#125: Rob Morgan on Narrative Design in VR & escaping the uncanny valley via interactive social behaviors in NPCs

Rob Morgan is a game writer, narrative designer and voice director. He got into the realm of writing for VR experiences from his experience at Sony London Studio, and then freelanced with nDreams on their Gear VR game Gunner as well as their conspiracy-theory/moral dilemma adventure game called The Assembly.

Rob brings a very unique perspective about what’s different about writing narratives and telling stories in VR after working on a number of different projects of significant scope & budget across the Morpheus, Gear VR and Oculus DK2. One of the big takeaways that Rob had is that there are a whole level of social & behavioral interactions that we expect to have with other humans and so you can’t treat NPCs in a VR experience the same way that you might in a 2D experience. For example, there are social queues that you expect a human to react to based upon where you’re looking, whether you seem like you’re paying attention or if you’re threatening other people in some way. There’s a whole range of interaction that we demand and expect to have, and so there’s a lot of interesting nested body language and social queues that if they’re added within a VR experience could add another dimension of immersion.

Rob talks about the importance of having other human-like characters within the narrative experience in order to go beyond an interesting 5-minute tech demo, and to start to have an engaging narrative. He says that there’s a distinct lack of human characters in VR demos because it’s hard to not fall into the trap of the uncanny valley. But Rob suggests that one way to get around the lack of visual fidelity within VR is to start to add simple interactive social behaviors in NPCs to create a better sense of immersion.

He also talks about how important the voice acting is within VR as well because the uncanny valley goes beyond just the look and feel of the graphical representation of humans. Humans are really great at detecting fakeness, and Rob says that this is a vital element of immersion if you’re acting is somehow stilted or not completely authentic or believable.

This was one of my favorite interviews from GDC because Rob lists out so many different interesting open problems and challenges with storytelling in VR. He says that the rules haven’t been written yet, and so there’s a large amount of space to experiment with what works and what doesn’t work.

He eventually sees that there will be a convergence between VR, AR and wearable technology in general, and he’s excited for the possibility of creating a fictional layer of reality for people that they can interact and engage with in a way that’s just as real as the rest of their reality.

Rob presented a talk at GDC called “Written on your eyeballs: Game narrative in VR at GDC 2015” which can be seen on GDC Vault here if you have a subscription.

Theme music: “Fatality” by Tigoolio

Subscribe to the Voices of VR podcast.

Rough Transcript

[00:00:05.452] Kent Bye: The Voices of VR Podcast.

[00:00:12.097] Rob Morgan: Hello, I'm Rob Morgan. I've been a game writer, a narrative designer and voice director for a while. And I got into virtual reality while I was an employee at Sony London studio, which meant that as a writer, the opportunity came up to write the dialogue for the original announcement demo, the shark tank demo called the deep. for the Morpheus last year which was a really interesting experience not only in kind of understanding and learning about the new rules of VR but also learning that hey players of VR have a lot on their minds and so actually drawing back the narrative talking to the player a little bit less can be really beneficial and giving them a narrative which supports their experiences but doesn't try to narrate their experiences That was the lesson that I learned and I got really fascinated in VR and I've been lucky enough since then to kind of work on a bunch of different VR projects as a writer across multiple platforms. So I wrote the script for Gunnar. which is now available for the Gear VR, and I've written the script for Assembly, which is slated to be a launch title for the Oculus, that's with Endreams, who are an amazing company, and I have a couple of other titles in the works with them, which are currently unannounced for VR. I'm here talking about how to make that initial VR experience with a human NPC, or even a non-human NPC, Somebody that you need to emotionally engage with how to make that experience work because we've seen a lot of first wave VR games I kind of devoid of people or devoid of faces for very good reason because Getting out of the uncanny valley is a really expensive business but from what I've seen and the more I see of VR the more I'm absolutely convinced that whether you want to do photo realism or whether you want to do cartoonish or you want to do an abstract kind of relationship with the avatars with the NPCs in your game the more it's really important to have an emotional engagement with them which means even if they're not people or they only sort of look like people or they're cartoonish versions of people or they're abstract versions of people they have to act like people Otherwise, it's not going to feel real. And more to the point, if they feel real, if they say things that engage with the player on a human level, they can make up for a lot of the current technical limitations. Or even if they're not limitations, the things that would cost an enormous amount of money. Because talk is cheap. Voice over is cheap. Writing extra lines. considering the edge case where the player goes up and wants to go and get right up in the grill of the NPC as they're talking or ignores the NPC as they're talking or ignores the fact that the NPC is trying to deliver all the mission dialogue and then you know when the player goes off and instead they look at the NPC's bookshelves or they wander around. If the NPC doesn't react to these things, if the NPC doesn't represent the a set of social rules then they don't feel like a human because humans are bundles of social rules all wrapped up together so if you knock elbows with a human they need to react and if they don't react you know that they're not a human so for me writing dialogue narrative design emotional relationships between the player and the npc can make up for so much technically If a character says, oi, when you knock elbows with them, that's a far more emotionally impactful effect than any kind of haptic feedback you can imagine. So creating the human relationships that are going to make VR kind of get up into that next level and create things that are beyond that five-minute wow demo and into an emotionally engaging experience, that's what I've become really, really interested in.

