New Year 2017 Livestream Part 1: VR

By Shamus
on Jan 24, 2017
Filed under:
Spoiler Warning

I know we’re nearly done with Until Dawn. But we decided to take a break from that because this week marks the 7th anniversary of Spoiler Warning. We recorded something special to mark the occasion. That will go up this Friday. In the meantime here is the first part of our 2017 new year stream:


Link (YouTube)

And once again we run into the drawback of VR, which is that it’s very hard to share. For many people this is the only way they’ll ever get to see these games – including some great Portal content – but we had to switch to something else because too many viewers were finding it uncomfortable to watch.

“Hey. VR is AMAZING. You seriously need to check it out.”

I tried watching someone play a VR game and it’s awful. It’s like watching a half hour of shaky cam footage. Actually, I guess it’s not like that. It is that.

“Yeah, it’s hard to watch someone else play. But trust me, it doesn’t feel like that when you’re the one playing. When you’ve got the headset on, it’s nauseating in a totally different way.”

Is this a game about playing fetch? Are you kidding me? Like, fetch with a dog? How is that a videogame?

“I admit it looks boring when you’re just watching. And it’s true that normally first-person fetch wouldn’t be very interesting. But trust me, VR is incredible. You have to experience it yourself to understand why it feels so amazing.”

If you say so. I guess I could give it a try and see if… EIGHT HUNDRED DOLLARS? A VR headset costs as much as TWO consoles? That’s madness.

“I know it’s expensive now. But we’re still in the early adopter phase, so prices are naturally pretty high. Don’t worry, the prices will probably come down once there’s a demand for the headsets. We just need to wait for some good games to come out.”

A VR headset costs as much as two consoles and yet has less good games than the Wii-U, which was already a failure because of lack of titles?

“I know it’s overpriced, hard to watch, with very few worthwhile titles, but trust me. As long as you’re not one of the unlucky majority that gets VR sickness, you’ll have a mind-blowing experience.”

Technically our VR apologist is right, but this is still a massive barrier to entry. Having tried VR myself, I really want to see it succeed. But this is a huge hill to climb. I’m not convinced it’s possible.

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From the Archives:

  1. TehShrike says:

    VR is spreading in the most old-school way possible – new adopters invite friends over to try out their setup, and a fun time is had watching your friends minds blown while they wave their arms around in VR.

    I don’t have a VR machine yet, but I tried an Oculus setup at a friend’s place a couple weeks ago. Pretty sweeeeeet

    • Matt Downie says:

      I’ve been showing people VR but I tend to discourage them from buying it. I think the kits only justify their price as long as they’re rare enough to have novelty value.

  2. Dev Null says:

    Somewhere in a box in a friend’s garage on another continent, I still have a VR setup that consists of a pair of Nintendo Powergloves, some LCD shutterglasses, and some software to tie it all together. On a 5 1/4″ floppy.

    Still. Waiting. For. A. Decent. App. More than 20 years later.

  3. Ninety-Three says:

    After spending a couple hours with a friend’s copy of Space Pirate Training I concluded that I would pay $800 for a machine that runs just that game and that would make me happy. I am the market for VR and I still can’t justify buying in because I know in five years we’ll have much cheaper headsets with much better resolutions.

  4. Philadelphus says:

    Yeah, this VR footage is painful to watch. I’m toughing out this footage because it’s experimental from you guys (though over on my second monitor where I glance at it occasionally), but someone who started showing this as the majority content on their channel? I’m probably gonna go watch some non-shaky cam action no matter how cool it is for the person experiencing it. It’s not giving me any desire to try VR myself, even if intellectually I can understand the appeal.

  5. Christopher says:

    Giant Bomb has played VR games on camera a lot this past year. It would be indistinguishable from their minigame collection Kinect, Wii and Move videos if it weren’t for the fact that only one person can do it at a time and that the person in question has a dumb thing on their face.

    Their feed looks like regular footage and not this, mind. Anyway, even trying VR once isn’t enough. I played some racing thing at a convention, and while it was a little exhilerating, it doesn’t make any footage of VR games more immersive. Everything has to be tried firsthand, or else it just looks bad.

  6. Daemian Lucifer says:

    I think the main problem is the age when this came out.We had about 2 decades of gaming before we started sharing it via video with everyone in the world.So we had time to adjust to watching stuff on a monitor,to improve the graphics,gameplay and ui,and to bring the price down a lot.

