VR Isn’t Worth It

Yet…

I’ve had severe restrictions on my gaming budget (stupid college tuition), so it’s little surprise that I haven’t been able to jump into the virtual reality experience. With the Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, Google Cardboard, Samsung Gear VR, and PlayStation VR being released, there’s been tons of buzz over what many consider to be the next step in gaming.

Gear VR and Google Cardboard have given people an entry level, though barebones, introduction to VR. The Oculus Rift and HTC Vive have shown what big money can buy. PlayStation VR has shown what decent VR looks like while not costing an arm, a leg, and a whole room of your house. Something they all have in common however is that they aren’t worth the price of entry.

Trying It On

I had the chance today to check out the HTC Vive for the first time today at my university. Our Computer Science department got their hands on both the Vive and HoloLens headsets recently, and one of the students that works in the High Performance Computing lab offered to let me take it for a spin.

I was definitely impressed with how immersive VR is. The field of view makes it for a deeply engaging experience, and the Vive shows off what the current generation of VR is capable of.

Sadly, that capability is rather low at the moment.

Don’t get me wrong, the Vive is visually pleasing and high-fidelity graphics are extremely important when you’re strapping a screen to your face. Moreso, I felt no ill effects from playing the games that I got my hands on. Some of the games I played instilled in me a sense of novelty that I haven’t felt in a very long time too.

It just didn’t impress me enough to want to buy a headset, even if I had the disposable income to afford it.

High Tech Demos

htc-vive-played
Source: DigitalTrends.com

Everything I played gave me that sense of wonder that I haven’t felt since I was a kid playing with my model rocket in the desert or playing the Nintendo 64 for the first time. The technology behind the Vive is impressive and deserves praise for what it’s capable of, but the games that use it are not much better than bite-sized demos.

It reminds me of when I was growing up, when PlayStation still distributed those free demo disks with games like Jet Moto and Gran Turismo. They were games that my family could never afford, being on a tight budget and all. The closest I ever got to playing most games was my experience at the demo kiosks in Kmart and the disks we stumbled across.

Those little snippets of games are what playing with the Vive felt like. I kept wondering where the rest of the games were and why people would spend $400-$800 on a single headset to play what amounts to a glorified tech demo. Sure, it’s cool to pick up a virtual firearm and shove the magazine into it before firing it accidentally at your own head, play pool while knocking the beer bottles off the table, and teetering on the edge of a building before gliding through a landscape; but novelty isn’t good enough. The problem is that they’re only showing off what VR can do while not really doing much to keep people sated.

VR Isn’t Ready Yet

Phil Spencer recently participated in an interview with the website Stevivor, talking about the future of VR on the Xbox platform. He mused that VR game developers just aren’t quite to the point where they know how to take full advantage of VR to its fullest, and I think he’s right. Even the PlayStation VR, which has garnered critical praise for its sleek design and an already decent library of games, seems to suffer from the same problems. Hell, Until Dawn: Rush of Blood is the platform’s game of choice, and it is just an on-rails shooter that looks like it belongs in an arcade.

Until Dawn RoB Screen.jpg
Source: Playstation.com

There’s certainly nothing wrong with Rush of Blood; it’s a perfectly good game that I feel deserves the praise that it gets. However, that doesn’t mean that it makes the $400-$500 PSVR headset worth the purchase.

VR just isn’t where it needs to be yet to really make waves. Developers don’t seem to be doing much to take advantage of the technology, whether because of the limitations of the platform it is hosted on (PSVR) or because developers think that people will buy anything that has the VR tag associated with it (Oculus Rift and Vive).

Or maybe I’m just being too critical of it.

 

Nah….

 

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23 thoughts on “VR Isn’t Worth It

  1. I’m certainly not sold on it yet and can see the PSVR in particular going the way of Kinect. The PC versions are getting more support it seems but the price of entry is still very off putting. I’ll continue to watch the developments with interest, but in spite of having tried it I’m certainly not going to throw my cash at it.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Agreed. I just want to play with my controller and mouse and keyboard and call it day, ya know? But if came bundled in with hardware like PSVR then I might give it a shot. But it’s going to take a long time for me to get onboard.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m not buying into VR yet. I tried a demo of Samsung’s device and thought it was an awesome experience. But like you said, it’s pretty much just an expensive tech demo at this stage.

