London Games Festival, a new annual event to celebrate the games industry’s huge cultural and economic impact right here in London, hosted a Virtual Reality Summit this week.
I was on the ground listening to speakers talk about all things VR – everything from how games, film and VFX collide, to how developers work behind the scenes to create amazing VR, to the challenges we face with the ever-growing VR market.
Here are my five key takeaways from the first ever London Games Festival VR Summit:
VR is big business – and will get bigger
More than $250million was invested in software alone from VCs to the VR industry in 2015. China is a market to watch as its games market is already worth 22 billion dollars, and large Chinese companies are getting in on the VR game which we will be able to tap into. However, VR brands and companies need to think about the end experience. People will only spend money in VR if it’s on things they care as much about as the things they have in real life.
The industry must learn to share
The idea that developers must share ideas for the VR industry to progress was a key theme. “People who go it alone will fail”, states Sam Gage from previsualization company The Third Floor. People working in VR should even consider sharing their data online for those in the community to help improve on their work; solving problems that they themselves missed.
We can solve VR sickness
Queasiness is still a problem for some VR users, but there are ways this can be controlled with session length, reduced lag and expectation managing. Matthew Newcombe at Ustwo explained how when making Land’s End it was key is for the player to transport to their destination with intuitive “gaze points”. VR should feel comfortable and autonomous, as though if you want to go somewhere you can, but with gentle encouragement to stay within the right space (just as players solve puzzles in a cylinder shape in Land’s End).
VR is still in its infancy
NVIDIA’s Phil Scott argued that VR is not a revolution, but the start of an evolution. We haven’t had the “Mario 64” moment yet – the culturally defining peak that people resonate with. While the Sci Fi London Film Festival shared a rather dark video about how the layers of VR reality could affect us, others warned that we need to nail the basics of VR before getting too ambitious, lamented over the possibility of a VR system untethered from wires, and imagined a new kind of shared, social VR experience.
The quiet renaissance
One of the final thoughts of the day came from Herman Narula, CEO at Improbable. He talked of a subtle shift in the industry – a quiet renaissance in VR, a new freedom in making the game world come to life. VR demands new ways of telling stories from developers. Just as NVIDIA’s Everest demo is hailed as a great example of how VR can convey real experiences, developers are now having to rethink how gamers experience a narrative – how VR as a new medium can tell stories in a new language, and for a potentially new audience.