Room Scale/Hand Tracking VR Is The Future Now (long read) — Oculus
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Room Scale/Hand Tracking VR Is The Future Now (long read)

Shadowmask72Shadowmask72 Posts: 3,744 Valuable Player
edited April 2016 in General


TL:DR  Don't write off room-scale/ Hand tracking VR it's incredible.


I've got my VR wings now what with countless hours using the Oculus Rift development kit 2 (DK 2) and Samsung's Gear VR with the Note 4 and S6 Edge. I'm also pretty up to speed with room-scale VR now having played through a number of titles that utilize it well enough on the recently released HTC Vive. The Lab, The Brookhaven Experiment, Tilt Brush , Job Simulator and Vanishing Realms to name but a few experiences. My play area isn't massive and in fact feels quite restrictive at around 2m x 2m but it's enough to work with thanks to the Vive's handy chaperone system which acts as a constant reminder that danger lurks close by should I venture too far from the centre of the room, and by danger I mean punching a hole into a 50" TV set or smashing a fist through an ornate mirror.

I've noticed a number of people raising objections against room-scale VR for several reasons (some more valid than others), such as the novelty wearing off, too physical for those who just want to sit down, and the issue of walking in any direction being impractical i.e always coming up against walls in the real world and having to turn around 180 degrees to continue the movement. I think from the offset one has to be clear that by definition room-scale VR isn't trying to present a full open world for people to walk around. I see many comparisons to games like Skyrim or Fallout 4 and being able to walk across open worlds where the only solutions for something like that are treadmill devices. However, these are perhaps too out of reach for most people and without developers supporting them appear to be quite limited in practice.



Let's be clear, room-scale VR isn't trying to accomplish open world gaming, well not in the conventional sense because it is possible. The challenge is, not everyone has the play space for full walking movement so developers have worked with the idea that you can still enjoy room-scale experiences which incorporate movement in smaller play areas with "room" being the key word here.

I have to refer to the game Vanishing Realms as one of the better examples of room-scale VR from a gameplay perspective. Vanishing Realms is an action role playing adventure set within a fantasy world. It offers low detailed graphics compared to the likes of Dark Souls for example. It's designed to work on a number of systems and therefore I assume keeps the graphics simplistic as a result. One can only imagine how a game with a bigger budget and more detail would look offering a similar experience, but I digress.



 In Vanishing Realms You're thrust into its world with the option to explore quite freely, it's not an on-rails experience and allows the player to move around its dungeons, corridors and open spaces via way of teleportation. This is where you point to an area on the ground , or above/below with the wand controller and then instantly move there in a blink of an eye. Now there's two things to take from this mechanic. One, the idea of the character we assume in the game is bound by the same physics we are rather than being like the X-Men character Nightcrawler (who also teleports). Two, the idea we have to walk everywhere to enjoy a video game. Now not everyone is going to gel with teleportation and proclaim it ruins immersion and is counter intuitive, yet at the same time in conjunction with being able to move around a limited area each time you do "teleport" to a spot, offers a far greater sense of immersion than merely walking past scenery you pay no real attention to just to get from A to B. In this sense the developer has shifted  the focus on more condensed detail to make teleportation compliment the experience yet achieve the same end goal. There are other devices that could be use to accomplish movement such as using a vehicle , simulated walking using the thumbsticks or touchpads, however for close quarters scenarios teleportation in this case just works and without causing motion sickness which some people suffer from.



 If you think about how hard it is to show non-gamers how to use an Xbox One controller for the first time as an example, using thumbsticks to move and look, buttons and triggers to shoot and interact, it's pretty hard to grasp without practice. Teleportation on the other hand is a device that anyone can pick up and use, there's nothing complicated about it and it fits within the VR space allowing anyone to dive in and "get it" without the need for complex mastery of buttons and sticks. It's an instant gratification system that doesn't exclude anyone. It has to be viewed as just a different way of doing things for those coming from a gaming background, for anyone else it's simply the norm.

