‘Windlands’ Developer On VR Motion Controls: “Oculus Touch Is The Way To Go”

by Joe Durbin • July 7th, 2016

Windlands is one of the most tragically overlooked virtual reality games of this inaugural generation. Described by some as a Spider-Man simulator, Windlands is essentially Bionic Commando meets Myst. The game utilizes truly brilliant locomotion systems – such as parkour, wall jumping, and its core grapple mechanic – to send you leaping, swinging, and plummeting around a beautifully rendered map with a subtly engaging narrative.

Perhaps the one downside to this woefully underrated gem is that it requires you to play it with an Xbox controller on the Oculus Rift. Even though Windlands is quite successful at creating a fun, immersive game even with a more rudimentary controller, it is still somewhat disappointing to miss out on the amazing experience it would be to go full-Spider-Man through hand tracking. The HTC Vive offers an option that somewhat delivers on this goal, but the Rift remains stuck in Xbox mode until the release of Touch. 

It was therefore an absolute delight when Windlands developer Psytec Games made the announcement in May that Windlands would be getting Oculus Touch support. UploadVR recently had the chance to speak with Jon Hibbins – Psytec’s CEO – via Skype concerning the process of adapting his game for these new control styles.

Windlands

“Yes, shout it from the rooftops, yell it from the hills, Windlands is getting Oculus Touch support,” Hibbins says jovially when asked about developing specifically for the upcoming system. When asked which of the two input methods works best for his game, Hibbins’ response is surprisingly candid:

“Oculus Touch is the best way to play Windlands ever. We’ve done the best we can with the Vive controllers but, honestly the hardware is fighting us. These are both amazing devices but, for Windlands at least, Oculus Touch is the way to go.” 

On the subject of VR controls in general, Hibbins makes it very clear that he is a staunch believer in developers creating custom locomotion systems, rather than relying on blink, or teleportation mechanics.

“The future of VR is not blink, not teleportation, and not room scale,” Hibbins said. “I have been, and continue to be, very vocal about this…Fundamentally, I think that designing games around 12×12 rooms is a bad experience and not the overall future of VR. We need to focus on designing creative and useful locomotion rather than relying on these simple solutions.”

This philosophy bodes well for fans of Windlands hoping to see Touch add to the game rather than detract from it and Hibbins certainly agrees.

“You haven’t seen anything yet. These controllers are the way the game was meant to be played. People are going to really enjoy it,” Hibbins said.

According to Hibbins, Windlands Touch update will release “slightly ahead of the Touch launch” which is still ambiguously scheduled for end-of-year 2016. Looks like the Oculus Touch vs. HTC Vive controller debate is really starting to heat up.

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  • Mane Fit

    “The future of VR is not blink, not teleportation, and not room scale,” Hibbins said. “I have been, and continue to be, very vocal about this…Fundamentally, I think that designing games around 12×12 rooms is a bad experience and not the overall future of VR. We need to focus on designing creative and useful locomotion rather than relying on these simple solutions.” I love this quote cause I agree with him

    • ThreeOlives

      I do too, completely. Room-scale is awesome but not universally useful. It’s perfect for something like Job Simulator where you only need to take a couple of steps in any direction but to me at least, kind of gets in the way for larger worlds. It’s nice to see others who aren’t blindly in love with room-scale.

      • Steve Dennis

        Nothing of this nature is universally useful though. It’ll always depend on the game. Room scale or standing experiences are great because they offer something a bit different (hover junkers, the climb), but if you just want more traditional style games, then yeah his quote is on point. We can have both, and that’s totally fine.

        • ThreeOlives

          You’re absolutely right. There seem to be too many people who refuse to admit that though. Neither room-scale nor motion controls are appropriate (necessary?) in all circumstances. Say that on /r/vive though and you’ll get destroyed. There are an unfortunate number of folks who think that if the game isn’t room-scale with motion controls it doesn’t deserve to exist. I’m personally a big fan of standing experiences with maybe a step or two in any direction. SPT, Audioshield, Final Approach, etc. I think of those as standing but it seems to be a bit of a grey area. I also love DG2, Technolust, and Blaze Rush. There’s room for all games!

      • Mane Fit

        agree

    • Martin MAurer

      I like it, too, but I´m very sceptic on anyone solving the riddle of motion sickness without blinking soon. Not that i wouldn´t love to see it happening.

  • Brad Blackmere

    I think this is mainly driven by the analog stick. That’s the thing i miss the most when playing Windlands with the Vive wands. For some jumping puzzle sections it’s actually easier to fire up the game with a gamepad instead of the dual grapple hooks. It’s nice to have the option!

    • ThreeOlives

      For sure! The touchpad is a poor substitute for an analog stick. I find it much easier, though still not great, to play Windlands by just holding up on the touchpad to move in the direction I’m facing. I haven’t played in a while but don’t you have to squeeze the grips to jump too? Touch basically integrates the Xbox controller with motion wands and I can’t wait for that. It’s the best of both worlds.