    But imagine what wouldve happened if instead of watching the original arcades while waiting for your turn to play you instead got to watch it from your home,on your tv,in all its janky pixely glory.Or worse,imagine watching a text adventure on your tv.

    Heck,even the commercials for home video games omitted stuff like skipped frames,glitches,and other jankines,wtih quick cuts and edits.Because watching those old video games now,you really get to see how rough they were in the beginning.

    So yeah,streaming vr games is pointless unless your audience has vr glasses too.And even then,I dont think it would work well.

    And you know,typing this Ive realized that the best way to adopt vr would be arcades.

    • Philadelphus says:

      I do think it might be fun to watch someone playing a VR game from another camera within that space rather than through their shaky eyes. Then I could enjoy watching them flail around, have their mind blown, trip over their cat, etc., from a stable camera. I’m sure it wouldn’t be feasible though as you’d need yet another camera rendering a scene from a machine that’s already rendering a scene twice at high resolution and framerates.

    • CoyoteSans says:

      The problem with VR arcades is these headsets have the “someone else’s controller, ewwwww” problem times ten: they need to have sweat guards, and they need to be cleaned regularly to stop them from getting too grody, and according to real-world demos in Best Buy and conventions and the like, these things are also apparently pink eye magnets. Those are all instant turns offs for the public at large. And the thing is, you need to actually get the headsets onto peoples heads or it seems completely pointless and absurd. Countless jokes have been made how it is impossible to not look like a total toolkit wearing one of these things.

      Did I overuse the word “need” too much in that paragraph? Because, yeah, VR has turned out to be a very needy technology. This is a very bad thing when it’s also in a precarious market position, since these companies have already poured so much money, time, and resources into the development of the tech that they need to get some kind of ROI to justify things to the investors, who before very much longer will see VR as a boondoggle and start demanding plugs get pulled. But the price needs to come down for that to happen, and for that you need to develop the tech more, and for that you need to keep the investors happy, which requires more sales…

      VR is in a very dicey position right now. It’s almost ready for primetime, but not quite yet. It needs another year or two to finish baking, but they may not have that luxury for much longer. The thing VR enthusiasts should be most worried about is the current tech bubble bursting, since that will most likely put the kibosh on the R&D and put the whole thing back in stasis for another decade or two. It’s very frustrating to watch.

  7. Ysen says:

    I don’t understand it when people say VR is amazing when you actually try it. I played a few games on the Vive at PAX, and wasn’t impressed at all. Sure, it produces a 3D effect, but the picture quality is awful and you can’t look around with your eyes because the lenses cause very noticeable blurring and chromatic aberration outside the centre of the image. I didn’t find it immersive at all – I’d much rather have a large, high quality monitor.

    • Elemental Alchemist says:

      Yeah, I can’t say I see the attraction either. My friend has been salivating about VR for the last year or so, he built a new PC with a GTX 1080 for it, and at Xmas finally dropped 1,500 Monopoly dollars on a Vive. I had cautioned against it, knowing that there is basically zero content and the tech is mediocre at best, but he was not to be denied. Naturally he invited me to try it out and it was actually worse than I expected. The screendoor effect was terrible and I could not get it to focus properly (although the latter was probably more due to poor genetics on my part than the tech). As for content to use it with, it was the expected steaming pile of meh. Glorified tech demos, indie Greenlight trash, etc. The Portal thing had a few moments of amusement, but I didn’t see anything that encouraged me to run out and buy a headset. If you were a hardcore flight sim or racing enthusiast, I could see the potential, but outside that it seems about as big a white elephant as 3D TVs.

  8. Zaxares says:

    To be honest, I’m not convinced that VR gaming will really take off until technology reaches a stage where you can just “jack in” into the gaming via neural implants or some other kind of state of altered consciousness, where you can actually BE in the game. As it is now, VR is still constrained by physical limitations. You can’t actually run somewhere or you’d run face-first into a wall or furniture. Swinging your arms around wildly is likely to hit something or someone, and of course, there’s the ever-present biggest flaw of VR sickness. Not to mention that I think most gamers don’t get into gaming to be held back by physical limitations like their own strength, speed or stamina. Sure, light movements in your arms might translate to huge uppercuts in the game, but why use light movements when a couple of button taps would do the same thing? And it’s less exhausting.

    So yeah, until full sensory immersion VR becomes a thing, I don’t think it will ever replace our current model of gaming.

