Sony: "The first impression of VR has to be good"

Shuhei Yoshida on the importance of bespoke content in making virtual reality a success

While virtual reality has been one of the hottest trends in gaming since the Oculus Rift emerged in 2012, Sony's Shuhei Yoshida believes more preparation needs to be done before it's ready for consumers.

Speaking to at the Gamelab conference in Barcelona, Yoshida dismissed the possibility that the concept of VR as a new platform for gaming was in danger of losing momentum.

Sony's Project Morpheus may only have been unveiled at GDC this year, but it benefited from 18 months of steadily building hype around Oculus VR's Rift headset. Public interest is a difficult thing to sustain, but, according to Yoshida, the greater danger would be in rushing the devices to market before they offer a complete proposition.

"At the end of the day it's the content that sells. We need developers to start making games for it"

"I don't think [VR will lose momentum]," said Yoshida, president of Sony Computer Entertainment Worldwide Studios. "Only a very small number of people have tried Oculus Rift or Morpheus. We believe that unless you try it, you really don't know what it is that can be done.

"The enormous interest we're getting is really great, but it doesn't matter whether they try Oculus or Morpheus - [Oculus] is making something great, and we're also making that. We both realise that we can improve before we bring this to the market. The first impression has to be good."

Giving enough consumers first-hand experience of VR to seed a sustainable market is clearly a huge task, and that's only made more complicated by the design challenges the technology presents for developers. So far, the most effective demonstrations of VR have been experiences that restrict the player's in-game movement and require minimal use of additional input devices: CCP's EVE: Valkyrie, for example, in which the player's avatar is seated and can only move its head, or Sony's Street Luge demo, where the avatar is once again motionless and all movement is based around headtracking.

More traditional game genres - the early Doom 3 demo on Oculus Rift, or The Creative Assembly's experiment with Alien: Isolation - tend to be more jarring, the use of abstract inputs like buttons, triggers and analogue sticks sitting uneasily beside the unprecedented immersion offered by the display.

"Doom or Half-Life 2 is an amazing experience in VR initially, but you quickly realise it doesn't work"

Oculus CEO Palmer Luckey has highlighted the proliferation of bad VR experiences as the single biggest threat to establishing a firm grasp on the market, and warned that the Oculus Rift won't necessarily have, "a slam dunk of AAA content available at launch.... Good content takes time."

According to Yoshida, this is very much Sony's position, so it's in no great rush to commit to a launch date for Project Morpheus.

"Technically, it's easy to adapt to VR," he said. "It's not much different to making your game compatible with 3D stereoscopic TV. What's different is the game design doesn't work. Doom or Half-Life 2 is an amazing experience initially, but you quickly realise it doesn't work. The games have to be designed from the ground up, and that's what we've been saying to everyone, internally and externally. Either create something totally for VR, or create a VR dedicated experience within the same universe.

"At this point, what's really important is to get out there and let more people experience it, to make them believers - especially developers, because at the end of the day it's the content that sells. We need developers to start making games for it."

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Latest comments (13)

I definitely agree, no matter how cool the hardware is, it needs at least one " oh my god I have to have that" app.

Heck, I go back through my life with games and its always been that "moment" where I just had to have it. First time I saw pong,First time I saw atari tank battle, First time I saw intellivison football, embarrassing but smurfs adventures graphics made me go and buy a Colecovision,, and on and on.

I think VR big app may be one of the space games that really capture the feeling of being out there, something that just cant be tackled by a TV or monitor. If Occulus comes in at a price of 300 to 400 bucks, most game enthusiast will have the ability to say, "oh my god I have to have this" and go out the next day/week/month and scrape up the money and get it.

Edited 2 times. Last edit by Todd Weidner on 9th July 2014 5:15pm

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Julian Williams Founder, WIZDISH Ltd.6 years ago
I suspect Devs are going to need more guidance on the type of games and experiences that currently work in VR.
The idea has been put out that it's only good for seated experiences and that racing games give you nausea. Even a difference to your normal eye height is very noticeable and can cause a break in presence. On the face of it that doesn't leave much!

