Being a computer-addict, I finally managed to get my hands on a Vive VR headset. Long story short: it's completely awesome. It's also working surprisingly well for something that's supposed to be the first "real" attempt at VR. It's also definitely something that will change the gaming industry forever - that's something to look forward to
Anyway, I've been wondering for a while if Uru would look good at all in VR. So this is what this topic is about: a block of text containing my rambling about my feelings about VR. Hopefully that will be interesting to some of you
If not, well... At least I had some fun writing it.
So. For a long time I thought Uru in VR would completely suck. Why ? Mostly because the graphics are outdated (low res textures, very basic lighting etc), but also because I felt Uru was clunky enough playing with a mouse and keyboard - there was no need to add a heavy headset to the discomfort. In my head, a VR Myst IV would look good, but not Uru. I came across an old post from Mystler who thought the exact same thing (actually, that's probably him who convinced me in the first place).
However, after trying out a few demos, I attempted to get some Uru stuff in VR, without any good or bad expectations. I managed to get a textureless version of Vothol gallery into Unity (which has great support for VR), as well as a textured version of the Myst library. This was surprisingly easy to do for the models, although textures require a bit more work.
Now, pictures don't do VR justice (I mean, not at all
). So I'll write down my impressions instead, in case that interests anyone. Feel free to ask if you have questions.
First though, I'll recap what VR does, since it might be obscure to some people. If you are already familiar with concepts like stereoscopy or "room scale" thing, you can probably skip this.What VR is.
As you all know, VR headsets prevent you from seeing anything else but the game you are playing - no more distractions. Also, as you probably know, VR allows you to see two different images, one for each eye. Which means you can actually see distance
, unlike on a 2D screen on which you can only guess it. That's why it's called stereoscopic rendering.
Secondly, a VR headset allows you to look around
, meaning looking up or down or even looking back is no longer tied to a simple and quick movement of your mouse. You actually have to rotate your head.
Also very important: any head or hand movement you make in real-life is tracked in the game, down to the millimeter
. This means you can get up from your chair, go take a walk, and your view of the game will update in real time. Meaning you could walk past an object, or turn around it to see it's back, kneel to look at how it connects to the ground, etc. This also means you're likely to hit a real-life wall if you're not careful enough
(don't worry, that almost never happens though).
This is what we call "room scale", because it means you have a small "room" of a few square meters, in which you can freely walk without touching the mouse, keyboard or controllers. However, since VR environments tend to be slightly bigger than your average gaming room (which is fortunate), you can also press a button on the controller to teleport to another location - kind of like old point&click Myst.
(You could also move by holding down a directional button, but this tends to make people motion sick. I didn't try it myself, though)
Speaking of controllers, you have two of them: one for each hand. They are tracked alongside the headset, meaning you can reach to an object and grab it with a single button press. Neat.About Uru and VR.
Now, VR environments usually play very bad with old graphics. Low-resolution textures like in Uru mean you'll see pixels as big as your palm. Also, since you can get a very
close look at things, you usually notice the lack of detail in meshes a lot more than on a 2D screen - think trying to get a closeup to the pens on Sharper's desk, for instance. This was my biggest fear about Uru in VR.
However, there is a reason for me to think VR would actually bring
something interesting to Uru. It's about D'ni and dimensions. I'll get to it in a moment.
I recall when I first played Uru after Myst IV, I was quite underwhelmed because of the game being in 3D. This meant visual quality was a lot lower than in previous games, and that the whole navigation system changed. But even when I got around it, I still felt a bit dissatisfied by the locations in Uru. Somehow, D'ni didn't feel impressive at all.
Unlike Myst, Uru is composed almost exclusively of D'ni or D'ni-written locations. This is the first time in the series - the only time, if you exclude Myst V. D'ni is an empire, which means it's bound to be unlike anything written by Atrus. To make it short: it's bigger.
The buildings are supposed to feel tall. Gahreesen is supposed to be a massive, gigantic structure. Kadish has giant, oversized trees, along with an oversized vault. Teledahn has giant mushrooms, and you're on walkways a few dozen meters above the lagoon. Ahnonay... Well, the whole Age speaks for itself.
This is the whole point about D'ni: its architecture is bloody massive, and my opninion is that a single 2D screen can't do it any justice. Cyan even made some areas bigger than they needed to be, because otherwise the 3rd person camera wouldn't fit in some of the tightest places (think the spyroom). This only contributed to it.
In a way, this is also reminiscent of the design of Riven: to reinforce and due to Gehn's god complex, a lot of elements in the game are bigger than they should. The giant golden dome. The giant dagger. The giant Wark cavern. And unlike Uru, it all felt big because the navigation system didn't
allow you to wander around freely.
This is also what made me skeptical about realRiven: I was sure the 3D controls would ruin the game, like in Uru. Because of that I was determined NOT to play it, because it just wouldn't feel big as Riven did.
Now with VR, that's another thing entirely, and I'm starting to reconsider playing realRiven once it gains VR support. Back to my experiments with Vothol and Myst in Unity.
When I put on the headset with textureless Vothol loaded, I believed I made an error with the scale, because the ceiling was so high I felt like being in a cathedral. But I didn't, the scale was completely correct, and I was standing near the railing next to the lake. Railing which was almost as tall as I am. And yet Vothol is normally sized by D'ni standards.
As a conclusion: yeah, Uru wouldn't look as good in VR as most other games which are more pretty and more detailed. However, VR Uru would look better than normal Uru, because the game is all about the D'ni ambiance, which can't be felt to its fullest without seeing the real size of the thing. Other Myst games would look just as good and even better in VR, however I have a feeling they don't need it as much as Uru does.
Furthermore, Uru's gameplay is perfect for VR. It has no scary moments, which is important since they wouldn't translate well in VR (being either too scary or downright laughable). It could be played standing in room scale, which would allow you to have a closer look at things. You could still play seated comfortably if need be, and still feel like you're outside in the Age you're exploring (I'm thinking about you stuck in chair all day, Wam
). Heck, you could even relax by physically sitting on the ground (bye bye /sit command).
Interactions are also kept to a minimum, meaning you won't feel any strain on your arms from holding the controllers. Ages are big enough to provide plenty of exploring, but small enough that getting from one end to the other wouldn't be annoying (I'm pretty sure at first open-world games will be VERY boring in VR. Goodbye Skyrim).
Sure, there are a few things that would need rework (such as ladders, KI, third person camera, multiplayer, etc). But still, workarounds could be found, and the end result would look awesome.
And finally. Finally. FINALLY.
You'd be able to pick up kickables.
If that alone doesn't make you want to play Uru in VR, nothing will.
... I'm hearing some people saying that my rambling is all well and nice, but we don't have VR for Uru yet, and that it will never be room scale because that would take years to implement in Plasma.
Oh... yeah... right.
But hey, nothing stops me from importing the Ages into Blender and putting them in Unity or Unreal for personal use, right ?