Dean Hall on VR development: “There’s no money in it”

Dean “Rocket” Hall, the force behind DayZ and more recently his own studio, RocketWerkz, has made some fairly strong comments about the perils of VR development, the hostility of the tech’s community, and his belief that profitability is extremely unrealistic for games developed for the host of new goggles. His own studio, he says, is unlikely to develop for VR again.

2016’s tentative attempts to make VR finally into a real thing have certainly gone further than all the very many previously aborted efforts, but none has yet seen the sorts of mainstream success necessary for it to become something that would maintain the long-term interests of the major publishers, and in turn, attract the sorts of money needed to see continued game development. (All rather handily predicted for you in June of 2015.) Mammoth entry prices, a lack of big ticket games, and the spreading micro-thin of a small potential market across rival platforms, have all so far ensured it has remained a niche interest, with small, indie releases at the fore. And if Hall’s experiences can be reasonably extrapolated across for other developers (as he suggests they can), that isn’t going to change any time soon.

Hall’s main bone of contention appears to be the recent community response to platform exclusivity by SUPERHOT Team (and a brief flirtation with the idea of restricting game modes to particular processors from Vertigo Games’ Arizona Sunshine), where abuse has been targeted at devs for having the temerity to opt for platform exclusivity in return for funding from said platform. As he explains in some detail, without such subsidising, studios simply wouldn’t be able to make VR games at all, with costs so high and returns so inevitably small.

“There is no money in it. I don’t mean “money to go buy a Ferrari”. I mean “money to make payroll”. People talk about developers who have taken Oculus/Facebook/Intel money like they’ve sold out and gone off to buy an island somewhere. The reality is these developers made these deals because it is the only way their games could come out.”

Rocketwerkz’s own game, Out of Ammo, was made without platform subsidising, but exclusively for HTC Vive. The decision to make it for just one VR headset, he says, was purely pragmatic. “They are very different and it is more expensive and difficult to support the different headsets.” (Valve doesn’t offer subsidies for Vive development, but instead offer various forms of support, few of which are practical claims Hall.) And he goes on to point out that even if money is taken, it’s not life-changing money, and they rejected the idea after consideration because the amounts weren’t significant enough, and wouldn’t have driven their game into profitability.

“From our standpoint, Out of Ammo has exceeded our sales predictions and achieved our internal objectives. However, it has been very unprofitable. It is extremely unlikely that it will ever be profitable. We are comfortable with this, and approached it as such. We expected to lose money and we had the funding internally to handle this. Consider then that Out of Ammo has sold unusually well compared to many other VR games.”

It’s certainly significant that a developer with the reach and popularity of Hall can’t turn a profit even with a relatively successful VR game, and he suggests that while developers aren’t acknowledging it publicly, they are discussing it privately. (Obviously a claim we can’t verify.) And he concludes that he doesn’t see Rocketwerkz trying the medium again.

“Honestly, I don’t think I want to make any more VR games. Our staff who work on VR games all want to rotate off after their work is done. Privately, developers have been talking about this but nobody seems to feel comfortable talking about it publicly – which I think will ultimately be bad.”

It will be interesting to see if the outlier in the VR space, Sony’s Playstation VR, can be the platform to make a difference. A more realistic entry price (albeit still more than the cost of a new PS4 on its own), plus a huge potential user base already in place, all with tech guaranteed to work with it, and a far more established subsidising model for developers, could help struggle over the many hurdles Hall lists. Whether there’s actually a broad audience who wants to play games this way remains the biggest obstacle, of course.

123 Comments

  1. xyzzy frobozz says:

    If Oculus and HTC were smart, they’d get together and agree on a standard shared exclusively on their respective headsets.

    Overnight they could end market fragmentation and effectively knock out any newcomer to the market.

    • gschmidl says:

      Google, Oculus (Facebook), HTC, Acer, Samsung and Sony have just founded the Global VR Association. Unfortunately Microsoft is not (yet) on board, but hopefully they will be, and hopefully they’ll come up with a headset-agnostic API.

      • xyzzy frobozz says:

        Thanks, I wasn’t aware of that!

        It seems like an even better and more inclusive way to go than my suggestion.

    • Premium User Badge

      Ericusson says:

      Solving market fragmentation, a good idea.
      Now if only there was a market to begin with.

      Let’s see what happens with Sony’s thingie indeed but its resolution is just too low for a convincing experience so …

  2. Cinek says:

    Guy has a point, really. Market is very small, and that’s an enormous challenge on its own. The fact that newer hits score only lower and lower sale numbers despite of growing user base certainly does not help (back few months ago people bought everything that they considered to be decent, nowadays they’re much more picky).

    Not to mention that the Vive community is extra-challenging, with their sense of entitlement and the fact that they can get offended by almost anything and brigade against certain games or devs to the point of harassment.

    • shoptroll says:

      Basically people tried to gold rush the market before it was really ready for prime time. This is why you don’t drink the kool aid if your company or livelihood is at stake.

    • Shuck says:

      The small user base is the problem. VR headset manufacturers need to sell at least five times more units than they have just to be a failure. Even the first games out of the gate, that everyone bought, were only profitable if they were very cheaply made. Now, you can’t develop for a market that small and hope to make any money, so there’s no development time being invested in figuring out the issues in VR gaming, so it’s stagnating out of the gate.
      If Sony VR takes off, things could change, but if it doesn’t, it’ll make Virtual Boy look like a runaway success compared to any headsets now. It might be another decade or more before anyone touches VR again in that case.

      • jhk655 says:

        Good, I hope it is atleast a decade before they try again. The tech just isn’t there yet. The entry fee is too large, the headsets are too cumbersome to use, and they need to put some serious R&D in to controls. True VR would mean your body is the controller. The tech really needs some kind of multidirectional treadmill, or something else to solve that problem. Otherwise nothing has changed except added depth perception and the tv being strapped to your face.

