My brother came by the other day. I had just bought a racing wheel and let him play Live for Speed with the Rift DK2. He is a big fan of racing games so he was excited to try it out. He lasted for about 3 minutes before he became so sick he had to stop. His nausea and discomfort didn’t completely go away for 2 days. Now that is an extreme case and not the norm at all. But I know there are people on the Oculus Subreddit thinking how he should try again every day until he can last longer or how that would never happen with the Rift consumer version. The simple truth is that my brother will likely never strap another display on his head ever again. This virtual reality thing is not for him and it will likely never be for him.
I myself also have simulator sickness in any game with a moving body. Especially vertical movement like walking up the stairs is horrible. Anything with a cockpit I can play as-long as the vertical movement is minimal.
(me playing Live For Speed)
The moment when you see movement while your body feels no acceleration at all is just uncomfortable for many people. And no amount of pixels, FOV, tracking or any other improvement they can think of at Oculus fixes that fundamental problem. There are people who get symptoms from 3D at the cinema, heck, people get symptoms from the iOS paralax effect. And getting sick once is enough for most people to give up on it.
Yet all the articles on Virtual Reality are about how the possibilities are endless and how you can experience the impossible by wearing this headset. Nausea is treated as a bug that will be fixed by Oculus and game developers. Well in fact the possibilities are not endless. For a lot of people the possibilities end with sitting still in a chair, where you can’t touch anything.
Yet even experienced game designers fall prey to this magical thinking that you can let a player in VR experience anything. And I get that, I too want to explore beautiful 3D worlds and interact with them. I want to feel what it is like to escape the Reaper assault in Mass Effect 3. I want to drive podracers at incredible speeds, fly like Iron Man and jump on a hoverboard. But I have to be realistic and acknowledge that for a significant part of the population this is just not possible.
So I have decided to use my simulator sickness to my advantage. It is the first thing I think of when designing VR gameplay because it has to be. If I can’t playtest my own game, I can’t make it.
I will work with the limitations and create the best experience I can with those limitations in mind. Maybe I’m just a pessimist or not looking far enough into the future. We will see, but this is going to be my approach for the first generation of VR experiences.