[00:03:59.798] Kent Bye: Yeah, and one of the things that you said that stuck out for me is that there's a bit of projection that happens with leaving enough empty spaces to not sort of fill everything. Maybe you could elaborate on that a little bit in terms of what you mean or how do you design something that leaves a little bit more spaciousness?

[00:04:16.227] Rob Morgan: Absolutely. Like, I'm a firm believer. I mean, I'm a writer. Words are my business, but I firmly believe that 90% of characterization 90% of the story happens in the player's mind. Whether you're on a 2D screen or you're in VR, your canvas when you're making a game, and certainly for me as a storyteller, your canvas is between the player's ears, it's not on the screen, it's not what's being beamed into their eyeballs. So when you leave things a little bit, when you leave them a little bit of narrative wiggle room, you can hint at things, or you can get an NPC, for example. Even just a slight change in gaze behaviour will tell humans an enormous amount, because humans are super good. at interpreting other human interactions. The problem comes when you encounter NPCs that act in a way that is immediately obviously not human, because the human eye is really good at spotting fakeness, the human ear is really good at spotting fakeness, The Uncanny Valley is just not purely a visual element, it's so much a social and emotional element as well. And so a little bit of humanity goes a hell of a long way in getting over technical limitations, budgetary limitations, even if you're creating kind of a lo-fi VR experience, if the people that you encounter feel human, in relatively simple ways, they react in relatively human ways, they have a few edge cases where they'll react to you if you look at them funny, or if you look at them sideways, or if you check them out, and all the things that our VR players try and do on a first playthrough, because they're trying to figure out the rules of the new world that they find themselves in. A little bit of reaction, of human emotional reaction, it can be purely dialogue. It doesn't even need to be animation. It goes an enormously long way in filling in the gap in the player's head that otherwise would have to be filled with money. That gap would have to be filled with photorealism. But even without photorealism, if you create an emotional engagement with that NPC, then you can get to a point where the player emotionally engages. And they don't care about the realism anymore because they're engaged. And I think creating stories that are radically immersive in the way that VR is visually radically immersive, that's what makes me so excited about VR.

[00:06:37.933] Kent Bye: And so what were some of the ways that you cultivated that emotional engagement then?

