VR and Intuitive Play

I got a VR headset today, and I was pretty happy with how it works. My only gripe is that all of the games I played have entirely different control schemes.

Which leads to a question: how do you build intuitive play when you’re working to a realistic space?

The three games I’ve tried so far were DOOM VR, Fallout 4 VR, and Hot Dogs, Horseshoes, and Hand Grenades. I’m using a Samsung mixed-reality headset, which is where some of the issues may be starting (though most of my experience has been pretty positive overall), since most games seem to be designed for Vive.

I started with DOOM VR, which I feel probably has the best “game” controls of them all, especially since I haven’t yet set up room-space movement yet (need to move some furniture). DOOM VR does a really terrible job of being intuitive (the first time you manage to throw a grenade at an imp is pure joy nonetheless). Part of my gripe with this is that the Mixed Reality interface is such a joy to use with the motion controllers, and the games that I’ve played all do their own thing.

DOOM VR’s biggest issue for me came when I was trying to get the hang of movement. I hadn’t gotten the hang of putting on the headset with my glasses, and I couldn’t read the prompts, so it took me a fair amount of time pressing random things (I never held the button I needed to hold to teleport) before I decided to just go back and try with my glasses on, which was a magnificent feeling.

After that, I jumped into Fallout 4, and failed entirely to navigate the menus. This is where VR fails pretty heavily. DOOM VR has simple menus where you point to buttons. Fallout 4 VR has more or less the exact same interface as regular Fallout 4, for better or for worse.

Mostly for worse.

In its defense, for whatever reason my controllers weren’t drawing on the overlay on the first boot of Fallout 4 VR, so that’s something to consider. I jumped back into DOOM VR, got through some very frenetic action, and decided I needed to set up my headset so I could move around the room before I did more, then jumped back into Fallout 4 VR.

For whatever reason, Fallout 4 VR hates to do tutorial pop-ups, and I was stuck fighting a rad-roach with the attack not working (I may just suck, but I was pulling the trigger like they said I was supposed to be doing, so I don’t know why my attacks weren’t processing. I’m going to watch someone else play a little before I go back to it).

After that, I experimented with Hot Dogs, Horseshoes, and Hand Grenades. I’ll say that it probably has the best VR interface of them all, though it draws the Vive instead of mixed-reality controller on-screen. I’ve noticed that no SteamVR experiences make use of the Windows Mixed Reality motion controllers’ joysticks, at least that I’ve seen so far, so drawing the Vive isn’t too bad.

Hotdogs, Horseshoes, and Hand Grenades has hands-down the best controls, as I said, but there is one thing that I had massive problems with (and, as a stationary player, ultimately can’t really do much with it because of):

Normally, you can hold down the touchpad to project a beam so grabbing stuff is easier.

However, you can only do this to pick things up. As someone going in without reading anything or watching tutorials (I had watched people play on YouTube, but not really thinking about “Hey, I’m gonna try this later”) I found myself incredibly perplexed by this, to the point that it took me five minutes to figure out how to load and rack a 1911, a task that normally takes around five seconds (and I can’t blame the Vive controllers).

In short, I think there are really five things that would really help make using a Windows Mixed Reality headset easier in these titles:

  1. Having a handy reference of some sort for commands, like maybe an overlay that appears when examining a controller, would be nice.
  2. Using the analog sticks on the WMR motion controls would be great. Likewise, it’s a shame that Steam uses the analog stick click command to open the overlay, instead of having a more complicated method so that more game commands could be executed. Menu+Stick, for instance, or Menu+Trigger, would be difficult to accidentally trigger, but open up the stick and stick-click functions for more games.
  3. The Steam VR tutorial was interesting, but doubled-down on the “none of the controls are standardized” issue. With Mixed Reality becoming a thing, we might see more standardization in the market, which would be nice.
  4. Integrating voice controls would be a great idea for these games. They don’t necessarily have to be pivotal. This might not be a feature on all headsets, but it would be a great way to fill in the gaps that come with having relatively few buttons.
  5. Motion seems to be very lightly utilized in VR experiences, as opposed to, say, on the Wiimote controller. In games like DOOM VR, or H3, where you can throw things, it’s a useful feature. In Fallout 4 VR, moving the controllers is basically just a glorified pointing method, which is fine but doesn’t contribute to any sort of game mechanics.

Basically, I’m really liking VR right now, but I’m finding it to be an incredibly unnatural experience at times. Maybe that’s because I’m using primarily software not built for the Windows Mixed Reality platform, but I think there might be other things at play too.

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