Will VR’s Killer App Make You Sick?

on Wednesday, May. 14th

Polygon’s Ben Kuchera has a close-in look at the design philosophy going into Eve: Valkyrie, the “killer app” for virtual reality systems.

Both the Oculus Rift and Sony’s Project Morpheus are slated to get the game, a spaceship dogfighting game that feels ripped straight out of episodes of Battlestar Galactica.

Action games are tricky in VR, as the sheer amount of visual information that is usually imparted in a game like Titanfall or Call of Duty can be overwhelming when it is all around you. Even something as basic as dying in the game requires coming up with a solution from the ground up:

The trick is to create something that makes the player uncomfortable and unsettled, but without making them feel physically ill. Dying in the game should be shocking, but not to the extent that it makes one unable to play. They’re even discussing how to explain the minimum system requirements to play the game, as things become very uncomfortable when played under 60 frames-per-second. You don’t need to just be able to run the game, but to run it smoothly to avoid sickness in the player.

“Sim sickness” as the experience of becoming physically ill some people get from exposure to VR, is a serious issue for makers of virtual reality experiences. Heavy research has gone into minimizing sim sickness, but there are still unanswered questions.

Microsoft researcher danah boyd raised some particularly intriguing, and potentially damning, concerns in a recent write-up that suggested that gender may be a factor when it comes to susceptibility to sim sickness.

Not that the entire article is about whether or not pretending to be a spaceship pilot will make you barf. There’s a host of other, less noxious, design issues that are brought up in the piece. Well worth the read.

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