    Motion sickness is going to be a problem too I think. I’m fine, but a few of my friends felt sick after trying VR demos.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. VR is fun to dabble with in short bursts, but I am not sure if I could tolerate it for extended periods of time. Hopefully the price goes down and the user base grows, because triple A developers will be reluctant to make headset games if there isn’t a big enough market. For now I will wait until someone creates a Star Trek like holodeck.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Yes, way too critical. The biggest problem is with people who don’t really know the history of VR and how much it has improved over the decades. Complaining that it doesn’t have enough content is overly critical and unfair. Since DK1 we’ve gone from 640 x 480 to 1200 x 1200 per eye and from just a few tech demos to big name developers releasing titles. That’s quite an achievement. I get so sick of the negativity and hostility thrown at VR.

    One big issue is that a percentage buy this hardware without knowing much about it… or they don’t have a specific purpose. So they buy it and just aimlessly try casual games and then complain there’s no content… then they brag about their Vive or CV1 sitting gathering dust and they tell everyone who will listen how crappy VR is….

    I knew exactly what I was gonna do with my VR before purchasing. I had a specific intent… Elite Dangerous, DCS World… Anything else is just a bonus. There are people who buy VR just to play Elite… So all this crap waiting for “killer app” is cliche and annoying. There will never be a killer app that makes everyone rush out and buy VR. There will be some excellent titles that sway a percentage of people (as we see with Elite or Project Cars).

    “VR isn’t where it need to be to make waves” ?? Do you enjoy stating the obvious? VR is a niche peripheral at this stage and has a lot of development and refinement to go through… Now… The issue I have with this kind of wholly negative perspective is that your intention is to dissuade people from buying VR… in other words your intention is to kill consumer VR until such time as you deem it suitable for your viewing pleasure…

    VR needs to grow and instead of dissuading people from buying it until some magical time in the future when it’s perfect… VR development depends on people buying and using now.

    I think people with your mindset should stay clear of VR forever.

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    1. I can see where you’re coming from. To hear that something that interests you isn’t being talked of positively can be infuriating. As I stated in the article however, while VR is interesting and has great potential for innovation in the gaming industry, there really isn’t much there to be able to honestly recommend it to the average consumer.

      For instance, I love Elite: Dangerous to be honest, but I won’t be going out to buy an HTC Vive and upgrading my PC to run the game in VR. One game just isn’t a platform seller to me, but that’s just my personal opinion. If that’s the case for you, that’s perfectly fine. In fact, I happy that you’ve found joy in playing with the headset of your choice.

      I want you to know that I understand your criticisms and concerns, but I’d also like you to try to see it from my perspective as well. Your stance however is two-sided, saying that VR is a niche platform at the moment (which is correct), yet people should buy into it now to support VR’s development as a platform, even if the software isn’t there to hold their interest.

      The fact is that VR is still in its infancy as a consumer device, and until it proves that I has a place in the homes of the average consumer, it won’t be a staple of gaming. I would assume that VR enthusiasts (such as yourself) would prefer to have people buy into the platform in order to be evangelists for VR, rather than expect people who aren’t 100% on board with the tech to dish out the money to support it in the attempt to legitimize it. If anything would be damaging to VR’s emergence into mainstream gaming, it would be the negative image cast on it from those that bought in to support the platform, only to later feel disappointed with it once the novelty wore off.

      If there was anything to take away from my observations on this subject, it’d be simply that VR isn’t for everyone at this stage. It’s important to examine your personal interests when buying anything of this nature, to ensure that it’s something that you’re going to enjoy for a long period of time. If VR is something that sounds interesting to you, then by all means, go out and buy the hardware. However, if you’re on the fence about it, it’s better to wait until you have more information to make a decision. VR isn’t for me, yet.

      But of course, this is just my opinion on the subject, as the tag in the article suggests. I’m by no means a consummate authority on the subject, so it’s best to take my opinions with a grain of salt.

      Thank you for commenting by the way!