  3. Prokill88 says:

    I am sure he says that… all while he sits on the piles of money he made by lying to everyone about DayZ. Making promises he knew he would never keep.

    GJ Dean

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      John Walker says:

      What’s important is that you’ve shared.

    • Cinek says:

      As if he’d be the only dev that agrees with what was said. Run out of arguments so going ad personam instead?

    • Blackcompany says:

      I’m…not sure he made “piles of money” off of a mod…and lest we forget, the full title is owned by his former employer, not him. So any money made from that would have gone to them and he would have received a salary. I’m not saying Dean Hall is hurting for cash, but…I doubt he’s living next door to Notch.

      • Pocoyo says:

        In his words he made “a great deal of money”. Remember DayZ is not just a mod, but also a standalone game.

        link to rocketkiwi.tumblr.com

      • FurryLippedSquid says:

        While I don’t really want to get into this argument as I believe he can do whatever the Hell he likes with his IPs but, he did make a lot of money from DayZ, it was his to sell to BI and they paid handsomely.

        • Jediben says:

          Clearly that Dayz was a fluke and he was clearly making the right mod at the right time not through business acumen but blind luck. He has just admitted that Out Of Ammo was never expected to make profit?! What sort of idiot enters a commercial venture expecting to lose more money then he makes on it? He certainly isn’t going to corner any market or make cash cow patents out of it. The word of mouth won’t be improved and his reputation is already in the mud. I’d say it is a deliberate bit of money laundering or some such, if I were the type to cast aspersions: which I’m not…

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            Masked Dave says:

            Quite a lot actually. Usually the goal is to score the next round of funding for their future strategies.

            I’ve not directly heard about in the games industry before, but it’s pretty standard in the software development world.

            Amazon, for example, didn’t get out of the red until 2009 (link to investopedia.com). On purpose.

          • FurryLippedSquid says:

            Ha, you only seem to see bad in people.

            Exposure, relevance, being a part of a pioneering (though floundering, IMO) technology, or as the other guy says, more funding. Any or all of those reasons.

          • aepervius says:

            “idiot” which see the first project as an importunity to check the development practice, see the difficulty , and maybe have the opportunity to branch out. Think investment in research/developer and see how it fares out. Then conclude and use those lessons learned. Sort of the software equivalent of a blue sky project.

            In other word you have no idea what you are speaking about when you qualify them as “idiot”.

    • LimaBravo says:

      Total agreement another “Derek Smart” type, incapable of making their own product whining about other peoples.

    • PoulWrist says:

      What lies? What piles of money? He didn’t own Bohemia, he was an employee.

      • zer0sum says:

        Dean Hall is absolutely loaded. Standalone DayZ is his product and they have sold millions and millions of copies. 3.5m+

        • fish99 says:

          It’s still developed and published by Bohemia and using their engine and assets. Yes Rocket takes a share, which he’s entitled to since it’s his baby.

  4. Riaktion says:

    Interesting article. I wouldn’t like to see the demise of VR, but I must admit it isn’t something I have any intention of investing in until it becomes much more “consumer” and less “enthusiast”.

    Thanks again RPS!

  5. Blackcompany says:

    The market is already hopelessly fragmented. Good an idea as it would be, I dont see Facebook cooperating with Valve. Add to that, headsets are not cheap; you’re basically buying another console in terms of price, AND you need the horsepower to run the goggles, which isnt exactly economical.

    On top of all that…VR still makes some people sick, further limiting the install base. There arent many real games for it. If you dont like sims you’ve no real reason to purchase a VR set, as right now the entire game catalogue is mostly mini games you’d find annoying if they were shoehorned into your other games.

    And lest we not forget: When using a setup like this, you can neither hear, nor see, the room around you. Which means that single parents who game with their children at home are mostly out. People with small pets are mostly out. And what spouse wants to essentially have to babysit his or her significant other while they are – almost literally – off in some other world, utterly oblivious to reality?

    My girl and I were just talking about VR a while back. I was using my surround sound headset to play ATS, and didnt hear one of the cats yowling at me (for attention, fortunately, a habit of hers). But imagine I’d been home alone (in which case I dont use the headset unless both cats are sleeping where I can see them). She asked me, “Would you have heard the fire alarm, had it gone off?”

    I probably would have heard the smoke detector. Probably. But imagine if I had had to untangle myself from the headset, a pair of VR goggles AND all the accompanying cables just to get to a crying cat, or baby, or escape a fire. Perhaps there’s a real, mass market appeal in VR…once it becomes a comfortable pair of glasses we can slip on and off.

    But right now? Between the price of hardware, market fragmentation, the risk of VR sickness and the other not insignificant issues with entangling yourself with a set of devices that utterly shut out reality so thoroughly, I struggle to comprehend how anyone can really immerse themselves in VR for any real length of time…and I think many game developers feel the same way, hence, the utter lack of development for the platform(s).

    • The Velour Fog says:

      I’m not particularly interested in VR but your scenarios here are a little exaggerated

    • Cinek says:

      FYI: 1. you can wear non-insulating headphones with VR headset. Actually – Oculus comes bundled with these, so hearing sounds from the outside is not a problem, really. 2. You have grossly overblown the VR sickness issue – there are games and experiences that work of everyone. Roomscale VR + teleportation mitigate issue for those that cannot use other methods of locomotion. In general though, if you are worried, I’d recommend avoiding gamepad-only games, instead going for Oculus Touch or Vive (or HOTAS/steering wheel, obviously). 3. Both Rift and Vive can play games dedicated for the other headset, it’s more tricky, but works (for example google “ReVive”).

      I struggle to comprehend how anyone can really immerse themselves in VR for any real length of time

      That’s one of the biggest challenges in VR: Getting people to understand how it works, and how it can be immersive. It’s really something that one has to try on his own, preferably in some relaxed environment where you can spend some time to set it up correctly, and on a PC that’s powerful enough to run smooth experience. I don’t know how to explain it, but I own VR since April and I’m still amazed just how silly Bow shooting minigame I wouldn’t care about on a desktop turns into something special and super-fun.

