Two years into the era of consumer VR and user comfort remains a huge concern, particularly when it comes to moving around inside virtual environments. But the developers of Sublevel Zero want to take much of the legwork out of making VR accessible for all.
To that end, Sigtrap Games this week announced VR Tunnelling Pro, a Unity plug-in coming to the asset store that quickly adds in customizable comfort options to your project. As the name suggests, the plug-in is primarily focused on tunnelling, which refers to controlling the user’s field of view (FOV) to reduce the risk of simulation sickness when moving in VR.
You’ve likely already seen this method in effect: games like Skyrim VR have optional tunneling effects for when you traverse their virtual worlds with smooth locomotion. It essentially limits your peripheral vision as you move by increasingly darkening the edges of the screen. The restricted view can make movement far less overwhelming for users that suffer from sickness in VR. You can see it in action in the below trailer that uses Sigtrap’s cockpit shooter, Sublevel Zero, as a showcase.
VR Tunnelling Pro, which is designed to work for all major VR platforms from PC to mobile and standalone, automates this tunnelling process for your game whilst also providing options for you to customize it. Instead of simply fading the edges of the screen to black, for example, you might instead choose to blur the image to maintain a sense of being in the world. It also includes other comfort options like 3D cages, windows views and more.
The issue, of course, is that tunnelling limits immersion just as much as it reduces comfort. For some users the trade-off will be worth it to enjoy VR without any nausea. Others, though, are still in search of more definitive methods of comfort.
“From the outset it’s been clear to us that VR comfort is a very personal thing – what one player responds well to might have no effect, or even a negative effect, for another,” Sigtrap’s Dr. Luke Thompson told UploadVR. “So VRTP is designed from the ground up to be highly customizable, not only by the developer but players as well. For players who are distracted by the tunnelling effect, there are various ways to make it less intrusive (although it should also be noted that for most players, we’ve found they hardly notice the tunnelling effect in the first place while still getting the comfort benefits from it).”
VR Tunnelling Pro will be available for $40 when it launches. It will include the full source code so developers can make tweaks as they see fit.