  • Doctor Bambi

    “Windlands is essentially Bionic Commando meets Myst”. Holy crap, where was that marketing campaign? That sounds amazing! I will definitely get this on touch.

    • Joe Durbin

      haha sometimes things just come to you. thanks friend

    • Matthew White

      It’s one of my favorite of the early games.

  • Yannick Krempp

    Windlands… the only game I had to return because I couldn’t handle the motion sickness…

    • Joe Durbin

      I hear this often but it literally never bothered me. My advice is come back to it when you have some more VR experience. Once you’re more trained in VR those same sensations become amazing rather than nauseating.

      • Yannick Krempp

        Thanks but eventhough I’m getting used to VR motion (and developped strategies to avoid the sickness, see post above), this is the game I just can’t play.

      • Martin MAurer

        To some extent yes, but getting sick is ultimately not a matter of training your brain. Unless you take some 10000 years of time to actually evolve the human brain.

    • Matthew White

      If you turn on the comfort cage and snap turning the nausea goes away.

      • Yannick Krempp

        Well, what helps me the most in these situations is to squint my eyes, and adjusting my headset to have the lenses farther from my eyes, resulting in a smaller FOV. Less immersion, but also less nausea… Alas, in this case it didn’t help enough.

        • Frank

          That’s the solution Ubisoft implemented programmatically for Eagle Flight. Sharp turns black out the view of the area you’re turning to, reducing what you see until you straighten out.

          Apparently it works really well.

          • Yannick Krempp

            Yep, did the trick for me. Eagle flight seems very nice, but always thought i would never be able to play it. So at least now I have hope…

    • I have zero problem with windlands on vive and my cv1 owning friend also has zero issue playing it.

      • Sam Kennedy

        Good for you, do you need to post that everytime someone says they got sick off the game? Personally I didnt get sick off of it but I know a ton of people who did/have. This is a problem and its based off the sensitivity of your vestibular system some people can handle it and others cant. The VR legs thing is kind of bullshit and VR will never grow we expect people to empty their stomachs a few times before they can enjoy VR. I have no problem with games pushing the limits as long as they let people know (which windlands has done a decent job of) I have a problem with you and others telling people to suck it up or go play nintendo though.

        • And I have a problem with people buying games like Windlands and Toy Plane Heroes and then ranting and posting negatives on steam because they got sick. If you have a predisposition to motion sickness then stay away from games you know are likely to cause it. I’ve actually read rants from nausea people demanding a developer change their game mechanics to suit their nausea. That makes me angry.

          VR legs thing is kind of bullshit is it? I have read statements from VR users who suffer from nausea who were determined to train themselves to overcome it. That won’t work in extreme cases but it certainly works for less severe.

          A lot of the nausea hysteria was generated during the DK1 and DK2 stages of VR… We know that hardware was much more likely to induce nausea. Problem is that hysteria still dominates VR gaming although it’s much less of a problem since CV1 and Vive.

          You’re right about me telling people to suck it up and play nintendo. I myself have never played nintendo. I should have said go read a book or go jogging, or go play chess. Avoid sailing or flying.

    • Steve Dennis

      Glad you were able to. VR needs demos, asap.

  • Chieftexas

    This guy is clearly another Oculus shill. There is no logical argument against room scale. Should it be used for any/all locomotion? No and no one is arguing for that – but having physical space to maneuver in to perform attacks, dodges, or interact with objects, etc. is always going to be more natural/intuitive than being confined to making those movements with a controller.

    • Joe Durbin

      Wow these Oculus Shills are just getting more and more popular these days. You should write a list “5 Ways To Recognize An Oculus Sellout” Im guessing “doesn’t think room-scale is the answer to everything” would be #1

      • jlschmugge

        It’s been even easier to spot those grumbling Vive shills as well. They are always threatened that anything can compete with their beloved overpriced system.

        • unreal_ed

          We’ll see if it’s overpriced once the Oculus Touch price is announced

    • OkinKun

      He’s not really arguing against room-scale at all..
      He’s arguing against the current locomotion methods, which ALL VR games need to use in some form, unless the whole game takes place in 1 spot. He thinks they’re too simple, and don’t really solve the problem. He’s not saying room-scale is bad, he’s saying that CURRENT room-scale is limited, or at least forced to work within the limitations of 1 room, and not moving from that spot, without teleporting or motion sickness. There HAS to be some way to address this, but no one has come up with quite the right solution yet.
      Both the Vive and Oculus + Touch can do room-scale, he’s not specifically arguing about that, he’s arguing about HOW we do locomotion in games.. And when he says Touch is better, it’s because a Joystick is a much better locomotion system than the Vive’s touch-pads.

    • Sam Kennedy

      Yea I have listened to this dev on many different occasions on podcasts and your kind of right. He makes some good points but he is definitely more Oculus minded. That being said I think that the Oculus Touch controllers will be superior in a lot of ways and I am looking forward to getting mine. Touch is focusing a lot more on hand presence and for a controller that is coming out 8 months later than the Vive wands I would assume they would be working on things to make it better than their competitors, they are already at a disadvantage in a lot of ways by not providing it all in one package and most VR writers will tell you this was a pretty big mistake. They are trying to make up for that with a superior controller.