Our experience is that standing, turning and moving your legs even a small amount radically enhances the impression that 'you are there'. To illustrate this watch the reactions we received at a recent tech fair where all people were doing was walking around the Tuscany Villa demo:

Edited 3 times. Last edit by Julian Williams on 9th July 2014 5:46pm

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Eric Leisy VR Production Designer, Nike6 years ago
Very sensible article. I do think initially that one of the simulator games, Elite or Star Citizen will be the initial ice breaker - I personally believe these games provide profound experiences beyond what you can currently experience in a video game.

But other wise, I totally agree with what this guy saying - Input is a really profound problem right now for VR. I go back and forth about my own ideas of how this should be handled. The way that the input problem gets solved, will have as great or greater of an effect on VR gaming as "the killer app."

Ultimately, I believe it will be through camera / kinect STYLE technology. We have to get away from the idea of strapping sensors and peripherals all over our bodies. I'm under the impression that the boys and girls down at Oculus are on this game path, and that they are working on a few significant optical based control mechanisms.

It's pretty much a no brainer that it can't be a requirement for the average user to have a treadmill / etc device in their house.

Working with this tech everyday though, I also question trying to force non VR appropriate experiences. It's not going to be ideal for every type of game, and that is okay. I no longer think that VR is going to completely REVOLUTIONIZE the world, I DO think that it's going to be a very POPULAR and amazing interface device that will sit along side things like monitors and TV's...
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Show all comments (13)
Julian Williams Founder, WIZDISH Ltd.6 years ago
I totally agree. The games that have taken off on phones and tablets haven't been ports of console AAA games, so why should VR just be aimed at hardcore gamers? It's another medium and will offer whole new experiences to a broad range of people. Treadmills won't appeal to everyone any more than COD does. I can see many different killer apps for VR from architectural walk-throughs to zombie games. They don't have to have the same audience.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Julian Williams on 9th July 2014 6:32pm

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David Serrano Freelancer 6 years ago
Giving enough consumers first-hand experience of VR to seed a sustainable market is clearly a huge task, and that's only made more complicated by the design challenges the technology presents for developers.
In 98', Steve Jobs told Business Week: "We have a lot of customers, and we have a lot of research into our installed base. We also watch industry trends pretty carefully. But in the end, for something this complicated [the iMac], it's really hard to design products by focus groups. A lot of times, people don't know what they want until you show it to them. That's why a lot of people at Apple get paid a lot of money, because they're supposed to be on top of these things."

So my question is: what do Sony, Oculus, game developers and publishers plan to show consumers that they currently don't know they want, or need? More to the point... what do they plan to show consumers who still don't view or embrace the medium as a meaningful, worth-while, culturally relevant and adult form of play, entertainment and art... which the overwhelming majority haven't consistently and repeatedly rejected in different forms and iterations in the past?
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So my question is: what do Sony, Oculus, game developers and publishers plan to show consumers that they currently don't know they want, or need
Thats simple. Try the Oculus out and it becomes apparent. VR offers people a true out of body experience. What is amazing about the new VR tech is that is actually ( when done right) fools the brain. Your brain is being fooled about location and sensory input. It is an experience that can be mind blowing, and nothing compares to it. VR will be huge when someone nails it and dials it in , in a game..
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Marty Howe Director, Figurehead Studios6 years ago
A developer needs to make a game, that suits VR. Being on a roller coaster, or in a tech demo, is a gimmick that will wear off quickly. How about a 1st person murder mystery, where you visit crime scenes, collect clues in your inventory, and jack-in to a virtual reality internet, a game that really suits the hardware.

I thought Hawken would be the big drawcard, but it didn't blow me away like I thought it would.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Marty Howe on 10th July 2014 11:05am

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Nick Parker Consultant 6 years ago
I agree, there has to be a greater level of interactivity with an intuitive UI. At the moment it seems rather passive, more output than input, so we need to be able to "play" this new VR world rather than just watch it.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Nick Parker on 10th July 2014 12:11pm

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I think VR specific game content may not necessarily need to change from the AAA or high quality game development, what will be required is a army of really talented UX folks....who can provide a new user experience and intuitive UI design
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Steve Wetz Reviewer/Assistant Editor, Gamer's Glance6 years ago
I feel like this is being overthought. We have first person games. Adjust the camera, add the rest of the body if it isn't there, and tweak. From what I understand through friends creating patches for their current games, the SDK is very intuitive and makes this process easy.

