Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, and PlayStation VR are all finally here. Gear VR is being packed in with cell phones. The present is made of virtual reality, and according to some, it’s already got problems.
One person who holds that opinion is John Carmack, the legendary video game programmer who was instrumental in the creation of “DOOM” and “Quake” back in the 1990s. Carmack left game development to become the CTO at Oculus full-time in 2013.
At last week’s Oculus Connect event, Carmack offered some constructive criticism of the current state of VR development, saying developers need to start being harder on themselves, according to GamesIndustry.
“We are coasting on novelty, and the initial wonder of being something people have never seen before,” Carmack said. “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?”
One of the barriers to early VR adoption for some is the lack of amazing games to play, or things to do in VR. PlayStation VR had by far the most robust launch lineup of games, but many of them are short “VR experiences” that don’t offer as much depth or complexity as similarly priced non-VR games.
Another barrier to enjoyment of VR right now, according to Carmack, is load times. It’s not uncommon for video games to have loading screens that last 30 seconds or longer, but outside of VR, players can find ways to distract themselves until that time is up. With a VR headset on, you’re stuck staring at a screen for 30 seconds.
“That’s acceptable if you’re going to sit down and play for an hour….but [in VR] initial startup time really is poisonous,” Carmack said. “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.”
Carmack still believes that VR is the way of the future, as long as developers can get past the initial novelty and create lasting experiences.
As someone who has pioneered new 3D graphics technology and funded an aerospace company, Carmack definitely understands how difficult it can be for complex technology to get off the ground. When he speaks, people are inclined to listen. With any luck, his words will resonate with aspiring VR developers out there.
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