      Like

  5. VR is actually really turned out pretty great so far especially in the short timeline that it has. The detractors have not gotten to play the right titles like stated above already and don’t ever had a purpose going in. These PC based first gen consumer headsets are a night and day better visual and interactive gaming experience from regular old flat screen sedentary gaming. There is nothing better that holding the weapon in your virtual hands and moving around the map with the familiar control stick always looking and turning around to check your six as you peak around corners and doorways trying to stay alive. You are holding items and your hands and and actions are fully controlled with your real physical actions. Nothing compares to it. The FPS titles that have suddenly shown up are making game play the way we have envisioned it as soon as 3d POV became a thing with the original Doom. There is so much room for creative experiences that are far more than just watching a movie. 360 video is not a AAA VR experience although it can be entertaining most things you try on a phone is not even close to what you get on a real system like Rift, VIVE or PSVR. Some people are too demanding and unrealistic and or have such a short attention span or lack of vision with VR it becomes annoying reading comments from the less informed and lacking any length of actual hands on experience with the hardware. VR is worth it already and getting better fast as well as new titles and content in the works as you complain about not having your sci-fi version ready to entertain you right now. I’m not waiting until I’m 100 when even the ground floor tech that’s out now is plenty entertaining and ready to play and enjoy right now.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Agree. If it was possible to feel sorry for tech I think HMD VR deserves it… not because it does anything wrong but because there’s a bizarre mindset with a percentage of people who deem it “not ready” and actively dissuade others from buying it.

      It’s akin to declaring 4k monitors “not ready” back when they first appeared because the first wave of 4k’s were more expensive and most PC’s weren’t equipped to handle them. So why was there no campaign from people declaring 4k “not ready”?

      You could say DK1 wasn’t consumer ready… DK2 was a significant improvement… CV1 and Vive are consumer ready but what many fail to understand is these are aimed at the niche market.

      Those hostile to VR seem to believe that we shouldn’t buy it because it’s not ready. I’ve seen comments from people saying we shouldn’t buy VR before 20 years: “VR will be significantly better in 20 years” (yes this is an actual statement I’ve read from a number of people). It’s nonsensical… it’s like saying that we shouldn’t buy a monitor right now because “in 20 years they’ll be much better”.

      VR seems to attract this kind of unreasonable mindset. And the complaints “VR needs to come down in price” (again stating the painfully obvious on a technology that has been on a downward cost curve for decades).

      Understand that CV1 and Vive are NICHE peripherals and not intended to sell to the majority.

      We won’t see mass adoption until the price falls below $150, resolution increases, wireless, inside tracking, foveated rendering, eye-tracking and multi-plane depth rendering. VR ticking all of these boxes won’t arrive for a number of years yet. Until then telling people not to buy is utterly bizarre and destructive for the VR industry.

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      1. I’d just like to state that the comparison of VR to 4K displays is a little misguided. 4K displays, even with a lack of 4K content, can still display in other resolutions. That meant that the folks that had a 4K display were ready when 4K content became more mainstream. VR doesn’t enjoy the same benefit as 4K displays did because VR head-mounted displays lack utility outside of being used with specific software formats.

        Despite that though, there were many people that felt that 4K wasn’t ready, but that the format existing gave credence to the idea that resolutions should increase. Similarly, VR existing as a consumer device is making it possible for developers and publishers to explore the platform and find a way to capitalize on it. I long for the day that VR is further legitimized as a platform and I can play a sizable catalog of full-experience games with my headset. Perhaps in a year or two, just not yet.

        Like

    2. You’re absolutely correct that VR has been making huge strides in recent years, and that’s something that is definitely worth noting. As I stated above however, VR isn’t for everyone. Some people are more than happy with the current state of gaming, at least until VR gains a better foothold.

      As it is right now, it’s just not worth the cost of admission for me to join the ranks of those with VR as a staple of their gaming hobby. Despite that though (again, as I said in the article), “I was definitely impressed with how immersive VR is. The field of view makes it for a deeply engaging experience, and the Vive shows off what the current generation of VR is capable of.” and “Everything I played gave me that sense of wonder that I haven’t felt since I was a kid playing with my model rocket in the desert or playing the Nintendo 64 for the first time.”

      My point was, and still is, that VR is still in its infancy. The fact that it has been quickly evolving and improving is something that I’ve been closely watching. It just needs more support on the developer and publisher side of the consumer equation. People buying into the platform that aren’t sure of it yet would do more harm to its image than good at this point.

