From the very early days of internal R&D on PlayStation VR, some 5 years ago, while I was at Sony as their European Head of Developer services, we focused on the early VR prototypes with six key requirements to create ‘VR presence’ right from the early days of initial R&D proof of concepts: sight, sound, tracking, control, ease of use, and content. That also became the requirements for rest of the high-end VR devices that were in the process of getting announced or at least shown to select few developers under non-disclosure agreements.
Today, pretty much all high-end VR devices provide that ‘presence’ via clean high resolution visuals, low latency, high framerates, 3D (binaural) audio, head tracking, hand controllers and reasonably comfortable headsets. They continue to improve and come down in cost. What still remains under the innovation banner is the content, what is or are the ‘killer-apps’ for VR is still awaiting that Candy Crush, Angry Bird, Pokémon Go moment that really made mobile phones gaming a must-have device for gaming.
VR has already got some amazing titles with majority of the gameplay innovation coming from indie developers rather than the tradition well established developers or publishers. Some great well established franchises from large developers and publishers are also offering some amazing, high-production value, VR immersion for your favourite in-game characters or franchises.
So what is stopping everyone? Well, firstly such killer-app innovation takes time, exactly the same as games for mobile devices took some time to get established. Secondly we need to make the VR experience much more mass market user-friendly. You don’t start a mobile game via a PC and the touch interface you start from is exactly what you launch your app with and then continue to control your game or app. We are a bit away from high-end VR running as standalone devices but we are already seeing such standalone devices starting to break into the market. That is where Terra Virtua comes in where you acclimatise in a VR metaverse world, so you are already in your VR ‘desktop’ when you launch your game. Terra Virtua takes away what game or app will run on your device by only showing you the content suitable for the headset you have on. We are building Terra Virtua to be platform agnostic so as your devices update or you upgrade to a better device there is no guesswork on what your new VR device will support as that what Terra Virtua handles for you. We feel this is quite an important step to mass-market VR adoption.
At Sony we use to always remind developers that for VR games look at it as building an amusement ride experience rather than a feature length movie that you may have used as an inspiration for your full-length PC or Console game. Majority of the successful VR games are doing just that and we see Terra Virtua as your amusement park before you get on to your amusement rides. That Terra Virtua amusement park, where your VR games will launch from, is also the world where you will hang-out and meet friends, challengers, passersby and maybe even a smart connected AI ‘Vflect’!