I'm closing out my PlayStation Experience coverage with my impressions on PlayStation VR. When VR Demo registrations opened up Friday at noon, I immediately nabbed slots for the RIGS Demo and the General VR Demo for Saturday. Unfortunately, at some point Friday afternoon, while my phone was dead, I got booted from my RIGS Demo and by the time I found out, the limited slots had all been filled. But my General VR Demo remained intact so shortly after the keynote, I showed up and checked in for my 1:30pm appointment. The way the General VR Demos worked, they shepherded you to the first next available demo. As I touched on in Monday's Games recap, my demo wound up being Classroom Aquatic. Here's what I wrote about the game...
Classroom Aquatic puts you in the fins of a dolphin in a pop quiz where all of the questions are ridiculously difficult and obscure. Fortunately, every other dolphin in your class knows the answers so you can cheat off of them for the 5-minute duration of the quiz. But you have to be sneaky about it or the teacher will catch you and…well I don’t know what happens then but it’s probably bad. You also have a few erasers at your desk that you can throw at the other dolphins or around the room if you need to cause a distraction.
This was where my demo ran into trouble, I threw my first eraser at a dolphin to my 2 o’clock in order to draw the teachers attention so I could look to my left or behind me. This seemed to have the negative effect (as I would later discuss with the gentleman manning the demo) of both stopping the teacher from pacing around the room and allowing me to throw the remaining two erasers. Confused that the teacher was just stuck looking in my general direction, I felt very limited in actually leaning over in any direction for fear of getting caught. Overall, that bug aside, I found the premise cute and thought it served as a decent tech demo for the hardware but I don’t know how interested I would be in playing much more of the game.
So now that we're on the same page, here are my thoughts on the VR experience.
First things first, they put the headset on. It all felt very comfortable. The demo proctor didn't go to the extent of really tightening it down on my so I felt a little like if I had turned my head quickly, it could have shifted. But that didn't end up being a problem for this particular demo. The next thing I noticed once on my head was something I've heard other games media people refer to as the "Screen Door Effect" where it looks like you're looking at the game world through a screen door. I immediately connected with that description in how the world looked, being acutely aware up front of the thin horizontal and vertical lines. Given that the screen is only a few inches from your face, I suppose that's too be expected. Sit three inches from your television and you'll probably have a similar experience. Fortunately, your mind should be able to compensate and blur the image together for you so you perceive it as seamless over time.
Looking around the classroom felt responsive. I didn't notice any kind of delay. Leaning over to the row of desks next to me or turning around in in my chair to cheat off the dolphin behind me all felt natural as far as movement tracking goes. In the back of mind my though, I was always aware of how silly I looked with this thing on my head leaning or turning around in a chair with nothing around me. I didn't push the limits of the demo by fully getting out of the chair and, as I touched on above, I was wary to move around too quickly for fear of the headset sliding around but to the extent of what I experienced, the motion tracking was smooth.
Tech Demo vs. Game
My biggest takeaway from my demo was that I wasn't sold on VR...yet. And I think that hesitation comes from the fact that I didn't play something that I'd be interested in investing a lot of time into. My experience with Classroom Aquatic fell very much into "casual game" territory for me. This is the kind of game you could play in 5-minute bursts, taking one quiz at a time, like an extremely difficult version of Brain Age that you need to cheat your way through. Apart from the occasional break on my cell phone, these kinds of games aren't for me and I honestly felt like this was still more in the realm of tech demo as the "game" aspect was somewhat limited to leaning around and looking at other tests, pushing a button to throw erasers as a distraction, and pushing another button to bubble in your answers. Now something like No Man's Sky (which I still maintain will be a launch title) fits much more under the umbrella of "game" for me.
As I said, I'm not sold on PlayStation VR for myself yet. I am however interested in the idea of opening a VR Arcade of sorts and charging people for the chance to demo it themselves once it's out. I definitely see the promise behind the tech but this is definitely a case where the price point and some kind of killer app will really determine if and when I buy in for a system at home. But given the potential of non-gaming VR (e.g. virtual tourism), I can easily see 2016 being the beginning of a new generation of media.