SUPERHOT VR is one of the standout VR games to come out with the Oculus Touch launch with it’s unique blend of the mechanics of a first-person shooter but with the strategy of a puzzle game. Physics-based interactions in VR are already compelling since it helps to cultivate plausibility within our brains through the expectation loop of prediction and observation. Tying your movements to the progression of time within the game provided me with a awe-inspiring experience of the fabric of space-time that’s completely unique to VR and feels like it’s re-wired my brain.
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I had a chance to catch up with the game designer Piotr Iwanicki at Oculus Connect 3 where we talked about how they had to ditch the original teleportation mechanic and really focus on cultivating a sense of body presence using the Oculus Touch controllers. He also talks about the joys of a moving in a slow motion ballet environment while being the midst of a non-stop, intense action-movie sequence. Even though the bullet-dodging mechanic is primarily based upon your head positions and not your lower body movements, the low fidelity graphics offer a blank slate for you to project your full sense of body presence into the experience. As Piotr says, “most of the action is happening in your head.” So much so that one developers kicked over a monitor after getting so immersed and forgetting that their feet were not even being tracked.
There’s a distinct lack of abstracted gameplay within SUPERHOT VR that’s based upon your physical body movements, and so it’s able to cultivate a deep sense of embodied presence. The perceived danger of red crystal enemies running at you with guns pointed at your head also contributes to the “bat test” insight that presence can be increased when there’s an artificial threat presented. You’re also able to do a series of slow-motion actions that just make you feel like a complete badass. Overall, SUPERHOT VR is one of the more innovative gameplay mechanics that I’ve seen in VR so far. It’s compelling enough to give new VR users a taste of what type of gaming experiences are uniquely possible within VR, but also has a lot of deep lessons for VR designers for how cultivate and maintain a deep sense of presence.
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