easy to target any major VR system. To the credit of these game engines, it's just not that hard to be compatible these days. That's why Oculus has started to use exclusivity contracts to gain an edge.


>Portal 3 or Half-Life 3?

Aren't you overly optimistic. :)


That's probably why they have John Carmack on board. Half Life was a mod to his Quake 2. They had a friendly, cooperative relation so far, so I wouldn't worry.


Amazing to hear someone who works for Valve actually mention "Half-Life 3".


That paragraph wasn't part of the quote, it ends the sentence before "If Valve..."


He didn't, that section is from the OP.


I don't see where anyone working for Valve mentioned Half-Life 3.


My god, I need to know what the hell the G-Man was really up to, and for Gordon to smash a few more head-crabs with his trusty crowbar.


In all of my experiencing of the new VR products, I am firmly in the position that it's not ready for public consumption yet and won't be for quite some time. The only real reason it's being pushed hard is because people have a fear of missing out. Meanwhile, if I were a company I'd be focusing on AR, because at least there you can push for enterprise customers which won't need the full immersion yet that a general consumer will clamor for. (I also think AR has a much brighter future)

I expect a lot of VR units are shown off to friends and thrown into the closet or put on a shelf to collect dust. It's something you show off, but not something you'll (at least 98% of people) use.


It's weird your comment is so far up and you haven't given any reasons as to why VR is not ready for mainstream. You have a reason for why it's being pushed, but not a reason for why it won't take.

Steam sale numbers show tens of thousands of games are being bought by Vive owners, which is a pretty high percentage of the ~90k Vive units out there. Some games are as high as 50k / ~90k units. People are continuing to buy games and play them.*

Where's your reasons for why it's not ready, and numbers to support they will just sit on the shelf? Other metrics seem to point otherwise.

* Best indication we have for Vive sales numbers is bundled game ownership, SteamSpy shows that Job Simulator has ~65K owners, Fantastic Contraption has ~85K owners, and Tilt Brush has ~90K owners.

Two most popular non-bundled HTC Vive games, Audioshield and Space Pirate Trainer, both have a SteamSpy ownership of ~50K.


I own a Vive and love it, but I'll give a few reasons why VR may not quite be ready yet:

- The resolution needs to be higher. It is very difficult to read anything but oversized text at a hand's distance. While the low resolution doesn't kill the immersive effect of VR, it is very noticeable.

- The clear viewing angle through the headset is small. You can't look too far off of center screen before everything becomes blurry.

- They haven't found a decent solution to the problem of moving around in a VR world. Right now the best answer is teleportation, but that is an awkward solution that pointedly breaks immersion. We'll see how well that can work in a large open-world game when Fallout 4 VR comes out.

- The catalog has very few complete games at this point. Almost all of what is available is very early access or "discrete experiences" that don't last very long.

So, for the most part the Vive has convinced me of VR. Having played with it I am not sure I would enjoy a first-person gaming experience outside of VR now. Still, it is at the early-adopter stage. Better graphics hardware needs to be cheaper, and a couple of generations of headsets will likely see a drastic improvement in the quality of the experience.


My 8 year old son knows more about the Rift from watching his youtube buddies than I did. That's when I realized its gonna stick this time. He had a chance to use it at his summer camp and now he's saving his allowance so he can ask Santa for one and buy a Kinect to make VR experiences at home (Luckily his superhero dad is a PHP and C# programmer by day)

Little kids love even the simplest buggy broken demos. They go wild for it.


My niece seems to love minecraft vr on the samsung gear too. I think vr will stick this time around as well.


I think some of those will always be problems or be problems for a long time, but the core experience of presence makes them matter less.

- Resolution: It'll always be worse than a phone because for the foreseeable future VR screens will come from phone screens and the field of view on a VR HMD is many times greater. People liked doom 1 and other low res games for what they were in the day, and I think people will accept the trade off.

- Oculus Rift is pretty sharp across the FOV, I hear Vive is a bit worse in this respect.

- Moving in VR is hard... I think 3rd person view is pretty great for action/adventure games. I think the nature and style of games will inherently need to shift, which we're already seeing a bit in the Oculus Home catalog.

- True, it's the chicken and egg paradox. How can you get big games without a big user base? How do you get a big user base? I think Oculus and Valve are getting this right by directly investing in games. We have more and more fun games from large studios coming out which our current user base size really shouldn't allow for.

I think the first and second points are the strongest as it requires a change of expectations, and highlight the real fight for adoption in VR. FPS games wont work, and the most obvious metric that gamers had for high quality experience, resolution, is going to appear lower.

Only response is current gamers enjoying buying and playing games on Vive. As game developers figure new fun experiences for the platform that overcome those obstacles we'll likely start to see more success. I think a key will definitely be social aspects, as there isn't anything quite like standing next to someone or an avatar that is interacting with you in VR.


From what i have read about both neither has a huge sweet-spot.


> They haven't found a decent solution to the problem of moving around in a VR world. Right now the best answer is teleportation

I would really enjoy if someone made a game in the spirit of QWOP that uses the two triggers in a gamepad to simulate steps made by each leg.

However, I don't mean that I would enjoy playing that game.


I personally think it's not ready for the following reasons:

* Many people are getting sick. They don't even know why it's happening; we're years away from it being fixed. VR right now is the 3d on the 3ds. It's not meant for human eyes and they're rushing it.

* No eyetracking. Your camera focuses on the direction your head is pointed. This is not how humans see. I am virtually never looking the exact direction my head is pointed. This is one of the reasons people are getting sick. Their eyes want to focus on something, and that technology is VirtualBoy level underdeveloped.

* Ouya games. The vast majority of games right now are really bad. They're definitely working on getting real games into VR, but it's going to take time, and most developers will see it as a Vita type situation where it makes more sense to wait to see if people buy it before investing developer hours into implementing an entire different display method for the game. Right now VR companies are paying people to make them games. That money will dry up.

* Price. Most people can't justify spending $300 on a video game console they can hook up to their TV. The market for a $500 head TV for that $300 console (or a $1000 computer) is comically small.

* Version. It's too easy to wait for the next one. At some point they'll make a headset with eyetracking, that doesn't make people sick, that has 4k in each eye, that weighs less, that attaches to your head more comfortably, and it will cost less.

* VersionS. Right now it looks like certain games won't work on every headset. This immediately tells consumers to wait for standardization. It's a fucking monitor. You don't get to have exclusives for your monitor.

* FOV. Human FOV is around 180. We have binocular vision for 114 of that. Oculus and Vive fovs are at 110. That's literally horse blinders.

As an aside, I like moving my focus with my mouse. It's incomparably more accurate than hoping my deviated septim is pointing exactly where I want to look. If you can't disable headtracking that's an immediate red flag for me.

I really like VR, but (like basic income) it is going to lose credibility because of how early it is proposed.


>Many people are getting sick.

