Convrge developers introduce improved ‘ghosting,’ a method for VR locomotion
Locomotion in VR has been a hot topic lately because it has been such a difficult issue to solve. Moving the player in first person virtually when they don’t move physically can lead to a number of issues with nausea, a big no no for consumer VR. In this guest post, Hayden Lee, co-founder of Convrge – a popular social VR app – details his most recent approach to locomotion in VR.
Over the last week we’ve been experimenting with a new way of artificially moving in VR. Current locomotion systems have either been a) motion sick inducing, b) not as fun as they could be, or c) not great for social interaction. Our goal was to come up with a system that solves these problems in an enjoyable way.
We’re calling our method: Ghosting.
To move, you spawn a ghost which you control around the world like a standard player in a game with WASD or Arrow Keys. Left click spawns the ghost, left click again teleports you to the ghost’s position, right click removes the ghost and moving the mouse controls the view of the ghost.
After some user testing we added the ability to move very, very slowly around the world in first person with WASD keys when you don’t have an active ghost. This means you don’t have to spawn a ghost just to move a foot to the left, but it can be toggled off for people that are exceptionally prone to motion sickness. I have a pretty weak stomach so we made the movement slow enough that I feel fine (however please let us know if you try it and find it uncomfortable).
The system ended up being a combination of third-person movement and point-to-teleport (like The Gallery’s Blink system).
There are some unexpected benefits we came across while play testing. First and foremost was that it was fun to drive a ghost around the world. When we networked the ghosts it was extremely fun to have ghost races. Another problem it solves is that of giving users personal space in social VR. It’s not fun to have somebody inhabit the same space as you in VR, it can feel quite unnerving. With ghosting we disable the ability to teleport when you are close to other players to attempt to give people some personal space.
There are still some issues with this system. It’s not an easy interaction to describe so there is a learning curve in order to use it fluidly. Its also very gamer-centric which means the learning curve is even higher for “non-gamers.” The last big issue is the problem with controlling a character in third person that is orientated differently to yourself. This is highlighted by having a ghost face toward you and then noticing that left actually move the ghost to your right. This disconnect may be hard for some users.
Due to recommendations from friends we also experimented with a PiP (picture in picture) mode where you can see the ghost’s view in first person displayed on a screen below you. This changed the system a lot by letting you control the ghost when it would otherwise be out of sight. We ended up removing it as it was too distracting and we felt it ruined the atmosphere of our world. If you want to try the build feel free to email me and I’ll send it your way.
Locomotion in VR is a huge issue and one that deserves more time than is currently being given. Developers: don’t make the assumption it’s a solved problem! A bad locomotion system can render your work on gameplay and art useless if the player insta-quits at first sign of sickness. Unfortunately the standard first-person shooter movement scheme just doesn’t cut it. Hopefully Ghosting is a step in the right direction of a fun, comfortable way to move in VR. Would love to hear your thoughts!
We’re hosting an event tonight at 9pm EST to test out the new system with a bunch of people at once. Add the time to your calendar here: https://addthisevent.com/event/?me76530 I’ll be posting the new build a few hours before the event.