Update (11/16/18): After seeing the rumors about the PSVR 2 today, we decided to republish this editorial that explores how the existing PSVR library could be greatly enhanced by updated hardware.
Original (02/26/18): Apex Construct’s release this week once again brought about a recurring topic in its reviews: PlayStation VR’s limited tracking and Move controllers restrict what is an otherwise great experience. The 180-degree tracking makes traversing an entire virtual world much more finicky than it should be and the lack of analog sticks on the controllers make locomotion a hassle. It’s an unfortunate reality that many of us have learned to live with so as to enjoy otherwise incredible experiences like Skyrim VR.
But, as frustrating as these issues can be, they also make me very, very excited for the future of PSVR.
Every VR game out there right now is going to benefit from better headsets; this much is obvious. The Vive Pro demonstrates that we’ll soon be enjoying the same great content with much crisper visuals that keep us better immersed in the worlds we’re exploring. But PSVR is a special case because the room for improvement with Sony’s headset is so massive that we’re foaming at the mouth thinking about playing the VR games we already have today in three to five year’s time.
Why? Well, on the surface, there’s the very simple stuff. Presumably, PSVR 2 would be a headset that works with a hypothetical successor to the PS4 and PS4 Pro: PS5. That’s a huge benefit right from the off; PS4’s limited processing power has been a sore point for developers porting Rift and Vive games to the platform but, should PS5 be backwards compatible, teams could have an easier time bringing their console ports up to standard with the PC version thanks to increased horsepower (even the PS4 Pro gives developers a lot more to work with, but games have to support the standard PS4 too). No more blurry textures in Arizona Sunshine, for example, or perhaps a little less pop-in in Apex Construct.
Then there’s the basic specs of hardware itself. You’d have to assume PSVR 2’s display will be a significant bump up from the original’s functional if dated 1080p OLED screen. The further out the headset is the more viable it is that we could get a 3K or maybe even (if we’re really lucky) a 4K display fitted into the device. From day one, then, we can revisit worlds like Skyrim and Resident Evil 7 and feel much more immersed from a purely visual perspective.
More than any other aspect, though, it’s controllers and tracking that stand to benefit the most from the hardware upgrade. With some fine-tuning, you can get a pretty good setup for PSVR right now but you still won’t be able to turn around when using the Move controllers (the camera can’t track what it can’t see) and you’ll still experience some drift even when you’re not moving. It’s also all too easy to move outside of the camera’s field of view or struggle to get the right lighting conditions for perfect tracking. As new inside-out solutions and improved SteamVR tracking nears, PSVR is looking older by the day.
Imagine a PSVR 2 with backwards compatibility that fixes all of that. The ability to turn around when enemies circle you in Skyrim, raise your gun to your sights in Arizona without tracking confusing one tracking light for the other. Perhaps this could be achieved with the same inside-out tracking seen on Microsoft’s mixed reality headsets, eliminating the need for a camera entirely.
And, as for those Move controllers, we’re praying that something comes of recent Sony patents for improved designs. Developers have done the best they can with the archaic designs of these devices, originally built for the PS3, but there’s only so much you can achieve without full 360 tracking and an analog stick or trackpad.
Simply put, provided backwards compatibility is included, once PSVR 2 is here the PSVR community will already have an expansive library of great content that will be hugely improved. The patience so many of us have shown will be rewarded with hours of immersive content that we can dive right back into and enjoy like it was our first time in VR all over again.
So next time a PSVR game is held back by the hardware, don’t despair at a wasted $20. Instead, close your eyes and think ahead to a time when these issues will be a distant memory and you’re enjoying the exact same experience with none of the issues facing us today.