VR is set to invade markets all over the globe as developers look to take advantage of new interest in the rejuvenated technology. The upcoming release of a number of VR headsets could revolutionize the very world we live in but how will VR affect the gaming industry?
VR – The Early Days
It might be a form of technology that was only introduced in the 1990s but the concept of virtual reality has existed ever since Stanley G. Weinbaum’s 1935 story called “Pygmalion’s Spectacles” that covered the idea of goggle-based technology that produced holographic images of fictional recordings that allowed users to smell and touch their surroundings.
In 1962, the reality of VR came a step closer when pioneering cinematographer Morton Heilig completed development and patented the Sensorama. It was a bulky arcade-style machine that allowed players to ride through the streets of Brooklyn on a motorbike. Players could feel the vibration of the engine through the seat, the blowing of the wind, and the smells of the environment. It was considered ahead of its time for 1960s technology.
It was only six years later in 1968 that American computer scientist Ivan Sutherland, with the assistance of his student Bob Sproull, went further and developed what is deemed to be the first ever virtual reality headset. It was a very basic and flawed invention but it showed that the seemingly impossible could become possible. It was named The Sword of Damocles.
The 1990s VR Boom
VR technology entered a period of calm during the 1970s and 1980s as progress in the field stagnated. It was then in 1991 when computer console developer Sega announced the release of the Sega VR headset for the Mega Drive console and arcade games. It advanced VR technology with LCD screens in the head visor, inertial sensors, and stereo headphones to heighten the sensory experience. Its release along with a number of rival VR headsets provoked magazine Computer Gaming World to predict that affordable VR technology would be available by 1994.
Unfortunately, this never happened. VR technology once again suffered from a lull in popularity as criticisms came that the VR imagery was not realistic enough and the health side-effects such as muscle strains and headaches from using the headset technology saw ideas about the progressing the VR headsets shelved in favour of other projects. The first attempts to combine VR technology with computer games had failed miserably.
Google changed the landscape in 2007 when it released Google Street View that allowed users to see streets around the world from a first person perspective. This opened up the arena for all sorts of possibilities as far as VR gaming was concerned.
As computer gaming technology had advanced to a level that allowed players to take part on mass multi-player open world role-playing games the advancement of VR technology also allowed the potential for these two technologies to be combined. The creative juices in the VR industry started to once again flow and over the following few years, patents were filed by Nintendo, Palmer Luckey (founder of Oculus), and Virtuix Omni to develop VR technology.
VR in Computer Games
It was widely reported that in 2013, Guild Software’s Vendetta Online game was the first to take advantage of VR technology by using it in their open world setting with the Oculus Rift headset. Just one year later in 2014, Facebook officially took over Oculus for $2 billion with an intent of further developing VR technology in computer games.
2015 saw a Kickstarter campaign for Gloveone, glove-based VR technology raised $150,000. The potential for this form of technology would allow players to experience motion-tracking and somatosense feedback. This would be possible on particular sports games and shooters where the hands are used as a crucial part of the game.
The past couple of years have seen the interest in VR technology only increase. Valve Corporation, in partnership with HTC, released their HTC Vive headset and controllers in 2015. The same year saw OnePlus launch the first product that uses VR technology in the form of the OnePlus 2 device.
Computer games using VR technology once again hit the mainstream when it was confirmed in April 2016 that Mojang had made their popular Minecraft game playable on the Gear VR taking millions of Minecraft players into the VR domain.
Jaunt VR have already given a taste of how VR technology can be used in computer games. They captured footage that then enabled players to use their headset and feel like they were playing on stage next to Paul McCartney at Candlestick Park. Imagine transferring that experience into a football game like FIFA or a shooter such as Call of Duty.
This also expands into something that could monumentally alter the online casino gaming world. Live casinos are close to offering a virtual reality experience but the introduction of VR technology could take things to the next level. Imagine being able to smell and feel the table, the cards, and the chips instead of simply seeing and hearing them. Classic casino table and mobile games such as poker, roulette, blackjack, and keno would feel as real from the comfort of the player’s home as they would from the casino floor itself.
The Future of VR in Computer Games
Ever since that first device by Heilig, VR technology has been designed mainly as a source of entertainment. It was inevitable that it would only be a matter of time before computer game developers would embrace the technology for use in their games.
VR still has a shady reputation of poor graphics and unrealistic imagery to shake off from the last wave of releases in the 1990s. However, this is a different time and age. The technology is far superior these days and the technology being released by Oculus and its rivals is only a drop in the ocean for its potential.
It is now looking more likely that VR is here to stay. Its influence in the MMORPG genre is limitless and other genres such as sports, action, and military games will almost certainly be next in line for the VR treatment as developers aim to take computer gaming to the next level offering a more immersive gaming experience than ever before.
The return of VR might seem like a long overdue process but it appears to be worth the wait. This is certainly the next step in computer gaming and with wearable technology now more advanced than ever before the potential is endless.