Given the challenges of making virtual reality content, Oculus hopes competitors like Sony’s Project Morpheus don’t harm the experience.
The Oculus Rift has gone a long way towards making virtual reality seem feasible, but it’s not the only headset in development. Sony has its own Project Morpheus in the works for the PlayStation 4, and other models are in the works. A little competition should be good news to those who enjoy immersive gaming, but these products haven’t even been released yet. If one somehow manages to botch the VR experience, Oculus’ Nate Mitchell is worried it might impact the entire fledgling industry.
“It’s very hard to create presence, and it’s very easy to break the illusion,” Mitchell explained. “It’s like this house of cards where, when everything is perfectly in its place, the illusion is totally there. A big part of it is our hardware, a big part is our software, and a massive part of it is the content … So when content is poorly designed, it’s very easy to break the illusion and the spell. You pull one card out, and the whole thing collapses. And you think, this doesn’t feel that cool anymore.”
Mitchell noted that for Oculus, the team can help make the hardware and content more immersive for users. But with all the new non-Oculus hardware and content arriving, which Oculus has no control over, a negative impact for the entire medium is a real concern.
“On the one hand it’s amazing to see Sony come into the market, because it means more funding for developers,” Mitchell explained. “But if the hardware isn’t good enough, and it gives a bad experience and can’t deliver presence – and actually one of the limited factors for them may end up being the PS4, for example – that’s a major problem. That’s kinda beyond our control, and that’s really frustrating.”
At the moment, there’s no clear solution to the problem, assuming that these negative experiences Mitchell talks about ever become an issue. One suggestion is to offer VR software certification, much like how Nintendo authorizes which games can be published on its systems. For now however, the key priority is simply to get the Oculus Rift released so everyone can enjoy it. “We’re still just trying to get the hardware out there, and let developers achieve presence before we worry about enforcing them to have it,” Mitchell concluded.