VR Devs Are "Coasting on Novelty", Says John Carmack

VR Devs Are "Coasting on Novelty", Says John Carmack

john carmack

Oculus CTO John Carmack says VR devs need to stop making novelty tech demos and think about VR games with actual value.

Former iD Software mastermind and current CTO of Oculus John Carmack had some choice words for VR developers at this year's Oculus connect event. In short, he claims that a lot of devs are coasting on the "novelty" of VR, and making short "tech demo" like games that rely on the fact that they are most likely a user's first experience with VR. He says that devs need to start making proper games, and holding their development practices to a much higher standard.

"We are coasting on novelty, and the initial wonder of being something people have never seen before," he explained. "But we need to start judging ourselves. Not on a curve, but in an absolute sense. Can you do something in VR that has the same value, or more value, than what these other [non-VR] things have done?"

As an example, he told us that elsewhere in the industry, development teams are "fighting and struggling" to reduce load times to 29 seconds or less. VR devs are refusing to adhere to this standard, and that's only going to hurt the format in the long run.

"That's acceptable if you're going to sit down and play for an hour....but [in VR] initial startup time really is poisonous. An analogy I like to say is, imagine if your phone took 30 seconds to unlock every time you wanted to use it. You'd use it a lot less."

He closed up by urging devs to avoid having the mentality of the allure of novelty being "the biggest thing I want to impress on people."

"This is misguided. It's not just that it hurts your performance, or the visual quality isn't as good; it's actually the wrong thing to do."

Personally, I have to agree. Almost every VR experience I have played has been a glorified tech demo. There are very few "real" and proper games out there (that aren't just VR ports of existing games).

Source: Gamesindustry.biz

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He's certainly not wrong. I haven't personally invested in any VR tech since... well, it's just expensive filler. Fancy tech demos. There's nothing of any substance in them that justifies the price and space requirements. If VR is really going to be some mainstay in the gaming industry, it needs to do something, anything to make it more appealing to people who aren't just going 'ooooh, fancy!' when they see it.

Yeah, seems fair and well said. A little tired of this whole VR cycle. What is it now, the fifth time around?

Isn't that a natural course of events for every new piece of technology though? There's always that initial period of selling the public on it by way of showing how novel it is.

Not that I'm in anyway interested in VR at all, but this seems like a recurring thing in gaming especially; A new piece of hardware is released and the first run of games are all about showcasing the new tech in a shallow/gimmicky way.

I'm just going to throw this out there and say that the reason we don't have Half-Life 3 is because Valve is trying to make it fully VR compatible. If Valve ends up being the first company ever to make a proper VR FPS and that also happens to be a freakin' HL3 game, because their success is pretty much guaranteed, others will follow.

I personally don't see anything being successful in this regard until the tech improves, we're limited by the comfort of the device, the small areas we can move in, the motion sickness introduced by certain movement, the huge resource hit by rendering a scene twice, which is only going to get more extreme as resolutions get higher, our hands are blobs with a few functions, we have no finger dexterity or force feedback.
What we've got is a great novelty, like a toy guitar instead of a real guitar, we're not composing great things but we're having fun.

Does no one remember when the playstation 1 came out? We went from very long load times at the beginning to short load times. Give the devs some time to figure things out.

Or am i just too old now?

After upgrading my computer, I looked for a reason to burn the gold bricks for a vr setup only to find maybe 1 game I was interested in at all- Eve: Valkyrie. That didn't sell me BC I am more interested in vive than oculus and definitely not interested in psvr given I want to use it with my new and improved confusr

It's because they haven't done anything really GOOD, like invent The World on the thing, but with use of a CONTROLLER, not what they've got now.

When VR is used to simulate Yu-Gi-Oh card duels or Pokemon battles, I'll be mildly interested in seeing if I should invest anything into it.

It's basically like Guitar Hero or Rock Band - yeah, you have the tools, but without the right music selection, all you've got is expensive, shitty plastic things with wires.

So Carmack's big plan was to call developers out and tell them to do a better job in creating games for his overly expensive niche piece of tech... yeah I can see that working well for him.

As an example, he told us that elsewhere in the industry, development teams are "fighting and struggling" to reduce load times to 29 seconds or less. VR devs are refusing to adhere to this standard, and that's only going to hurt the format in the long run.

