When we speak to him at PSX, still spinning from our first experience of Rez Infinite (p38), Tetsuya Mizuguchi warns against the dangers of pursuing realism in VR. It’s a potential creative cul-de-sac he’s in no danger of striding into with his jaw-looseningly psychedelic virtual-reality rendition of the Dreamcast classic. Rez remains an idiosyncratic, refreshing creation even today, and Mizuguchi goes further by rejecting many of the rules that are gradually coalescing for VR developers.
CCP’s EVE: Valkyrie (p42) is more traditional in its approach to VR game design, seating the player in a solid-feeling spacecraft and sending them out to battle as one of several combatant classes designed to complement other players’ choices. But even this more familiar setup resists the drudgery of reality for a dramatic mini space opera in which consciousness is transferred from one cloned body to the next as required, and futuristic-sounding lasers are audible through the vacuum of a colourful, painterly space.
Deus Ex: Mankind Divided’s (p46) vision of the future might not be designed to be viewed through a head-mounted display, but Eidos Montreal is adhering to much of Mizuguchi’s logic all the same. The latest Deus Ex instalment is as focused on flamboyant fashion, architecture and art as it is on advanced technology. In all aspects, the game strays as far from humdrum domesticity as it can, and the results are dazzlingly unfamiliar.
But whether games are built with VR in mind or not, their capacity to provide new ways to experience and explore the world we live in is just as potent as the unrecognisable places they might take us. By all means carve out new spaces and worlds for us to inhabit when designing for VR, but keep in mind the potential for reflection and subversion in real-world experiences through what is the most immersive way of interacting with games yet conceived.