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Jon Blow: Valve's VR can take games to a "new place"

Jon Blow: Valve's VR can take games to a "new place"

Mon 27 Jan 2014 9:05am GMT / 4:05am EST / 1:05am PST
HardwareDevelopment

The Witness will now support Valve's VR headset and "similar devices"

Valve's virtual reality technology has convinced Jonathan Blow to add VR support to his highly anticipated new game, The Witness.

In a post on the game's blog, Blow explained his "pessimism" about the VR systems he had tried, which presumably included the current darling of the scene, Oculus Rift. In Blow's view, the experience offered did not justify the "bulky" peripheral and, "feelings of nausea."

"But I was fortunate enough to get a sneak peek at Valve's virtual reality system," he said, referring to the head-mounted display Valve showed at Steam Dev Days. "It is so much better than anything else I had used that I was instantly very excited by it. Right away I could see games you might design for this system that had been impossible before

"It isn't just a matter of the system being very immersive (which it is) but that it can take video games in general to a new place."

Blow has apparently spent some time working at Valve's offices to tune key sections of The Witness for Valve's head-mounted display.

"In theory the whole game is playable on the device, but when you are rendering for VR the performance demands become much higher, because you are rendering two scenes at higher resolution than you might previously have been rendering one scene. So the full game world with all content currently does not run fast enough for this device, but that is the kind of problem that gets solved over time."

Blow has confirmed that, thanks to the impression made by Valve's tech, The Witness will also support, "any similar devices."

And Blow wasn't the only person to proclaim Valve's device as the best in class - Palmer Luckey, the founder of Oculus VR, called it, "the best virtual reality demo in the world right now."

17 Comments

John Bye
Senior Game Designer

477 434 0.9
Hang on, didn't Valve just say they weren't going to release this?

Posted:2 months ago

#1

Thomas Dolby
Project Manager / Lead Programmer

319 253 0.8
@John
Yeah I heard the same, it was project where Valve said "cost is no barrier", and just literally tried to make the absolute best VR experience with current tech. I'm not surprised it's impressive when it has that kind of freedom for the developers. From what I've heard it is not for sale to the public, and serves more as a guidance for where Valve would like to see VR headsets in two years or so.

Posted:2 months ago

#2

Klaus Preisinger
Freelance Writing

953 804 0.8
Occulus PR was also quick to claim that the first consumer version aimed to be released in 2015 is supposed to be as good and fully featured as Valve's model.

Posted:2 months ago

#3

Ralph Tricoche
IT Professional

29 58 2.0
Please, the only place VR will take you is to your local doctors office with a splitting migraine. Please stop it with all this "NEXT" thing business and get with the business of making kick-arse games.

Posted:2 months ago

#4

Steve Wetz
Reviewer/Assistant Editor

98 132 1.3
I dispute Valve's assertion that their VR will never be released. Daft Punk wore it to the Grammys while accepting multiple awards.

Posted:2 months ago

#5

Rick Lopez
Illustrator, Graphic Designer

1,203 816 0.7
I was beaten to this, but I just read recently that valve decided not to make this. Anyway, my views on VR are pretty much indifferant.

Posted:2 months ago

#6

Tim Carter
Designer - Writer - Producer

535 221 0.4
When you've run out of ideas, make new technology.

Posted:2 months ago

#7

Morgan King
Animator

47 90 1.9
Like Klaus said, Oculus has been working with Valve to incorporate their technology into the consumer model of the Rift - the low-persistence screen and positional tracking are from Valve's solutions to 'feelings of nausea' and, of course, the finished design will be less bulky and higher resolution. The released Rift is likely to match the Valve model Blow is referencing in almost all respects.

Posted:2 months ago

#8
@Thomas and John - at the SteamDev Days, Valve confirmed they had no plans to develop their prototype system into a consumer system...yet.

They emphasized the 'Yet' element - but it looks like Valve have not removed their hat from the ring, especially with systems like the CastAR coming out of their own R&D resource.

Posted:2 months ago

#9

Brook Davidson
Artist / 3D design

57 88 1.5
I personally always find it absolutely insane that there are some people in the world who are entirely skeptical of virtual reality. If you think virtual reality is a gimmick .. where on earth do you see gaming 20 years from now?

I hear excuses "if it requires to wear anything on your face, not interested". The only issue with that excuse is, how else do you expect virtual reality to ever happen? It has to start somewhere. It's going to require you to wear something on your face until we are able to simulate sight without a screen. Which, as of right now ... can't do all that well.