I believe the biggest issue for gamers is the need to let go of ingrained ideas of how we interact with video games. It's been the domain of the controller for so long and even though Nintendo and Microsoft have adopted other means with the Wii and Kinect respectively, it's hard wired into expectations of what's possible in games. Room-scale and VR in general  takes the interaction to a whole new level because no longer are you remotely controlling a game character to perform actions, you're actually doing it yourself. This is an incredible contrast to simply sitting back and pressing a button to cause a reaction. So in Vanishing Realms for example, you can physically lean forwards and peer over a table, reach out and pick up a coin or collectible, examine it and place it in your belt pack. You can walk around the table and select other objects from it that are out of reach. It's the feeling of actually being there, performing actions that can't be replicated via traditional control methods which automate everything.

What I've gleaned from room-scale VR is the focus of the game changes. It's no longer about moving at speed from one area to the next but rather taking more time to explore the near environment. I felt like I was in the dungeon surrounded by imminent danger (thanks largely to the sense of scale and audio) forcing me to take tentative steps to progress forwards just like you would in reality. With a controller using a  2D display in the same scenario you're safe, overconfident, and rush through without giving the environment a second thought by way of design. In VR and with room-scale, being able to pick up a flaming torch and light candles, illuminate the path ahead and interact with the environment changed the focus, slowed the game down but at the same time made me appreciate more what I was actually accomplishing. This is a powerful feeling and used very well in the experiences I've had. 



Combat is a massive part of gaming, I mean, who doesn't want to be the heroic adventurer? This is why we game,  the fantasy of being somewhere and something different. Room-scale VR allows you to become that adventurer, but much like the Wii, you're in the game attacking with sword strikes or shooting with guns using your arms swings and finger movements.  Vanishing Realms gives you a shield for blocking or deflecting projectiles and the fact you physically have to hold your arm up is convincing and gratifying. So is having the mechanic of blocking, and counter-attacking  your opponents. You can get truly lost in the role playing here and feel like you're a part of the game thanks to the Wands, room-scale and design. The movement you have adds a greater sense of dynamism never seen before in video games and its for this reason alone that room-scale VR wins you over. Yes it's physical and you'll potentially get a workout, but it's so engrossing you'll have no doubt it's simply way beyond controller input gaming for the fantasy escapism we're looking for when we game.



Probably one of the biggest take-aways from room-scale VR that you get is when you defeat a foe or accomplish a task, there's a great sense of achievement. Your heart races during combat for example due to the fact you're physically performing the actions rather than lazily pressing a button, and once the opponent is defeated, relaxation, a deep breath and the sense "I did that with my own skill" before you move on to the next task. You can obviously get the same sense of accomplishment being skilled using a controller, but there's a disconnect with the game, it's you pressing buttons or using thumbsticks. In VR using wands the onus is on you and the physical. If the game is designed well enough to give you just the right amount of pressure or challenge, you're left feeling very much part of the game, like you lived through it.

Room-scale VR shouldn't be seen as the only way to play video games or experience VR, but  rather an alternative for those who want to feel more involved in certain games. Obviously for some people it's not going to be practical and after an hour or more it can be quite taxing mentally and physically. Developers need to think outside the box a little with the design process and conjure up new ideas to suit the limitations people might have and as I've seen so far, they are doing just that. It's no gimmick and perhaps it's those who suggest it is haven't spent enough time experiencing it to its fullest to appreciate what it offers. That said, there needs to be a level of acceptance from the gaming audience though, that interactions from the past might not be the domineering method for future VR experiences. HTC/Valve/Oculus/Sony have all seen this because they are invested in the idea that when it's done right room-scale and/or Hand Tracking VR is absolutely brilliant.


System Specs: RTX 2080 ti , i9 9900K CPU, 16 GB DDR 4 RAM, Win 10 64 Bit OS.

Comments

  • Shadowmask72Shadowmask72 Posts: 3,744 Valuable Player
    edited April 2016
    Delete placeholder post.


