Saturday, December 27, 2014

Compromise

To say that issue of VR controls has been a challenge would be a major understatement. I've been spending the past few weeks in particular wracking my brain trying to figure out what kind of a route I want to go for in VR. I know the end goal is clear: full body intent based control. However, this is very clearly not going to be happening particularly soon for VR. I've decided that the best method to achieve this in the near term is to use EEG, however the consumer applications at the fidelity many people want (namely SAO's level), this likely won't be ready for prime time till around 2017 at the earliest, with the early 2020s as a more reasonable estimate. EMG methods could be useful as an intermediary, but that would only be viable for the lab setting and for enthusiasts of the highest order. This is problematic for VR's immediate future as a gaming platform since game developers need some kind of input to work with if they're going to make "games".

At this point, using the Rift alone as input is only good for the most minimally interactive demos and I've found that there hasn't been a single VR demo that's controlled "just right". Admittedly this could be because of my personal obsession with tight, kinesthetically pleasing controls. I have many philosophies regarding the way I want control schemes to work, and the current attempts many are making with VR controls to add in things like motion controls and traditional inputs together are actually starting to bother me. These two items work on diametrically opposed principles for controls. Motion controls emphasize biomimicry/acceptance. "Traditional" controls emphasize metaphorical translation and simplification. Trying to bring both together seems to me like trying to combine fire and ice, the strengths of each one counteract each other and while one can find a use for this if you look hard enough, I don't think it will be the most efficient methodology.

It's unfortunate to say, but it's highly likely that I will be avoiding development for VR titles with any of the fancier methods we're attempting right now outside of my own personal experimentation. I will be doing everything I can using electrographs to create a virtual reality control device that can achieve my intended goals, however this will be done only with demonstration or "demo" purposes in mind without much consideration for the consumer aspects as it likely isn't going to be reasonable for me to develop such a system without having other people working with me. As it stands, I'm a one man team and can't quite afford the luxury of test subjects and set ups. I'll report my findings as I make them if I make any and will demonstrate anything I find particularly interesting. However, I don't intend to allow this to stop development of software in the slightest. Project Navalusu is a software endeavor, not of hardware. I'll be doing what I can for hardware since it seems that the market has no intentions of developing products covering the areas I'm particularly interested in for the purpose I have in mind, thus necessitating that I learn how to develop hardware in addition to software. For the time being I have to make a compromise.

I've actually gone and purchased a wired 360 controller for my PC. It'll be shipping sometime in January if the information is correct, but I must say that this will likely be the primary control mechanism for my PC titles for optimum performance. I've been a console gamer for the majority of my life, making gamepads the control system that I'm most adept at using. Add in that aside from the mouse and keyboard, the xbox controller is next closest thing to standard controller for PC gaming and the choice seems clear. I've had an interesting control scheme for the standard gamepad I've wanted to try out for a long time now, so I suppose using it as an intermediary while intent based VR controls are developed seems like a good alternative. The keyboard itself my work as an substitute for those that don't have gamepads at their disposition, but the gamepad will offer much more subtlety for the purpose I have in mind. Looking back on it, it's kind of funny what the name of the gamepad control scheme I had in mind was named back when I wrote it in 2012: "Intent Switch System".

I'll go over the specifics as I add them into the Sanctuary hub since going all in and typing it out in this already too long post wouldn't be beneficial. I should probably also note that I'll be showing footage of tests being done for Sanctuary hub footage in the coming weeks. As incomplete and amateurish as it may be, I think it's better than showing nothing and it's a good way to get some input.

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