I’ve played video games for longer than I’d like to admit and gaming to me and those I know, has always been a social thing. Yet in VR, it seems that multiplayer experiences lack a deep feel of presence and I find myself struggling with navigation, interaction and communication.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m convinced multiplayer VR will be everywhere from video games to education, retail to real estate. And businesses will be screaming out for immersive new experiences to engage employees and customers.
Victory is measured in milliseconds and while Fortnight or PUBG gamers are investing in solutions that give them even the slightest competitive advantages as 10k DPI gaming mouse or displays with 1ms response time, VR multiplayer gamers are wrestling with basic issues as limited / awkward navigation controls, confusing interactions and lack of immersion and presence while playing with others.
“Video games are beginning their takeover of the real world” writes Nellie Bowles for The New York Times, she’s right and I believe that it’s a matter of time until VR will take over traditional gaming and multiplayer gaming will take over VR.
Critical to making that happen is a VR headset that delivers the highest possible level of presence with no compromises, which is the first reason why this headset should be derived by a powerful GPU instead of a mobile one.
The Oculus Quest is a great entry product to VR but I don’t see the point in all-in-one VR systems. VR by definition is heavier on resources compared to normal gaming and should deliver a highly immersive and convincing experience in order to allow you to get lost in your ideal world. This means allowing game developers to feature more details, characters, objects, physics, interactions, etc which translates to more CPU and GPU resources. Instead an All-in-one device which currently consists of a mobile CPU / GPU cripples and degrades the experience.
Upcoming cloud gaming platforms as Stadia and GeForce Now are more important for VR than non-VR. Outsourcing graphical processing to the cloud while computing the positional tracking locally can remove the need for a local processing unit if the Motion-to-Photon latency is low enough (<30ms).
If I were a gambling man, I’d bank on cloud streaming winning out as the new standard for VR with no need for on-device rendering. 5G cellular networks will be widely adopted within the next 2-3 years and for people with gaming PC and WiFi6 (ax) support this can already be a reality now. So VR would be streamed from anywhere very soon.
Secondly, for a higher level of presence in multiplayer VR we need:
- A better movement system. Using the controllers or headset to navigate is incredibly awkward. This limits and confuses the player. For example, running away from someone who is shooting you from behind while also searching for the shooter is almost impossible. In most cases, you will start running towards wherever you’re looking. Next-gen VR needs a movement system that is away from the hand controllers.
- To greatly extended player tracking. To make VR feel totally immersive when playing with others, tracking needs to project a greater range of human sensations into the digital space — Anything from facial expressions to finger movements.
- Replace hand-held controllers with wearable sensing devices. Our hands do too much to be reduced to a few buttons and a thumbstick. We need wearable controllers that emulate our hands’ full range of senses and motions. Valve Knuckles have made headway into greater sensing but there’s still huge room for improvement. Tomorrow’s controllers need to transmit more sensations — cold, hot, smooth, rough, pressure, itch, pain, vibrations, and more — so users feel the digital world they’re interacting with.
- Make visual breakthroughs. It is obvious that VR needs improved resolution and a wider field of view. These will come as existing screens and lenses are iterated upon.
DecaGear V1 is designed for more human interaction and especially for multiplayer experiences:
- The headset tracks players’ facial expressions and muscle movements — including eyes, tongue, and lips — so players can express themselves naturally and experience other players’ facial expressions. It supports all 52 facial blendshapes based on FACS.
- Once the player clips the DecaMove onto their pants or belt, their moving direction will be based on where their hip is facing to provide the most natural movement control in continuous locomotion, freeing their hands to focus on interaction and their head to spectate around for risks and opportunities.
- We’ve replaced hand-held controllers with pressure sensing wearable ones — similar to Valve Knuckles — that track individual fingers. This means improved interactions as touching or grabbing, and a wider range of hand expressions.
DecaGear 1 can be pre-ordered for US$459
Our first VR headset, the DecaGear 1 is a PC-VR system targeted for gamers that have a VR ready PC and want to play high fidelity games.
The headset supports an add-on wireless device that connects onto the back of the headset strap to allow wireless gaming from the PC with WIFI 5 or 6.
On release, DecaGear 1 will support all VR games and applications in the Steam library. We’ve had frequent help from the Valve team with SteamVR integration and some aspects of the system’s development (thanks Valve). Whether or not a game implements the Deca SDK to support its unique features, users can still do anything they would with any other VR system.
DecaGear for game developers and publishers
The DecaGear SDK is a straightforward way for game developers to integrate the headset unique features. For example developers can add facial tracking support to their game in a matter of hours (VRChat? anybody?).
A fully integrated ecosystem (and not just another game store)
Player’s VR experience actually starts when they put the headset on and ends when they take it off, not when a game starts and ends.
While the DecaGear is sort of a physical set of tools the player uses in order to track their body in VR, I see another, in-game set of tools that allows the player to seamlessly move between games without the need to return to a “lobby” or “home” world. Players can video call or chat with their friends, no matter what games they are currently playing and game developers can easily join their game and monetize it in a freemium model in order to allow players to move in and out freely. I call it DecaSpace (or something like that).
We will share more details on DecaSpace soon, but it’s worth noting that DecaSpace isn’t another VR social network — there are no rooms or “worlds” that we or the players intend to create. It is a framework that connects and monetizes games within VR.
- Release a PC-VR, high fidelity headset built especially for multiplayer gaming and experiences with facial tracking, natural locomotion based on the hip direction and pressure sensitive hand controllers with all finger tracking.
- The system will be available for pre-order in late 2020 for US$459.
- SteamVR support means immediate access to thousands of VR games from day one.
- The DecaGear SDK allows developers to easily and quickly integrate all of the system’s unique features.
- Future plans for a DecaSpace SDKs will allow players to communicate and navigate between games seamlessly in VR.