      • Ur-Quan says:

        “That’s one of the biggest challenges in VR: Getting people to understand how it works, and how it can be immersive. It’s really something that one has to try on his own, preferably in some relaxed environment where you can spend some time to set it up correctly, and on a PC that’s powerful enough to run smooth experience. ”

        And there’s your huge problem and the reason why I can’t see VR taking off anytime soon.
        There is just no good way to provide that sort of initial experience to a huge number of potential customers and only a select few are willing to spend THAT much money without knowing if they will even enjoy VR or not.

        • Kefren says:

          Shops like this: link to vrland.co.uk
          I’ve been quite a few times with friends and family. A chance to try it out, perfectly set up. Lots of fun. I couldn’t afford the kit at the moment but a few group sessions here have been great fun, lots of laughing and joking, and it persuaded me that I would really enjoy more in-depth time with some of the things, maybe when the next iterations come out.

          • inspiredhandle says:

            Bloody hell. It’s in Wales. Wasn’t expecting that. Am in the country for a week over Christmas, though it’s still a 2 hour drive from where I’ll be.

          • Kefren says:

            Yep. It is literally at the end of the line. :-)

          • Kefren says:

            Also: some libraries now have the kits (PSVR mostly, I think) so worth checking with your local library authority.

    • DThor says:

      Pretty much everything you’re writing. I’ve been saying similar things here and there in industry circles and get a seriously hostile response, get accused of spreading FUD, and generally not being a team player when I point out price points, mass market penetration issues and simply behave with a degree of skepticism. How industry people can be *so* blind this soon after the home 3d TV debacle escapes me. I don’t have any hatred for the tech – simply don’t see it moving outside the aficionado market.

      • Cinek says:

        That’s because there’s a lot of valid criticism to what he (and by that I presume: You) said. Including the fact that 3D TV is completely unrelated to VR. If anything – it’s a great way to erase any doubt that you have absolutely no clue about VR.

        • Hidoshi says:

          I agree, I’m neither an enthousiast nor a sceptic (just a realistic guy).
          For me the issues with VR are: pricey, a lot of tech demo’s/gimmicks instead of “real” games and in the case of Vive the room size issue

          There’s no real comparison with 3D tv’s at all, and if you believe VR is the same as a 3D tv, then you should really try VR (there are a lot of free events where you can just try it)

          The sickness thing is a thing from the past. Trust me on this one, I got really sick after 5 seconds with the old Oculus DK1, but with the Vive we have at work I can easily play for an hour.

          • inspiredhandle says:

            I have to know now… Where do you work? Any openings?

          • Hidoshi says:

            I’m not sure how serious the question is, but I work at Jayway in Copenhagen. I don’t know how much I can advertise, so no links and such. Look it up on Google and if you live in Denmark, contact me again!

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      Nathan says:

      > Good an idea as it would be, I dont see Facebook cooperating with Valve.

      Khronos recently announced a consortium to create a VR standard specification which both Oculus and Valve have said they are supporting.

    • Moraven says:

      At least with the PSVR, it takes seconds to take it off.

  6. sneetch says:

    I’m not surprised to read this, I’ve been thinking this must be the case for some time. The hardware is expensive and few people have it (at the moment) and most of the games I’ve seen remind me of the Wii gold-rush where so many games were shovelled out to get on the waggle-gravy-train as quickly as possible (shake the wiimote up and down to move the gravy-train).

    I think I’ll continue to wait for the next generation of VR.

  7. Landiss says:

    Does it really surprise anyone?

  8. Dewal says:

    I feel like the VR is a technology that should start the same way the videogame industry started.
    When videogames where expensives and few people could pay them (and buy the machines), there were arcades.

    You’d go to your VR center, a place with a lot of VR equipment to rent. The games themselves could be far more expensive and profitable for the companies that make them. Then, in the future, the prices of the goggles will go down, we’ll have a more important pool of games already developped for them and THEN it will be okay to have VR at home and games at low prices.

    • Cinek says:

      That’s what happens in China.

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      Harlander says:

      That’s what Virtuality tried back in the 90’s. I’d be more enthusiastic about it working now, because the tech’s much less terrible.

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      Hammer says:

      There’s one of those in Edinburgh, but it’s charging £8.50 for 15 minutes at the moment. Reminds me of pricing of internet cafes circa 1995.

      Link to news-story: link to scotsman.com

    • Kefren says:

      I live in a teeny coastal town, and even we have a VR place now! link to vrland.co.uk
      I’ve been quite a few times with friends and family. A chance to try it out, perfectly set up. Lots of fun. I couldn’t afford the kit at the moment but a few group sessions here have been great fun, lots of laughing and joking, and it persuaded me that I would really enjoy more in-depth time with some of the things, maybe when the next iterations come out.
      PS I am nothing to do with the shop, and yes, I did paste a similar comment above. :-) The issue of “how to try it out cheaply” occurs more than once.

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        Harlander says:

        Is there a list of those kind of establishments anywhere? I’d love to check modern VR out, but Aberystwyth and Edinburgh are a bit of a schlep for me…

        • Kefren says:

          Mmm, no idea I’m afraid. The one here opened with no fuss – it is pure chance my girlfriend saw it and told me about it. Googling doesn’t seem too helpful here, but you could try variants of
          vr vive oculus demo shop
          and so on, plus nearby towns? I’m sure someone more techie might have a better idea!
          Ours is just down a sidestreet. I expected some crummy mobile-phone type shop with boxes and geezers, but it is a really nicely presented family-run thing, proper reception area and so on. A great find.

        • Premium User Badge

          Nathan says:

          Sadly nothing in Edinburgh (!?) but Oculus have a list of bookable demos online: link to live.oculus.com

        • Kefren says:

          Also: some libraries now have the kits (PSVR mostly, I think) so worth checking with your local library authority.