I feel like some people are just stuck standing still. They really don't know where they want gaming to go, or they simply don't want change.

It has to happen somewhere and virtual reality is the only way forward from where we are now. You can't get any more immersive then feeling like you are actually there.

Posted:2 months ago

#10

Steve Wetz
Reviewer/Assistant Editor

98 132 1.3
@Brook,

I'm not sure that's entirely true. I used to think that 3D gaming required some kind of glasses. Then I got a 3DS.

The same argument you made, that we don't know where gaming will be 20 years from now, can be used to make the argument that (probably sooner than we think) VR may not even require a face-mounted peripheral. I look forward to that time.

It's also worth noting that 20 years ago, gaming was where it is now - a box connected to a television, or on PC. So who knows?

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Steve Wetz on 28th January 2014 4:25pm

Posted:2 months ago

#11

Rick Lopez
Illustrator, Graphic Designer

1,203 816 0.7
VR isnt really a big deal to me since at the end of the day your viewing something that is in front of you, sitting down with a controller in hand. Not much differant for what there is now. The only thing it brings to the table is that it now covers my entire peripheral vision. Its a screen wrapped around my face. Thats cool, but not worth $600... And unless the cost of VR gaming is competitive to the prices now, I wont even give it a shot.

I however I dont want to give a biased, outlandish, ridiculouse statements of a one track, narrow minded and limited perspective. So I will offer another opinion of how I can see it working and also marketed. I can see it working and being sold to the mass market at a competitive price as a peripheral. Just a gadget you plug into a gaming console, PC or even mobile phone to see stuff in VR. Like a rock band guitar or a motion controller. Games can be developed in a way that they dont remain exclusive to VR gaming and developers wont lose money to those who havent adopted VR headsets.
So developers can VR and none VR platforms and reach a broader range of gamers. And VR can be adopted at a reasonable pace paving the way for better VR expiriences.

@Brook -
I dont agree when you say gaming has been the same, that people dont know where gaming will be 20 years from now and that the only way for it to move foward is with VR... just saying.

20 years from now, there are plenty of possibilities and Virtual reality can happen in ways that dont require a helmet on your face. It can be a box plugged into your head or a platform in which players interact with holographic projections, it can also work in conjunction with AR gaming to bring about new expiriences. Also, many things can still be done in games using current or even older technology. While new technologies open the doors for new things to happen, its no substitute for creativity.

As far as that immersive feeling, it can be brought in ways other than graphics, such as a great story like in mass effect, gameplay mechanics as with metal gears stealth gameplay and visual aesthetics like in Journey. Ive been playing Fire Emblem Awakening on my 3DS for 72 hours and Im assuming that Ill easily clock in at least 100 hours before Im done with it. Cant get any more immersive than that.

Posted:2 months ago

#12

Brook Davidson
Artist / 3D design

57 88 1.5
@rick
VR isnt really a big deal to me since at the end of the day your viewing something that is in front of you, sitting down with a controller in hand. Not much differant for what there is now. The only thing it brings to the table is that it now covers my entire peripheral vision. Its a screen wrapped around my face. Thats cool, but not worth $600... And unless the cost of VR gaming is competitive to the prices now, I wont even give it a shot.
No ... no -.- .... you really seem to have no idea what you are talking about. It isn't "just" a screen in front of your face. A screen is in most cases 2 dimensional. What you see is flat. With stereoscopic 3D a screen can come to life, but it still is a screen. You are still looking at a flat screen. Our eyes don't work that way. VR uses lenses and separates those images to reconstruct it in a manner that you would view just like your eyes. It's literally fooling your brain to make you think you are actually there .. in the game.
I dont agree when you say gaming has been the same
Well we can both agree you apparently don't know how to read cause I never said that o.o
20 years from now, there are plenty of possibilities and Virtual reality can happen in ways that dont require a helmet on your face.
Think you missed the point I made when I specifically said it has to start somewhere. I not once said it had to remain that way. Again .. the reading thing.
It can be a box plugged into your head
ROFL ... ya this is the matrix .. i'm sure that will happen first. >.>
While new technologies open the doors for new things to happen, its no substitute for creativity.
Never said anything about that ... o.o ... jeez you suck at reading. This isn't a discussion about creativity. Entirely different subject.
As far as that immersive feeling, it can be brought in ways other than graphics, such as a great story like in mass effect, gameplay mechanics as with metal gears stealth gameplay and visual aesthetics like in Journey. Ive been playing Fire Emblem Awakening on my 3DS for 72 hours and Im assuming that Ill easily clock in at least 100 hours before Im done with it. Cant get any more immersive than that.
You don't know what immersive means? In my last post I specifically said "You can't get any more immersive then feeling like you are actually there." Then you say you can't get anymore immersive then your 3DS O.o? You do know immersion doesn't only have to do with the amount of time you play a game. Immersion is getting involved and dragged into a world. Feeling like you are part of it. You, yourself, pretty much stated at the beginning of your paragraph of ways to improve immersion. So YES .. it can most certainly get more immersive then your 3DS game. You honestly have a huge lack of imagination if you think that is it.

