VR, or Virtual Reality, is slowly but surely making a comeback into our lives as gamers and consumers of entertainment. More and more companies are coming out with both VR headsets, like the Oculus Rift or HTC Vive, and new gaming experiences specifically designed for them. We saw eagles shouting at other eagles, people trying to frantically disarm bombs, and even what it’s like to be Batman. However, one area that is still mostly unexplored is how MMOs fit in with virtual reality.
That’s not to say there aren’t already a few MMOs that do support VR. We have a handful of first-person MMOs, like Elite Dangerous or War Thunder, that do let you use that expensive headgear you recently bought, but it isn’t a major part of the game. VR is considered to an “immersion device” - something that can only enhance your experience, but not fundamentally change it. While it’s obviously fun to fly around in VR, I still think this new technology could do much more for MMO players than just make them feel “closer” to their characters.
Yes, VR is first and foremost about immersion. Putting on the headset and diving into a whole new world can make you forget you’re sitting in your living room looking like a dope as you violently twist and turn your head during combat (I speak from experience). Being inside virtual worlds is basically what MMOs are all about, be it fantasy, sci-fi or historic settings. Virtual reality can serve to bring us deeper into our favorite digital world in ways we never dreamed before, if it’s just by offering greater immersion.
However, it can also be a powerful gameplay tool if used correctly. Imagine being able to target an enemy by simply looking at it, or navigate around the world map by slightly moving your head. Players who play MMOs with VR headsets are already reporting better response times in combat and more intuitive control over the camera, and that’s only the beginning. It seems that even in today’s very limited market for VR, players who do embrace it manage to get more out of their online games.
Now think of an MMO game designed to work specifically in VR. Not a game that supports VR, but an MMO that was built from the ground up with virtual reality in mind. The implementation could go well beyond camera control or movement. You might be able to use quick gestures to cast spells, drink a potion or issue an order to your units, like you were actually there in the world of your favorite MMORPG. If you’re more of an MMORTS player, VR can offer you both an overview of the battlegrounds for when you need a bird’s eye view of the situation, but also a deep 360° view of your base and army, so you can micromanage to your heart’s content.
I can’t say for sure what the future holds for VR and MMOs, but even as you read this, people are developing MMOs designed to work in virtual reality, and they surely have way better ideas on how to use this new medium than I have. All I know is that if the MMO scene truly embraces virtual reality, nobody will leave the house ever again.