        • dreadguacamole says:

          Sorry for the late reply, but there is apparently one in Camden – link to virtuallyreality.co
          Haven’t tried it yet, but fully intend to.

    • soul4sale says:

      Mmmmmmmmm, pink eye outbreaks…

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      Ericusson says:

      Arcades were built to last, VR helmets not so much.
      Also, someone would have to pay me to put on my head and face the helmet used by whoever before.

      Good luck with the economy of such places when people got so used to their personal phallic phone symbol in their pocket for their exclusive private use.

    • Shuck says:

      When video game arcades took off, the video games themselves were very, very cheap to develop (one person over a matter of months – it was only the machines that were expensive to make), and arcades already existed. Now the model is backwards – most of the businesses I see renting time on VR are using commercial games whose developers aren’t seeing any of that revenue, making that substantially less sustainable than selling to home users; the rest are custom-built spaces with custom-made games. Building an VR game space around a custom-made game is a different and very expensive proposition.

  9. UncleLou says:

    I can only hope it succeeds, it is too fantastic to disappear. :-/

    I understand what he’s saying about exclusivity, but yeah, the market fragmentation in the PC space (and the fact that Valve seem to do … nothing for the Vive) made me bet on the PSVR, although I am much more of a PC gamer, really. Not that I think the PSVR will necessarily be a success, but I do think it has the best chances currently.

  10. Premium User Badge

    DuncUK says:

    I think current-gen, PC based VR has huge problems. The cost of entry into this market for consumers is too high and as a result the development rewards too small. We’re more or less beyond the early adopter surge, if the headsets and games sales are not increasing steadily then the incentive to make more games will dry up and the market will stagnate.

    I do think phone based VR has a much more credible and immediate future. It’s already possible to use Google cardboard or Gear VR to run PC based VR games thanks to emulation software. Leveraging the hardware people will already own reduces consumer investment significantly and this hardware already benefits from economies of scale. If this can be made as compelling an experience for a fraction of the up-front cost then why force consumers to spend large sums on proprietary equipment? Moreover, most people are already bought into the bi-annual upgrade cycle for phone handsets and so are not risking obsolescence as hardware steadily improves. My current phone (S7) already has a higher resolution than the Occulus Rift and I bought into VR by buying a second hand Gear VR on EBAY for £60. Compare that to the current cost of Rift and the Vive.

    IMO HTC should absolutely be developing a phone and cheap headset that can plug directly to a PC to run Steam VR games as well as existing Google cardboard stuff. Given this is a meeting of the two markets they have most experience in, it seems bizarre that they’ve not done it yet.

  11. Halk says:

    I have zero interest in VR.

    The problem with games today is not that the technology used to deliver the experience is bad (it’s better than ever, obviously). The problem is the quality of the content that gets delivered. Further improving the how instead of the what does not help.

    It’s the same as with 3D in movies. It has a certain novelty value the first two times you see it, but then you realise it does nothing to make bad movies better (if anything, it has made movies worse).

    • UncleLou says:

      May I ask if you have tried VR? I find it hard to believe that anyone who has tried VR think it’s in any form or shape a kind of novelty gimmick like 3D TV (on which I completely agree with you).

      • Kefren says:

        I agree. I was suspicious until I tried it in my local VR shop (not shop as in they sell VR kit – I mean that they have a perfect setup and you pay for 20 minute sessions of whatever games and experiences you want to try). Great to experience as a group. I won’t post their link again as an example or it will look like spamming. But that persuaded me that VR can work. Someone else mentioned the bow and arrow thing. There’s a real physicality to it – combined with the depth perception it makes certain activities that would normally be boring on a 2d monitor feel surprisingly real and compelling. That’s a win for me.

      • Archonsod says:

        He does have a point; from what I can see most VR releases so far are largely gimmicks – explore art in 3D or ‘throw something somewhere’ style games. You’ve got the games throwing in VR support too of course, but even there it’s somewhat sketchy – there’s a fair few where you try the VR once and then go back to the regular monitor, and not simply because it’s quicker.

        It’s hard to see how it’s likely to succeed this time. Talking as someone who managed to try VR back in the 80s and 90s it seems the only real improvement is graphic fidelity, which unfortunately wasn’t really a contributing factor to the reasons it failed the first two times.

        • Kefren says:

          I’d also tried it back in the past. I can say that graphics are not the only improvement (though it is a massive leap forward). It’s the fast head tracking and the controls that help to make you feel like you are in a virtual space. Reaching out to press a button, pull a lever, pick something up. It really helps to trick you into believing it. (I don’t own any kit, I just use it in a local VR experience shop).

        • soul4sale says:

          Framerate has massively improved as well. 90s VR was was like stopmotion. They still have an input lag problem, but it’s far better than it was.

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          Herring says:

          There’s a lot of shovelware but also some amazing new gameplay options.

          Budget Cuts (James Bond simulator), Vanishing Realms (first-person RPG. Just reaching you equipment / weapons makes it so much better), Final Approach (toy planes!), Raw Data (yes, a wave shooter. But you’re a robot ninja or Gun Cleric….), The Solus Project (be on an alien planet and survive) etc.

          And Elite is like night-and-day in VR compared to normal…

  12. Premium User Badge

    Herring says:

    I’ve mentioned this before but I saw the exact same arguments about VR used against 3D accelerators came they out;

    Expensive
    Not widely supported / only supported in beta software
    Proprietary software tied to hardware (Glide / DX / Open GL)
    Unnecessary (don’t improve gameplay at all)
    Catch 22: Small user base so no-one supports them, user’s don’t buy a 3D accelerator because no-one supports them.
    Technically difficult to get working (a 2nd graphics card + required mucking about to get it working at all!)

    I think the price + Occulus’ lock-out shenanigans will slow down adoption but the gameplay / experience offered is so dramatic I can’t see it failing entirely. Worst-case I’d see it confined to the sim market only but I think that’s highly unlikely.