[00:06:42.935] Rob Morgan: Yeah, for me I think a really key example was working on the Morpheus announcement demo. So what we found was it's generally a pretty good rule in writing for games that less is more, but as we went on with this demo I really concluded that in virtual reality less is even more because This was a demo where the player was on their own, they were isolated, they were in a shark tank, right? And you had an NPC character who you didn't see but was speaking to you through an earpiece. And initially you get attacked by a shark, right? It all goes wrong, the cage goes wrong, and then a shark starts beating itself against the door of the Cage, and immediately we thought, okay, so this is kind of like an alien's experience. We want somebody to be reporting. They almost know more than you, and they're going to support the player's horror experience, and they're going to enhance the player's horror experience by sounding horrified. It seemed like an obvious choice, but then the more we developed it, and the more we listened to the script and tested it with players, It became more and more rewarding for players to just keep cutting dialogue and keep pulling back and saying less and less. And what we ended up with was an experience where actually the person who's speaking to you, although they know that something's gone wrong, they don't know that you're being attacked by a shark. So you ended up with a juxtaposed experience of somebody who was basically just trying to fill time and tell you no i'm sure whatever's gone wrong with the cage will be fixed any minute now but they're saying it at the very minute that you're being attacked by a shark and it was kind of realizing okay in this case less is even more made us realize that oh wow this now gives us this experience that's really isolating that's really harsh for the player and that is horrifying in a way that isn't just about the shark getting up in your face. It's about being alone and about knowing the person who is there to help you cannot help you or will not help you or doesn't know to help you. So it really filled in for me that sense that in a demo where for obvious reasons we weren't going to do a visual NPC, we weren't going to have a human, it didn't mean that you couldn't create a really strong emotional effect and have what's effectively a ludonarrative or a literary or a game literary or whatever you want to call it, a really smart effect that enhanced the player's experience without requiring a lot of technical outlay in terms of creating this NPC because it was purely voice. but this NPC existed and enhanced the player's experience.

[00:09:13.993] Kent Bye: Yeah, and you had mentioned earlier about, you know, creating these kind of nested social behaviors kind of bundled in and is that something that was actually modeled in the Assembly or some of these other experiences where if you're not looking at an NPC then it'll stop talking to you and, you know, did you have to have, you know, develop all those kind of branches for that?

[00:09:32.501] Rob Morgan: For me this is looking to the future, so in previous game roles I've done a lot of work in scripts and in deterministic scripts that make choices as you go along and in behaviours and dialogue behaviours that respond to the way the player behaves. And so I'm bringing previous experience to VR now because of course for the right reasons first wave VR games tend not to have handled this because they tend not to have a lot of people in. So no, this is something that I'm now looking at the virtual reality experiences that I'm seeing and realizing, okay, look, they don't tend to have a lot of humans in first wave virtual reality experiences. But if you want to tell exciting stories, you've got to start involving humans sooner or later, whether that means the photorealistic model at the really, really high budget end, or it means a purely voiced character that isn't modeled at all. Whatever it is that you're doing, we have to understand how it is that A player in VR is going to relate to a character, and it's not about throwing out the narrative design playbook. Most of what we've learned over the past few decades of developing games and developing narratives for games still holds true. But if anything, really working the limitations of VR, if you want to call them that, the limitations of VR right now, or the budgetary limitations of small studios, big studios, or people in their bedrooms who want to develop for VR, who can't throw money at the uncanny valley to fill in the valley to get out of it. Working with those limitations and finding a story-based way to overcome those problems and say, look, forget having the character just stare blankly at you after they're done talking. Even if you can't afford the animations to have the character react to every possible thing that the player could do, then that's fine. Just have the NPC leave, because an NPC in motion is so much less uncanny than an NPC that's still standing there for whatever reason. Or simple things, you know, find a way to have the NPC be distracted by something else while they're talking to the player, because then the player's mind fills in the gaps. and the player is able to overcome the uncanny valley because they aren't exposed to this NPC at a moment when the NPC is just there and static and doesn't seem to be thinking about anything. If the NPC is thinking about their own things, they appear to have an existence beyond the simple game layer. Okay, sirens. That's what's exciting for me about it.

[00:11:59.633] Kent Bye: And you're giving a talk here at a GDC about you know, some of these narrative insights working in virtual reality And so what were some of the other big points that you were trying to make to the audience here at GDC with narratives in VR?