You mean that companies are spending time and resource on tackling a problem that will be seen by potentially millions of end users (even if they never actually acknowledge it) as opposed to spending time and money on tackling a problem that will only be encountered by a few thousand???

He wants other companies to spend their time and money on providing his company with the content needed to drive sales of his companies product. Correct me if I am wrong but isn't this shitshow of a tech owned by Facebook, how about they spend a portion of their wealth on making a proper game for their tech... you know like first party console developers have been doing for years. I guess it's easier in that instance to blame developers for not doing enough to support their tech when this thing falls on it's arse and disappears in to the ether.

And people thought motion control was a gimmick. The entire concept of VR is a novelty as there's really nothing it brings to the table except trying to make everything first-person. It's fascinating tech but there's really nothing it can do to take gameplay forward.

VR is itself a gimmick, so of course the games are gimmicky. Maybe someone will come up with the new killer app for VR one of these days and it'll become a must-have technology for gamers. I'm not holding my breath, though.

One of my biggest problems is that I can?t imagine wearing one of these bulky things for hours during a hardcore-gaming-session.

By far my favorite VR game... isn't really a game at all. It's a sketchbook. I spent some time with the tech demos and VR could certainly take walking simulators to a new level but I didn't want to put tilt brush down.


I hope VR takes off and becomes more affordable, just so I can see more things like tilt brush.

He is completely right. The main thing he is doing is urging developers not to treat it like a gimmick. It doesn't have to be a gimmick, it doesn't have to motion controls. They really need to start trying to apply it to games and gametypes you know people play, and apply it in a meaningful way.

The only worthwhile* thing i saw done with "VR" is Microsoft Minecraft thing of "Putting the game on a table" and that counts as AR. They should really consider, that if they want to sell to the masses the game needs to be played sitting! At least being playable. Just ask Nintendo how many do stand when they play the motion games.

*That isn't an FPS.
Remember the first Populous? Its isometric world "came out" of a table. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NTGneDh-SMY
Having a virtual tabletop set is the most i hope for. Yes this is only an optical thing and not a game mechanic.

CrazyCapnMorgan:
When VR is used to simulate Yu-Gi-Oh card duels or Pokemon battles, I'll be mildly interested in seeing if I should invest anything into it.

Which could be done with the Hololens. It has a camera, that could read the cards played and then project what's to happen.

Adam Jensen:
I'm just going to throw this out there and say that the reason we don't have Half-Life 3 is because Valve is trying to make it fully VR compatible. If Valve ends up being the first company ever to make a proper VR FPS and that also happens to be a freakin' HL3 game, because their success is pretty much guaranteed, others will follow.

I was certain Valve would announce HL3 with VR support for the Vive, after the Vive was released. HL3 would have been the killer app for VR and would have given the Vive a substantial boost. Was disappointed when that didn't actually materialize.

But I agree with you and still believe that if they ever release HL3, it will be with VR support.

Mortuorum:
VR is itself a gimmick, so of course the games are gimmicky. Maybe someone will come up with the new killer app for VR one of these days and it'll become a must-have technology for gamers. I'm not holding my breath, though.

VR is not just a gimmick. It's the future of gaming, and at some point will go beyond that and become central to human interaction, there is no question about it.
As for the killer app, see my post above.

Stuff like this makes me sigh.

Technology like this needs heavy primary support. Throwing the tech out there and telling other companies to pick it up and run with it just isn't going to get the ball rolling. This is the guy with facebook money behind him, for being in the industry so long he should know better. What company out there is going to sit there and say oh sure we'll dump tons of money to release a triple A game to a tiny market? They'd never make their investment back. This is basic economics, you need a loss leader from the VR companies to push the technology. Once the market is big enough other developers will come. But until then just throwing the technology into the wilderness and hoping someone out there will make killer apps is the fastest way to kill the tech.

It's like Nintendo pushing motion controls in the Wii era. It was supposed to revolutionize gaming. Everyone was touting how it was going to be the future. But Nintendo did jack to support third party developers, so gamers got flooded with shovelware and really gimmicky garbage motion controls. Which caused people pretty much burnt out on motion controls in favor of the tried and true gamepad.