    • drewski says:

      I wonder.

      I remember when 3D accelerators came out. Everyone I knew was talking about them. We knew who in our friends group had one, knew what they were playing. We all wanted one. We poured over magazines reading about which ones did what and bought parts magazines to pick out our dream computer with a 3D accelerator from this place or that place.

      Now, I’m not a kid any more. I don’t pretend to know what “kids these days” are doing with their spare time. I know two things – firstly, that my adult friends don’t care about VR. And secondly, I know that the mainstream websites that have written VR content have largely abandoned it because it got so little interest.

      Maybe VR is the next 3D accelerator, I don’t know. Maybe in an age before the internet, I was just on the same cutting edge that VR fans are now, only I didn’t realise it.

      Or maybe VR just doesn’t appeal to people yet.

      • sneetch says:

        I believe all the kids today are into hippity hop dancing music and facetiming their snapchats with hashtags. #fingeronthepulse

        • gunny1993 says:

          Unfortunately that’s your own pulse you’re feeling and the body you examining has been dead for years.

        • GallonOfAlan says:

          And being all hepped-up on goofballs.

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        Herring says:

        I’m a terminal early-adopter so I got a Voodoo as soon as I could. My gaming friends talked about them a bit but it was more in terms of the PC being able to look _almost_ as good as a Playstation. Everyone _sort_ of wanted one but weren’t massively bothered (all the games ran fine without).

        Until they saw one in action (Quake 2) and then everyone piled in.

        That’s exactly what happened with VR too when I organised a VR party. A few drinks, moved the PC into the front room and let everyone have 30 mins in Minecraft, Budget Cuts or Vanishing Realms and everyone was sold :D

        Additionally it’s been absolutely jaw-dropping for non-gamers too. It’s sad because both the price and the technical requirements are massive barriers to entry for non-enthusiasts…

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      FhnuZoag says:

      I dunno, I feel like the difference firstly is that manufacturers began to build in 3d accelerators into PCs they sell. And secondly you get integrated graphics features on motherboards that did part of this stuff so it’s not like devs’ games are unplayable without one.

      Neither of these are terribly likely with VR.

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        Herring says:

        That was ages after the first accelerators came out though, after they’d already become popular. The additional cards were the only way to go for ages and they were unwieldy, expensive and a nightmare to set up.

        I’ve still got a Voodoo 2 :D

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          Ericusson says:

          They were pretty straight forward to setup !
          First 3dfx card, I still remember the shop I bought it in actually ! Comes back home, plug it in, install drivers, plays Quake : BAM in your face.

          Same for the Voodoo 2 in SLI, which was working with external pass through VGA cables ? Some later stuff like PowerVR was more hairy and ultimately some failed experience.

          Maybe I forgot but I don’t remember them being particularly capricious !

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            Herring says:

            It’s been a while but didn’t you have to muck about with pass-through cables? A special driver for Quake? Then all the hassle of competing low-level drivers later on? I also recall issues with IRQs etc if you had a lot of devices or particular NICs. Lots of hacking around to get games working which only went away when Direct X gained traction.

            Bear in mind you’d have lost people at “plug it in” :)

            This is analogous to VR too; I had no trouble mounting a couple of light-houses and running the config in a (pretty small) space but a few people complained about the complexity of it or had other problems (including John, I recall).

            My point there is that the technical hurdles went away with the improvement in tech.

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            Ericusson says:

            Ahah i had forgotten about IRQ conflicts.
            Once you understood some couldn’t be changed for no good reasons and some could for mysterious reasons, things were good.

            Really, Quake on edge was a breeze to play for me.
            Setting up a BNC network for playing in LAN … now that was the challenge.

          • Premium User Badge

            Herring says:

            That takes me back :) My first rental after University we got some NIC cards due for the bin from work and dangled BNC around the house, ready to connect the 4 of us.

            Never found the hardware too hard but the protocol stuff was a nightmare (frigging NetBIOS over IPX/SPX I remember be horrible…)

    • Premium User Badge

      RaveTurned says:

      3D cards were a cool accessory that made good games great, and bad games… well, pretty. You could still buy the games without them and get something from them, and then later on you could upgrade and enjoy the benefits of the new hardware.

      VR headsets and motion controls are not like that. They fundamentally change the way you interact with the game. At the moment it seems like devs are racing to explore the possibilities of this new interaction, but the result is that most VR games just aren’t playable without the owning the hardware first. There are very few “gateway” games that people are likely to buy even without the VR hardware.

      Another issue for the motion control is the physical space requirement. Not everyone has a space where they can set up a Vive. I could probably use a headset while sat in front of my PC for something like Elite Dangerous, but I’m not going to be able to play a game like Out of Ammo where I currently live. The cost of entry goes up considerably when it comes with an increase in rent.

      • Premium User Badge

        Herring says:

        To an extent that’s true but it doesn’t have to be. All the sim games can ‘swing both ways’ and there’s a few others too (Solus Project, SuperHot, Fallout 4 (soon), Dota spectating).

        There was a cool idea for a game I saw the other day where it’s asymmetric too; a VR guy vs non with different gameplay for each.

        Once accelerators got to a critical mass there started to be games that wouldn’t function without them even though they hadn’t got to ubiquitous level yet.

      • Premium User Badge

        Herring says:

        “The cost of entry goes up considerably when it comes with an increase in rent.”

        Which I think was Oculus’ main point. Room scale was never their priority because they didn’t think it would be feasible or practical in most cases.

        Valve disagreed.

    • Premium User Badge

      John Walker says:

      Yeah, no, that isn’t what happened. I was there too, and everyone went, “OMG NEED”.

      • Premium User Badge

        Herring says:

        I don’t remember it being that way initially; though I remember everyone being like that when a game came out built around them (Quake 2). No-one was massively invested in getting one for GL Quake. In fact, I remember lots of people thinking it looked worse than when rendered in software (all the muddiness of textures).