[00:12:10.925] Rob Morgan: So I talked a bit about the theoretical things that I've been talking about and and about mitigating risk and saying that story can make up for technical expenditure but what I finished on is Things that I've learned from working in VR that really help structurally when you're planning your story, which are that No matter what the form factor you're working with, and I've worked across several of the main headline formats. I've done games for Gear VR and for Oculus and for Morpheus. No matter what it is, right now, players have an adjustment period. They have a practicality barrier to get over when they sit down and play these games. Because the first five minutes of their experience, they're adjusting the headset, they're adjusting the headband, they're getting comfortable in the chair, they're getting accustomed to the limited field of vision. And that's fine. That is what we have to work with right now. And for me, as a writer, that means, right, you don't try and ignore that practical limitation. You work with it. So I always tell people to start their narratives, instead of starting their game with a big bombastic, okay, you're gonna blow up New York moment, give the player five minutes to adjust. Start your game with them in the back of a van. Start your game with the player with a bag over their head, or whatever it is. Make sense of it in your story, but give the player that warm-up time in order to get themselves accustomed, because they're going to be getting accustomed. They're going to be distracted for the first five minutes. They don't want to spend a load of money on a scene that the player is only partially paying attention to. That's a big lesson that I've learned from what I've done so far. And the other lesson is absolutely as a voice director is to really double down on voice direction because immersion Immersion is not fragile per se, but once people are popped out of immersion, it's really hard to get them back in. They remember that they're effectively sitting in their living room wearing a helmet. And greater immersion leads to greater expectations, which means that not only do you have to strive for realism in visuals, you have to really focus on your voices, because we can hear fakeness just as well as we can spot fakeness. and a bad performance in VR is no longer just a storytelling issue, it's an immersion issue.

[00:14:23.641] Kent Bye: Ah, interesting. Yeah, is there anything that you tried that also just really didn't work at all?

[00:14:28.887] Rob Morgan: That's a good one. I think a real lesson that I learned was I was working with a project which had a protagonist where the protagonist was speaking a lot and the instinct of the developers was to create a protagonist which was optimally imprintable, right? So like a lot of first-person perspective characters, they wanted to make them, you know, To deliver enough details about this character that you knew that they were a hero, but not to create a lot of extra detail that made it clear that this character was anything specific. Because the accepted wisdom is that specifics about a character prevent the player from imprinting on them, from embodying them, from imagining themselves as them. And so you end up with a lot of protagonists who there's not a lot of substance to, so that players don't have to imagine when they imagine being that character. But what I've found from my own playtesting and what I firmly believe is that it's way harder to embody and to imagine and to roleplay a character that there's not a lot of substance to. If you don't understand the character or if they're a cipher or if you don't understand why the character is taking the risks that they do and putting themselves in the situation that they do, That is an immersion issue. It's going to pop us out of immersion because humans are pretty good at role-playing. They're a lot better at role-playing than we give them credit for, but humans are really bad at not picking holes in things. We do it automatically. And so if you have a character that there's not a lot of substance to, I think you can get away with that in a screened, a 2D first-person perspective experience, but in long-form VR, in these engaging, you know, more than five-minute demo experiences that I'm hoping that we can create, I think that strong characterization is going to be way more powerful than theoretically imprintable characterization. It's hard to role-play a shadow, you know?

[00:16:25.656] Kent Bye: Yeah, and so I have a background in documentary filmmaking. And so, you know, I will do an edit and then I'll have to, you know, it's hard to sort of theoretically put it on the timeline without watching it. You know, you actually watch it and then you get a different sense of it. And I imagine it's a little bit the same with writing for VR where you write it on paper, but then you're actually going in and experiencing it in VR. So maybe talk about that iterative process of like writing it and then experiencing it and then, you know, adapting it.

