Sunday, April 28, 2019

Virtual Reality

By: Patrick Morris

Hey everybody welcome back to LegalSpeak a ColdNorth Production. I'm TheLawMorris and this is the video essay series in which I get to talk about the games I've been playing and what I think of the medium as a whole. Don’t forget to subscribe here on YouTube or see everything we do all in one spot over at This week we are going to be talking about what I think of the current state of VR so lets get right to it!

We are currently in the midst of the second coming of virtual reality that all started just a few years ago. As someone that was alive but not old enough to really have a handle on the state of VR during the first wave of consumer VR in the nineties I cant say for certain but something tells me things are going a little better this time around. There are several different headsets available that utilize different technologies to achieve a virtual reality experience that varies in quality from complete dog shit to what we all have actually hoped VR would be. For now VR has settled into two different experiences, the entry level experience and the premium experience. Three prominent players have come to the forefront of the VR industry and as it stands the industry has settled into steady growth and will continue to grow and evolve as most technologies do once they have a sustainable audience.

The first wave of VR looked bad and somehow played worse. The hardware was rudimentary and difficult to use and the single most popular headset of all the commercially available ones was the virtual boy which sported a red and black display. It was obvious even then that the technology wasn’t ready for the vision of what VR was supposed to be. The first wave of VR died quickly but what is impressive even after the death of VR round one is that the idea showed so much promise that hardware developers, software developers, and consumers alike kept it in the back of their minds for when the tech finally did catch up so they could all go back and give the VR experiment another try.

In 2019 we find ourselves in the thick of VR round two. The initial hype from 2016 has for the most part died down but unlike in the nineties there is a small but loyal fanbase that makes a small VR venture a sustainable business for a handful of companies. VR is used in a wide assortment of ways but the most popular and most prominent once again is video games. Going back to the promise of VR that was seen in the first wave many people are able to buy VR just as a tech demo of what it could eventually be and that gets plenty of people excited enough about the product to spend their hard earned money. The primary difference between the first wave of VR headsets and what we have now though is that after that tech demo there are some VR experiences that are delivering on the vision.

As a consumer we are forced to make a few choices when purchasing a VR headset; do we want an entry level experience or a premium experience? For those of us that arent 100% sold on VR the natural thought is to buy the entry level headset, essentially a plastic shell you can slide your smartphone into with some lenses that magnify the screen. Personally whenever speaking to someone about VR I urge almost everyone to not buy these entry level headsets. I had a PSVR preordered in 2016 and after using a friends galaxy gear VR I immediately cancelled my preorder. I wasn’t assuming that the PSVR was going to be an identical experience to the galaxy gear but the galaxy experience was so bad that I assumed that even a much much better VR experience couldn’t possibly be what I had hoped it would be. Luckily I was wrong.

About a year after trying the galaxy gear my girlfriend surprised me by buying me a PSVR as a birthday present. I put on that headset and as soon as I was in the calibration grid I was immediately sold. The premium VR experience is so much better than entry level headsets that it's difficult for me to even call them both VR. It's me in college working in a warehouse compared to me now working in an office: technically the same person but a completely different experience for everyone involved.

As for the premium experience there are three viable and supported option: HTC Vive, Oculus Rift, and PlayStation VR. Prices of all three have come down significantly since launch but generally the same principal's have driven purchasing decisions. When accounting for not only the headset but the hardware required to drive the headset whether it be a gaming PC or a PS4 the Vive offers the best no compromises experience at a significantly higher price, the Rift makes some compromises in some of the most puzzling places and still comes with a pretty steep cost of entry, and the PSVR is by far the cheapest to get running but makes the most compromises of the three.

When this wave of VR began Oculus was by far the most vocal of the three companies making their headset and sadly pulled quite the Molyneaux on all of us. Talking a big game then launching a clearly inferior product at a similar price point when compared to their main competitor the HTC Vive Oculus stumbled right out the gate and honestly I think that it has been a mistake they are continue to suffer as a result of. As it stands right now Sony owns the console VR and VR hobbyist but not enthusiast market with their low price of entry and excellent selection of games and HTC is THE headset to own for VR enthusiasts. Oculus is being squeezed out of the market and has even turned to making a more mid tier level experience with stand alone headsets that provide significantly stunted games but are notably better than strapping a phone to a human face.

At this point the selection of VR games has gotten so good that the idea of a repeat of the virtual boy with its 19 total games is laughable. Fantastic games like Job Simulator, Superhot, Wipeout, Subnautica, and Star Trek Bridge Crew are all available and many of them even offer unique multiplayer experiences. But more importantly there are still so many people even in the games media industry that claim that VR hasn’t gotten it’s killer app yet. That one game that completely revolutionizes and legitimizes this new technology, the one that everyone NEEDS to play. But that game is already available and regularly on sale.

Resident Evil 7 is a superbly terrifying game when played on a TV. Gameplay is engrossing and tense and the story is gripping. But when played on PSVR RE7 becomes an entirely different experience. Suddenly what was a really solid jump scare is screaming and yelling as you hide from whatever just appeared on screen. What was gripping the controller extra hard becomes twisting and throwing the controller until it nearly breaks. What was clammy sweaty hands is a cold sweat across your entire forehead. Im not the type that typically rocks back and forth with the movement or becomes vocally startled at all while playing but there were multiple instances of me screaming and tipping over my entire chair while playing RE7 in VR. Resident Evil has revolutionized VR in the same way Super Mario 64 did 3D gaming and Halo Combat Evolved changed the first person shooter genre on consoles. RE7 is an absolute must play.

So overall virtual reality is here to stay. The technology has gotten to the point where games are convincing enough that people continue to want to play them and people playing those games means that developers will continue to invest in making them. The Vive pro is a fantastic device that is worth it's insanely high price tag and the PSVR will probably move forward into the next generation with the PS5, fingers crossed for that rumored wireless headset. As the technology increases more people will buy it and games will continue to become more immersive. The virtual reality foundation has been poured and construction has started.

Do you own a VR headset? Which is your favorite game to play in VR? Let me know in the comments down below.

If you liked what you heard you should hit that subscribe button for a new video and two new podcasts every week. You can see everything we do all in one spot over at Ill be back next week talking about my top five favorite games of all time so until then just go play some games.

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