        “OMG NEED” was definitely the reaction after they tried Quake 2 though.

        Just like it was when they tried Budget Cuts in VR :D

        • Premium User Badge

          Ericusson says:

          I’m with John on that one, 3DFX voodoo was a wildfire from which there was no coming back.

          • Premium User Badge

            Herring says:

            I’m not disagreeing with it’s impact; what I’m saying is there was a lag between it being available and it becoming dominant.

            No one bought a Voodoo for Wayne Gretzky’s 3D Hockey :)

        • Laurentius says:

          There may have been lag making it absolutely necessary in PC gaming but not in general feeling. I was broke and hesitant that’s for sure but I was buying gaming press back then and glee over voodoo when it appears was all over the place. It was clear that thsi is a chance for PC to compete ith PSX and Saturn. The graphics, framrates, glee and markating push was in full force month after month. Curent VR is in compltely different position.

          • Premium User Badge

            Herring says:

            link to en.wikipedia.org

            That lines up with how I (dimly) remember it.

            There was quite a bit of time between the original few GPUs coming out and mass acceptance. The Voodoo was the first really jaw-dropping hardware and games took a while to support it as a matter of course too.

            You had the war between API’s too which fragmented the market

      • Premium User Badge

        syllopsium says:

        This. I bought a Creative Labs Voodoo 2 close to launch day, and it was brilliant. Slotted in and Just Worked.

        It was fundamentally different because there were plenty of games that supported it, and a whole system upgrade wasn’t required. To do VR properly many people will need a new system and a new graphics card, plus the VR kit which costs as much as a medium range PC by itself..

        • Premium User Badge

          Herring says:

          THE MACHINE was already going when Voodoo 2 was out. I was referring to the initial releases of GPUs where they were expensive, fiddly to set up and had minimal (official) support. Once there were a few key must-have titles they were away to the races. As much as I love VR there’s no ‘must-have’ titles yet that would persuade someone to buy it who hasn’t tried it for themselves…

  13. ArcaneQuill says:

    No comment here on DayZ (never played it, no horse in that race), but Hall’s public perception as a scammer was not helped by Out of Ammo, and I’m surprised I’m the first person to note it. Out of Ammo hit early access as an RTS set in VR, a first and a super-cool idea.

    Halfway into development, the devs suddenly said “Oh, yeah, we’re not doing that anymore, it’s pretty hard, so we’re gonna ship with a few RTS levels and the rest is going to be a wave shooter.”

    (Wave shooters being the number-one most oversaturated kind of game on the Vive right now, by way of explanation. And this one had crude graphics and wonky mechanics, which were fine when it was an RTS you half-played in overhead view, but compared to wave shooters like Raw Data, Out of Ammo was a half-baked mess by the time it hit release. So yeah, it got a metric ton of bad reviews and word-of-mouth, and I’m not at all surprised sales slacked off fast and hard. Of course, this is not Dean’s fault. Apparently nothing is.)

    TL/DR: Nothing to do with VR as a platform or the market, everything to do with his studio pulling a bait-and-switch after lots of people had played over the two hour mark and couldn’t get refunds when the rest of Out of Ammo turned out to be a different game than the one they bought.

    • fish99 says:

      That doesn’t make him a scammer. That just means people don’t understand early access-

      “Note: This Early Access game is not complete and may or may not change further. If you are not excited to play this game in its current state, then you should wait to see if the game progresses further in development.”

      • ArcaneQuill says:

        You honestly don’t see a difference between “This game has several functional levels, and you take a chance on whether or not it’ll get finished,” and “Well, we’ve got the funding we needed from EA, and now we’ve decided to make a totally different game”? They took money from people to make an RTS, then decided not to.

  14. Dajmin says:

    He is technically correct right now. Like any new tech it’s a niche audience who can afford to actually buy and use it. If that’s enough to sustain it into affordability then it’ll go mainstream.

    Right now we’re in the HD DVD vs Bluray period. It’s not time to write anything off yet.

    • shoptroll says:

      I wouldn’t go so far to say as HD-DVD vs. Blu-Ray. Wearable computing devices is more analogous: a new market segment everyone thought was hot but has, so far, failed to really ignite unlike phones and tablets.

      A higher definition video format was always going to take off as there were appreciable improvements over DVD, it was just a question of which format was going to win. VR and wearables have a similar issue where it’s not immediately clear to the average consumer why they would want it.

      3D TV had the same problem, and it’s not surprising the TV manufacturers are putting a lot of investment now into hawking 4K and HDR features and are actively trying to get us to forget that 3D TV was a thing they tried to push for years.

  15. Tholesund says:

    I realise this is a gaming news site, so the discussion’s focus on VR tech in the specific context of gaming is understandable, but still annoyingly myopic.

    The way I see it, VR (and related AR tech) will – within 10 years of so – mostly replace traditional displays. In some industries, this is already happening (and has been happening for a decade, at least).

    The next generation of headsets will most likely provide high enough resolutions to allow comfortable use of virtual desktop-type environments and also have eye tracking capabilities, which will – in addition to offering significant graphics performance benefits – make it easy to precisely and effortlessly manipulate virtual UI objects.

    Eventually (in the slightly longer term), most UIs will by default assume that the user is wearing some type of VR/AR gear. Traditional physical interfaces will at first be deemphasized and later deprecated and offered for baseline compatibility purposes only.

    I consider it quite likely that my current 34″ 21:9 ultrawide display is the last traditional desktop display I will ever own (assuming it doesn’t break in the next 3-5 years). We are in the early stages of a revolution that’ll dramatically change the way we interact with computing devices. And it’ll happen even if VR gaming completely fails to become economically viable for developers and publishers.

    At this point, the worst that gaming can do to the adoption of VR/AR is slightly slow it down.

