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Valve: "The idea that VR must get you sick is bullshit"

Chet Faliszek told the EGX crowd that the developer, not the hardware, is responsible for creating feelings of nausea

Valve's Chet Faliszek has advised gamers not to tolerate VR experiences that induce nausea, and he left no room for doubt about where they should place the blame: not the hardware, but the developer.

Speaking at EGX last week, Faliszek was bracingly forthright about the view that virtual reality games have an inherent capacity to make the player feel sick.

"The idea that VR must get you sick is [bullshit]," he said. "We have people come in who don't want to do demos. In a party of ten people there will be someone who says, 'I'm gonna be sick, I'm gonna be sick, I can't do this.'

"That expectation is based on either what they've seen before or what they've heard."

Valve claimed to have eradicated motion sickness with the Vive headset, which was co-developed with HTC, back in March. In his EGX developer session, to an audience composed almost entirely of consumers, Faliszek pushed the point further still. If the hardware no longer causes nausea, but experiences that do still exist, then the developer should be held responsible.

"As consumers and people in the community, hold developers to it," he said to the audience. "They shouldn't be making you sick. It's no longer the hardware's fault any more. It's the developers making choices that are making you sick. Tell them that you don't want that."

Faliszek highlighted another potential problem that cannot be attributed to poor design so easily. Conventional input methods, and particularly those associated with movement - like pushing on a thumb-stick or pressing a 'W' key - are, "the easiest way to get somebody sick."

This is partly why Vive uses technologies like its "Lighthouse" system, which allows the user to move within a 5 metre by 5 metre space, and its trackable controllers, which decrease the abstraction involved when the player interacts with the virtual world. The latter, Faliszek said, made the VR experience "exponentially better" when compared to gamepads, keyboards and more traditional input devices.

"When you reach in and can interact with the world your brain's buying into the system grows that much stronger," he added.

However, while Faliszek pointed out that Valve, Sony and Oculus have all ended up making relatively similar tracked hand inputs to complement their respective headsets, he didn't address the fact that, in the case of Sony and Oculus, those hand inputs will be sold separately. For what will likely be the majority of people buying into VR, the experience available out of the box will be one with a gamepad as its primary input, and all of the problematic abstractions that brings.

Developers attempting to pioneer VR games will design based on the assumption of thumbsticks and buttons; not because they believe a gamepad is perfect for VR, but because they will have little other choice if they want to reach the largest number of potential customers. If by doing so they cause feelings of nausea in some players, it is perhaps because an "exponentially better" VR experience is regarded as optional by those at the summit of the VR market.

This article initially suggested that Vive's controllers were likely to ship separately. A representative from Valve has corrected this point, reiterating the company's belief in the importance of tracked inputs to VR.

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Matthew Handrahan avatar

Matthew Handrahan


Matthew Handrahan joined GamesIndustry in 2011, bringing long-form feature-writing experience to the team as well as a deep understanding of the video game development business. He previously spent more than five years at award-winning magazine gamesTM.