Source? It runs contrary to my experience, and my sample is large enough to be data, not anecdata.

> Eyetracking

Not needed for gaming. From your text it looks like you're thinking in terms of virtual desktop, which is not the target.

> Games

Too early to tell. There are already a few very good titles and a promising pipeline anyhow. The outlook is positive, not negative.

> Price/version

It is the same logic that should have doomed the yet undoomed gaming graphic adapter market.

> FOV

Acceptable for first generation devices. Does not prevent immersion.

> Lock-in/exclusivity

Basically the only valid point in your list. True. I don't think it kills VR, but fragmenting a small market is a dumb dumb move.


>> Many people are getting sick.

> Source? It runs contrary to my experience, and my sample is large enough to be data, not anecdata.

Here's at least one source: https://twitter.com/JamesStevenson/status/743896444650692608 (more if you count the replies agreeing with him). I picked him because he's a somewhat notable individual in the games industry, but I saw many anecdotes from other E3 attendees agreeing with him.

It seems that while the first few people/companies with major skin in the game (Valve, Oculus) are being very careful with VR best practices, a lot of companies just looking to get into the gold rush are not.


Wait, that is someone saying devs were ignoring best practices. Of course people get sick if their eyes say they're flying around and their body says they're sitting still.

That's the game devs fault, not the hardware or system.


In every game that isn't a point to teleport slideshow your character is going to be moving around and you're going to be sitting still. That's exactly why people are getting motion sickness, and why we still have no solution for this problem.


There are other solutions then teleporting. 3rd person views are pretty great and a lot of the better games use them. Ede of Nowhere, Chronos.

Then of course there are cockpit games which many people love, elite dangerous being the big one.

Another genre is room scale which Vive people are all over now.

So many options for new and old types of games to be made in this platform, first person was the old popular for 2d games and it just can't be done the same way.


>your character is going to be moving around and you're going to be sitting still

No game that I've played that was developed for the Vive does this.


Many people get sick with conventional 3d games, but it hasn't done much to the market's enthusiasm.

Your post convinced me that VR is getting big in the near future. Why? Because your complaints are so closely similar to the complaints about consumer 3d acceleration boards when they were new.


> Right now it looks like certain games won't work on every headset. This immediately tells consumers to wait for standardization. It's a fucking monitor. You don't get to have exclusives for your monitor.

Alright...I'm triggered, let's do this!

Here's what a VR consists of, which makes it substantially more complex than a monitor:

* Image warping. This is currently built into drivers, specific devices may require specific warping so that the images look correct after lens distortion.

* Latency reduction techniques - both the Rift and the Vive have different techniques for handling what happens if your FPS drops. I believe both of them take a rendered image that is out of date, and re-project it so its now up to date with your current head position. That is some complex math.

* Head position tracking. This is a combination of accelerometer/gyro and a lower latency but higher accuracy tracking solution like the lighthouse.

* Input devices. For example the Vive controllers communicate directly with the headset. The input devices also track physical position.

* Output - as well as sending position back to the computer, they may also send other information such as controller button presses, your IPD (because different IPDs require different graphical output).

In the future we will have some crazy optimizations going on to improve efficiency. Such as splitting each eye into four renders. Foveated rendering, which would mean the headset would contain a very low latency pupil tracker so that only the area you are looking at would be rendered with high detail, and so your eye direction can be known to the software.

All that said, yeah it's possible to create a standard wrapper around this stuff, but saying it's a monitor is not really true.

>As an aside, I like moving my focus with my mouse. It's incomparably more accurate than hoping my deviated septim is pointing exactly where I want to look. If you can't disable headtracking that's an immediate red flag for me.

Also talking about mouse input makes me feel like you haven't tried the Vive. It's not about giving you an advantage, the draw of these technologies is that they can make you feel like you are there. Think about the difference between playing angry birds on your phone, vs actually picking up a giant bird, putting it in a slingshot and destroying some houses.


It's kinda ironic that the Apple Watch can sell 12 million units and be deemed a failure, yet the HTC Vive can sell 90 thousand units and be deemed the next big thing...


That's a big apples to oranges comparison, but breaking it down anyways... for an apple watch all you need is a smartphone which the majority of people have. For one of these VR HMDs you need a 300 dollar graphics card and a capable computer, which is a much smaller market segment for a device which has only been out a handful of months.

So, how will this change? Well GPU's are getting increasingly powerful, Nvidia will likely debut a GPU that is powerful enough for a Rift/Vive on a laptop this year, and AMD will release a graphics card powerful enough for VR on desktop at a price point less than 200 bucks.


I've had my Vive for a bit over a month now. It's definitely past the point of "showing off to friends" and by now I'm pretty sure VR will forever be a feature of any gaming rig I own. I've clocked about 20hrs in Elite:Dangerous, which is a bit above my monthly average, even after having the Vive setup at my company for a week so my coworkers could try it out. Playing games like Elite without VR is now a very real downgrade.

It has all the defects you could expect from a first gen device. It is also way past the point of fancy gimmick and well into routine usage hardware territory.


I played with a friends one over a couple days, and it's at the top of my must-buy list right now- I rigged up my own cardboard setup, but it's still not the real thing. Mass VR is literally right around the corner, and some of the best evidence to that is how many games are supporting it (fallout 4! WHEE) and that the newest vcards are designed for it.


I will say as a vive/rift owner (i was a kickstarter backer and got a rift for free, but the vive is where my heart is) Elite Dangerous is crazy cool, but only about 20% cooler than just using something like trackir with it.


John Carmack had an interesting take on AR. His feeling is that AR is a more difficult problem to solve, and for artificial objects to blend nicely with reality you'll probably need to redraw the entire field of vision anyway. By this reasoning, VR is a necessary first step along the way to the development of AR.


I think it's clearly not ready for anything like the adoption levels of consoles, but people who own VR products definitely use them. It's too expensive, too low resolution, and too clunky to conquer the world yet, but it's an excellent first generation.

What you're describing sounds more like AR to me. Everyone I know who bought Google Glass showed it off to their friends and then never used it again. I know AR has obviously improved since then, but VR seems to be the more proven technology.


The interesting thing is consoles aren't even the "big" market for games, mobile is. VR could hop past the console market size pretty quickly - though I suspect general media consumption may surpass the game use. (Gaming may win from a $ standpoint.)

Magic Leap is certainly promising, and a more plausible iteration of mass AR than Google Glass. The final form factor on that isn't clear.

I had the Dk1 and Dk2, and they both ended up in the closet largely because I don't have time for the game stuff. The Dk1 was especially hard to use and if you didn't get motion sickness you were really super human.

The right questions to ask about VR aren't what the current or next gen can and can't do, or that if it's prices too high (seriously, the iPhone6 was like what $2 million of processing power in 1995? Not to mention things that were impossible.)