    System Specs: RTX 2080 ti , i9 9900K CPU, 16 GB DDR 4 RAM, Win 10 64 Bit OS.
  • obzenobzen Posts: 713
    Nexus 6
    Dunno. Roomscale feels a bit like wiimote+. Not a bad thing necessarily, but the scope is limited. Will work great in some experiences, not so much in others. I'm a FPS / RPG / sim guy. Not really into the more casual or artistic stuff. Roomscale isn't gonna help me there, not until 'holodeck' is a thing.
    DK1 FREAK...Ntbt8Ya.gif
  • Shadowmask72Shadowmask72 Posts: 3,744 Valuable Player
    That's a pretty diplomatic response Obzen which I assume is from first hand experience. ;)


    System Specs: RTX 2080 ti , i9 9900K CPU, 16 GB DDR 4 RAM, Win 10 64 Bit OS.
  • LZoltowskiLZoltowski Posts: 6,774 Volunteer Moderator
    @Shadowmask72   Regardless of my feelings on this subject I enjoyed your post, a good read, well done.
    Core i7-7700k @ 4.9 Ghz | 32 GB DDR4 Corsair Vengeance @ 3000Mhz | 2x 1TB Samsung Evo | 2x 4GB WD Black
    ASUS MAXIMUS IX HERO | MSI AERO GTX 1080 OC @ 2000Mhz | Corsair Carbide Series 400C White (RGB FTW!) 

    Be kind to one another :)
  • Atmos73Atmos73 Posts: 3,128 Valuable Player
    I'm all for Room-scale. Luckily I have the space for it 4x4m.

    I'm dead against teleporting but the choice should be there for those that do. I couldn't play Alien isolation for example jumping along the map and that Alien would be mighty confused when you suddenly disappear before it's very, erm...eyes?

    Is it so hard to stand and use the thumb pad to walk? Do you feel nauseous? Does it make you feel like falling over?

    It will be interesting to find out..
    DK2 owner - Vive owner - Pimax 8k backer - Waiting for Knuckles on Valve time.
  • obzenobzen Posts: 713
    Nexus 6
    edited April 2016
    "That's a pretty diplomatic response Obzen which I assume is from first hand experience".

    ...But can it run Crysis? Yeah, room-scale is cool, but it's not the new Messiah of gaming, not until you can physically explore more than 16 feet square of your environment, without resorting to immersion-breaking gameplay (teleporting, virtual boundaries).

    I don't see what the fuss is about anyway, room scale, not room scale... I'm perfectly happy for seated / standing experiences (FPS, Minecraft, car/plane/space sims), and I will buy the Touch for the extra stuff (or even, switch to Vive, which seems more and more unlikely). Games like Windlands, Space Pirate Trainer / Rez, sure, they must be a trip, but no Half Life.

    Here's another one, do a 'spooky ghost simulator', where your hands control your motion (like superman / iron man). Try to 'bump' into objects as little as possible (coz you can't, right?) To not spook the ghost hunter and get captured, or do it as much as possible, Poltergeist-style to freak out the house guests.

    You can do a lot with room scale, we haven't even scratched the surface, but anyway you cut it, doing 'half life room scale' is problematic, and that's the kind of games that have staying power.
    DK1 FREAK...Ntbt8Ya.gif
  • Chewie71Chewie71 Posts: 142
    edited April 2016
    obzen said:
    ...But can it run Crysis?
    Why would it? Crysis, Skyrim, GTA are designed for monitors! Some are trying to shove a square peg into a round hole and glibly pronouncing it's the hole's fault when it doesn't work!
  • Shadowmask72Shadowmask72 Posts: 3,744 Valuable Player
    Exactly Cheewie. Like I said in the OP, gamers need to think outside of the boundaries of controller 2D monitor based gameplay which has been the norm for years. Developers are doing this and it will only improve over time.  Budget Cuts uses it extremely well and once you've jumped to the next area you can move around, you're free to look over, crouch and peek under objects, edge up against walls and peer around the corners looking down the corridors. It's these actions which the game focuses on more that mitigates the  negatives associated with  the teleportation action. What I mean is,  as a player you get  so lost in being able to freely move about within the boundaries you have, you soon forget about immersion breaking teleportation and just accept that's the way the game is designed.

    I find it contradictory for anyone to speak of teleportation being immersion breaking but then championing the use of "press B button to crouch" or "Push up on Left Thumbstick to walk" or "use WASD on your keyboard to move". :|

    Either way, it's sensible to have both options to suit as wide number of players as possible then eveyone's happy.


