Keep your eyes on the watch as it moves back and forth…


We’ve known for a long time about the un­usual ef­fects VR hard­ware can have on some of us – dis­ori­en­ta­tion, nau­sea, and so on – but it also seems to have the power to in­spire strange be­hav­iours among the peo­ple driv­ing th­ese tech­nolo­gies. Take Jeff Stafford, se­nior staff soft­ware en­gi­neer at Sony Com­puter En­ter­tain­ment Amer­ica, for ex­am­ple. As one of the key peo­ple be­hind the forth­com­ing PlayS­ta­tion VR, Stafford shares re­spon­si­bil­ity for build­ing hype around Sony’s hard­ware in the face of fear­some com­peti­tors. And yet he was happy to ad­mit re­cently that the prod­uct his team will ship in Oc­to­ber is sub­op­ti­mal. “[In the fu­ture] we’re go­ing to try and im­prove ev­ery as­pect of it,” he said. “Get it lighter, smaller form fac­tor, eas­ier to use. Of course peo­ple want wire­less – that’s a chal­lenge. There’s so many things…” His col­league, PlayS­ta­tion group ex­ec­u­tive vice pres­i­dent Masayasu Ito, was at it, too: ”If you just talk about the high-end qual­ity, yes, I would ad­mit that Ocu­lus may have bet­ter VR.” It is im­pos­si­ble to imag­ine words like th­ese tum­bling out of Ken Ku­taragi’s mouth at the launch of the orig­i­nal PlayS­ta­tion. Mar­ket­ing of­fen­sives are sup­posed to ob­scure un­com­fort­able truths, not push them out into the open. Th­ese are, ap­pro­pri­ately, strange days.

With VR, not only does the think­ing be­hind tra­di­tional videogame in­dus­try mar­ket­ing dis­ap­pear out of the win­dow, but a whole lot of other things with it. As Sony Com­puter En­ter­tain­ment CEO An­drew House puts it, “The most fas­ci­nat­ing thing is how VR has rewrit­ten the rule­book of what game de­sign should be.” It presents a par­tic­u­lar op­por­tu­nity for smaller stu­dios, un­bur­dened by the ways of old-fash­ioned in­dus­try heavy­weights, to stand out.

Be­gin­ning on p62, we visit Ocu­lus HQ to see how Palmer Luckey and his team are con­fronting the chal­lenges pre­sented by this new era; set up an HTC Vive our­selves in or­der to prop­erly test its room-scale ap­proach; and take a look at Sony’s con­sole-pow­ered strat­egy. There is a lot to un­pack in the crazy new world of VR. If you stare hard enough at the con­cen­tric cir­cles on the cover of this is­sue, your brain may be able to get ready to take it all in.

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