A little while back, we put up a video looking at the top-five VR technologies on the market. And since then, we’ve seen even more enthusiasm for this new medium of home entertainment, which is primarily associated with gaming, for now. 2016 truly has become the year of virtual reality. While systems and games at this point are far from perfect, there have been countless impressive exhibitions and growing interest among gamers.
But now that we’ve seen quite a bit of activity relating to VR development, one interesting question that remains is which types of games have the potential to gain the most traction. Doubting VR development in general is a thing of the past. Studios and indie creators have already put together pretty amazing experiences in genres that seemed almost incompatible with the format. But there are still certain types of games that appear to be ideally suited and poised to thrive in the coming years.
The entire point of virtual reality, as many see it, is to put players in a first-person perspective as if they’re actually seeing the game worlds in front of them and all around them. But we’ve already seen a few developers experiment instead with the idea of putting players in the environments behind primary characters instead of “in” them. A discussion on the best games out there for Oculus Rift included a sensational trailer for one title called Edge Of Nowhere that demonstrates how this works. It’s like playing any modern, 3D game, except that when you look to the side, you’re seeing what’s to the side in the game, rather than looking at your living room or bedroom. The character you control is still out in front of you, as in, say, an Assassin’s Creed game, but you’re following right behind. Games like this are important because they require less conceptual innovation, and could
be paving the way for a lot of existing franchises to move smoothly into VR.
It didn’t get the buzz of some of the more graphically adventurous VR games we’ve seen this year, but CasinoVR could be an early game changer for the format. It’s a multiplayer poker game that allows players to feel as if they’re seated at real tables as they compete against opponents. The only problem is, it was a little bit of a crude first effort. Graphics will undoubtedly improve, but future casino VR games could also look to expand in much the same way that online casino gaming has. Looking at at online casino sites, you can now find everything from themed slot machines to live caller bingo and blackjack experiences. There’s roulette and baccarat, there are multiple types of poker, and there are live tournaments. And in particular, the use of HD video feeds and other high-tech components on some of the live dealer and tournament options stands out as being almost a preview of how VR could look. Frankly, none of these games are particularly difficult to adapt compared to some of the VR titles we’ve seen, and it could well be that a full-blown casino experience is on the way. This is a great way to tap into an incredibly popular genre without needing to solve issues of movement, perspective, etc. Most of the games just involve sitting still and playing.
When we think of shooters, we imagine running through war-torn terrain, diving for cover, climbing ledges, etc. all while wielding weapons and doing battle. It’s this kind of high-octane activity that continually keeps games like Call Of Duty and Battlefield toward the top of the charts. And these games would be very difficult to suitably adapt for VR, simply because there’s so much movement involved. But several developers have gotten around this issue by inventing twists on shooter games that largely involve staying put, ducking for cover, and shooting without any actual forward, backward, or lateral movement. Some have even developed games like this that take place on moving vehicles, which allow the game to progress without the player actually having to move. They’re smaller games than traditional shooters, naturally, but there’s potential for them to evolve into a sort of sub-genre of their own.
This genre might make for a predictable inclusion, but it’s fair to say that early VR racing games have lived up to the expectation that they’d work rather well. Like son-rails shooters, racing games just require that the car can move, and that turns VR into more of a visual and sensory experience than a physically mobile one. But the visuals have been enough to make some of these games pretty spectacular. DiRT Rally, a globe-trotting racing game, is probably the top option at this point, and comes from a developer known for a range of racing games. If you look at some of the footage from this game (or play it yourself), it’s easy to imagine a broad and spectacular future for racing on VR.
There’s a surprising number of games already available for VR devices, and developers are really just getting started. But with most high-end devices now available to the public, these are some of the gaming experiences that are showing the most promise.