Having said that, yes the UI is the main issue. Projecting a 2D plane of information near to the player's point of view works when you are viewing the content using both eyes on a single flat screen. For VR, it's not that simple. The location of the UI has to be in different places on each screen and the focus can be difficult to achieve, and then it still breaks immersion to some degree because you feel like you are about to walk into a glass wall upon which this information is projected (that was my impression anyway, having worked in a modern office where that sort of decor is all over the place).

But for games where the UI element is minimist or better - actually part of objects in game, this isn't an issue. Where's my Rift support patch for Mirror's Edge, Metro Last Light, etc? These titles with minimal or no UI should be the first out of the gate. Consider it like a new console cycle and patch that old content - this is a hook to get your game looked at by those who haven't played it yet, and remembered by those who have but you want to buy the next title in the franchise.

Funny enough, among my acquantances the most excited people are in hardware, not software. Like the original Crysis release, if Rift hits it big it could drive hardware sales as people upgrade to meet the requirements of VR games. I'm very interested tosee how this all plays out, whenever this thing launches.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Steve Wetz on 10th July 2014 7:22pm

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Jeff Kleist Writer, Marketing, Licensing 6 years ago
As a huge fan of 3D and VR, the ssue right now is how's you mask VR work on current console hardware. Displacement, like what was done with VP3D is not going to fly. I think it's a great idea putting the thing in Dave and Busters, and that they'll be amazing to have in arcade games

I've played the Gundam arcade game at least thirty times in Japan, it uses a panoramic fisheye legs to fill you entire field of vision. That game, wired to an Oculus Rift would KILL. But until Xbox Next and PS5, developers are going to have two choices, downgrade the graphics, or not support it. VR Is fit to have a huge loyal niche, but what's going to pay for the gaming is what Facebook is really after, and that is CAD, and other meeting style scenarios. I think augmented reality will be the big consumer item, putting Sunt Martha in your living room for a FaceTime, but that VR is purely commercial, and that $100,000 system an architectural firm buys pays for the R&d for games. SomysVR I fear is doomed for the Move's fate, because it's focus is too narrow

I can't wait for my Rift, and the personal IMAX 3D experience that comes with it :)
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David Serrano Freelancer 6 years ago
@Todd Weidner
Try the Oculus out and it becomes apparent. VR offers people a true out of body experience.
I don't question the viability or mass market appeal of VR. I think it will have a massive impact on entertainment, education, mass communication, etc... But what VR will not do is make video and computer games more appealing, accessible, enjoyable or valuable to consumers who've already been exposed to them and had negative experiences. Or didn't find the experiences worth-while or meaningful.

It just seems like the industry is, once again, glossing over the fact that while the mass market hasn't been exposed to the new hardware yet, it has been exposed to the forms and types of games which now define the medium. And the overwhelming majority, including the majority of consumers already in the games market consistently choose not to buy or play them.

So I have the same concern about VR as I do about next gen consoles. What motivation will the average person have to purchase the hardware if almost all of the content is exclusively developed to appeal to the non-representative preferences and sensibilities of a small or demographically narrow sub-segment of existing players?

Edited 1 times. Last edit by David Serrano on 11th July 2014 8:25pm

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Petter Solberg Freelance Writer & Artist, 6 years ago
As far as user interface etc: Somehow screen displays within the game seem to create more immersion for VR. How exiting: A VR room With a flatscreen TV. How pointless, right? But perhaps some of the solutions are less complicated than we tend to think.

I like how the classic game Outcast requires the player to use a soul capturing device to save a game. Because it glows and chimes when activated and makes you unable to move for a few seconds, you need to make sure to take cover to avoid attracting attention of nearby enemies. Yes, it may produce completely useless savegames at times when you manage to save your game just as you are about to get killed. However, it lets the gamer and not the game, decide when (and where) it's safe to save. I prefer this over those static save checkpoints you'll find in many recent (and older) games.

Anyway, my point is: perhaps a lot of game menu options could easily be replaced with simple in-game interaction. Or voice commands. If nothing else, VR should at least bring the player closer to the game world. I wouldn't be surprised if a lot of game mechanics which over the years have been written off as pointless and cumbersome, would be reintroduced for VR - hopefully in a good way.

Edited 3 times. Last edit by Petter Solberg on 13th July 2014 12:56am

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