      Now I dont think it will be superior for every use case, and this has been said as much by people who have used both. With hand presence and picking things up the touch is going to win with its capacitive sensors etc. In terms of your controller representing an object you pick up, like a sword or shield and in terms of throwing things (like spells , Objects etc) I think the vive has an advantage in its form factor and as much was said at E3 when people where comparing the 2 of them. Each will have their own advantages and use cases, in terms of the more technologically impressive one that will be the Oculus touch controllers, they have had time now to see what the competition have come out with and chosen to release something superior in a lot of ways.

      If you implement the touch pads properly I think they can act pretty close to a joystick, since they have capacitive touch implementing them so sliding your finger across them in any one direction will move you in that direction like a joystick creates a pretty decent version of a joystick. Maybe not perfect but it can replicate a Joystick reasonably well.

  • Maximilian Martinez

    Yeah, we’re supposed to trust the opinions of the makers of the #1 motion sickness generator? These folks are *definitely* in touch with solid VR design principles.

    • No vr game has ever made me sick and windlands has more than 70 percent positive feedback.

      I’m no longer an octopus user but the dev is right about crappy blink and teleport.

      I bought Windlands precisely because it can make me feel like I’m falling out feel dizzy. I love that realism in vr.

      If you need to go and spew because of a vr game then go and play nintendo.

      • Ravusy

        Same here, no sickness at all, finally a game where standing in a karate stance is useful :).

        • I’ll have to try the karate stance tonight.

          • Ravusy

            Youtube: Zenkutsu Dachi

          • Roger Bentley

            Windlands is a game. And I have never gotten sick with that game it does make you feel wobbly only because when your in the game and jumping of mountains it really feels like your doing it. And that a good testament of good vr. Anytime u just want to relieve a Lil stress jump into windlands.

    • Steve Dennis

      It makes me about as sick as actually jumping off enormous heights and swinging by a rope attached to my face probably would, so I don’t think the movement style is entirely the problem here.

    • overclockerguy25

      never been sick in VR (playing all intense games) for several months now…

  • Pistol Pete

    Wrong! 12x12ft gaming space is an amazing experience. When used in the right circumstances. I do agree with you we need to find a full locomotion technique. But Oculus touch is just limiting the experience even more to standing in one spot only. Fail!

    • Steve Dennis

      Oculus touch isn’t doing that it all. There’s plenty of indications that it’ll support reasonable room-scale if developers want to support that.

      • duked

        True, but Oculus themselves recommend developers to do Touch games 180 degrees (devs don’t *have* to follow these recommendations, though).

      • Sam Kennedy

        Well Oculus is doing that for touch, its the developers that will potentially expand the capabilities. I own both, and I still doubt I am going to run Oculus Sensor cords all over my house and find places (that have to be much closer together than my Lighthouse sensors) to put these things up. They have to be around 10 feet apart or less for proper tracking, you would have to be using a pretty small room to make that happen properly, or start putting props up to accomodate it. Right now my Vive sensors are 6 m’s apart, when the Vive first came out I got a warning about it being more than 5.5 m but I guess they realized it works at 6 because I stopped getting the warning after one of the updates. Even though the actual space I play in is only 3Mx3M its very convenient with the lighthouse sensors that dont have to be tethered to a computer and can be far enough apart that I can just Velcro them on either side of my wall.

        Maybe more people have rooms that are less than 10 feet diagonally across than I think though. It just seems like its going to be a major hassle with touch and I am sure I will be perfectly happy playing with the Oculus recommended set up anyways. For those that dont own a Vive as well though, I could see how it would be enticing to make that set up work.

    • Sebastien Mathieu

      agreed !!

    • Ned Hoon

      There are already plenty of videos out showing touch being used in Vive games without any issues and the play space is pretty much even with the Vive so I dont know where your getting this stand in one place opinion from because its wrong.

  • Peter S

    Wind lands is overlooked because it’s a format that no one else has adopted. it makes players sick.

  • UploadVR should do a cross-promotion with a popcorn maker…

  • Sebastien Mathieu

    Room scale is Bad???? anyway for me, way better than sitting with an xbox controller in hands…..!!

    • Sebastien Mathieu

      Hover junker is a perfect example on how room scale can be super well designed…. and perfectly adapted to VR

  • Kalderan

    Gotta love all the Occufanboys hating on roomscale and standing experiences. Isnt it enough you have facebook buying up exclusives for your adorable little marketplace? Interesting how Hibbins doesnt clarify his “the hardware is fighting us” comments given that the game has worked with the Vive controllers just fine and gives you the real sensation of web swinging. Is it Vives fault that they got their shit together and launched with a completed product? So sad the excitement over one clearly Occu-bought dev who decides to criticise the control system of at least half his customer base. Clearly he’s not a fan of money. Flame me all you want im off to play Raw Data, wonder how well so many of these fully featured, polished, roomscale games will translate to a fixed 180 degree view. Face it guys your system was designed for seated experiences, enjoy chair in a room lol