That's the thing though, isn't it. It's going to take some time before devs starts releasing some groundbreaking and "proper VR games" for VR headset. The reason why the VR library is filled with these novelty gimmicks is because everyone is clambering all over new technology. It's like picking up a new toy, you'd want to experiment with it first, you're not going to be creating masterpieces with new tech right off the bat.

VR needs 3 things in order to work:

1. Any headset needs to be small enough and comfortable enough to be worn for hours on end, and not cause sickness when used.

2. While not necessarily always optimal, every VR headset needs to be compatible with every VR application, so as not to split up the market.

3. VR headsets need to be usable even in the absence of an application specifically designed to make use of VR. If VR headsets functioned like wearable TVs or monitors when it's not using a VR specific application it would have use outside of simply VR, and thus value to the consumer.

Otherwise, VR will never be anything other than a gimmick.

Still waiting on a mech/space/tank sim that really knocks you of your chair.

I mean cmon.. VR was MADE for the genre of vehicle control.

Can you imagine a Tie fighter/xwing type of game in VR? Or a mechwarrior game?

Well there is that EvE ofshoot but thats more like a proof of concept then a real full fledged game.

Tiamat666:

Mortuorum:
VR is itself a gimmick, so of course the games are gimmicky. Maybe someone will come up with the new killer app for VR one of these days and it'll become a must-have technology for gamers. I'm not holding my breath, though.

VR is not just a gimmick. It's the future of gaming, and at some point will go beyond that and become central to human interaction, there is no question about it.
As for the killer app, see my post above.

Time will tell which of us is right. Maybe VR is the future or maybe it will be nothing more than a footnote, forgotten when the next big technology comes along (maybe true 3D televisions that don't need glasses or something).

Adam Jensen:
I'm just going to throw this out there and say that the reason we don't have Half-Life 3 is because Valve is trying to make it fully VR compatible. If Valve ends up being the first company ever to make a proper VR FPS and that also happens to be a freakin' HL3 game, because their success is pretty much guaranteed, others will follow.

I love your optimism. It also makes tremendous sense from a business perspective for Valve to do exactly that.

Adam Jensen:
I'm just going to throw this out there and say that the reason we don't have Half-Life 3 is because Valve is trying to make it fully VR compatible. If Valve ends up being the first company ever to make a proper VR FPS and that also happens to be a freakin' HL3 game, because their success is pretty much guaranteed, others will follow.

I love your optimism. It also makes tremendous sense from a business perspective for Valve to do exactly that.

Adam Jensen:
I'm just going to throw this out there and say that the reason we don't have Half-Life 3 is because Valve is trying to make it fully VR compatible. If Valve ends up being the first company ever to make a proper VR FPS and that also happens to be a freakin' HL3 game, because their success is pretty much guaranteed, others will follow.

I love your optimism. It also makes tremendous sense from a business perspective for Valve to do exactly that.

Edit: There must be a glitch in the Matrix. I don't know how to delete repeat comments. Sorry!

I've yet to play a VR game that wouldn't be as good if played on a regular monitor. That I think is what VR is going to struggle to find, that game to which VR is absolutely essential.

Chuppi:
One of my biggest problems is that I can't imagine wearing one of these bulky things for hours during a hardcore-gaming-session.

I'm not sold on VR for games at all but for media consumption I find it to be great. I was watching a movie in a virtual theatre and for a time I genuinely forgot I wasn't there.

The problem came from exactly what you mention. After about 45 minutes the headset began to get really uncomfortable to wear.

I am glad the main man of VR said it himself, because all VR criticism is usually put down to "you just don't get it".
He is of course completely right, apart from Elite the VR games are very much $20-30 demo games, where no one spent much time outside making some stuff work and quickly pushing it to market.
What makes it worse is they are getting an immunity from real scrutiny on account of being novel, sorry but that shit can not fly past the first few months. People you need to demand your games be made better, otherwise no one will spend the time to do so, developers are perfectly happy taking your money for minimum work.

So basically the company who made the tech but isn't willing to invest into making a great game... is calling out other developers for not investing into making a great game?

Don't get me wrong, he's right that people are just selling glorified tech demos... but if you're not confident in your own technology, why should anyone else be?

 

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