    • Premium User Badge

      Herring says:

      That’ll be cool if you’re right :) But there’s still so much gaming that works better with KBM / Controller. That might just be a hardware / UI issue but there’s certain forms of game that are just so difficult slow to do in VR.

      Ironically, I’ve just got a 34″ 21:9 at Black Friday though I’ve had a Vive for 6 months.

      Though the various Virtual Screens in VR are very cool and quite useful….

    • Hidoshi says:

      “The way I see it, flying cars will – within 10 years of so – mostly replace traditional cars. In some industries, this is already happening (and has been happening for a decade, at least).” is what they said before the year 2000.
      People are bad at predicting the future/trends (nothing personal)

      • FriendlyFire says:

        That’s a terrible analogy – we don’t have mass market flying cars, but we already have good mass market VR headsets.

        Electric cars would be a much better comparison, but since it’s very possible that electric cars would get that popular in a decade or two, it wouldn’t really reinforce your point.

    • Halk says:

      >make it easy to precisely and effortlessly manipulate
      >virtual UI objects.

      Yay, except that this is needed for almost no job-related computer activities. Sure, it will have an impact in SOME fields like CAD, architecture, etc.

      But 90% (if not more) of all job-related computer activities essentially consist of reading and typing stuff. Screens are fine for that, more ergonomic than VR, you can just sit down in front of one to start working and get up again if some other activity is needed, etc.

      They will be with us for a long time, and honestly I am glad about that. I cannot think of a single way in which VR would make my personal work easier (although such considerations do not necessarily stop companies from introducing a new feature *cough*Ribbon*cough*).

    • Ur-Quan says:

      “The way I see it, VR (and related AR tech) will – within 10 years of so – mostly replace traditional displays.”

      Sorry but that’s bullshit. How exactly will VR replace the TV? Or your regular business guys display? I don’t see that happening at all much less in only a decade.

      • Sakkura says:

        The claim is exaggerated but not entirely absurd.

        In the case of Mr. Business Guy, he will not be showing you stuff in person. He’ll be advertising to you across the series of tubes, and there will be a neat VR app that lets you look at and maybe interact with the stuff Mr. Business Guy is trying to sell you.

        • Shuck says:

          Except that in this context, “Mr. Business Guy” is someone sitting in an office working on spreadsheets and word docs. VR is the opposite of helpful for everyone doing that kind of work, which is most computer uses.

      • Stardog says:

        It absolutely will happen You just lack basic vision. See here @ 18s – link to youtube.com

        Why would you pay $300+ for a television when you can have any screen, any size, anywhere, for free?

    • jimmybones says:

      I’ve a friend who works in the vr industry, and at a fairly high level. One of the devs on his team tried to live your inevitable future. This was his experience:
      “For about a week, I was doing test flights where I would spent more and more of my workday (and work stream) in a DK2, in Virtual Desktop.
      I was incredibly productive, divorced from all outside distractions. I suffered no ill effects while in the DK2 itself.

      During the night of my last test, I had the painful feeling that my eyes were too big for my head and were going to “pop out,” which lasted all night. The next day, my eyes were crusted shut.

      My theory is that one’s eyes really, really need to “breathe”—or, perhaps, be in an environment where the water of your eyes can freely evaporate and be replaced.”

      • Premium User Badge

        Herring says:

        That kind of reinforces his point though; the system delivered marked performance benefits but is let down by limitations of first-gen hardware. The problems they encountered could be fixed by a smaller / lighter headset etc.

    • MikhailG says:

      I wanna know in what industries this is happening mate please tell me

  16. Anti-Skub says:

    Sorry, why are we interested in Dean Hall’s opinion on game development? He has one successful mod for someone else’s title followed by a litany of failures under his belt.

    • Jane Doe says:

      This.

      Dean Hall is not a reliable source except for how to fail forward in development. Big ideas, big words, little to show for it.

    • thedosbox says:

      Ah right, attack the messenger, ignore the message. Is anything he said about the state of VR development being disputed by any other developers?

      There was a lot of excitement and buzz at the beginning of the year, but I’ll bet that’s changed.

    • Shuck says:

      His successes or failures are completely irrelevant to the issue at hand. Even if it was relevant, one learns more from failures than successes – if there was a developer who’d only had successes, I’d not trust what they had to say about the game industry at all, because they’d have been working in an anomalous bubble their whole career.

  17. Sic says:

    The VR scene has multiple problems, really.

    It’s expensive to get a headset. It’s expensive to get a computer that can handle anything other than games made for VR. It’s devoid of proper standards (at the moment).

    I think they were just a tad too trigger-happy with VR, as it really needs to be a market saturated to the point that all the mainstream developers is forced to implement support across the board. Right now, it’s out of the question, since the install base is too small both in terms of headsets, and in terms of GPU’s that can drive modern games in stereo.

    I’m sure all the small indie VR games are loads of fun, but it’s not going to push those units out the door, and give incentive to more mainstream adoption. It needs time that we don’t have. We should all have be sporting something like the GTX 1080 before Oculus made their push.

    I think VR will take the road of mobile phones more than anything, and the expensive PC and console versions will simply be a dud, for the time being.

    Facebook being involved makes me optimistic about Oculus hanging in there through the dip in popularity that will inevitably happen. I only hope consumers will be willing to jump on the bandwagon the second time around in a few years time.

  18. mercyRPG says:

    If I ever see ” VR ” in a game article its = AUTO AVOID for me. Don’t read, skip, go to next article.

    • Kefren says:

      After clicking on the header, loading the article, scrolling to the end and leaving a comment.

  19. dorn7 says:

    How exactly is the “cell phone screen strapped to my face” market going to fail? Cell phone screens aren’t going to get cheaper? Is the cost of textile covered plastic going to go up? What am I missing here?

    Sensors
    Textiles
    Plastics
    Small LED screens.
    Some very cheap semiconductor chips.
    Lenses

    That’s what a headset is made out of.