      Furthermore, to say that detractors and critics are simply too demanding, unrealistic, lack vision, or just have a short attention span doesn’t help the argument in favor of VR. Instead, it just serves to make others feel marginalized for having dissenting opinions on the subject. It’s remarkably similar in attitude to assumptions that people who play solely on consoles or mobile aren’t true gamers, or that all PC-only gamers exemplify the “PC Master Race” stereotype. Critical commentary on any subject is conducive to improvement. Just look at the way that Valve pulled a 180 on paid mods on Steam, or how Microsoft completely revamped the Xbox One prior to launch. Look how Sony has tried to combat the criticism that their platform wasn’t powerful enough, or how EA axed the Online Pass for games? More applicably, look how Valve is getting rid of Steam Greenlight completely in the face of negative attention they’ve received for the rampant shitshow that Greenlight is. Wouldn’t you prefer that VR be expected to improve in order to draw in more users, thereby improving your own experience? The alternative isn’t as rosy.

      Thank you for taking the time to comment by the way. It’s much appreciated.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. What I meant by unrealistic expectations was that a percentage buy without knowing what they’re buying:

        “People buying into the platform that aren’t sure of it yet would do more harm to its image than good at this point.” << This is the percentage I refer to. One guy believed the pixel res of his Vive was 800 x 600. Some buy this tech and have no clear purpose for it and they tend to complain about “no games”, “only tech demos”, “no AAA”.

        I get that VR right now isn’t for everyone. It’s a niche peripheral and your preferred type of game might not even exist in the VR realm at this point. I’d love to see a Battlefield with full locomotion for example. Star Citizen also…

        I’m someone who had a specific purpose for VR… You know there are some who buy it just for one game? Even before Vive was available there were Elite Dangerous players who were going to buy it upon release no matter what the cost… So for them VR already has the “killer app” (cliche term I detest).

        The reason I defend VR in some cases is because I’ve read so many unfair statements over the past few years. So many wholly negative rants about it. Your article isn’t in that category but I think it’s important to point out (because very few people seem to understand):

        Consumer VR at this stage is priced beyond most users. This isn’t a mistake by greedy companies who believed they could sell to the majority. CV1 and Vive pricing is directly related to the R&D and cost of development. Oculus, HTC and Valve all know the current pricing is beyond most users. The reason I’m stating the painfully obvious is because this is the biggest mistake people make when they complain about VR.

        People think they need to complain and make a stand about current gen VR in order for the specifications to increase and the costs to fall. Not true at all. It’s a natural evolution. CV1 and Vive both entered the market at the lowest price and highest spec for any consumer VR albeit priced in the niche bracket… In a few more VR revisions time (5 years?) we may get to that price/spec range for mass adoption.

        So anyway… I get that VR isn’t right for you personally at this stage. For some of us it’s sufficient for now.

        My criteria is: Can I resolve the fine HUD symbology on DCS World? Yes. When I look at videos of DCS World on youtube… I can’t believe how flat and cartoony it looks. In VR I am sitting in a life-size 3d cockpit able to look all around… add the body vibration and HOTAS and it’s more than adequate as a niche peripheral.

        So for me it’s more than acceptable right now but I get that more mainstream games are lacking at this stage… I mean… No fallout 4 or Doom VR yet. No Skyrim… Too many very short games you can complete in a few hours.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. So at the very least, we sound like we’re on the same page. There are always detractors that seem like they’re just crapping on something for the sake of doing so: consoles, VR, mobile gaming, brands, etc. If anything, me putting my opinion out here is just an observation about the state of the medium at the time of writing it.

          I really want to see VR become a thing, because my little bit of time with it was remarkable. It was breathtaking in some ways, but the feeling was pretty fleeting. I’d love to see the platform expand, and that’s why I recommended people read QTX’s post about RE7 (which you totally should if you haven’t).

          I honestly envy you getting as much as you have out of it, because deriving that much enjoyment out of it sounds like it’d be very fulfilling gaming. Just not for me at the moment. I still believe that the last thing VR needs right now is for it to become a boom like Kinect or motion-control gaming, only for it to fall from that popularity because of predatory shovelware companies or consumers not understanding the platform. I know my criticism can sound like I’m saying nobody should buy into it, but that couldn’t be farther from the truth. I just want people to make informed decisions.