The right question is do consumers want fully immersive media with sensory depravation to the outside world, or do they want some sort of Heads up display? Secondly, some motion sickness issues in VR may not be solvable, like what happens when you are riding in a moving car?


Well I would call DK1 and 2 more of the 0th generation. The Vive is good enough for regular use, and from what I hear the released Rift is too.

Motion sickness I think will become less of a problem as developers get better, and people just get used to VR. You don't have to be superhuman to have no problem with the current headsets.

And yes, for entertainment, people want fully immersive media. Not for all applications, but it has high appeal for games and other pure entertainment.

> I don't have time for the game stuff.

Well, ok. I guess an xbox would end up in your closet too, then.


I wouldn't consider Google Glass to be real "AR", but just a small HUD, it doesn't really map your environment. I'd consider Hololens true AR, it too has a long way to go, but as I said businesses can fill the void between now and then...with VR, what use does it have in business? I would argue very little to none.


I don't know how successful VR will be in business, but I think that's sort of tangential to this discussion. I am convinced it will be very successful as an entertainment product. Some companies have been experimenting with VR apartment tours, room planning, architecture demos, etc. Not sure how successful those will be.

I agree that Hololens is closer to "true" AR. That's why I said VR is more ready for public consumption, because you can go out and by a Vive right now, and it works great. Hololens isn't out and might not be out for a while, and it's not clear how well it actually works right now.


You can actually buy a working HoloLens right now! Limited release though.

https://www.microsoft.com/microsoft-hololens


As was the case with early personal computers - until some "killer apps" arrived. For businesses, the killer app was Lotus 1-2-3 and/or WordPerfect. Rest assured that some clever young things are actively working on the killer apps for VR headsets. I assume there will be at least one, and I assume that it won't be a FPS game.


I see two avenues for great VR games:

1) Cockpit based games. Flying a plane, or spaceship, in VR is immensely better than on a screen. I get nauseous in car racing games but, my friends who do not, rate them as best simulated driving experience ever.

2) Room scale games. Here, I have no idea wich ones. It is a complete green field in terms of gaming. There are some great concepts, like Fantastic Contraption or the "space invaders"-like game in The Lab (with hilarious results for non-playing spectators), but all in all, it's something that is not explored yet and shows fantastic promise.


I totally agree about "room scale games". Has add-on benefits of getting out of the house and getting some exercise. Here's my idea (shh - don't tell anyone). Buy an abandoned roller skating rink and transform it into a VR game space. Of course this assume that some other entity will create one or more compelling games to be played in your space.


> Buy an abandoned roller skating rink and transform it into a VR game space

I also love this idea, but it still has many barriers. Principal technical issue is that these headsets are not wireless, which means you would need anot overhead motor system to follow you around as you walked.


Or everyone wears a backpack containing the computer running the headset.


I've always (wishfully) thought that VR will revitalize the arcade.

VR (or AR) laser tag would be an extremely compelling experience.



I've tried DCS with a Rift. It was mind-blowing. I hate using my screens now, I can't wait for a decent priced VR unit.

My biggest gripe was controls. There are quite a few keyboard shortcuts in DCS. Some of them just require looking at a keyboard, since I use them so infrequently. I can manipulate a HOTAS without looking though, so that's ok.

In DCS, some of the aircraft have clickable cockpits (meaning you can use the mouse to do everything, if you wish). If the Rift controllers could manipulate these, I'd be in heaven.


No. You're seeing a low adoption rate and imagining that it's just the typical adoption cycle taught in Business 101.

VR has been the next big thing for twenty years. It's not a niche technology because of Luddites, it is a niche technology because it works against human physiology and only a lucky few are totally unaffected by it. You're targeting an audience of people who find your product merely tolerable.

And since there are no social constructs or visual cues around this division of humans, you'll never get a network effect like you might with, for instance, a pair of pants designed for very tall people.


I may be too young to recall, but I seem to remember 30+ year olds complaining about how touch screens would never catch on around 2005-06. Something about the masses never accepting a product that's "merely tolerable."

I recall the same about the size of a phone in hand a few years after that and we haven't seen a sub-5" phone really sell well in how long?


I remember showing some of my A.V. club buddies my Note 2 not long after it came out and getting laughed at. "It's like holding a magazine to your head!"

Without changing phone size, most of my friends now have bigger or equal sized phones, and I've gotten at least one 'you told me so' since then.


> it is a niche technology because it works against human physiology

I'm not sure I agree. Many complained of motion sickness playing early FPS games, such as DooM or Descent. I wouldn't be surprised if it just takes an equilibration period to get used to the devices. Either way, unless there is actual research that shows a large portion of the population actually has difficulty adapting to the device, I don't believe the tech is fundamentallying flawed.


There are plenty of people who just can't play first-person 3d games without puking. They didn't get used to it, they just avoid those games and the market doesn't care. Even games which could be modified to prevent motion sickness typically aren't.


This doesn't seem quite right either, though. People had been talking about 'virtual reality' for a long time, but only recently has there been so much activity in trying to make available to consumers. It's true that a non-trivial amount of people experience motion sickness, but I'd hardly call the people who use it without such issues the 'lucky few.'


I think you are talking about sickness when you are talking about human physiology.

>only a lucky few are totally unaffected by it

That is true, but what you aren't covering here is that when software (and hardware) is properly designed, almost no one is affected by it! Vive games with physical locomotion do not have complaints of sickness.


Personal Computers had a 15 year adoption cycle. VR will be even longer. We don't really know who is affected or unaffected by it. Only a few dozen people have used real VR on a regular basis. By "real" VR I mean a facility with at least a $M price tag. Let's assume that this raises the percent who find it utterly tolerable to 50%. That's still way higher than the rate for amusement park rides - which is a multi-billion dollar business.


I'm waiting for some sort of Minority Report inspired Excel interface. Manipulating the "minimap" in Fantastic Contraption blew my mind.


VR fundamentally conflicts with how the eyes focus, and it will never be solved with the current technology. For some people it's not a big problem, but a sizeable portion of the population will be unable to use VR at all or for any extended period without ending up with eye strain, headaches, nausea, and/or a general sense of malaise. It will always be something of a niche technology IMO - very cool, but of limited use.

It's the same basic problem that 3D films have. There's a reason that films are still shown in 2D. I have only ever watched one film in 3D and it was overall an unpleasant experience that I don't care to repeat.

Application developers could work to mitigate the worst of the effects on the eyes, and that's something that would help adoption. That has, however, not happened with films and I doubt it will with games - everyone seems to want to give people as great a sense of depth as possible, which simply doesn't work at all for many people.

AR largely eliminates these problems, and I'm inclined to agree there is more overall promise there.


Do you own a CV1 or Vive? How many hours do you have in them? How many people have you demoed them to?

The last pair I demoed to spent 3 hours in the Rift, with a single person spending two hours without stopping. This was their first experience ever with VR.