    System Specs: RTX 2080 ti , i9 9900K CPU, 16 GB DDR 4 RAM, Win 10 64 Bit OS.
  • MinituMinitu Posts: 79
    Hiro Protagonist
    edited April 2016
    Another topic on room-scale.

    For open spaces, you clearly see there's some issues and dev must be creative. Well, they can do some great things and we can just get used to some gimmick as the common controllers are. But we can agree the current situation is far from ideal... Nothing to add here.

    Room scale is native/pefect VR for experiences that in our reality are done in a room: slot/cars train games, tabletop games, table tennis, buidling a sculpture, drawing, designing many real work objects, etc. But even within a room, to get perfect VR, you need some big enough VR space so you can walk around your focused object in the middle. If you can't walk around a virtual object, and you have to use some trick then its no longer native/perfect VR.

    Now back to reality. My comp room leaves a 1,5 m x 2m playing area, so even room scale is already fucked for me, as its almost a just standing experience. I can just a litle step at each side but nothing more. Chaperone will appear just by leaning my body/head forward.

    I'd love to have a 4m x 4m space. Having that enables almost perfect VR for many use cases. I want this and I don't deny its the most awesome VR that you'll find. But I just can't do it in my comp room. Not that I'm going to put my comp/VR area in my 30 m^2 living room or my kitchen or I'm removing any bed.

    I probably will get my Vive and Touch when it comes but I expect to use them in a standing with arms experience . That being cool too but not comparable to walking around your focus.

    To summarize, I agree with OP but its not for me at present. It sucks, but RL limitations get in the way of many people that just live in a small appartment.
    Soon upgrading to Ryzen
  • VizionVRVizionVR Posts: 3,022
    Wintermute
    edited April 2016
    I'm a little concerned for the Touch controllers. There are a lot of buttons on those things. I'm concerned that developers might fall back to using buttons instead of developing VR around as few buttons as possible. Take The Gallery, for example. Devs were wracking their brains to figure out the menu UI and kept saying there weren't enough buttons on the Vive wands to do things like pull up an inventory. The inventory problem was solved by reaching over your shoulder to produce a backpack that you can then grab things out of. It's an ingenious use of natural motion that replaces a button push. Buttons would have been counter active to that ingenuity and the game would have suffered because of that.
    Not a Rift fanboi. Not a Vive fanboi. I'm a VR fanboi. Get it straight.
  • ZoomieZoomie Posts: 1,777 Valuable Player
    I think the Touch has multiple controller-style buttons to allow it to completely replace the XBox controller once it arrives.  Creative developers will simply ignore them, but they're available if desired.  They don't replace the grab and point mechanic, they simply give more options.

    However, point taken that there's a danger of developers falling into familiar design paradigms.  Vive wands are guilty of the same sort of design - they just hide it better as a capacitive pad instead of discrete buttons.  
    Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.
    - Arthur C Clarke
  • VizionVRVizionVR Posts: 3,022
    Wintermute
    True about the Vive's pad. I'm not sure who said it, but a Valve dev predicted that VR contros will continue to become less and less abstract. I'm looking forward to the day when we have 360 actual hand tracking. No controllers at all. A game like The Gallery would be a perfect fit for this. Who knows? Touch controllers and Vive wands could be obsolete for certain games by gen 2.
    Not a Rift fanboi. Not a Vive fanboi. I'm a VR fanboi. Get it straight.
  • MinituMinitu Posts: 79
    Hiro Protagonist
    edited April 2016
    I wish so too. Wish solutions as the Leap Motion become standard for both our hands and feet (and so have some moving trick). Btw I've ordered a Leap Motion for something like 27 € just to try out.
    Soon upgrading to Ryzen
  • ZoomieZoomie Posts: 1,777 Valuable Player
    ^ This.  I have high hopes that something like Pebbles or Nimble or Leap will become a standard.  How far out from the headset can these devices reliably track?  Realistically they only have to extend to the length of our arms.
    Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.
    - Arthur C Clarke
  • jonjon Posts: 297
    Nexus 6
    Nice post, with which I mostly agree if a line from your conclusion is kept in mind throughout (emphasis mine):

    "Room-scale VR shouldn't be seen as the only way to play video games or experience VR, but  rather an alternative for those who want to feel more involved in certain games."

