Now and again something comes along that shakes things up so much, it’s like starting from scratch. That’s what the HTC Vive’s virtual reality is doing to game developers. While some tenets of traditional games will translate to a virtual medium, many more won’t.
Virtual reality presents a number of new features to consider, like motion controls and room-scale gaming, But that’s not a bad thing. Titles like Hover Junkers and Space Pirate Trainer offer unique, hand-controlled FPS combat, the likes that haven’t been seen for years, and there’s rumblings of a resurgence in other genres too.
Here’s five genres that we think could make a huge comeback, thanks to the HTC Vive.
Point-and-click, hidden item games
Although some sticklers may consider the above title a bit of an amalgamation of two different genres, shoving cheap, bargain bin games with classics from studios like LucasArts, the idea of interacting and combining items from a scene is a core concept that both genres enjoy.
In the ’90s this genre was huge, and if you ask anyone who was a PC gamer back then to tell you some of their favorite games, they’ll probably mention Day of the Tentacle or Grim Fandango. If they don’t, stop talking to them.
Hyperbole aside, point and click games have offered some of the best storytelling in gaming, and on top of that, their classic designs often meant they featured static back-drops. Essentially, limited locations. Re-created in room-scale virtual reality, this could equate to several rooms, or scenes, which a player can walk around in. Opening a door could then “teleport” the player to a new scene.
Valve’s Secret Shop demo was a great example of this potential, as it let users move around a singular room, exploring the room and its various items. Another developer experimenting with the idea is Aldin Dynamics, with Waltz of the Wizard. Still in development, it offers a main scene that players can explore and interact with. Items are hidden around the room, all with special functions, and there’s even a mechanic to let you teleport to other areas.
We’re excited for a potential Monkey Island VR. Make it happen, Tim Schafer!
Back in the days of Time Crisis on the original PlayStation, House of the Dead 2 on the Dreamcast, and its famously foul-mouthed sequel, Overkill, on the Wii, the light gun was the best approximation we had of pointing at something and pulling a trigger.
Until the Vive, that is.
With wand controllers in hand, we can once again point a gun at our enemies and blow them away. Better yet, because it’s virtual reality, a plastic gun isn’t needed. The controllers can act as a stand-in for anything the developers dream up, from a simple pistol, to a rocket launcher that shoots snot, or a lighting gun that makes you feel like Zeus himself.
While the locomotion of a rail shooter might not sit too well with VR, there are some solutions being worked on. Hover Junkers lets you move your craft around relatively open maps, ducking and shooting while operating your virtual vehicle. Other games, like Space Pirate Trainer, leave you in one place and throw different challenges against you.
There’s also the likes of Jeeboman, with its teleporting mechanic, and Raw Data, which introduces a co-op partner — always the most fun aspect of light gun games.
Music and rhythm games
A decade ago, music games ran through maintream gaming culture, getting everyone and their grandmother to jam out on a fake guitar. For a time, music games could do no wrong — but they eventually played out their welcome.
Attempts to revive the genre with new editions of Guitar Hero and Rock Band haven’t met much success, but even the luke-warm return those classic guitar based games received last year can’t stop the return of rhythm games in VR.
While Rock Band VR might be coming to Oculus’ Rift headset at some point, the Vive has its own exciting developments in the pipeline. Audioshield, from the creator of Audiosurf, is set to release in a few days time and offers an experience where players use their controllers as virtual shields, to bat away the notes and beats as they’re played.
It’s an exhilarating, surprisingly active way to enjoy your music, and has the potential to get us all waving and punching the air in an attempt to out-rhythm our friends and family in no time at all.
Although we will likely see a game made with a guitar that somehow connects up to your Vive controller(s) at some point, if nobody is developering a drumming game with the Vive in mind, start making it now – you’d make a killing.
Back before home consoles were capable of more than just accepting a blown-on cartridge and a pair of controllers, custom systems existed to allow the creative out there a chance to draw and paint on their TV screen. The VTech Master Painter, for example, let kids and grown-ups alike draw and paint digital 2D scenes. It was a neat idea, but too specialized and expensive to really catch on.
With the HTC Vive, you don’t need to be a pro, or need professional hardware. You just need to have an imagination. In VR, your hands on your tools, and you can paint in three dimensions with ease.
TiltBrush was one of the first experiences available for Vive owners to try out, and it’s something we’ve spent a lot of time playing around with ourselves. It lets you paint with a variety of brushes and effects, in a room-scale space.
SculptVR is another artistic title just released for the Vive, and it lets you build blocky sculptures using a Minecraft-esque voxel system that looks surprisingly intuitive. It even has multiplayer, so you and your friends can build micro-structures to your heart’s content.
Developers are also using VR to build virtual worlds. Epic Games recently made its Unreal Engine work within virtual reality, giving developers the chance to hand craft worlds with their real hands.
Board games have gone through a resurgence on the PC in the past few years, with games like The Witcher Adventure Game, Ticket to Tide and Bloodbowl all being well received. Board games work well on the PC, just as turn based strategies do, but they could be even better with the Vive.
It’s much more immersive to grab a set of dice and shake them than it is to press a “roll” button. The tactile feel of being around a table with your friends is the only real thing missing from 2D, PC-based board gaming, and the Vive can easily reintroduce that missing link.
At the same time, the Vive can make the complexities of a board game easier to understand, and more exciting to watch. Playing a game like Warhammer in the real world means consulting rulebooks and laboriously moving pieces. With the Vive, the rules are handled with ease, and movement can be spiced up with animations, weapon effects, and other 3D flare.
In-fact the first VR board game isn’t that far away from being released. Skyworld offers a living, breathing 3D board, with armies, dragons, economy to manage and more. It blends turn based strategy games with a board game centerpiece that lets you move around it and view everything from any angle.
There’s a lot of gaming we’re excited for with virtual reality, but bringing back or reinvigorating some of our favorite genres is something we’re particularly pumped for. Virtual reality opens up not just a whole new realm of experience, but also new ways to enjoy our previous favorites.