PSX 2016 – StarBlood Arena Preview – Multiplayer VR Madness (PSVR)
VR sickness has been one of the constants in every conversation I have about VR. Players who have never played in VR bring this up as an excuse to never have to like it or try it, because VR sickness is truly subjective and you can’t say that they are inherently wrong or lying. And while true, many people do experience varying degrees of VR sickness when the body and mind are at conflict in virtual reality, this is not a dogma that can be applied to the platform as a whole, but rather specific titles that misuse the medium.
I’ve only rarely experienced feelings of unease in a few select VR titles — notably those with lack of grounding and full range movement — I found myself getting queasy just watching the trailer for StarBlood Arena with all of its twisting and turning three-dimensional mech combat. If RIGS made me feel a little light headed, of course the first question I had to ask the StarBlood Arena team was “How are you mitigating and eliminating the potential for VR sickness?”
Ask the guys at WhiteMoon Dreams about a technical aspect of their game — like preventing players from getting sick — and you’ll see their eyes light up as they answer in extraordinary detail. This is something they take very seriously and they’ve got a large number of mechanics and tricks in place to optimize player comfort, including, but not limited to, high frame rates, high resolutions, and creating focal points in the center of the screen away from movement in players’ peripheral vision. It’s a concoction of elements that come together to create a fun and great looking game without compromising health and comfort. Their passionate answers got me curious, so I sat down and put on the VR headset to try out Starblood Arena for myself.
I’ve seen some complaints on the announcement trailer that the game looked too slow, but depth and presence do a lot, so the speed seems much faster inside of a VR headset than the trailer might indicate. There were four characters to choose from, mildly cartoony personalities that help to add a splash of color and interest. Each had varying weapon sets and abilities, so I went with the one that fit my play still. You know, the guy with loads of firepower and few special abilities, because who needs special abilities when your enemies have already fallen to the might of your guns. And fall they did.
Embrace Being Off Balance
Being able to fly around in a completely 3D space might seem insane, and it threw me off balance a little bit at first. Though I never felt sick, I did initially seek to right myself as the twisting and turning arena combat disoriented my view, never leaving me with a real sense of which way was up or down. That’s when I embraced the fact that it didn’t matter. After all, a kill is a kill whether you do it level with the ground or flipped at a 120-degree angle. I accepted this principle and by the time the demo ended, I’d landed myself with 18 kills and not a single death, which even impressed the developers.
I played against bots with difficulty ramped up, but the final game will include online multiplayer and single-player arena challenges, each across a variety of maps and modes. They indicated that with VR being such a solitary experience, it’s hard to convince your friends to get one the same way you might coax them into getting a PS4 to play a multiplayer game with you. WhiteMoon feels that StarBlood Arena could be one of the first games in which you tell your friends “Hey, you need to get a PlayStation VR so that we can play this together!”
Of course WhiteMoon Dreams is just getting started. This is only the announcement of StarBlood Arena, allowing gamers to get a basic idea of what the game is. It was hinted to me that the months leading to launch will feature reveals of more characters, game modes, and even a pretty big reveal for the game that has the potential to really blow people away. Whatever it ends up being, StarBlood Arena will definitely be a game to watch as it nears its release in Spring 2017.