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Future of VR is social, say Steam VR developers

The image of a person wearing a black blinder over their face is an image that doesn’t exactly scream "social." That image of isolation is something that this new crop of VR game developers intends to change.

Kris Graft, Contributor

January 29, 2016

5 Min Read

The image of a person wearing a black blinder over their face is an image that doesn’t exactly scream “social.” That image of isolation and seclusion is something that this new crop of VR game developers intends to change.

At the Steam VR event in Seattle this week, I asked several of the developers on-site about where they see VR headed—or where they’d like to see VR—in the next two to five years.  

Richard Stitselaar, creative director, Vertigo Games (Arizona Sunshine)

“…It’s going to be interesting what happens. Playstation has a big advantage there, with plug and play. With computers, you don’t know what [consumers] have, if they have all kinds of spyware or whatever running in the background. That would drop the framerate, give you nausea and ruin the whole experience. That’s a worry there, but I spoke with a couple video card manufacturers who said it’s gonna be one or two years and then [high-end graphics] cards will be $99 or something, in default computers. It’s only a matter of time.”

“People are always looking for social experiences...Having the interaction…the social thing is going to be big. Multiplayer, for us at least, is the next step.” (Vertigo is also working on a multiplayer social VR game called Skyworld.)

John Nagle, CTO, Phaser Lock Interactive (Final Approach)

“I think the natural progression will be to widen the field of view a little bit. It’s very good right now…but I think the field of view will widen [so you have less tunnel vision]. The pixel density is getting higher and higher every year, so I’m sure 4K screens are right around the corner. In terms of tracking, it’ll be even better than it already is—we’ll be able to track more appendages than just your hands, like feet and hips. Of course, [hardware] will get smaller, and getting rid of the cables will be an excellent advancement, but the amount of data going between the PC and headset, in order to have no latency, you kinda need a cable in the current state of the art.”

David Walsh, COO, Frontier Developments (Elite: Dangerous)

“We’re fans of what [VR] can do today, as far as stripping away the barriers to immersion…but genuinely, we believe the future of the entertainment industry is interactive. If you think about Elite: Dangerous, in which people are contributing to this overarching narrative and getting behind major characters in the game and deciding what their next move is, in VR that heightened emotional [state] you can get from it is really going to be a lightning rod to accelerate interactive entertainment.”

Joel Green, producer, Cloudhead Games (The Gallery: Six Elements)

“I don’t know how many people seriously think this, but I see people online who are worried that VR is going to take over from traditional games, and they’re not going to be able to play their traditional games anymore. I don’t think that’s true at all. VR is just a new thing that’s adding on. People are still going to be making great games for screens. [VR] is just a whole new medium.

“In the next two to five years, I think it’s going to move very quickly…You don’t need a lot of people or a lot of money to try new ideas. I mean, this is as bad as it’s going to get, and it’s already pretty amazing.”

Lindsay Jorgensen, artist, Radial Games/Northway games (Fantastic Contraption)

“I’m so excited about [the future of VR]. Once everybody figures out all these initial problems and everybody starts networking multiple people together in a 3D space, it’s mindblowing what you can do. There are so many games you can make just off the top of my head when you can just get two people in the same space together. It’s such a social thing.”

Fantastic Contraption

Justin Liebregts, CTO, Futuretown (Cloudlands: VR Minigolf)

“I’m really interested to see where the education space is going to go. I think there are so many cool applications for learning. In two years, probably not everyone [in the general market] is going to have it, but I feel that institutions could have them easily. At the five year mark, I’m hoping it starts to become more ubiquitous, like mobile. It won’t replace mobile, but it’ll be a lot more commonplace [than it is now].”

Alex Knoll, lead game designer, Stress Level Zero (Hover Junkers)                                                       

“We went straight to multiplayer because we realized the social implications instantly. Having a physical presence with another person in a virtual environment is astounding. So I want to see more social experiences being created: what you can do with a crowd, how you interact with crowds, friends, people we’re just meeting. That’s the big one.”

Patrick Hackett, co-founder, Skillman & Hackett (Tilt Brush)

“I think everyone is just going to learn a lot more. One of the fun things about the space right now is that everyone is trying to figure out what works and what doesn’t. I think the rules will become a little more understood. [For example,] everyone’s learning the dos and don’ts [of motion sickness]. Tehre’s a lot of people who were worried that VR was going to make people sick, that it was a fundamental problem. But as the technology and developers’ understanding of using [VR, motion sickness] is kind of not really a thing that comes up. I mean, there are cases, but it’s decreasing in discussion.”

Check out tips from Steam VR devs here, and a story about a VR burrito here.

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