[00:16:52.558] Rob Morgan: Yeah, that's the challenge and a lot of studio work still tends to involve the assumption that story is finished when it's handed in and that story doesn't iterate. And I've been very lucky to work with studios who really respect the writing process and who want to iterate story as other aspects of the game iterate and as design changes, story can iterate and story iterations can feed into design. And that is absolutely the starting point of creating any narrative that really works in a game. Creating a narrative that works in any game is about the procedure that you go through and about your process. It doesn't happen from writing a good script. It happens from respecting the script but understanding when to change it, and even understanding when to change the design to fit with the script. I mean, of course, I'm a writer, I'm going to say that, but understanding the affordances of dialogue and allowing design to be flexible within that can be really really fruitful and at the same time you know any experienced game script writer will understand that the words fill in the gaps and the words tend to be the things that change as design changes because words are cheap words are cheap to change any game writer has had the experience of being told hey So the thing that was originally going to be grey is now blue and you need to go back through the script and just turn all references to grey to blue. And this is much easier than making the thing blue because words are the most inexpensive element of a game production. I mean, that had been my experience before I started working in VR, but actually, because VR is this new beast, the iterative process of all aspects of the production is something that I've found that studios really respect. And so actually, because it's such a new medium, and because everybody knows that all of the rules are up in the air, and none of the rules are codified, and that people are working it out as they go along, I found that people are very open to all aspects of the production. Changing other aspects and being iterated upon and then you sit down with the headset and you play through the experience that you worked out and you look at it and you go yeah this just isn't working you know you're doing this scene that you thought was going to be harrowing but because your protagonist is talking through it and talking about how harrowing it is it just doesn't work and so you pull back and you pull back and you stop trying to intervene the protagonist between the player and what they're doing or you silence the protagonist rather than allowing them to speak in order to force the player to engage really closely with what they're doing and that's one of the real strengths of VR. We're still learning and narrative design in games is still learning anyway so if anything it's quite refreshing to go into VR where everybody understands that everything is up for grabs.

[00:19:36.847] Kent Bye: Yeah, and I guess one of the challenging things with VR as well is that there's a lot of technical things that can be done within the game that people react differently to. And so when you're testing a VR experience with someone, they may have all sorts of different motion sickness or other sort of aspects of their physical reaction to it. So in terms of doing user testing towards, you know, is this narrative working or not? Talk a bit about that process of actually having people run through and then getting feedback from them and then if there's even an opportunity to do changes or edits based upon user testing.

[00:20:09.313] Rob Morgan: Obviously the capacity for user testing for these kinds of games is always going to be limited because anybody working in VR right now is taking a big risk. Not a big risk. Anybody working in VR right now is gambling on immersion as being sufficient to sell an experience. And so everybody understands that user testing is crucial, but also there's always limited space in a production to do it. But I've been fortunate to see user testing, to see players putting the headset on and to encounter the experiences that I've been part of designing it to encounter words that I've written and I think for me the iterative process that's been most helpful from learning from that is on usability because you'd be surprised at the number of things which seem like they would be very obvious in linguistic terms, in terms of teaching a player how they're going to encounter the world that they're going to encounter. But you put them in VR and it's just sufficiently familiar enough that it's easy to assume that you can talk to players as though it's the real world. But if you're trying to educate players about how their interface with the arms of their avatar, for example, their interface with the weapon that they're wielding in the game, their interface with the tools that they're going to be presented with, the usability language of doing that, is something that you really can't afford to get wrong because that's going to disrupt the player's experience immediately, instantly, it's going to pop them out of the experience. And so, for me, the key experience is always sitting and watching a player encounter a moment and having the game inform the player how to navigate the experience. and you sit and you watch players encounter it. And quite a lot of the time, they don't navigate it in the way you expect. And it's way too easy to say, oh, then the player simply doesn't know how to operate the game. And you have to continually step back and say, no, we're not giving them enough information. We're giving them the wrong information. We're giving them misleading terms. When we say, raise your arms, we're not saying it in a way that corresponds to the avatar arms. And so we see players like, lifting arms rather than using the controller, or using the controller rather than lifting their arms. And it varies enormously between the level of experience and game fluency the players have. If you're a very fluent game player and you're very accustomed to controllers, then you have a totally different approach to your first VR experience to someone who is a first-timer. And VR experiences are only going to really take off and get out of that early adopter segment. when they can create things that my mum can play and she's my touchstone for is she going to be able to encounter this and can I explain what's going to happen in a way that she can experience. That doesn't mean that I don't believe in hardcore experiences on VR. Absolutely, like hardcore action experiences are going to be part of what sells VR in a big way. But also, I think learning from watching various types of players and players with various types of experience playing these things for the first time struggling to navigate them, learning to navigate them, and learning how to vary the words and vary the visual language and vary the UI to get the optimal experience. Right now, all of our players are first-time players. This is going to be less of an issue as we work out the rules, but we're still working out the rules.