@Steve
I'm not sure that's entirely true. I used to think that 3D gaming required some kind of glasses. Then I got a 3DS.
You do realize VR is a very different beast. It does use some of the same technologies such as stereoscopic 3D, but it is implemented in an entirely different manner. You can't do VR without a headset. At least not with todays technology.

As i said earlier .. we have to start somewhere. A computer didn't begin as a device that was portable. A car didn't begin as a Lambo. Before we move further we have to start somewhere. If it requires a headset .. then so be it.

People seem to forget that there is a process to these technologies.
he same argument you made, that we don't know where gaming will be 20 years from now, can be used to make the argument that (probably sooner than we think) VR may not even require a face-mounted peripheral.
You made the same mistake as Rick. I not once said it would require a head mounted display 20 years from now. Again .. it has to start somewhere. We don't simply go from idea .. to full blown working consumer model with all the bells and whistles. It takes time. I am only pointed out that there are people here who are entirely skeptical of VR .. and frankly, it's stupid. EVERYONE should be excited and looking forward to this. How could you NOT want this. It makes no sense.
It's also worth noting that 20 years ago, gaming was where it is now - a box connected to a television, or on PC. So who knows?
20 years ago .. no one expected games to even look as they do now. So that argument doesn't really make much sense. Better yet, take a look at how much screens have evolved in that period of time. We now have screens that are cardboard thin, if not paper thin.
They are working on flexible screens. Super high resolutions. Stereoscopic 3D. So, yes, I would say in the last 20 years ... a whole lot has changed. You also failed to mention how games moved forward to becoming portable. Played on cell phones.

Posted:2 months ago

#13

Rick Lopez
Illustrator, Graphic Designer

1,203 816 0.7
oh boy...
I feel like some people are just stuck standing still. They really don't know where they want gaming to go, or they simply don't want change.

It has to happen somewhere and virtual reality is the only way forward from where we are now.
I dont know how long youve been playing games, but games have always been changing, and 20 years from now they will be much differant from what they are now. And second... VR is not the ONLY WAY FOWARD for games, as there are people working on differant types of technology. Finally i mention differant technologies,because who is to say that nothing i mention will be possible?

As far as immersion goes. We are probably seeing things from a differant perspective and your opinion is just as valid as mine. To me immersion is a games the ability to gain my attention. The more attention a game gets from me the more immersive it is. But a game can do that in differant ways, and your speaking of graphical immersion. However a book with just text can also be immersive in how it is written. So i dont think Im off when I say the things I say.

And i do know what im talking about when it comes to VR. VR are right now is nothing more than a buzzword, like 3D and 4K before it. VR in the way its presented will ultimatly be nothing more than a better 3D screen, It covers your entire field of vision at 180 degree's. You can at most move your head and eye balls to look around, but your pretty much seeing something in front of you, and I want to see you trying to see something behind you... sitting on a couch. And Im assuming it will have a power cord hope you dont strangle yourself.And your restricted to staying in one place and plugged into a wall for power, not moving around and about in the virtual enviroment and needing a gamepad for more complex game actions and displacing your character.

However I can find myself attracted to VR technology in its current state, if it was just a peripheral me a VR helmet I can just plug into a PS4 or PC and be done with it. I dont understand all the hype behind VR or why it has to be a seperate gaming platform, with its own game, CPU and graphics processors. SONY is rumored to bringing there own headset to the PS4 Ill probably give that a shot Im assuming it will be cheaper, if not my HDTV is fine.

At the end of the day, when you play a game that requires you to run, jump, crouch, evade, hide behind a wall, sneak punch and kick... Im not going to be doing that blind, in my living room, with a VR helmet smashing into things and probably destroying my living room, much less strangle myself with the power cord. Besides if I have to lie down on my living room floor to crawl, I have about 2 feet to do so.