VR sickness is a thing and it's varies from person to person and use case to use case, but I have never experienced (personally or vicariously) issues related to eye strain. The lenses are supposed to take care of that by allowing your eyes to focus at a distance.

One of the reasons room scale is making so much noise is that it's a very different experience in terms of VR sickness. Far fewer people get sick in room scale because positional and rotational tracking are good enough that it feels "right". There are fewer motion cues mismatched with visual cues because you are physically moving and the headset is tracking 1:1.

Room scale also has vastly improved immersiveness (now we are calling it presence) especially when combined with tracked controllers and environments that afford all the interactions you would expect from whatever environment you are in.


I've had similar experiences. Showed Edge of Nowhere to someone a week ago, they spent 3 solid hours in.

Tried talking to them to see if they wanted to go for a walk or something. No response, too engrossed in game.


> Tried talking to them to see if they wanted to go for a walk or something. No response, [too] engrossed in game.

Future in a nutshell.


The Fermi paradox has been solved.


I've experimented with our own game engine and VR sickness. When the view doesn't accelerate relative to your real-world position, there is no issue. The problem starts when you're using external direct movement control, such as a mouse and keyboard. Moving forward and suddenly starting to move backwards is slightly uncomfortable. Rotating your head while rotating the mouse in the same direction is the worst for me.

It's the inverse of car sickness, and affects some people but not others. My coworker has no issue using full FPS mouse/kb controls within VR.


Tangential to your comment: In my experience with VR and IMAX 3D, I find VR much more palatable. For me the nearby focusing issues of VR aren't particularly physically straining / nauseating for me.

On the other hand, the entertainment value of 3D movies is greatly diminished for me because the 3D effect doesn't have realistic parallax. With 2D, my brain happily converts to 3D based on other cues. The 3D plus no parallax effect of 3D movies just gets stuck in some sort of uncanny valley for me.

This is just my anecdata for how the two technologies suffer different weaknesses as far as individuals are concerned. For someone else, I'm sure the near-focus issue would trump the fake parallax.


Do you have some source for this insurmountable eye focusing problem? Even just an anecdotal one? I've never experienced it, none of my friends have, and the worst I've heard about online is motion sickness issues from certain types of games.


They are plentiful - for one example, see the article and comments here: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=11795913


That Quora post would be very convincing if I didn't own a VR device, but I don't know how to reconcile it with my own experience. Either I and all my friends (and a few thousand people online) are superhuman, or there are some important technical difference that the author is missing.

Thanks for the link though, that's a perspective I hadn't heard before.


Yeah, I'd be happy to be wrong, I've been casually reading about these devices since the 1980s and understood the problem to be more or less unassailable. I will likely still buy one of the new wave headsets at some point because the tech is really cool. So maybe there is a point that is good enough for casual use by large numbers of people. I had friends that couldn't play Wolfenstein and Doom when they came out due to motion sickness.


I've seen the edges of this problem in elite dangerous. Occasionally they put a message in the top middle of the screen that my brain tells me is too close and I need to cross my eyes to see.. yet i don't have to.

It's a small thing though, but a noticeable one.


Anecdata: My partner can't watch 3d movies comfortably. Even the new, top of the line laser imax theater was unpleasant for him. He'll spend an hour and a half playing Job Simulator without even noticing the time pass, and with no apparent discomfort.


The problem with 3D films has nothing to do with focus. It has to do with an incorrect projection method[0], inevitable IPD mismatch, narrow FOV, and the distortion inherent in sitting anywhere except the the exact center of the theater

As far a depth queues go, accommodation is a very weak one that your brain learns to ignore after a few seconds. If that wasn't the case, anyone wearing glasses would stumble into things constantly every time they put their glasses on or off. And this doesn't cause eye strain either, unless the focal plane is too close (perhaps less than 60 cm away), in which case it just feels like sitting too close to a computer monitor. The focal plane of the HTC Vive is approximately 75 cm away, which seems far enough. Obviously infinity would be better but compromises had to be made to keep the optics compact.

The real limiting factors on VR right now are the lack of full-body tracking[1] (you can see your hands but not your feet), the lack of simulated inertia[2] (virtual objects appear massless), and the lack of eye tracking[3] (convergence depth queue becomes incorrect as you move your eyes off center, avatars look dead). Solutions to all of these exist, it's just a matter of cost.

Keep in mind that VR is an extremely compelling experience right now. It's just that every feeling of presence is hard to hold on to for more than a few minutes at a time.

[0] http://doc-ok.org/?p=77

[1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ldQDa-IMo7I

[2] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=610iTKlYBVM

[3] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zRfthZaBBPY


In addition to this I think an inherent problem with occulus rift and similar technology is that as humans in the real world our vision is connected with our body. When we move our head, focus and so on we also use the rest of our body. A visual experience is not just visual but a full sensory experience with visual focus. Occulus rift, then, for example, only works with your eyes and so gives you a disconnected experience.

The VR technology tries to eliminate any real world point of reference which makes us use reference points inside the VR which, I believe, is one reason the experience for us gets disconnected.

The most common symptom of this is that you get nauseous. My guess is that the (sensory) disconnected experience makes us lose balance.

What would solve this problem, I think, is to make the VR work with the whole body. So wearing a suit with goggles and standing on a plate that moves as you move which gets translated to in-game movement.


Actually, as the OP states, the issue is with focal distance.

The military has been using AR/VR in heads up displays for decades now and have had to work around these issues. When a user is forced to focus on a 2d projection of a 3d field, it creates all the issues people have with VR including: vertigo, nausea, eye strain, anxiety, and malaise. Motion exasperates the issue.


Vive has partially solved this problem with room scale - moving your goggles also moves your perspective in game.


> I have only ever watched one film in 3D

what movie?


The one with the blue people.


Lost your cherry to the Smurfs, eh?


VR is already being used in enterprise. I know of at least one company that is designing VR software(using common headsets like the Vive) for a major restaurant chain, where the managers will be able to arrange everything in 3D before the restaurant is even built.


We are, of course, already arranging everything in 3D before a restaurant is even built. That's what architecture is. But being able to actually understand the spatial feel of a space is an absolute game-changer, both for the design process and especially for communicating design decisions to clients.

VR is unquestionably going to be ubiquitous in the architecture industry before the year is out.


That sounds awesome. Could you let me know the name of that company?


> I am firmly in the position that it's not ready for public consumption yet and won't be for quite some time.

Perhaps right now, but come October the PSVR will be out. Its half the price of the Vive and works with your existing PS4. The reviews for the games have been mostly positive and the graphics in them are incredible compared to the shovelware both the Vive and the Rift suffer from. The move controllers seem to have better back-end processing and will probably never match the smoothness and fidelity of Vive tracking, but I imagine it will be good enough. Sony's 60 to 120fps re-projection seems to be working well too. I'm very impressed at what Sony is attempting to pull off here. VR with maybe 1/3rd the GPU/CPU heft of an average gaming PC is quite the technical hurdle for Sony's engineers.