          And DCS World sounds intriguing. Thank you for bringing that to my attention! I miss the days of Jane’s Combat Sims, and that looks like it could scratch that itch… Thank you for clarifying your position by the way.

          Like

  6. I went to a mates house the other week, and he had the HTC Vive set up.

    It was great fun, but the games are nothing more then demos. They are fun for 10-15 minutes, so not a reason to invest.

    Then there is the price. This guy has dropped close to 2k getting the Vive and a PC powerful enough to run it and he admits that both of those things will be outdated in about 18 months when the next generation/models start coming out.

    And you need a room large enough for the sensors…

    So you would need to spend £2000 for something with no games, and you’d probably need to spend £2000 in 2 years time.

    I know the lower entry ones are cheaper, but the Samsung VR is wank. PlayStation VR might be better, and Oculus Rift is apparently failing as it is too expensive for the entry point, and not anywhere near as good as the Vive.

    Like the Switch, I’ll see where this is in 2 years time. But like 3d telly, i suspect it’ll pass me by.

    Like

    1. Let’s not exaggerate. I use Vive in a less than 2 square metre area. Not everyone wants room-scale VR games anyway. I use room-scale and seated.

      “It was great fun, but the games are nothing more then demos. They are fun for 10-15 minutes, so not a reason to invest.” << So you’re saying that every VR game is only fun for 10 to 15 minutes? So how do you explain the fact that Elite Dangerous has a dedicated VR sub-forum over at frontier and those guys are spending hours in VR every night just on Elite alone?

      Then again my VR using friends into racing sims can spend hours in Project cars…

      If you tried only casual games like space pirate trainer… well those are short burst games.

      “and Oculus Rift is apparently failing as it is too expensive for the entry point” << Where are you getting this from?

      “and not anywhere near as good as the Vive.” << Again this is an inaccurate statement. In fact you don’t even qualify your statement by going into any detail… just some sweeping nonsense about Vive being much better. I’m a Vive user and I’ve tried CV1.

      I’ve been using the Vive since it launched. I spent a year with DK2 and I’ve tried my friend’s CV1. You’re talking absolute pish. Now let me take the time to qualify my statement:

      You’re talking pish because:

      CV1 looks better on Elite Dangerous due to lower fresnel reflections (dual element lenses). CV1 image quality is generally said to be slightly better while the Vive has slightly taller FOV. In actual fact there isn’t much to choose between them in image quality. Vive does have better tracking. Nothing beats lasers and certainly not a half-baked optical system where even 3 cameras can’t compete with Vive.

      Comfort: CV1 is more comfortable although the common statement people making about Vive being much heavier is total nonsense: 85 grams difference.. just that Vive’s weigh is at the front with the default headstrap.

      Touch is generally regarded as better than the Vive wands.

      Oculus has more efficient drivers and the ASW performance boost.
      Steamvr isn’t very efficient at this stage.
      So all in all both systems have good and bad points.

      Like

      1. The games we played needed a bit of movement. There was a space invaders type shooter that required you to move to dodge bullets. A Zombie game that you didn’t “need” to move, but if you did you would see hidden items and some others.

        The size of the room made a difference to what we played as you have to draw the room to map the system. If your room is small then you’ll constantly have the walls appearing in the VR, and it gets annoying.

        Odd that you quote that sentence. Not sure the point. The games were fun, but they are short demos and therefore not worth spending 2 grand on…

        Like

        1. Alright so the post didn’t fully load.

          But… i can’t be bothered responding to somebody who gets overly ranty on a random persons website because “somebody has a different opinion to you” I can’t be bothered with a retort. Go back to your cave.

          Like

        2. So you tried a couple of very casual games and from that conclude that VR games are only fun for 15 minutes and not worth “2 grand”? I just get the feeling I’m reading someone with limited exposure/insight making sweeping statements.

          I play in a 2 metre square area but I know to step back if the matrix grid appears. I get the feeling your vive owning friend only has a few very casual games since that’s all he let you try? I wouldn’t spend $800 just to play casual VR games and the ones I’ve bought I play in short bursts once in a while. People are spend that money just to play casual VR games are generally the ones who buy and then get bored really fast.

          As I said… There are people who buy VR just for Elite, DCS World or racing sims. They spend hundreds of hours in VR on those things.

          Like

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