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Look ma, no hands!

April 22, 2016

You take my self control
- Laura Branigan, singing about the problems of VR control issues

Last week I wrote about the crazy restrictions we defined for our VR prototypes, and now I'm going to explain why.

Lesson #3. Think about VR control early or you'll suffer (literally).

VR is cool, no question about it, but the problem is that there are at least four different control methods exist.

The simplest is the do-it-yourself VR cardboard. All you have is your phone gyro... and nothing else... simple, isn't it?
Next up is the Gear VR, upping the ante with not one, but two buttons... Whooo, that's serious high tech, folks...
Oculus Rift comes with head tracking plus a good'ole gamepad... so have a friend nearby to put the gamepad into your hand. Wheee, now that's social gaming!
Steam VR is state of the art, with its dual motion sensors - but you have to build a house around it to make it work. Are you hardcore enough to be a ... carpenter?

So, we have four major platforms, and four very different input systems.
Which one to choose?

Needless to say, when you make a game, you want to go multi-platform. 
Fortunately, your game code is portable and the graphics is pretty much scaleable nowadays, thanks to the robust middlewares such as Unity or Unreal, so far so good...

... but the control is still a major problem, and no middleware can solve it:
If you want to make a precision action game, your gamers demand for a perfect trigger control. Shaky motion sensor control just doesn't cut it.
If you make a hardcore simulation, your audience would scream for 200 programmable buttons, switches, knobs, pedals, throttles and whatnots. Well, the One Button won't rule'em all.
If you make a fast-paced RTS or an FPS, no one came up with a better control than the ole'faithful WASD+mouseloook combo.

So, the control dilemma requires a forward-thinking game design for a solution.

Hence, we at PalmStorm, decided early on, that our base platform would be Gear VR.
That is, a gyro, plus one button should be enough for controlling our prototypes.
All three game designs must be built on this, regardless if it is a third-person action, or a twisted 3D puzzler.

.. and guess what: we have cracked this case with great success. 
Our prototypes use a one-button action control and some age-old head motion gestures.
Nod your head if you agree!

Yours truly, 

- Laszlo, CTO @ PalmStorm

Annoyed? Intrigued? Contact me.


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