[00:23:29.286] Kent Bye: Yeah, and so since you have developed experiences on both the DK2, Morpheus, and Gear VR, I'm interested in, in particular, the difference between a more limited resource or resource-constrained platform like Gear VR versus like the DK2. You know, how does that impact your storytelling writing or what you can do?

[00:23:48.060] Rob Morgan: I would have to say that the projects that I've worked on have been agnostic to me as a writer. So it's made perfect sense that when a studio set out to make an experience for the Gear VR, when Endream set out to make it, that they would make a gun turret experience that's trying to bring home that sci-fi experience that we all dreamed of when we were kids in a gun turret shooting down the TIE fighters. And so I understood that development, and I understood what that was trying to get at and the kind of visceral thrill that that was trying to get at. But at the same time, the limitations are part of the canvas that I work with, I suppose. So in that game, the only things that the player were going to encounter were space rocks and enemy fighters. And that dictated a certain kind of story, a nice, simple, satisfying story inspired by Starship Troopers and all of our favorite sci-fi things. that fell out quite naturally based on the limitations of the medium. But at the same time, there's nothing to stop that game and that kind of mood being replicated on a system which has a higher graphical capacity. So, for me, limitations are as much about the project as they are about the hardware. So, it's been really helpful to work across the multiple platforms. But that's been primarily for me in the sense that I come to understand where developers are coming from and what they see when they look at the hardware and what different potential they see in it. And it's my job to bring out that potential and to say, oh great, so you're going to create this gun turret experience. You're going to create this in-depth conspiracy theory experience like Assembly, which hopefully players are going to get to see fairly soon. You know, that's a much more in-depth experience and so it allowed more world building and it encouraged more world building. But at the same time you have to understand the limits of putting players in the headset and so you have to create a narrative which is very episodic, which gives players the opportunity to step back from their experience, to sit back and adjust the headset and go and make a sandwich instead of sitting for seven or eight hours at a sitting and going through the campaign. You have to anticipate. that not only are players going to get uncomfortable, but there may well be factors that are delivered by the hardware. The hardware may well actually, for legal reasons, have to inform you of the time that you've spent playing or suggest after a while that you take a break. I mean, that's a possibility. And if that happens, then the story has to be able to cope with that. It has to be something you can pick back up after a little while.

[00:26:18.320] Kent Bye: Yeah, and it seems like you've been kind of on the vanguard of exploring this new language and grammar of storytelling within virtual reality. And so, you know, I'm curious if there's any sort of, like, high-level universal insights that you got from, you know, experiences. Especially in VR, there's a certain amount of interaction and engagement that you can have with how do you direct attention or little things in terms of just guiding the story when you can sort of look and do almost anything. How do you keep that narrative moving forward?

[00:26:48.903] Rob Morgan: It's a challenge, particularly when, you know, this is a commonplace. Everybody says, OK, we don't have camera control. It's like early cinema. We're having to learn how not to use cuts and how not to direct the player's attention by cheating, by interfering with their viewpoint. Because, of course, whenever you interfere with camera control, whenever you interfere with head track, whenever you take control away from the player in VR, nausea ensues for the right reasons, because players are trying to engage, they want to be immersed, and when you take that kind of control away from them, then you pop them out of the immersion. So, I mean, it's a learning process of learning how that's going to work, but at the same time, there are models that are highly successful that we can go back to, because if you look at Half-Life, that is a game that is devoid of cutscene, and yet it still narrates itself, and it directs the player's attention in a way that's highly effective, using level design, using lighting, using sound, using the way that the player encounters the world, and using a good understanding of how players want to manage their own experience. It's a game that really understands that when you walk yourself into a room, you're going to look at things for a particular reason, whether it's because there's a blood splatter on it, or it's because lighting is directing you to that space, or because you don't want to look at it because there's something horrifying, there's a shadow in the corner, and humans naturally just look away from that for a second. At the same time, when you're inside the headset, we have to understand that the player has a tendency to feel trapped in a way that can be used really well in horror, but you have to handle that quite carefully if you don't want the player to just view the whole of VR as a negative experience. You have to allow them to breathe in the experience, and so level design is going to be incredibly important in terms of creating a heat map where an intense experience is followed by a moment where you let the player breathe. And I strongly believe that talking to the player dialogue story has to follow the same pattern. You can deliver a bunch of exposition, but then you have to let the player desaturate and calm down and cool off. And then you can deliver a little bit more of the story, or you can talk to them a little bit more, you can raise the tension a little bit more. But bombarding the player with story is just as overstimulating in VR as bombarding them with incident.

