Wednesday, 7 January 2015

Possible Next Gen Game Experiences for Oculus Rift and Project Morpheus

 By Lee Morris

So Next Gen crept up on us and it looks the part, it sounds the part and it pretty much plays the part – but aren't the recent flurry of Next Gen titles just prettier games with the very similar themes and mechanics we've seen before? Could VR really provide a truly “Next Gen” gameplay experience?

I remember when I first picked up the Wii remote and took a swing on the bowling. “My God it works” I thought. To be honest I thought that while I was calibrating the Wiimote with the screen, despite it only acting as a sort of light-gun in that state. Throwing the bowling ball down that lane that day was a truly Next Gen experience at the time. Mind blowing stuff.

Fair enough though, the Wii motion control stuff came and went. And came back again in the form of Playstation Move and went again and came back again like an annoying uncle ejected from a child's christening in the form of Kinect. But the point is that it came. It had a moment in time. Despite all the crowbarred-in motion control elements that got tiresome – mostly involving shaking off something that had grabbed you by rattling the Wiimote and Nunchuck like an accordion player having a fit – we can't deny that the Wii had a moment. For that short while at the beginning it was lightning in a bottle, offering many new gaming experiences we hadn't before conceived possible.

Most of them containing overtly phallic imagery.


So with that said, with VR headsets Oculus Rift and Sony's Project Morpheus nearing some sort of consumer release, I am eagerly anticipating VR's moment in time, and what new gimmicks are going to blow the minds of grandmas’ clean off and which ones are going to intoxicate our beloved game genres with things we can't be arsed to do in place of a good solid press of a button? So without further ado here's a bunch of ideas for new gameplay experiences I've thought of that VR could offer in no particular order.

1. Changing Clothes/Gender

Sounds pretty mundane but VR could allow for getting dressed in games to become a completely immersive experience. In GTA and so on where you try on clothes, something as basic as physically motioning putting on the clothes on in the changing room in first person would place you as a player that much further into the game world. Also if male players choose a female character to play as and vice versa, looking down at one's new body parts will be a Next Gen experience in itself. VR gender swapping, its coming.

2. Removing Someone Else's Clothes

Now hold on a sec, not like that. I mean in games such as Hitman where you have to steal a  victim's outfit by removing it from their dead or sleeping body. If they are just unconscious, you may have to motion it slowly to avoid waking them up. It would become a tension filled minigame in a similar manner to MB's Operation. And if you wanted to remove the clothes from a sleeping NPC for other reasons too that's up to you but I can't condone that.

Even more ways to steal this guy's hat.


3. Singing and Dancing

No doubt inevitable, some singing and dancing sort of simulation games are bound to come out. The benefit of the head mounted display allowing players to be on stage looking out from a first person perspective to an audience of gawking and squawking NPCs. Would be a great new virtual experience in and of itself but there could be some gameplay elements added to it like trying to avoid bottles being thrown, catching flowers thrown, all whilst trying to dance your socks off to win over the crowd.

4. Performing Stand-Up Comedy

Similar to the previous category, there could be a section of a game where you have to get on-stage and perform comedy routines. There'd be a single player campaign where you'd advance from open mic nights in the middle of nowhere onto wine bars in Leeds and so on eventually performing to a sell-out 80,000 seat Houston Astrodome. Also VR would allow people who've never done anything like that the chance to experience the true horror of being on stage for themselves.

5. Having a Cat Scan

If ever a character in a game had to have their head examined, the player could lie back on their bed whilst the VR headset simulated the relaxing experience of having a cat scan. You could look around while it was being done while the NPC nurse mumbled their usual pleasantries. No real reason for it ever to be in a game unless it was story related in some way.

6. Going on a Sun bed

In a similar manner to having a cat scan, players could lie on their bed with their VR headset on and simulate being in one of those electric heated sun beds. If they were in it for the bright lights and not the heat or the actual tan part, that is.

7. Lounging by a Pool/the Beach.

A lot of VR experiences available so far have tended to be quite frenetic. It'd be nice just to be able to lounge on a white plastic sun bed in a virtual Spain and look around. Perhaps it could be included in a VR addition of a GTA. With a decent halogen heater placed hanging over your bed and an actual drink in your real hand, the virtual experience could become very compelling. Saves all that flying and spending and getting the suitcases of the rotisserie thing at the real airport. VR holidays are certainly on the horizon.

"Personal Butler Heihachi" would be DLC.


8. Lounging on a Main Road

Could be a section of game where you're resting on a sort of motorised skateboard thing on a motorway and you've got to move it up and down with a remote control to avoid oncoming traffic or angle it just right to go under the car. Maybe some dastardly character has tied you do this skateboard as punishment or something and has decided to place you in a real life Frogger situation for kicks. Maybe this dastardly character is the 'player' operating the controls - the person that we as gamers are before VR controlling the avatar - and we in this VR scenario are now the in-game avatar being controlled by them. I’m sure there's some 4th wall-breaking meta-narrative game on its way. Probably won't involve characters tied to a skateboard though.

9. Having a Car Wash

Again harking back to GTA because it's the type of game where most new VR experiences will be applicable, it'd be nice to see the cockpit view from inside the car during a car wash and see and hear the roaring of the big wet brushes circling round above and to the sides of the car. It'd be one of those gimmicky things you'd do once or twice but would be nice to see. A decent technical achievement to recreate that experience virtually if nothing else.

10. Human Bouncy Ball

The phenomenon known as 'Zorbing' could be recreated in VR. Getting inside a giant transparent bouncy ball and rolling down a hill. I'd like to see the concept used in VR based video games. Perhaps a bit where you're in the ball bouncing through a city and you have to fire a laser or something that propels the ball you're in to bounce off in another direction. A whole game could be based off this. Maybe the goal would be to land the ball in a giant basket on the other side of town or get yourself through a hoop. Could even be more of puzzle focussed setting like the test labs in the Portal series. It'd probably be very disorientating in VR with the POV from inside the Zorb sphere as the world around spins uncontrollably giving you nausea. Maybe the seat inside the sphere would be weighted so you'd never spin upside down or something. Something to think about there.

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So there we go. Some food for thought there. Just a small handful of ideas. Of course there are already amazing rollercoaster simulations and so on and various quirky uses of VR already being implemented so nothing on this list is too far-fetched. It'll be exciting to see what new experiences come our way when VR emerges in the coming year.


- Lee Morris