    The key point I would make about 'room scale' is repeating a point I've made elsewhere - the notion of 'room scale' should not be conflated with hand presence.  Many of the benefits of hand presence are being falsely attributed to 'room scale', while at the same time some benefits of hand presence are better realized in a standing scenario instead of sitting, or in a 'room scale' scenario compared to 'standing in place'.  Presenting the benefits of hand presence wholly as 'room scale' is the primary reason I throw 'room scale' in quotes the majority of the time.  Different people are referring to different things when they cite it.

    Addressing hand presence first off: it is amazing when it works well.  It has limitations though, as are often identified.  Using the example of combat in Vanishing Realms, it's nice that you have a sword and shield with which to strike and block accordingly, but you can just as easily stick the sword inside whatever you're fighting and waggle it back and forth until the thing dies.  The lack of enforcing collision detection makes a lot of gameplay elements that seem awesome at first glace decidedly less so in 1:1 tracked execution.

    There are ways the waggling problem could be mitigated in Vanishing Realms, and I don't doubt they eventually will be, but it doesn't solve that primary issue of being unable to enforce collision detection.  For all the acclaim 1:1 tracking gets what happens when something that should be awesome (a lightsaber duel) ends up being less so because the developer is forced to decide between either breaking hand presence or having blades be ethereal in some way once parried?  Sure, you can rumble the controller a bit when blades cross and send some haptic feedback to the player which the evangelists will claim subconsciously causes people to stop their strike mid-swing... but what do you do when people don't stop?

    This rolls over into 1:1 tracking issues in general (again, not specifically room scale).  One of the faults of 1:1 tracking is that its intrinsically limiting.  It doesn't introduce anything that couldn't already be done with a button press and some code, it does however eliminate some of what you could do.  True, it will definitely make many of those interactions far more intuitive and far more immersive than simply pressing a button, but as a for instance - compare the melee combat in Vanishing Realms (or any VR game for that matter) to what was presented in Witcher 3.  1:1 tracking rules out acrobatic sword strikes, crazy finishing animations, being hurled back by a charging enemy or rolling out of the way to bypass counter strikes.  Take the old cliche of some swashbuckler swinging down on a chandelier amidst a frenzied melee, and tell me how you would accomplish that realistically in VR with 1:1 tracking?  The answer is likely that you wouldn't, you would instead point to the table below and click the teleport button instead.

    Which raises the issue of movement.  I'm not particularly fond of the teleport mechanic.  I'm also not a fan of the comfort turn we see in some games with movement via analog joystick.  My suspicion is that if everyone was comfortable moving by analog stick while standing, we wouldn't even be talking about a teleport mechanic save where it makes sense in the context of the story (Dishonored: VR, for instance).

    One last comment, before I end up entirely repeating my posts from other threads, It's perhaps noteworthy that statements like this:

    "If you think about how hard it is to show non-gamers how to use an Xbox One controller for the first time as an example, using thumbsticks to move and look, buttons and triggers to shoot and interact, it's pretty hard to grasp without practice. Teleportation on the other hand is a device that anyone can pick up and use, there's nothing complicated about it and it fits within the VR space allowing anyone to dive in and "get it" without the need for complex mastery of buttons and sticks."

    Are pretty much exactly the kind of statements used to market the Wii-mote, another peripheral that was very good at certain things while being grossly inferior to a standard controller or keyboard and mouse for others.
  • MinituMinitu Posts: 79
    Hiro Protagonist
    jon said:
    The key point I would make about 'room scale' is repeating a point I've made elsewhere - the notion of 'room scale' should not be conflated with hand presence.  Many of the benefits of hand presence are being falsely attributed to 'room scale', while at the same time some benefits of hand presence are better realized in a standing scenario instead of sitting, or in a 'room scale' scenario compared to 'standing in place'.  Presenting the benefits of hand presence wholly as 'room scale' is the primary reason I throw 'room scale' in quotes the majority of the time.  Different people are referring to different things when they cite it.

    This. Brilliant.
    Soon upgrading to Ryzen
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