[00:29:07.258] Kent Bye: So what type of experiences do you want to experience in VR?

[00:29:10.370] Rob Morgan: See, I'm really, really excited by abstract experiences where it's not about photorealism, it's not about creating something which is supposed to be kind of theoretically immersive in that it is approaching reality, but instead it's treating immersion as something which relies on an emotional engagement with the world. It might not be how one usually sees the world, but it represents an emotional engagement with the world. So I really love some of the abstract things that are coming out of academia and coming out of the indie scene. And so basically I want to create really, really exciting, engaging VR experiences that are not just about that wow, demo, I guess VR is a thing now experience, and instead creating longer, 30-minute plus experiences which tell you a story, whether it's through words, whether it's through visuals, whether it's through NPCs or NPC behaviors, or whether it's through the old standbys, whether it's through the escort mission. I want to see the ICO of VR, I want to see the experiences where the player's emotional engagement with the world around them and the people around them, even if those people are really tigers or zombies or whatever it is, they are motivated on a fundamentally human level, on an emotional level, on a storytelling level. to keep going with what the game wants them to do or that they are motivated to do something which feels unexpected and that the game then has to cope with. That's the kind of experience that I want to see because I think that's the kind of experience that is going to get VR out of the early adopter zone and into the talked about memorable. Yes, it totally is worth putting yourself into one of these headsets and having that experience zone. And that's where I believe we've got to try to shoot for.

[00:31:08.865] Kent Bye: And finally, what do you see as the ultimate potential for virtual reality and what it can enable?

[00:31:16.361] Rob Morgan: I suppose, in terms of potential, you have to look at the fact that it's certainly not going to be solely games which defines VR's future. It may not even, in the first few years, be mainly games which gets it into a large number of living rooms. And I think there's nothing inherently wrong with that and knowing that that might be the case. The killer app for VR is just as likely to be an entertainment experience of one kind or another as it is likely to be, you know, the half-life of VR. The potential for me is that I suppose I have the luxury of not being too fussed about how much take up there is on the hardware and how many people own the headset and how many people sit in their living room playing with the headset because I am waiting to see the moment when VR and augmented reality, which I could, I mean, that's a whole other topic that I could do this whole spiel about all over again. VR, AR, wearables are part of an integrated way that we encounter the world and the capacity to create a fictional layer onto reality that allows you to share a fictional layer with other people, to encounter the world in a way that reflects emotion rather than reality and that can tell the kinds of stories and allow people to navigate the world in a way that is story-driven and that allows you to add an additional emotional layer to your journey to work or to you going out for a day trip on the weekend. And so I guess my vision for VR would be that there are amazing sole VR, primarily VR experiences coming, but that we have to kind of acknowledge the fact that within the 10-year plan would have to be about convergence, and about bringing it together with augmented reality, bringing it together with wearables, and creating an experience that is beamed into the player's eyeballs, but that isn't about blanking the player out from the rest of the world, unless they want to be. And it's about creating worlds for the player that are just as real as the player wants them to be, and aren't just as real as we can make them.

[00:33:31.053] Kent Bye: Great. Well, thank you so much.

[00:33:32.616] Rob Morgan: Thank you.

More from this show