Dean Hall: 'VR could be as accessible as Wii, but don't bank your studio on it'

Dean Hall: 'VR could be as accessible as Wii, but don't bank your studio on it'
Matthew Jarvis

By Matthew Jarvis

March 2nd 2016 at 9:54AM

DayZ and Ion dev says creating for Oculus and Vive has been ‘a real lesson in ‘back to basics’’

The creator of DayZ has suggested that virtual reality could attract as wide an audience as Nintendo’s Wii console – but warns that nothing’s certain.

Discussing the prospects for headsets such as the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive, Dean Hall said that the biggest challenge facing devs is overcoming the leap from bite-sized tech demos to full-blown VR experiences.

“Can we make good VR games that people will want to play for longer than 20 minutes?” he asked on Reddit.

“Vive/Oculus make for great E3 demos. When people come to the studio for visits, inevitably we send them off to the VR room for a demo. It offers simple, clear, and relatable experiences that anyone can appreciate.”

Hall continued by explaining that VR’s accessibility may position it as an ideal entrance point for casual players, comparing it with the mass-market success of Nintendo's motion-friendly console.

“In reality I see this as a very expensive Wii,” he stated. “The Wii was successful because it offered simple, fun, approachable experiences at a low cost."

Hall also offered a word of warning for studios going all-in on the emerging technology.

“We don't know what kinds of games will sell well, how big the market will be, and so on,” he said. ”So our steps with VR are exploration and we're not banking the studio on it.

“I fear some studios are so swept up with the possibilities of VR they're putting everything into it when we don't know anything about the VR game market. How many people will be buying VR games? And how much will they pay?”

Speaking more generally about his experience building for VR, Hall said: “It's been a real lesson in ‘back to basics’ for development.

“It's like the old console days where you absolutely have to hit your frame rate. If you drop any frames you can make the user sick.”

And on the subject of platform differences, he commented: “I see a lot of media treating Oculus and Vive as having a relationship like PS/Xbox.

“Personally I see them as fairly different. While there is some overlap that seem, at least initially, like they are focused in different areas. While you can use each to do what the other is, they're both designed at the core quite differently and seem to me to be retrofitted to also do what the other is.

“For example, the Vive is focused on positional tracking right from the get-go and it is clear when you use it. Games designed for one or the other work best, IMHO, and I would offer EVE Valkyrie as a great example. CCP sat down and made a game for the Oculus and the result was outstanding.”