Think VR Is a Fad? Doom Creator John Romero Agrees

The id Software co-founder is "excited about VR," but questions its ability to achieve mainstream popularity.

Major investments are being made in virtual reality by companies like Facebook (which acquired the Oculus Rift's developer for $2 billion) and Sony (with Project Morpheus), but not everyone is convinced VR is the future. Doom and Wolfenstein 3D designer John Romero was "blown away" by the Oculus Rift when he first tried it, but he remains unconvinced that VR as it currently exists is the next major innovation.

"Before using Oculus, I heard lots of vets in the industry saying this is not like anything we've seen before. This is not the crap we saw back in the late '80s," he told GamesIndustry International. "I was excited to check it out and I was just blown away by just how amazing it was to just be in an environment and moving my head was just like mouse-look. I thought that was really great but when I kind of step back and look at it, I just don't see a real good future for the way VR is right now.

Romero, who co-founded id Software and now works at the Universe of California, Santa Cruz, believes "minimal input for maximum output" is the ideal design for games. He points to the example of someone playing with a keyboard and mouse--and how little they move compared with what's happening on-screen--as the preferable method for playing games. "Everyone always goes for the path of least resistance and that kind of input is it," he said. "Until it can fix the path of least resistance, I can't see how VR is going to be something that's popular."

Another major challenge is the issue of install base. Electronic Arts has indicated it's intrigued by VR but doesn't plan on investing heavily until there is a sizable enough audience. Romero believes the "only way to hope that it'll be popular" is to have a VR device included with every computer, which is unlikely given the computer business' fragmented nature. "I can't see VR being the next big thing for games because we've had many of these peripherals that were non-standard come through--the early '90s until now there's always a weird peripheral to do something," he said.

Another major publisher, Take-Two, has labeled the Oculus "anti-social," another sentiment Romero seems to agree with. "VR is going away from the way games are being developed and pushed as they go back into multiplayer and social stuff," he said. "VR is kind of a step back, it's a fad. Maybe in the future there will be a better VR that gets you out of isolation mode."

"The fact that it encloses you or makes you do something different than what you're used to naturally doing also makes it a hard thing to adopt," he continued. "Even though I'm excited about VR and how cool games look, I can't see it becoming the way people always play games.

"I can see it being like Steel Battalion--if I'm going to play that game I'm only playing it with that controller... I can't see every game being able to translate that experience to VR, because VR right now works best if you're just sitting. If you're inside of a cockpit, that's cool, but if you're supposed to be running around a world and you can't physically run but you can look around, it's a weird disconnect and it doesn't feel right. I think we're still waiting for the holodeck."

Oculus VR, the company responsible for the Oculus Rift, is currently embroiled in a lawsuit with Bethesda parent company ZeniMax, which alleges Oculus is using its technology. Neither Oculus nor Sony have announced when their respective VR headsets will be made available to consumers. Oculus does sell a version of the Rift intended for use in development that anyone can purchase, but only after indicating they are aware it's a model not meant for consumers.

What do you think VR's chances are of hitting it big? Let us know in the comments.

Chris Pereira is a freelance writer for GameSpot, and you can follow him on Twitter @TheSmokingManX
Got a news tip or want to contact us directly? Email news@gamespot.com

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Twitter/Xbox Live/PSN/Nintendo Network: TheSmokingManX

Discussion

323 comments
Crush_Project
Crush_Project

says the guys that haven't come up with anything cool since the 90's lol.

jonaadams
jonaadams

Television had it's share of detractors as well. People made statements like, it will be a fad and what not. The form factor will evolve. In 2015 it will be a big heavy brick on your face. I'm sure by 2018 it will be like a pare of Oakly sunglasses.

DigiRave
DigiRave

I disagree with the guy in the video that the edges of the image in rift should have less definition to match the way peripheral vision works: I have EYES for that!  If I wanted to look at the corners of the screen without moving my head, I would see a blurred screen.  Take driving for example: if you want to see something on one side of the street, you would simply move your eyes or focus, not your entire head. It's stupid. It doesn't make sense to add in a function on top of what my eyes already can do and take care of!

Relvar
Relvar

I'd hardly call it a Fad when no one actually has one!