I think PSVR is going to change everything in terms of VR adoption and how the public sees VR.

>I expect a lot of VR units are shown off to friends and thrown into the closet or put on a shelf to collect dust.

I use mine multiple times a week. Its very exciting to see what the new VR game of the week/month is and try it out. Right now, all the Vive owners I know are enjoying Battle Dome, which is a laser tage/Splatoon style game. Its early access and ugly as sin, but a lot of fun. Or if not that PoolNationVR, which is much more polished.

I've also enjoyed spending some time in AltspaceVR. As far as I'm concerned its the metaverse jr. I am looking forward to what the guys at High Fidelity are doing (which is pretty much Second Life in VR), but I think the more managed, simplistic, and curated AltspaceVR approach will win in the long run.


There is tremendous potential for this technology far beyond entertainment. It allows the user to perceive themselves to be in another place with minimal need for imagination, abstraction or suspension of disbelief. Those qualities all lend themselves quite well to entertainment, but they also enable many uses as a tool, such as for industry or education. Zuckerberg is counting on this, though I suspect he is thinking along the lines of the social implications (a family on different continents could sit down and have dinner together, or you could play a card game with your grandmother from 1,000 miles away).

VR enables the use of human-operated tools and machines in places we cannot physically be with a minimum of interface limitations. Consider robotic surgery; the current Da Vinci machine uses a 3D view-port at a large station with three small loops to detect the movement of three fingers on each hand. The upshot is that a surgeon can now see a 3D view inside an abdomen and manipulate surgical tools with almost the full amount of dexterity of a human hand. This differs notably from older surgery methods in that only very small incisions are made to access the abdomen rather than a single very large one, greatly reducing the pain, scarring, and risks of the recovery process (though of course laparoscopy also offers similar benefits, save for the tools' degrees of freedom). VR is close to replicating this with much less expensive technology in essentially any environment you could choose, provided latency is kept low. Soon a surgeon could be in a separate, non-sterile room with a VR headset on and manual controls to enable full hand and wrist movement, and software can intervene with safety measures to prevent sudden unintended movements or accidental damage to important structures like blood vessels or nerves. The scale can be altered so that the body is perceived to be the size of a room and tools can be manipulated on a finer scale than the human hand is capable of (think of performing surgery inside a blood vessel as if you were there, rather than manipulating primitive instruments at the end of a single camera on a catheter as they do now).

We could teach physics in a digital space where you can alter physical constants to gain an intuitive sense of their consequences. We could teach geography as if we were flying over any place on earth. We could reconstruct New York City circa 1900 and walk its streets. Walk the ocean floor and collect samples for scientific study. Defuse a bomb from a mile away as if we were standing in front of it. Clean a nuclear waste zone with no radiation risk. See the full scale of the earth as viewed from the ISS or the moon. Conduct rescue efforts in burning or damaged buildings with no risk to the rescue crew.

A lot of these things are already possible, but VR dramatically reduces the level of training needed to adapt to unintuitive user interfaces. And there will be many applications no one has thought of yet. A few days ago I saw a video on YouTube where a Disney artist talked about how Tilt Brush fundamentally alters drawing in a way that has never been possible before. Sculpture is about subtracting or manipulating something already existing to create art, whereas painting generates something wholly new but only in two dimensions. With Tilt Brush be recreated Ariel and met her as he sees her in his mind for the first time - a three dimensional entity taken directly from his mind with none of the limitations of sculpture and all the freedom of painting.

As with most technologies, entertainment will probably drive the initial development of the technology. And I do expect it to be successful - I've demoed the Vive and it does not feel like a flash in the pan the way previous attempts at VR have (here's looking at you, VirtualBoy). The software will need to be there to drive the market, and growth will be slow in the beginning due to cost considerations. But people also said home video with the VCR was a flash in the pan and it was too expensive to ever be successful, people would always rather go to the movies instead. VR represents at least as much of a shift in culture and technology as home video did, probably much, much more. I'm looking forward to watching it happen.


The Valve publications page has a few slides and documents relating to Valve presentations regarding VR:

http://www.valvesoftware.com/company/publications.html

One of my favorite tidbits comes in the presentation, "Lessons learned porting Team Fortress 2 to Virtual Reality", on preventing VR motion sickness: http://media.steampowered.com/apps/valve/2013/Team_Fortress_...

> Don’t change the user’s horizon line, ever. You can see here how the camera follows the motion and rotation of the character’s head and so it rolls. Your actual head isn’t going to roll when you get killed by an Eyelander, so the mismatch will make you sick.

Here's the presentation's video, bookmarked at the aforementioned insight:

https://youtu.be/Gpr0FE2ATaY?t=19m36s

For those of you non-TF2 players, the "Eyelander" is the name of a player-wieldable sword, and when it connects, the victim's head flies off and rolls around the ground. Apparently simulating that effect (changing the user's "horizon line") will make people very sick.


To be fair, being decapitated in such a way that your head bounces and rolls around will leave you feeling, at the least, very sick.


So what can be learned from this tidbit? Don't get decapitated.


Finally a way to have real punishment in video game.


I look forward to playing an online game that punishes trolls with nausea!


More likely that trolls would play without VR and find a way to target VR players with nausea-inducing effects.


Seasick yes. This will be an interesting cultural-technical thing to watch evolve, assuming this wave of VR lasts long enough to evolve, perhaps SDKs will make it impossible to make a "real" VR sailing/boating simulator or VR flight simulator, or maybe the SDK will not prevent that, which automatically means at least some shovelware twitch games will mess with the horizon lines making users seasick.


I would like to have the option to enable the head flying.

Dying (in game) is supposed to be at least a bit unpleasant, and something to be avoided.


Of all the gaming companies, Valve makes the most sense to be this heavily invested in VR--given their stake in the PC-industry.

Or maybe too many devs thought VR was the coolist project to work on and moved to it. (Valve is known for their flat structure http://www.valvesoftware.com/company/Valve_Handbook_LowRes.p...)


I'm quite sure it's a happy overlap of both: strategically, Valve needs to either be on top of VR or it would bet the farm on VR failing. If someone like Oculus managed to become The App Store for VR gaming, it would be "Valve over", just like if Microsoft ever managed to make the Windows app store attractive to gamers (or to anyone, unlikely to happen anywhere this side of 2060).

At the same time, key innovations like the lighthouse position tracking system (which seems to be implemented in the Vive) have all the markings of genuine engineering curiosity. Curiosity of the kind that is unlikely to spring from a top-down "let's assign n man-years to VR" decision.


> Or maybe too many devs thought VR was the coolist project to work on and moved to it.

I think it's this. That's the problem with hype waves in majority-ruled organizations. Or I'm wrong and people will soon be sitting in the subway with a VR headset on and playing Fruit Ninja in VR.


Valve doesn't make games that you can play sitting in the subway.