Im not going to pay hundreds a dollars to install a contraption in my living room just to virtually throw news papers on a bike or for point and click shooters like the omni holodeck, that will simply allow me to walk, point and shoot at most... I wont pay hundreds of dollars in addition to the VR helmet its gonna cost me unless I wanted a treadmill. Much less dress in a suit that will make me look like matt Damon in Elysium. The holodeck is a nice idea. And you really gotta admire the passion the developers have for it, but its not practical for a wide variety of games. And I dont think that for the cost its worth it to just play shooters or to use over extended periods of time.

However this can be resolved in conjuction with other technologies such as AR. In which I can use an AR screen to move about in a larger space outside of a living room and interacting with virtual characters and objects like in Iron Man and I can run, jump, climb a tree and see my surrounding enviroment as well as the virtual objects or characters generated by the helmet. This is how I see VR truely taking off.

Anyway, this just my own opinion, I dont think I sound so ludicrouse just because im skeptical about new technology. You got to, especially when you have people expecting to make games be more expensive... like the NEO GEO's Max 330 mega, PRO-GEAR Spec. Sounds cool right? $200 for a game. Hell no.

Right now I'm leaning to SONY's approach to VR. A headset I plug into my PS4 and thats it and assuming the processing will be done by the PS4, and no need for seperate processors in the helmet. Im just thinking its just a helmet with the VR3D screens and Im assuming it will cost less than the oculus.

There are 3 deciding factors for me: cost, pratical use and how much it truly adds to playing a game. I wont pay a premium amount just for added 180 degree field of vision.

Edited 3 times. Last edit by Rick Lopez on 29th January 2014 3:44pm

Posted:2 months ago

#14

Rick Lopez
Illustrator, Graphic Designer

1,203 816 0.7
I CLEARLY dont understand the technology. Well id appreciate it if you explained it to me. Maybe Im missing something.

My thoughts on it is that its a stereoscopic 3D headmounted display that offers the viewer a 3D image that takes up the users entire field of vision, or at least attempts to do so and blocks out the users surroundings. Its not just a rectangle in 3d.

So the only thing it brings to the table is a more improved 3D over the current 3D TV's. But not 3D as seen on a 3D TV, more awsome 3D, that wraps around your entire field of vision. And Im thinking the VR images are pretty awsome, but ill be playing in much the same manner I currently am already doing correct? Unless I purchase those add ons like the omni holodeck, paperboy cycle or elysium suit for motion control. Which are a few hundred dollars more....

I understand that the sense of graphical immersion will be great, will that be enough to make me want it? I fail to belive the games coming out for it are that much differant from whats already out there in terms of gameplay. Will the graphical difference alone be enough to make me want it?

Will it make a game like Tetris hundreds of times better?

I dont think Im completely off with the things I say. So if im missing something just share.

However I dont see why it cant exist as a pair of goggles that you can plug into existing hardware, making it more cost effective for both the consumer and developer. Im a bit resistant to support yet another gaming platform which they claim will be even more expensive.

But the people who have tried it, claim its so awsome Im gonna give in and do whatever it takes to expirience it such as buy games at $100 and purchase an Omni holodeck thing.... for example.

really?

Posted:2 months ago

#15

Brook Davidson
Artist / 3D design

57 88 1.5
However I dont see why it cant exist as a pair of goggles that you can plug into existing hardware
Well the main issue with that is the power required by the headset. Your graphics card has to be able to run 2 images, stereoscopic 3D, and remain at 60 FPS. By the time consumer versions of the headset hit the market, I don't see that much of a problem. So ... it probably will be able to plug right into existing hardware. The only issue is other companies need to support it.
My thoughts on it is that its a stereoscopic 3D headmounted display that offers the viewer a 3D image that takes up the users entire field of vision, or at least attempts to do so and blocks out the users surroundings. Its not just a rectangle in 3d.
You keep dumbing it down when you explain it. Just forget all that mumbo jumbo technical stuff. Instead, take a look around you. Now pretend what you see is a video game. What you are seeing is what you would pretty much see with the Oculus Rift. You would pretty much feel like you are THERE.

Does it change gameplay? YES ... it most certainly does. You will be able to make larger connections with characters of the game as you stair them in the eyes. They where even talking about having these characters react to your gestures and movements. If you ignore them while they are talking .. they may notice that.

You can revolutionize the way games work and the way you play them. There is a lot you can do with this, and I think you are not looking at the bigger picture here.

Personally, I never liked Stereoscopic 3D nor the stupid glasses you have to wear. However, you have to realize the Oculus Rift isn't the same thing as that.

Posted:2 months ago

#16

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