Yeah, I should probably have gone with the “VR is a fad” quote that everyone else is using, because it’s the ooh, contentious bit and it would fit into one line in our headline box, but c’mon, this one’s much more fun. But yes, Warren Spector, he of various Deus Exes and Thiefses, has (unknowingly) sided with John in the great virtual reality opinion wars of 2015. They’re both dangerously wrong of course, but more importantly he’s excited about Cuphead.
Chatting to GamesIndustry.biz at E3, Spector’s facebox negativity was based around fairly familiar virtual reality denier lines. “I don’t think most humans want to look stupid… and they don’t want to to isolate themselves from the world.” That’s where the baseball line above comes in. Not a threat I face on a regular basis to be honest, but maybe life’s different and far more dangerous when you’re a famous game designer. “And let’s not talk about nausea,” he adds.
Actually, yes, let’s talk about nausea. It was a very real problem in the first Oculus prototype, it was significantly reduced in the second one, and I didn’t suffer from any in my admittedly brief time with an HTC/Valve Vive. It seems reckless to use something that’s clearly being tackled determinedly as even a partial reason to dismiss the whole tech. As for looking stupid, well, given I look like a zoned-out hunchback and can barely communicate when playing a ‘normal’ game – artist’s impression:
– I guess I’m not particularly bothered about looking a bit more dorky in a facebox. Hell, at least when I’m in one of those I don’t have to see the scornful looks my partner or a baseball bat-wielding invader gives me for pretending to Batman or whoever.
The telling line is perhaps “I worked on a couple of games that supported available VR headsets back in the ’90s and I was really jazzed about it. Now, I’m kind of over it.” It’s, uh, pretty different now. Honestly, I have no idea if it’ll take off or not, because cost and convenience are big issues, but unlike the irritating futility of 3D TVs and unlike the migraine-inducing horrors of early VR, a good VR experience is a genuinely meaningfully new experience, and it at least has a shot at going somewhere.
Spector doesn’t totally dismiss the tech, however, reasoning that “”I see amazing possibilities in VR for social media and virtual meetings and training and crazy stuff like dealing with phobias. But for entertainment? I’m just not seeing it.”
I’m biased. I’m a believer and I’ve spent a lot of time using VR (though I’m currently without a headset as I sold my Oculus DK2 to fund whatever gets released next from Valve or Oculus). As a lifelong PC gamer I’m also already well-accustomed to game-playing being a gigantic hassle, so I’m not particularly worried about complexity or foolishness.
VR’s not the future, but it’s a future, and I’m pretty confident that a part of the game industry which already supports any number of ridiculous hardware configurations (hello triple SLI, I mean for God’s sakes) will find plenty of profitable (both financially and creatively) space for it. I played hours of Elite Dangerous and Alien Isolation on my DK2, and physical discomfort rather than impracticality or self-consciousness was the only issue – stuff that I believe can be ironed out over time, even if that time is not quite yet. Taking over the living room seems far less likely, however.
Spector’s much more positive about AR games, however. “That seems pretty exciting. There’s some potential there. Even the low-hanging fruit of AR gaming seems compelling.”
Then there’s Cuphead. CUPHEAD. “The game that really got my shorts in a knot was Cuphead. It may just be that I’m a total classic animation geek, but that game looked phenomenal. I’m not usually a graphics first guy, but I’ll make an exception for that one. Can’t wait to play it.” Unsurprising, given his love of classic Disney, and one wonders if perhaps this is the game he should have made instead of Epic Mickey.
The really big question out of all this, of course, is why do people keep sneaking up on Warren Spector with a baseball bat? Is it some Looking Glass fan who still can’t get over Invisible War?