Valve also doesn't make Fruit Ninja, but they were just trying to make a point.


No, but they do profit from it being sold on their platform:

http://store.steampowered.com/app/400760/

Well, technically not the brand name, but hey close enough.


Half-Life 3 on VR would be the killer app. It would be this generations Lotus 1 2 3.

Though I personally feel VR for video games are a lot like Wii its awesome for a while then its collecting dust throughout the world. I really think the future is Augmented Reality and VR will be for mostly media consumption.


I disagree with that. I played (and finished) HL2 in VR and while it was more of a prototype (e.g. loading screens were static) it already proved modern(ish) FPS games are not the best application of VR. Too many kinks of the genre do not translate well, while other features of VR are left unexplored. For that matter, racing or space exploration games (where the protagonist is seated) translate way better.

So I think the killer for VR will be something else entirely. Still from a first person perspective, but way different from a modern shooter. In the same way it took us a while to perfect what FPSs should be like, or what platformers should be like, we're a bit far from what the perfect VR experience genres will be.


FPS's are definitely not the killer app for VR, it's thinking too much in the old paradigm. Current gamers are spoiled with FPS's that have you turn faster than any human and the default speed is a light jog, which would make most people's stomach turn in VR.

I was most excited about playing HL2 in VR and I had to give up when Freeman stumbled and got up from the ground very near the beginning. The disorientation of having your visuals tell you you're getting up from laying on the ground all while your sitting is AWFUL.

The killer app for VR would have to leverage the strengths of VR, which I'd say is presence. Seeing someone standing by you and talking to you is pretty trippy in VR, I'd say anything with more social aspects would be a start. It might give story driven games a real edge in that platform.


I don't think it's fair to judge the potential of VR FPS games based on playing a game that's over a decade old and was in no way designed for VR.


But that's my point. It is still a good indication of what a modern FPS is, and of what HL3 would be. I don't see them changing the game radically to be a "native" VR title, which is what VR needs (and which may not even be what we call a FPS anymore).


I agree, if HL3 is going to be one of the killer apps for VR then it will be radically different. I think Valve have the resources to pull it off, and I suppose we'll see what path they take.


I hope Valve decide to use Half Life 3 as a benchmark VR title. Half Life 1 was a phenomenal take on the FPS genre, Half Life 2 added physics, and perhaps Half Life 3 can be the start of very high quality VR shooters. If Valve were to release Half Life 3 on their VR platform I would certainly have to buy their platform, there is no VR title that I absolutely must have currently.


I think the locomotion issues will be the end of this round of VR. Teleporting around the virtual space is not immersive by any means. Direct movement (e.g. with a joystick) with current head mounted displays automatically results in motion sickness for the majority of users. No solution in sight, as far as I know.


I've ran hundreds of demos on the DK2 over the last two years and in that time one person took the headset off because they felt weird. It's not "the majority of users" by any stretch. I don't know where you're getting your information from.

And we're not talking about being pitched over, puking your guts out, either. It's a mild discomfort that only persists if the user tries to push through it.

Locomotion is both difficult and overrated. I don't know how many people are going to want to physically run for cover in shooter game. Some will, for sure, but I expect new genres of games to become much more popular.

There is also a huge segment of non-game usage that I expect to be the dominant use case for the tech. VR telepresence blows the pants off of Skype, even with cartoon avatars.


There are multiple testimonies on the internet about head mounted displays along with joystick movement inducing motion sickness. It gets worse as the pace of the movements increase. Haven't run any experiments myself, so perhaps you are right. What is the scale of the DK2 demo? If it is a room scale demo you can't infer much from it. The issue would be the addition of the joystick movement with the head movement, resulting in a final movement vector that is in conflict with your inner ear. Any of those two movements taken on their own (e.g. moving your head while standing still, or moving with joystick while keeping your head straight) would not result in any conflicting signal.

Other applications of VR still apply, but this I believe will remain a major hinderance for FPS style games.


First hand here, the DK1 was brutal, DK2 was ok. Besides what is actually being played another major variable is the machine driving it. If the frame rate is less than ideal it will cause issues.

The thing is I got motion sick in the early 90s playing Wolfenstein 3D and so did others. On like a 15" monitor. There were stories about people vomiting back then. When is the last time you heard of someone getting dizzy and puking after play call of duty? I haven't heard of FPS motion sickness since the 90s.

All of the technical nuances related to what invokes motion sickness in VR have been exhaustively studied and are actively worked on. However my experience makes me suspect there is some adaptability involved as well. I've spent most of the past decade in dense urban cores and if I haven't been in a vehicle in a week or two, a cab to the airport leaves me close to puking.

From a commercial standpoint the important thing is don't give your customers a shaky first demo that leaves them with dry heaves. Give something neutral like sitting in a movie theater, and gradually ease them in.


The plural of anecdote is not statistic.


I agree completely with the telepresence part. Depth cams + more ergonomic headsets + high speed networks can already offer a glimmer of what future VR telepresence could offer.

But I also agree with the previous comment regarding first-person locomotion in VR (at least as it's currently done). I've also spent quite a bit of time in my launch day DK2 and when you're actually walking it's OK, when you're sitting or standing in a way that mirrors your in-world avatar it's OK. But when you are standing or sitting and you use a gamepad or keyboard to handle "WASD" while using your head as "mouselook", it still either makes me queasy after a while or gives me a headache.

There are just too many little mismatches in most implementations that make it hard to take a typical FPS-style game and slap VR onto it. The simplest example I can think of is walking around with a gamepad and VR headset:

Imagine you are in a game with your DK2 on your head and an Xbox controller in your hands. You push forward on the stick and your character walks forward. OK...not too bad. Once you get over the initial dizziness it's pretty cool.

Then you want to turn right. You push the stick to the right and your perspective starts to pivot as well. Halfway through this turn, you want to look to the right. You turn your head to the right and as you do, your "turning motion" speeds up since you are turning both your body and your head.

Then when you stop pushing right on the stick, the speed of the pivot drops. When you stop moving your head, it stops completely. The whole thing is a mess of speeding up and slowing down changes in your angle of view. And this is just one simple motion. It's OK on a flat screen in front of you but when it fills your whole field of vision, it can get really disorienting and dizzying fast.

Consider that in a game, there are all sorts of combinations of movement on the X and Z axis, changes of view from pivoting your body, and changes of view on all three axes from moving your head. These are often fast and unpredictable. And all the while, if you're standing up, walking around a small room, or sitting in a chair, they don't necessarily match your actual position.

Either way, sorry for the wall of text. It's hard to describe things that are easier shown than told. I agree that finding new types of games and experiences are they key here. My main complaint in this field right now is the number of people who are still so focused on the FPS style of games because they were so immersive and popular on 2D screens. The goal should not immediately be to cram those into VR just because it would seem on the surface to be a perfect match.


I think the solution is just that you get used to it after a little while.