    If every studio in the world agreed to stop making 3d games it still wouldn’t matter. It would barely register as a blip on the demand and price of these subcomponents.

    Earlier attempts to sell headsets failed because they simply sucked and they were never going to get cheaper without demand.

    We’ve passed that hurdle. All that remains is price. A price guaranteed to drop due to cell phones. Even if the smart phone market crashes the screens will keep getting cheaper. That’s because a great screen will keep selling phones.

    That’s the real reason so many companies were willing to jump on this. It’s also why the headsets are so expensive. There’s no need to sell at a loss. There’s no need for market penetration. There’s no need for these manufacturers to take any risk. They’re simply selling some parts hobbled together. Parts that will get cheaper and cheaper.

    There doesn’t need to be any money in VR game development. It’s simply completely 100% unimportant.

    • Marr says:

      There doesn’t need to be money in it *now*, but if there’s money in it a few years down the road, the companies that got a head start in learning to design and build for VR will be quite happy with that decision.

  20. anisotonic says:

    The 3D market is still 5 times bigger than VR. It delivers true HD resolutions at much higher frame rates and perceived depth than VR, works with all game types and has a library of hundreds of quality, actual games. However developers really should keep ignoring it because you have to wear glasses that you forget you’re even wearing after 30 seconds.

  21. KastaRules says:

    I doubt that game could be fairly profitable even if it were developed without VR in mind.

  22. racccoon says:

    Seeing with our own eyes is the greatest experience we could be born with. Why would you want to enclose your eyes in a box, so..you want to look like douche..ok, erhh..you have no idea what effects this will have on your eye sight…& to top it off! Your going to pay out a massive amount of cash just to experience it. Its pointless. VR is rubbish! great for army, navy, airforce, N maybe space! but still rubbish.
    Stay Seeing! and believe this!
    Your far better with eyes that can see than eyes closed inside a box of bullshit.

    • Marr says:

      1. Anything that is in the world when you’re born is normal and ordinary and is just a natural part of the way the world works.
      2. Anything that’s invented between when you’re fifteen and thirty-five is new and exciting and revolutionary and you can probably get a career in it.
      3. Anything invented after you’re thirty-five is against the natural order of things.

      Douglas Adams

      • TheDyingScotsman says:

        VR was invented before you were born (most likely, unless you’re my age). It has nothing to do with when it was invented. I am 45 and love a lot of modern technology. But VR is quite dangerous for starters (see my post below) and you can scream bullshit all you want. Time will tell.

        Putting aside the health issues (which are very real btw, research!) I think VR is little more than a gimmick. It’s done the rounds many times now since way back in the 70/80s and despite each iteration improving on the last, the novelty soon wears off.

      • Premium User Badge

        Herring says:

        :)

        “Old age is where a narrow waist and a broad-mind change places”

        Considering the state of the kit Mother Nature deems fit to dole out to people the sooner we kick her influence to the kerb the better TBH. If I just relied on the eyes I was born with I’d not see more than 20 cm in front of my face….

  23. TheDyingScotsman says:

    VR is little more than a gimmick for young ones with too much of mummy and daddy’s money in their pocket. It’s very niche and personally, despite the cost and lack of games, the health issues concern me more (don’t start telling me there are none, or I will link you a whole ton of articles) Optical nerve -> brain – proven that VR affects the hippocampus and the long term effects are yet to be determined but lets’s say it doesn’t look pretty. If you don’t believe there are health issues you lack a healthy dose of skepticism and have done zero research. That or you’re just the typical toxic fanboy who screams “conspiracy theory” and “tin foil hat” as soon as someone points out these things).
    Ok so those using VR for half hour stints twice a day won’t see many side effects, but you know there will be those who play with a VR apparatus strapped to their head for 12 hours a day…those people are going to suffer some rather nasty consequences.

    Everything in moderation.

    All that aside, I don’t think VR will go anywhere.

    • Marr says:

      Everyone who doesn’t agree with what I’m saying is an idiot or toxic fanboy? Really? Most of the VR enthusiasts I’m aware of are successful professionals wasting their own hard-earned as self aware early adopters. No-one thinks this first generation will be mainstream.

      If you spend 12 hours a day doing *anything* you’re going to have health problems. Keyboards, mice and LCD panels will mess you up if that’s all you do every day, hasn’t damaged the popularity of personal computers much.

      Are you talking about the VR research on rats, because that seems to be about how treadmill VR *fails* to affect the hippocampus, the brain doesn’t treat it as a physical space for memory purposes. Not sure how that applies to roomscale, or sitting in a chair flying internet spaceships. Really don’t see why you’d expect it to permanently damage a species that can handle DMT.

  24. aircool says:

    From my perspective, all I was wanting (and expecting) from VR was the ability to look around my cockpit in Elite: Dangerous and my cabin in American Truck Simulator etc…, not a whole bunch of controls for walking around my room (there’s no space anyway).

    What we got was effectively a whole new platform which required £600+ and a mid range PC minimum. The majority of gamers don’t even have the minimum required GTX970 (or equivalent).

    A simple, headtracking headset would have had more success as it could be used with loads of games that work just fine using a monitor.

    • Marr says:

      You can’t really translate most first-person-whatever games into VR though, unless they’re designed with that in mind from the beginning. Game architecture just looks weird from the inside, and there’s a very limited set of movement speeds and mechanics that won’t dissociate the player and give them travel sickness.

      The experience you’re looking for is available from the Oculus DK2, which you should be able to find second hand for way less than £600.

  25. Zhiroc says:

    Personally, I won’t be interested in a VR unit until it’s probably no more than US$150, or probably less. I’d also have to play with one for a few hours before committing, as I find that a number of games make me somewhat motion sick, and my impression is that these kinds of games are more prone to it.

    Plus, I’d probably only be interested in “cockpit”-style VR. I really don’t feel like needing a huge open area to stand around in. My kind of gaming is kicking back on a recliner.