Cloudhead has been working on the problem of VR locomotion for close to three years. A myriad of solutions were prototyped, tweaked, and tortured for The Gallery. Stick move, body stick move, tank mode, node based locomotion, seated, standing, VR Comfort Mode, gamepad controls, hand controls . . . each attempt at cracking VR locomotion seemed to come with a unique list of inadequacies. We were not alone in exploring these problems, of course, but we had a developmental stubbornness that ‘VR would get there!’
We knew that one day we could support a standing and hand tracked VR experience.
What is the major hurdle?
Vestibular Disconnect (or vection) is generated in Virtual Reality each time there is an artificial acceleration, that is not generated by the players physical body. Some forms of vection are tolerable, some are not. Artificial rotations are highly likely to make you feel sick, while up and down translations (at the right speed) will not. Forward and backward accelerations are tolerable to most. Sideways accelerations are tolerable to very few. All of that said, we’ve come to recognize that in order for VR’s first tender steps into the mainstream to be successful, we have to adopt a zero nausea policy.
When we began working with prototype Vive hardware, we recognized that the fidelity of the hardware had finally caught up to some of our earlier ambitions. That players could now freely walk around a space, removing many vestibular issues, but that any system would also have to account for those with very little space. And although we’re not the only ones looking at “teleportation” as a solution, we were able to design “Blink Locomotion” by combining many lessons learned and underlying subsystems to make things feel “good”.
What is Blink?
Blink is a family of locomotion features which lives under one button input, reducing mental load and freeing the player to simply grab/interact with their world. Blink allows the Player to move through a dynamically scaling virtual space using either a Roomscale, or non-Roomscale tracking system. On the high level, Blink is comprised of the following:
Elastic Playspace is a system which scales to any playspace, whether that’s in front of your desk, on a living room throw rug, in your garage, or in an airplane hanger.
Volume Persistence gives players tangible references to their real-world space at all times, encouraging physical movement in a safe and visually appealing way.
Cinematic Blink allows the Player to simply look in the general direction they want to travel and move closer to that location. Cinematic Blink is great for coarse adjustments and requires very little mental load.
Precision Blink allows the Player to visualize and cast their blink point into a precise virtual location. This is great for players who want to move to a very specific landing point.
Volume Blink allows the Player to move and rotate their Roomscale volume in virtual space, and to strategically maximize the functionality of their Roomscale playspace. Volume Blink is great for Players who want to quickly re-orientate themselves within the game space and removes the need to pivot or turn their real body. On the opposite end of that scale, players can initiate redirected walking to take full advantage of their usable volume if they so desire. Volume Blink also allows the Player to problem solve, using the Volume as a tool to maximize locomotion efficiency.
There are of course deeper subsystems which ensure that the Player remains properly oriented, safe, and shirts vomit-free, but if we’ve done our job properly players will recognize these extra details intuitively. If the Player is confused or uncomfortable, the entire experience falls apart, so great pains have been taken to fine tune Blink into it’s most comfortable and immersive form.
A main tenet for the design of Blink was the idea that added complexity should reveal itself as the Player becomes familiar with the more basic layers of Blink. Happy accidents introduce more complex layers of the Blink system, which allows the Player to naturally adjust their Blink usage based on their locomotion space, habits and preferences. We feel deeply that since each Player’s movement style and elastic playspace is unique, our locomotion should cater to that uniqueness. An elastic playspace approach also makes our VR title “The Gallery” as accessible as possible.
We are located in the Portland room, next to the PAX registration area in the Grand Hyatt Hotel (across from the convention centre). We will feature three roomscale demo spaces and will be giving away some awesome swag – special thanks to our sponsors INTEL, HTCVive, Maingear Computers and Nvidia.
Be one of the first to try out Blink and let us know what you think! See ya all there 🙂
The Gallery: Six Elements? Whoseits? Whatsits?
We are excited to announce that The Gallery will be released in an episodic format. Ultimately this means more content than we originally planned for. This format will allow us to continuously raise the bar with each episode as new advances in VR, and hardware become available.
The Gallery: Six Elements, is now called The Gallery, with each episode having it’s own title. The first episode in The Gallery, is entitled ‘Call of the Starseed.’
If you are a Kickstarter Backer who pledged a level that included The Gallery: The Six Elements as a reward, you will receive all four episodes in the series. Seeing as The Gallery is multi-platform, we will give you the choice of which platform you would like keys for. We will conduct a poll through Kickstarter to determine your platform of choice closer to launch.
Backers, if you are attending PAX this year, please let us know, so we can give you a mighty hug 🙂
(In all honesty, everyone can have a hug, if you ask nicely)