HL3 is a traditional FPS and a lot of people would be unhappy to play it with a teleport mechanism or other solution that solves the simulation sickness/locomotion problem, but drastically changes the game experience. Worse, VR will never have the install base PC's have right now, so Valve would have to skimp on HL3's budget to make it economically feasible as a VR-only game.

Portal 3 on the other hand seems likely. The teleport mechanic is already cooked into the game. You could play it in VR or non-VR without any changes or upsetting fans.

As a Vive owner, I don't want shoehorned in half-assed VR experiences. I want something that properly uses the medium. I think a lot of FPS fans are going to be ultimately be disappointed that standard WASD and or trackpad locomotion are just not an option in VR.


Jeri Ellsworth of CastAR (ex-Valve AR/VR hardware guru) did an interview recently* where she mentioned that Valve was kind of "painting themselves in a corner" by gearing their system's performance to play AAA-title games.

Now owners of those consoles will expect every game to be an AAA title.

* http://embedded.fm/episodes/156 @ 53:20


I don't quite follow her argument there. Valve's push for a powerful platform will just mean that games that don't aim to be VR-Crysis have plenty of performance to work with, making development much easier.

The 'office simulator' example doesn't really seem to be about graphics, though, but about game length/most VR experiences being more tech demo than game.

I don't think people are going to be surprised by that. The HMDs are so expensive, and at least right now, so are the GPUs that can drive them, that people won't just impulse buy them. People who are spending that much money on a niche hobby like this will most likely know exactly what they are getting.


If AMD can come through with the RX480 and works with VR for around $199 USD. That makes VR a lot more accessible.


Unlikely. Plenty of independent games are very popular on steam. This is more because they are good than because they require high performance.


It's much better to never release your product instead. You can't paint yourself into a corner if you never get out the rollers.

Seriously though, I'd disagree with her statement. I play plenty of indie games in VR on a variety of headsets and the higher quality the headset the better the experience no matter what you're playing. It's like saying that people with a 4k monitor won't play games without high res texture options.


I wish they would get back to what they used to do - make actual computer games. I still can't shake the nagging suspicion that the recent VR hype is just the product of the every-decade-or-so fad cycle (similar to what happened in the 80's with it).


Have you tried a headset yet? I think this time is different.

I thought it sounded like an early adopter money pit myself until I actually tried a Rift. It won me over even while underpowered (MB Air!) in very simple demos.


Side observation.

So Valve now has an better VR Set then Oculus. And all of a sudden every news on VR seems to flowing in Valve direction.

This reminds me a lot of the early days when we move from iD 's Doom to Valve's Half Life.

Note: ( John Carmack = CTO of Oculus and Founder of iD )


I like competition as much as the next guy, but I'm happy as long as the more open platform is more popular. Wish Oculus took a different route.


My prediction: Valve VR will be the choice for hardcore games/gamers. Oculus VR will shift focus to more casual gaming (quick, fun, not graphically superior), and more importantly media consumption (think: Facebook live 360 video of major media events like E3, or ComicCon, and eventually paid subscription for viewing of live sporting events like courtside NBA games)


This. Facebook is more interested in VR for sports, messaging, telepresence, news, ads, and entertainment media than it is for games.

Downside of that strategy is that the Valve/Vive bloc could produce radically superior technology because gaming creates seductive technical barriers to overcome. FB's intended uses do not.


Either Indy or F1 recently had a 360 degree view of the race from the top of the car. I could imagine some fans would love that for all types of racing (NASCAR included). Just turn your head to look left/right.


So SteamVR = PC and Oculus = Console?

If so, I need to go and join the glorious SteamVR master race. ;)


1) Valve has always had a better VR set than Oculus.

2) id, not iD.


Is it clearly better? Most reviews I've read said - ignoring the wand things - it's about equal, with Oculus maybe a bit better on economics. The fair comparison would be once Oculus releases their wands (and verification of room scale claims). Also, what do you mean by emphasising "always"? Both devices only launched recently.


I have been using an Oculus Rift for a few weeks and the experience is breathtaking. For example, there is an Apollo 11 educational game where you get to experience the mission from the point of view of Neil Armstrong or Michael Collins. I think it is hard to argue that "experiencing" history isn't far superior than reading about it. And the pure games like EVE Valkrie give you a cold sweat they are so immersive. Just my The cost right now are high, but no more than an iPhone. I think mainstream isn't too far away. My $0.02 at least.


Why wouldn't they? The computer industry is stagnating because people can use phones and tablets for most of their computing needs. VR has the potential to drive sales of high-end hardware again. And Valve has skin in that game.


I've just spent a week here in Shenzhen, China. What was the most impressive thing? There are literally entire floors in the electronics markets here filled with VR headsets. Even if it's early stage hardware, someone has to be buying them.

As for killer apps, like every other technology it's a fair bet that commercial success #1 will be porn.

From a more cognitive standpoint, I've long felt that what segregates spatial awareness from other senses is the sheer volume of data that can be presented, reasoned with and remembered. As old school hunter-gatherer-wanderer primates, it's our highest bandwidth input. This reality will eventually be utilized for problem solving (eg. VR excel spreadsheet visualizations and black box / static code analysis may become a non-gimmick norm).


I've come to realise that Valve is no longer a game developer.


VR is amazing and the opportunity is incredible. However, I am worried worried that the technology to produce high enough resolution displays will take some time to get here. Without smartphones driving the demand, will we get to 5-10k dpi displays for VR tech? We have 800 or so dpi displays rolling out, with current generation devices filling their FOV with about 500 dpi screens. We're driving 1.3-1.8m pixels per eye, but that is not enough if you want to pretend to gaze at something 20 meters away. The pixel density, especially in the center area of the display, should be much higher. Otherwise only abstract low polygon count content will work.


I own a Vive. We are quite a few years from having HMDs where you can't see pixelation. I estimate we need a tenfold increase in density.

However, and this is something you need to try to believe, pixelation does not affect immersion. The human brain is amazing at coping with vision defects. When in a game, you absolutely forget about pixel visibility. You are just "in there".

So, it is true that you can't get detail for showing stuff in detail at 20m. It limits applications, but there's already plenty of activities that are possible now, instead of having to wait ten years.


> The human brain is amazing at coping with vision defects.

Indeed. I am a bit short-sighted (literally, not metaphorically), but I usually spend the day without my glasses. Only in lectures, I will put them on, and immediately wonder how I could cope with the blurry mess that I saw before. But it just doesn't matter when you're focusing on different things.


Yes, I was pretty immersed in Duke Nukem 3D even though you could see the pixels. I had an 800x600 emagin z800 hmd, but my brain interpolated both displays to a higher resolution


When you're in a game, yes, but I want my VR for working in a virtual desktop, and, for that, you absolutely do need all the resolution you can get.


I'm also worried about the actual effects of motion sickness once it becomes actually mass consumer affordable. Generally, reports are that VR can be particularly rough for most folks.


