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The Final Boss of VR adoption

This is an article written by Joe Radak on July 12th on Virtual Reality Pop about VR adoption and its key challenge. And his argument is that We are the final boss of VR adoption for various reasons. Read more below.

Last month, I was skimming through VR articles and came across The Enemies of Virtual Reality by Francesco Pallotta. In it, they talk about the history of VR, earlier attempts at commercializing VR and why things didn’t necessarily work back then. Towards the end, they list what they feel the main enemies of VR diffusion are based on previous and current markets:

Why is this happening? Why once again, despite the fact that the technology provides ever-higher computing power and graphics resolution, the VR seems to have trouble getting off again? What are the enemies of VR? 

From the failures of previous experiences and the current market, we can deduce that some of the main enemies of the diffusion of VR are:

· Discomfort

· Costs

· Problems of sicknesses in the use of content

As far as inconvenience is concerned, manufacturers are creating lighter and more balanced viewers that should make virtual experience more comfortable, while those who are opposed to the use of viewers will have to wait for the Star Trek hologram room!

These are issues that VR faces when it comes to adoption of VR. Headsets are bulky and kind of heavy for extended use, they’re uncomfortable. VR is expensive — despite the recent and significant price drop of the Oculus Rift, you still need a relatively expensive computer to use it. And, as designers, we’re still trying to sort out how to cater to as many comfort options as possible when making VR experiences. Learning each day what does make most people sick, what doesn’t, etc.

But these are the easy enemies, like floor 1 of a dungeon easy. These are nearly guaranteed to be solved or improved greatly over the next few years. Comfort is already being addressed for headsets like the Vive, seeing the release of the Deluxe Audio Strap. Costs are going down — the price of a VR ready computer can be less than $1,000 and the Oculus Rift had a permanent price cut, with a temporary one for the summer. Finally, designers are iterating so quickly on comfort, new locomotion styles and more that it’s sometimes hard to keep up.

Easy VR problems

So whats the true enemy of VR, the final boss of the VR dungeon so to speak?

Our bodies.

We’re actually really lazy


We are humans (I hope you are, if you’re not, let me know) and humans have limits. We only have so much physical energy we can exert at one time before we need to recharge. So, the more active a VR experience, the shorter the player will likely play it. More energy being used at once, means it runs out quicker. Everyone has a certain amount of energy that they can exert before needing a break. As VR designers, we’ve found that the average play session for a user is anywhere between 20–30 minutes. Epic Games used this when designing RoboRecall. None of the missions should be longer than this time period, so that you can complete at least one mission per session and not feel like you ran out of juice half-way through, and quit before the mission is over.

The more active the game, less time the average player will spend in a session. Designers have to find a balance between game session length and energy needed. Not as many people would probably finish missions in RoboRecall if the missions were 40 minutes long. And, something else to consider — a user is less likely to do VR if they’re already tired. After a long day of work, sitting on my bed playing my Switch looks a lot more appealing than playing anything in VR. I’ve used up all my energy for the day. I want to be entertained and relax, but don’t want to expend the energy to play VR.

The less someone is using a VR headset because they’re too tired, or don’t have the energy to use it — the more likely they are to perceive VR as not financially worth it. This spreads around to other people, and boom, less people buying (or more people waiting for prices to enter into their “it’s worth it” budget).

We’re limited to our understanding of reality

Another consideration is the human understanding of reality (woo metaphysical stuff!), and how humans have evolved to view and perceive reality. (Okay, quick note. Talking about perception of reality based on human evolution is really weird and strange, so I’m trying to do my best to not sound weird and crazy. Just think “we accept the reality we’re presented with, and that becomes the norm.” Bear with me.) For a good chunk of time last year, myself and Noah Rojahn were working on a new VR puzzle game. It was a non-euclidean puzzle game, where levels were folded around you. Where you once saw a floor, it could later become a ceiling. In my opinion, it was a creative puzzler and we have 60 levels worth of puzzles for it. However when we started to put it out for testing, players quickly pointed out discomfort when playing. We were using teleportation locomotion, the games FPS was fine and it was generally a “safe” game in terms of discomfort. We finally realized that we had hit a human limit — players brains were having trouble comprehending a world that could never physically exist within what we know as reality (woo more metaphysical stuff!). We as humans have never seen or existed in a non-euclidean world before where we can easily move on walls and ceilings. This is weird and new. And for those wondering “Why didn’t you guys feel this during developing.” We’re attributing this to being the developers, we knew the structure of the levels going in, thus the “newness” of it, was lost. We knew how it was built, thus, we could rationalize it.

How do we fight this…

This isn’t a problem that can be fixed with money or better engineering. The enemy of VR is human limitation and evolution, and you can’t buy better humans (ethically, at the moment at least). Instead, we as designers need to look at ways to encourage (or trick) players into getting into VR, or using more energy than they may want to use in that session, extending their session and providing some more value to the product. I feel like we’re only just now truly identifying this as a problem, so solutions to it are somewhat scarce.

What I can suggest is the following:

  • Give your players some recoup time between active moments of your experience.
  • Just because your game might be about a person with super human strength, doesn’t mean that the user has that. Remember humans can only move so quickly and have a finite amount of strength
  • Keep your sessions reasonable. On average, a player will spend about 25 minutes in VR. Try to keep your “sessions” to about that length. If it’s a MP game, keep your MP matches to no longer than that. Shorter obviously better, but that depends on the type of game. No hour long matches!
  • It’s debatable whether or not there are parallels in this; but I’ve been looking at old arcade games. How did they get players to spend that extra nickle or quarter to continue playing when they died?

This isn’t a problem that we can fix in a few years with some witty design changes. It will take time, as you can’t rush this type of thing. Keeping in mind that there’s a human playing your super-human game will probably change how you design your game, but it will help make your game more appealing to everyone. Remember that while VR is limitless, the users are not.


Erick Tran
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