#22: Denny Unger on VR Comfort Mode for locomotion, VR design elements of scale, pacing, & motion tracking + Valve’s VR Room

Denny Unger is the CEO & President of Cloudhead Games, and he’s been working on the VR adventure game of The Gallery Six Elements since March 2013. Denny talks about the challenges of hardware integration as well as how to deal with rotations & locomotion within VR in a way that is comfortable for users.

denny_headshot-200x200His team has come across a “VR comfort mode” solution for rotating in VR by snapping 10 degrees at a time similar to how a dancer would focus on a specific spot while turning. He also talks about how other VR design elements such as pacing and scaling can contribute to a sense of presence.

Denny talks about the challenges with working with integrating so many different types of hardware at a point where it is still really new and raw. He sees that motion control is the future of VR because it can help create that natural sense of presence.

He then talks about Valve’s influence in VR, and how they’re working with indie and AAA developers to help integrate VR into future gaming experiences. Denny had a chance to experience Valve’s famous VR room, and gives some of his impressions of what really stuck out for him, and his vision of the future of having a living room Holodeck.

Finally, he talks about the future of VR with what he sees as low-hanging fruit of horror and first-person shooters, and that indie developers will be the ones who are innovating and helping to define the VR medium. But also that Oculus’ collaboration with Facebook has the potential to define the VR social experiences, and how that will shape the social culture of the metaverse. Denny also had one of the first successful, VR game Kickstarter campaigns, and more info on that can be found here.

Reddit discussion here.


  • 0:00 – Intro. Gallery: Six Elements. Puzzle solving adventure
  • 0:29 – Realizations of locomotion in virtual reality. Challenge to integrate all sorts of hardware. Locomotion is unchartered. How to deal with rotations & velocity in VR.
  • 1:09 – What is VR comfort mode? Any motion not driven by the user can be uncomfortable. Rotational velocity can make players nauseous because of the vestibular disconnect – VR comfort mode spins increments that is similar to spotting for spinning dancers within a software context.
  • 2:15 – How much of an offset did you use? Around 10 degrees, but not sure.
  • 2:43 – How did VR comfort mode come about. Started with 180 turn, and then brainstormed quick snap turns. Turning didn’t feel comfortable to early release players.
  • 3:43 – Is it proprietary? Want it to be adopted and become an optional standard in games.
  • 4:12 – How does scale play into designing VR experiences? A lot of engines get it right. Have to get into VR to look at it. Getting scale 1:1 will help with creating a sense of presence.
  • 4:46 – Why is pacing important? Having a slow enough velocity to realistic pacing scales for pacing and presence
  • 5:38 – Integrating motion tracking with game controllers? Implementing both. The future of VR is motion control. Right now the tools are a bit raw, but it’ll get refined. It is the ultimate experience in VR.
  • 6:28 – What were some failures of things that didn’t work. Locomotion and tank mode vs move with where you’re looking. Dealing with Unity fixes that don’t work. Making sure that your head doesn’t clip through. What happens when you push into a wall?
  • 8:00 – How do you deal with the clipping issue? A blend of dimming and other solutions.
  • 8:51 – Consulting with Oculus, Valve, and Sixense. Collaborating with Oculus VR perceptual psychologist on VR comfort mode. Ways to make it look VR comfort mode prettier. Talking with Valve about positional tracking and it’s influence on game design. Working on Steam VR overlay system that allows developers to transfer your control systems to different VR HMDs. Sixense has provided hardware support, and integrating the Razer Hydra with their game to bring in motion controls into their game in a way that’s easy for users and developers to use.
  • 11:11 – Valve’s Steam Dev Days event as a turning point for VR. Valve understands that VR will change a lot of different entertainment ecosystems over the next five years. They jumped in on it, and thinking about how it works for gamers, indie developers, and AAA shops. They showed their magical VR room as a proof-of-concept of the ultimate VR experience, and the Holodeck in your living room. That was a great experience.
  • 12:48 – Experiences of what you saw in Valves demo. Portal robots felt real since you were able to walk around it.
  • 13:42 – 4k demo scene demo that was converted to VR. It was very impressive because the sense of scale you can get from VR
  • 14:20 – Where you do see VR going? Lots of horror games and first person shooters. Indie developers will be driving a lot of the innovation. There will be lots of low hanging suit. What Oculus does with Facebook could potentially drive the market. If Zuckerberg is really enthralled with the metaverse, then would could see a radical transformation of our online culture, and how we interact with each other. Overarching change will be the social interactions.

Theme music: “Fatality” by Tigoolio