    • Matt Downie says:

      But it can still be a supplement to mainstream gaming that works on its own terms; spaceship cockpit games, immersive shooters where for plot reasons you don’t walk about much, construction games, some kind of shared-world MMO experience that we don’t have yet…

  9. Mephane says:

    Is anyone else here as annoyed as I how Steam lets you filter for VR games, but not against them? Like, if you have a Vive, you can check out what games are available for the device, same with the Rift. But if you are interested in neither, your lists automatically get polluted with lots of VR shovelware.

    To add insult to injury, Steam even has that filter category, but only the options “VR only” and VR supported”. I must assume this is deliberate, because the very, very first thing that would come to mind here is that it obviously needs the option to filter out the “VR only” titles.

  10. Durican says:

    I’ve been longing for and desiring VR since the 80’s, but the instant I got some hands-on experience I discovered that my human physiology is irreversibly incompatible with having my eyeballs telling a different story than my inner ear.

    I’d pay 800 dollars for a VR experience that doesn’t make me violently ill, but I don’t think we’re going to have that technology for a long time. It seems we’re more likely to master hologram technology and forego the headset completely before we can manage to counter motion sickness (without the use of medication, notably).

    • rabs says:

      I wonder what you tried.

      Usually people should do stuff without artificial locomotion first. That’s very safe, I know no bad experience from it.

      But if you mostly want to play circle-strafing FPS and racing games, that’s a problem… Maybe some comfort options were deactivated (or unavailable there).
      A wide range of workarounds is tried in various games. Some people say they were desensitized little by little.

      Otherwise, maybe the system was too slow or the tracking unstable ?

  11. rabs says:

    I never saw this fish-eye mode used before, maybe there are reasons why…

    Some of the most popular VR videos around are on Node, I guess. Though their editing is often difficult to follow (desktop and IRL as well).

    There are VR games with a viewer mode that let people record something stable.
    Otherwise the guy playing needs to remember his view is recorded as a camera, and shouldn’t move his head too much. Usually shaky parts are removed when editing the video, but obviously not when streaming…

    About the experience, the headset is only part of what’s interesting. Having a room scale setup, or at least tracked wands, is really adding depth. There are good games in most categories now, though it’s still mostly low budget.

    But yeah, it’s early stages and technology will improve, better wait another year or two for those not ready to jump in. It seems there won’t be a huge gap, but the increase of resolution, optics efficiency and everything should be very noticeable.

  12. Doran says:

    Shamus, have you and the spoiler warning crew considered streaming VR content via YouTube 360? It allows anyone with a vr kit to follow along while allows a mouse clickable panorama style view for regular users. For example, a BBC documentary filmed in VR on YouTube

  13. boota says:

    to be honest, i think that the microsoft showing of minecraft in hololens at e3 a couple of years ago is the best way of showing off VR (or AR) to date when showing it to people without a headset as well as for let’s plays both outside and inside of VR.

  14. CaptainFrance says:

    The one thing that annoys me most about VR is that I love clever little dialogue heavy games with mundane gameplay like The Lab and Accounting, but they’re always VR only and while it might be better with it, I really see no reason why it NEEDS to be VR only.

  15. PPX14 says:

    As an nVidia 3D Vision user, my thoughts on VR were that if 3D gaming didn’t manage to take off, then I couldn’t see VR taking off either – being basically an advanced version with more barriers to entry. A more niche product even than 3d vision, which is now no longer supported by any new monitor since the pg278q.

    3D vision looks very impressive, can be used for pretty much any game and made to work without too much in the way of development (people such as Helixmod having made shader fixes to make a huge number of “unsupported” games compatible). It requires specific 120Hz monitors the likes of which many gamers already would have/buy (e.g. original ROG Swift), a powerful pc, and wearing wireless 3d glasses.

    VR (on PC) by comparison looks amazing but you can see the pixels, works only with games developed specifically for VR, cannot be used with mainstream games via mods, requires a large wired headset that blocks out all light, requires an even more powerful PC, costs even more, and can’t be used for much else (whereas the 3D vision compatible monitor is a monitor for general use, and also a high refresh rate low response time monitor).

    Maybe when it’s the same size as the 3d vision glasses, battery powered and you can’t see the pixels, it will finally be ready. But if that means 2x 4K @ 90Hz , in a much smaller item, I imagine that’s 10 years away at least, probably 20.

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