Sony London: Within 5 years, a ‘new genre of game will be born, one that will only be possible in VR’

Giving a talk during the first day of the Develop:Brighton conference, Sony London’s lead game designer Michael Hampden (currently working on Blood & Truth) discussed the possible future of VR.

And according to him, the future will be bright with VR shaping new genres and helping create new development tools: “In the next five years, I think we’ll see some VR killer apps emerge and we’re going to have established a design language. I think we’re going to see some growth in mobile VR as well and medical applications. And one new genre of game will be born, one that will only be possible in VR.”

Looking further ahead, in about 10 years, Hampden continued: “I think one of the missing key for everyone is haptic feedback. It should makes a giant leap forward and will be a game changer. Feeling an object, the texture, will change the game, it will make things much more immersive and it will allow new genres of VR games to emerge.” In 25 years, he added, though he admitted it’s “had to predict”, he’s hoping we’ll have reached the holodeck stage. “By then, VR should be as ubiquitous as smartphones are today.”

Hampden also said that there will be an increase in location-based VR experiences in the near future: “We’ve seen developers switching from doing room scale environment to do location-based experiences. These are things like the Star Wars Secrets of the Empire and stuff like that and it’s pretty interesting to see the ability that this technology brings to users. You can have the ground shaking as the user is walking through the space or you can have wind or temperature changes. These are very powerful and profound experiences that people love and are willing to spend money for, to try something like that. We have a limited number of these experiences out there so far but I think this trend is here to stay and we’ll see more and more location based VR coming in the future.”

But before reaching these possible developments, Hampden explained what we still need to work on ways to communicate what a VR experience feels like. And in order to get there, actual brick-and-mortar shops are a crucial element.

“It’s really hard to get across how the VR experience is actually going to feel with the headset on,” he said. “It’s not as simple as putting a video out there and then you know exactly what our game is like in VR. It’s a very different thing to see it and to actually feel it and to have that presence in VR and be inside that experience. So we’re still trying to learn how to sell VR content and create ways to demonstrate that feeling with things like 360 trailers. The other thing that I think is very important for VR as well is to do demo stations at brick-and-mortar stores. If you can actually play a demo of something it can actually give you that sense of understanding the game and you’re going to buy it.”

Among the many pieces of advice he gave during his talk, he reminded developers that “VR is not a one size fits all approach.” He explained: “Customisation options are a very good thing. There’s going to be various levels of comfort, things like motion sickness, so providing some options there is really important as well as input methods, things like the the aim controllers, just make your game so much better.”

He also reminded developers that ports are never going to use the strengths of VR as well as a game designed for VR from the ground up and advised devs to change their approach when it comes to developing a VR game: “When you first start making a game in VR the first question you need to ask is why. Why are you making this game in VR? Start with the things that make VR unique, it’s not just presence but also the input methods, head tracking, binaural audio, all those things that you have in VR that you can use to leverage your experience and make it special and different.” 

About Marie Dealessandri

Marie Dealessandri is MCV’s former senior staff writer. After testing the waters of the film industry in France and being a radio host and reporter in Canada, she settled for the games industry in London in 2015. She can be found (very) occasionally tweeting @mariedeal, usually on a loop about Baldur’s Gate, Hollow Knight and the Dead Cells soundtrack.

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