Back in the summer of 2012, I had the pleasure of meeting with game industry luminary John Carmack at QuakeCon. A little over a year before joining Oculus VR, the id Software co-founder was already sharing his passion for virtual reality at the annual convention.
Before his longtime hobby officially became his full-time job, Carmack was showing off the now-fabled DOOM 3 BFG Edition demo—complete with an Oakley-ski-goggles-and-duct-tape headset. I don’t remember much of the game itself, but I can easily recall Carmack enthusiastically talking about the technology’s potential, while gently guiding me over a hazardous tangle of wires lying at my feet.
Armed with fond memories of that meeting, a much greater interest in VR, and many, many questions, I returned to QuakeCon this year to play demos for Bethesda’s VR renditions of Fallout 4 and DOOM. While the content was similar to what I’d experienced at E3 already, I had the good fortune of following my time in the Wasteland—and Hell—with a VR-focused chat with Bethesda Softwork’s VP of PR and Marketing, Pete Hines.
UploadVR: With the reveal of Fallout 4 VR, some folks mistakenly believed Bethesda’s adoption of the tech was recent. Can you clear that up and talk about some of the relevant history?
Pete Hines: Yeah, we had any number of folks at id, tech guys and engine guys, who were really interested in the idea of VR and taking games to this new platform…this new way of playing them and experiencing them. We thought it was a cool way to both show off what we were doing and also talk about DOOM 3 BFG, which id was working on at the time. We also did 3D support for that edition, so it was part of a thing we were doing around DOOM 3 BFG…you could play in 3D or, “Hey, here’s a VR demo of it.”
Pete Hines: Yes, [VR is] something we’ve continued to work on and Fallout 4 is the first full game that we’ve announced for it. It’s for the HTC Vive, and it’s going to be a standalone VR version of Fallout 4. It’s the entire game…V.A.T.S., shooting, combat, exploration, crafting, and all that stuff. You can walk across the world and, the idea is, you can explore and do all the stuff you do in Fallout 4, but now you’re doing it in Virtual Reality. Instead of pressing a button to pull your Pip-Boy up, you literally lift your arm in front of your face to see it; and you get to look down and there is your dog looking up at you. There’s still a lot of stuff we want to do in terms of controls and so forth, but we want it to be a really cool, immersive, interactive experience.
UploadVR: And why’d Bethesda decide to go with Vive?
Pete Hines: I think it’s really more of a dev thing. They looked at what they wanted to do, what best fit, and they just felt like the Vive was the way they wanted to go as far as the experience they wanted to have with the controls and everything else. It felt like the right fit to go with first. Whether or not we do any others, I honestly can’t say…I don’t know.
UploadVR: Seems it would be a perfect fit for PlayStation VR…
Pete Hines: I think we will continue to look at all of them, but I think it was more of a thing like, “Well, we have to start somewhere.” And based on where the Vive was, and working with the folks at Valve and knowing some of them that are involved with this, it was the clearest path to moving forward on something. But again, that doesn’t mean we won’t do it on anything else.
UploadVR: So far VR experiences have generally been on the shorter side. How do you think a massive game like Fallout 4 will be received?
Pete Hines: I don’t know what the answer to that is for sure. We’re making a very large game available for VR, so if [VR’s] only a thing that works is short digestible one, two, three hour things, well, then we’re probably in pretty big trouble because you can’t do very much in Fallout 4 in one, two, or three hours. So, I don’t know, we’ll see. I think like a lot of things, there is room for everything.
UploadVR: Do you have similar plans for DOOM...eventually releasing a full game?
Pete Hines: You know DOOM well enough to know that playing the game that they just shipped in virtual reality is probably an impossible thing to pull off. If you are moving around that fast and that crazy, you are just going to hurl. This was looking more at, well, “What could we do with DOOM that still felt like DOOM, but doesn’t require you to move around so fast and aggressively…that would probably be a little too much.” This is more of a demo of them figuring out what that might look like, and letting folks play it and react to it. We are continuing to sort of look at what a full product might be, but I don’t have any info or plans on that.
UploadVR: And how about Bethesda’s other studios—any VR plans in the pipeline?
Pete Hines: You talk to anybody from the different studios…Arkane, Machine Games, Tango, ESO…they are VR enthusiasts and folks who are really into it and trying to figure out what we can do with these things. “Can we take a game that we are making and put it out on VR? Can we do something special?” It’s something that these guys and gals., who are enthusiasts, interested in VR, tech, and video games…it’s just natural that you’re going to have folks across all of these studios who are looking into how can we take advantage of this and what can we do with it.
UploadVR: And Bethesda typically seems more interested in fresh ideas rather than just getting every popular property out on every single platform?
Pete Hines: It’s what makes Bethesda different. I think we try very hard not to approach things from that direction. It’s got to be dev-focused and dev-driven, and the people who are making the thing have to have the vision, otherwise it comes off as a half-assed. So yeah, whether it’s Arkane or id or whomever…it’s about doing it kind of the way it fits best…doing stuff that’s unique or a different take even on a well-known genre that we’re trying to cut against the grain a little bit and try something other folks aren’t.
UploadVR: So safe to say VR will be a serious part of Bethesda’s business going forward?
Pete Hines: I think so for sure. But for us, it’s just that. It’s a part. I am not one that ever believes in any piece of hardware or feature when people are like, “This is the future of gaming.” It’s like, “No, you don’t get to decide that.” Gaming is too wide and diverse a thing. I see tons of people playing stuff on their phones, and playing stuff on PC, and console; and retro stuff and indie is really cool and popular. I think just like mobile gaming and everything else, I see VR being an important part, but there is still going to be lots of other ways moving forward that people are going to want to play and experience games. So we will have to see, going forward, which studios have things that they feel are good fits for mobile VR, whatever it is.
UploadVR: Speaking of mobile, what do you think of the Pokemon Go craze? Could we see Bethesda jump into augmented reality next?
Pete Hines: I think it’s great, it’s fantastic. I have not played it at all, but I immediately saw it and thought, “That is really cool.” It immediately jumped to mind like, “Ooh, we could do this or that, or we could do our own take with this thing.”
UploadVR: Any specific ideas you can share?
Pete Hines: No, because then I’d be giving people the idea that it’s something we are actually considering, and I don’t want to give anybody that false impression. Because, again, it doesn’t really matter what I think, it matters what the people who have the creative vision and the know-how to make that a reality think.
UploadVR: What do you personally think of the current crop of VR offerings?
Pete Hines: To be perfectly honest, I have played pretty much nothing. I don’t own a VR headset yet, so I have to say, I’m fairly ignorant. I mean, I see the announcements, the trailers, and I read the stuff. But I haven’t played any of that stuff, so I certainly wouldn’t want to pass judgment. But I’m anxious to see where everybody else goes and where we go, as it starts to grow and mature, and folks start to really wrap their heads around it.
Matt is a freelance writer with bylines at other industry outlets such as Digital Trends, IGN, Techradar, and more. Follow him on Twitter: @.