As I understand it, the motion sickness is directly related to rendering lag. Outside of VR there isn't much of an incentive to reduce that lag - as the only people who really care much about it now are the most enthusiastic of PC gamers. There is a lot of buffering and synchronization between the software and our retinas right now, so the hardware advancement needed to enable motion sick free VR (low lag GPU and display) is going to have to come from a drive to specifically deliver motion sick free VR.


We already have virtually zero latency in VR at the moment thanks to predictive tracking and rewarping of the frames to the predicted head pose and direct driver support.

The motion sickness is mostly coming from vection now, when you move in VR but not in real reality. It's an active area of research, people are experimenting with things like reducing the FOV while moving, using interactive overlaid grid to pull the scene around, etc.


No, it's not just due to rendering lag. Motion sickness is caused by a disparity between the what the eyes perceive as motion and the vestibular system of the inner ear [0].

That's not all, though. Another major problem with VR is the lack of compensation for vergence [1] and accommodation [2]. These two systems are critical for depth perception and when they are not accounted for the result is confusion of the visual system, eye strain, fatigue, and even nausea.

[0] https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vestibular_system

[1] https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vergence

[2] https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Accommodation_(eye)


While I enjoyed the DK2, I got unbearably sick from Half-Life 2 within a half hour. Playing with Tilt Brush on the Vive, I didn't feel the slightest bit queasy.

Not sure if the difference was the hardware or the software, but it seems like a solvable problem.


FPS games are inherently a million times worse for VR sickness than room-scale walking around, since the former has the mismatch of the avatar walking around with the player sitting in a chair, while the latter is 1:1


HL2 is the only game that I felt nauseous from. Wonder why? I stopped playing though instead of trying finding a solution so I don't know if it's a known problem.


I actually got really naughtius playing half life 2 on the pc many years ago. Maybe there's something about that game.


I am pretty sensitive to motion sickness ... get sick easily in cars, awful in boats and have suffered week-long bouts of pretty nasty positional vertigo a few times in my life but I can stay in the Vive for hours with no ill effects at all. It doesn't feel like my vestibular system is under any sort of stress at all, the tracking is super tight. My assumption is that the majority of people that experience nausea do so due to either defective hardware, or under-powered systems.


I think it's the games. Room scale games, like Fantastic Contraption, induced no motion sickness on the twenty or so people I had trying it out. Games where your avatar is moving but you physically aren't are dangerous territory. I never tried HL2, but I easily imagine it begin nauseating.


There is a reason why most current demos or games do not give you full control of movement, and the demos that give you mouse / keyboard controls to move around a space with jerky accelerated motion do cause problems. I think we'll get better in time with control schemes and design that does not cause nausea.


I have a rift and I don't get sick and nobody I've shown it to has gotten sick. I think that concern is way overblown.


I own a Vive. Zero motion sickness on room scale games, zero when flying around in Elite:Dangerous. However, get me in something with wheels and it's hell. Rolling in the buggy in Elite is bad, driving in Project Cars is worse.

I've learned that, in Elite, if I look at where the buggy is going (it power slides a lot), then I almost avoid motion sickness. Project Cars, though, I can't play. Cornering, at high speed, completely immersed, with no lateral acceleration, triggers some alarm in me.


Does a 1st person view from the driver's seat have any impact?


VR or no VR, I always play car games from the perspective of the driver's seat or, in some cases, from the front bumper cam. Playing from the third person perspective cam is a bit too arcade for me.

So, my description above is for playing from the driver's seat perspective.


I don't know if it is overblown, but it is certainly real. I've only experience motion sickness under two conditions: helicopter flight on moonless nights, and developing software for the original rift. It was a real bummer, after a few uncomfortable weeks I put it back in the case and haven't touched it since.


IMO the concerns are overblown. If a game is well designed and the hardware is up to par there isn't really a problem.


So one third of Valve is working on VR... absolutely definitely not working on Half Life 3 or Portal 3. Which pushes their possible/probable/hypothetical release dates even further into the future. :-(


Or... they could be working on Half Life 3 in VR?


Valve's Chet Faliszek has said pretty clearly in the past that Half Life 3 won't be a VR game, and I think that's pretty realistic. First person action based shooters don't translate well into VR. Any kind of locomotion that isn't walking around your room-scale space or teleporting just feels incredibly jarring, and it very quickly makes you feel motion sick.

So it'd be a pretty significant change to what we've come to expect from the Half Life games if they made it a VR title.


When you think about it, Half Life would actually be a prime setting for a VR game. The reason being that VR FPS work best when you can teleport rather than physically move (or move the camera through a continuous operation). Half Life always has had characters that can teleport, so it's not a big leap.


Additionally, HL3 will have to be big to wow fans, or it will be a disappointment. People have been waiting a long time, and riding the hype-train the whole way. The HL games were revolutionary, and, this would be another revolutionary step for them.


Which is too bad. I really just want a conclusion to the story. If they used the old modified Quake Gold engine to deliver that, I would be psyched.


I wouldn't play HL in VR. Headcrabs jumping at your face would be nightmarish. I'm being serious, too. If I'm playing VR, don't go for my face!


That seems like a bit of a stretch. While many of the Half-Life games have involved teleportation as a plot element, the vast majority of their gameplay has used more traditional methods of movement -- either walking or driving small vehicles.


I think that was a joke about the classic HL2 bug that lets you teleport NPCs from waypoint to waypoint during their scripted cutscenes to get through them faster.


Valve is no longer a video game developer, it's a service company.


I wish Valve was publicly traded so that I can invest.


Invest in Clash of Clans, not this nostalgic shooter company. New generation never played such quakey games. Even Valve already knows that Half-life and so on has commercial value comparable to Nethack and is building new click-to-pay free-to-play mobile-first responsive disruptive VR-first AI-first isomorphic madness.

http://www.theverge.com/2016/6/21/11986712/tencent-supercell...


Valve would be a fantastic investment. Steam is essentially the app store for PC gamers -- which is an extremely dedicated (albeit smaller) userbase that consistently spends money buying and installing new games that come out on the platform (unlike actual mobile apps, installations of which are on the decline).


As soon as a gaming developer or publisher becomes publicly traded, the quality of their games drops through the floor.

I'm very happy that Valve is private.


You might be right, but it would still be interesting to see how a holocracy run company would cope with being public.


After reading this thread, I have to comments:

1. Exclusivity on a headset? Replace "headset" with "monitor" and you get how childish, stupid, and impractical that will be.

2. I don't think monitor based games will transition well to headsets.


And in the meantime no Half Life 3. What about priorities?


They can outsource it to Chinese companies. Gamers nowadays are not choosy and will play anything that has "Half-life" franchise label on it, "Doom" of 2016 confirmed it.


Half Life 3 will have VR confirmed!


Half-Life 3 Confirmed


HL3-D


Valvr




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