UnderdogSMO
UnderdogSMO

meanwhile one of the best game's to play on the rift right now is quake 2 >_>



also dudes just jelly of Carmac 

sanocs2
sanocs2

please please please lower the volume of music in interviews

OleVolsing1
OleVolsing1

As english isn't my first language(it's Danish)please explain what "a fad" is.

OleVolsing1
OleVolsing1

Publisher Take two labels the Oculus anti social even when it's been bought by Facebook!John Carmack agrees because of the game industry's(and computer industry in general)movement to social mobil platform. It's pathetic.

Companies staying away from developing games for the Oculus/Facebook game platform because it sucks.

My point is:don't be so afraid of "isolation mode".Why can't you have both singleplayer and muliplayer?

There's diffenetly some controller issues to be solved.And the holodeck is of course something we all are waiting for. 

therealarien
therealarien

It's difficult to make any claims for certain until we see the first retail version.  Which they say will be slimmer, plus they're working on better controller interface.  A lot of the discussion is quite polarized but you can't make extreme presumptions at this point.  The fact is that there are greater implications well beyond gaming which are already being snapped up.  I do see the issues with the isolating factor, which will be addressed eventually I'm sure, but for now it's a fairly isolating experience.  And single player games generally are.  Though it really is one of those "you just have to try it yourself" experiences to really know what it's all about.  The impact of "presence" is powerful.  Feeling like you're somewhere else can't be replaced.  I don't think it will be a flop, but I do think it'll take time to get a handle on this new medium and the implications.  Will it or won't it be a fad is the wrong question.  The very nature of it pretty much guarantees it will be a niche market, at least for a period of time.  Though if I could play No Man's Sky in VR I think my life would be pretty much complete 

lordtrickster
lordtrickster

Does anyone remember when PC gaming was niche in general?  Or video games as a whole for that matter?  It's not going to be great for every game, but any game where you're in a cockpit will be awesome and for anything else it can simply function as a private 3D screen.

saporob
saporob

This is only another expensive stupid tool for rich stupid kids. Facebook in their database has millions of kids easily to manipulate thanks to their adverting system and they know this product can easily sold.

It's a pain if you have glasses and anyway you can't play with this "helmet" for more than 1 hour otherwise you will get a nice head-cache. It's useless for fast response games AKA FPS because you can't see the keys of your keyboard.

knomicon
knomicon

And another thing...."minimal input, maximum output" John?  The Wii was successful because of maximum input.  The PS3 and 4 have those wands, and Xbox has the Kinect.  I'll agree that those aren't the killer apps that they were hoping for, but that's because of lack of software.

knomicon
knomicon

Right now the software ...and hardware are not refined, but once you play Lunar Flight or Assetto Corsa, you start to see the potential, and you realize that this isn't going to just be a fad or novelty.  They have had some success already with controllers that hook to your head and read impulses or muscles or something..so what I picture is a family gathered around the dinner table with their HMDs on, and controlling or manipulating whatever with their minds, while they use their hands to eat.  And once you get into a demo called "Rift Max Theater" you realize that this has the potential to be more social than real life.  Once the Sixense comes down in price it will be more mainstream, or something better may come along and then you can put a sensor on all your limbs and do performances ...like a talent show type situation, where there are real observers and participants...And real life judges.  I would NEVER go up on a stage in front of a crowd and do stand up comedy or whatever talent I may possess in real life.  But in the Virtual World I wouldn't have a problem with that at all, so what if the game was all about creating some sort of sketch comedy/ talk show/ class where the winner is decided by the amount of people attending his show? Like in Rift Max you can start your own server and show a movie in the theater so others can walk in and watch the movie too.  The observer would have a choice of hundreds of rooms to explore. Overall a situation like that would feel very social, and it would be... to a certain extent. Check out videos or download the demo of Rift Max Theater to get an idea of what I'm talking about.

MihaiHornet
MihaiHornet

The question is, will it fizzle or will it flash? I think it will fizzle.

wowwow27
wowwow27

i think this sort of thing will replace the handheld market.

JFERNANDEZ84
JFERNANDEZ84

Totally agree. It's a fad. Nobody will care after it's no longer a novelty.

Tranula
Tranula

I can smell a Carmack, Romero epic rap battle a brewing.  These guys are old.  They have to do something to stay relevant. 

scottw84
scottw84

The only way VR will ever make it to mainstream is if the makers take a loss on it because quite frankly it'd be too expensive for a gimmick and I can't see them purposely losing out on billions just so everyone can have one in their home.

Act_Chill
Act_Chill

A computer screen only takes a part of your vision while the oculus can give you a full view. Game play can still be mouse and keyboard. VR is the future, but the oculus is only part of a long chain of development needed. Think of the initial 3D for the nintendo. The game was in shades of red only, no other color. Now look at 3D, but it took 30 years to get to where we are and 3D still has a long way to go. I think 3D is going come before VR. 

bloody-hell
bloody-hell

In my opinion the Oculus Rift is a nice little gimmick but it doesn't really have a place in gaming when there's already the Track-IR available to do basically the same thing minus the negative sideeffects.

Plus, with the Track-IR you can see your surroundings too which is kind of important when the key you need to press is not mapped to your controller but on your keyboard - good luck unstrapping the Oculus Rift from your head, pushing that one button and strapping it on again when you have like 1 or 2 seconds to do that. (or blindly groping around the keyboard and hoping to hit the right one)

Also real life tasks like eating, drinking, watching TV, reading chat or browsing the internet besides gaming, and so on are no problem with the Track-IR active.

I may be a bit biased towards the Track-IR because I've been using it for years for various driving, flight and combat sims but I can't imagine the Oculus Rift having any advantage over the Track-IR at all and I can use the Track-IR for 8 hours straight if I so desire without any negative effects like nausea, dizziness, disorientation and so on and I won't get super shortsighted either.

Gruug
Gruug

VR is not new. It has been around as previous "fads" in the past. What the past VR elements lacked was a quality device that at least is close in fidelity as current monitors. If any VR comes remotely close to mimicking at least 1080 at fairly close to 60 fps output, then that VR device has a chance. Will that be OR? Don't know. It certainly has a chance. I am interested and will be looking to see what comes down the road in the next year or so.

naryanrobinson
naryanrobinson

I think it's going to succeed this time around, but not with gaming.

That might take up to another 20 years.

pedr0nasciment0
pedr0nasciment0

For me VR is something amazing and wonderful thing, and the natural evolution of the internet ... I was fed up of internet and needed more ... "just a fad"? Many people said the same when appeared the Tablets ... And I do not like Games, I'm just interested to virtual communities. I'm 19, live in a small country in Europe (Portugal) and believe in evolution and things like that. And we should not be afraid of change or new things. VR is not perfect and never will be, but I believe in VR...


PS: Sorry, I'm using Google translator

hystavito
hystavito

He makes a lot of good points that others have been making as well, and did a good job of explaining them.  Stuff like the notion of "least resistance", and the "weird disconnect" with games where you walk or run.

deadpen
deadpen

Until a 10ft x 10ft x 10ft game system comes out that works like the holodeck on star trek, then VR will be a fad. Just like 80's 3D movies, now we have better 3D (makes most sick though) that works (to a point).

So give this 20 more years or so when they can suspend you 1ft up inside a box (so when you walk down you actually move down a little to trick the mind) while putting touchable holographs around you. Only then will VR be the world's nintendo. 

AloeVera4
AloeVera4

@OleVolsing1  Something that won't last long. Something that's popular right now, but won't be popular for much longer.

seriousgaming
seriousgaming

@saporob Screens are useless for FPS games because you can't see the keys of your keyboard when you're looking at the screen. 

lordtrickster
lordtrickster

@saporob Not everyone gets a headache after an hour...and if you're playing a "fast response games AKA FPS" and you're looking at your keyboard at all you're going to fail simply because the act of looking at your keyboard slows you down too much.

saporob
saporob

@Tranula I bet Carmack bought a lot of Stocks of this "helmet" first to tell us how much good this crap is. Carmack in the last years said so many bullshits it's now hard to believe him.

cshourihan
cshourihan

@scottw84 They already expressed they want to sell it for as little as possible and that the FB acquisition only helped.

Tranula
Tranula

@scottw84  Um Kinect anyone?  And besides, console manufacturers already take huge losses on hardware to push software sales, so this is common.

Zloth2
Zloth2

@Act_Chill  3D is actually doing pretty well if you get out of the movie theaters and in front of a PC.  That can deliver 3D that is actually scaled correctly.  A distant building on the horizon will put your eyes parallel and a gun pointed at your nose will make you go cross-eyed!

Oculus *should* be able to do this nicely, too.  Just switch off the head tracking and you've got an awesome 3D display.

knomicon
knomicon

@bloody-hell I've got a rift, and I've used track-ir and the similarity stops once you need to shift your eyes away from the front...like looking behind you, and to the sides.  There's nothing like looking straight up and seeing through your glass canopy to orient yourself while performing a loop...or tracking a target.  Like you said...you've been using the Track-IR for YEARS and now it's time is over.  It's the Track-IR people that are going to embrace the Rift probably more than anybody, and they will never go back once they see.  As far as controls go, they will have to come up with a control scheme...or just make the game around not having to use the keys while you're playing.  Or maybe a picture in picture type scenario.  Trust me, it wont be a concern later on.

Zloth2
Zloth2

@bloody-hell  Track-IR just gives the head tracking, no 3D at all, no immersion at all.  How is it "basically the same thing??"

The keyboard shouldn't be a problem.  If you're still looking down at your keyboard to figure out what key to press after years of gaming, you need to get one of those typing teacher programs ASAP.

knomicon
knomicon

@naryanrobinson No way.  I disagree, and when you see some of the games coming, you will stand corrected ;).. Alien Isolation, Star Citizen, Assetto Corsa, Project Cars, the new EVE....Any and all of those games will knock your socks off.  You can play a few very good games right now to get the gist of what's to come.  Strike Suit Zero is good, as well as Euro Truck Simulator II, but Lunar Flight is the best right now.  Not 20 years...probably not 20 months...right now.

saporob
saporob

@seriousgaming @saporob Right Sir... I am starting to think that conversations on internet are pretty impossible because you have no idea you are talking with a brats.

Tranula
Tranula

@saporob @Tranula  Well I have a buddy working at Ready at Dawn Studios who got to try the Oculus.  He said it was really neat.  But IDK. 

scottw84
scottw84

@cshourihan @scottw84 Of course they will, they have absolutely no choice in the matter because not every family on the planet is rich, if they tried to sell it to nothing but rich people they'd make very little on their return. I still reckon VR is a gimmick and it won't catch on, we'll see though, if it does catch on it'll be very niche, it won't be as wide spread as Facebook are hoping it will be.

bloody-hell
bloody-hell

@Zloth2 If you care about 3D, you can get a 3D monitor or a decent one and shutter glasses for your graphics card - I don't care about that and am merely interested in the head tracking for which Track-IR is perfectly fine.

About the looking at the keyboard - blindfold yourself and make yourself comfortable in your simulators control environment (steering wheel with shifter and pedals or flightstick with thruster and rudder controls) and then try to hit the buttons you need from the keyboard, precisely and quickly or try and play one of the ARMA games which require the occasional "exotic" key press combination.

Go ahead, try it, I bet you'll hit the wrong ones or it took you way too long and this is why it's important to actually see your surroundings instead of wearing a closed off case with a screen inside of it.

Want to do another test, try to drink from an open glass without making a mess when you have a cube attached to your forehead and can't see what you're doing.

Another test, try to read and respond to the chat on the other monitor or read through your startup checklist for your A10-C in DCS - yup, can't do that either.

Still unsure about the immersion, sit in a dark room and stare at your smartphone that you're holding 4 cm infront of your eyes, look around a bit, do that for about 2 minutes, then stand up - yup, you're disoriented and dizzy, now imagine doing that for multiple hours (gaming time) and then removing the Oculus Rift from your face - you'll need a few days off just to recover from a couple hours of gaming, if even.


No thanks, Track-IR is perfectly fine, I have no need for the Oculus Rift.

Your interest in it may vary though, but gaming sites are making way too much fuss about it, maybe just because Facebook is behind it now.

naryanrobinson
naryanrobinson

@knomicon Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that they won't be able to implement it with games and that it won't be cool.  What I'm saying is that I don't think it will achieve the status of anything other than gimmick (albeit a cool one).

I think really what I'm saying is that people who take their gaming even a little seriously will want to control where they look... with a mouse.

naryanrobinson
naryanrobinson

@Sl4cka Oh you must be one of those people who thinks they're funny.  What's that like?

saporob
saporob

@Tranula @saporob "Real" VR will be good only when holographic technology will be diffused. You can't simulate an ambient with 2 LCD over your eyes.

cshourihan
cshourihan

@bloody-hell @Zloth2 "you'll need a few days off just to recover from a couple hours of gaming, if even."

You have no idea what you're talking about.