A few months ago, we brought you guys the Morpheus headset, Sony’s personal virtual reality system designed to be the next step in gaming. Since then, it’s come to rave reviews for both its design and performance, and, according to IGN, it’s slated for a 2016 release. We’re all excited about it; just seeing the demos, we know that VR with PS4‘s graphics can be done. However, trying to do a VR system for video games isn’t a new concept, and the fact we’re not all doing it now should tell you how well it turned out. Even back in the 80‘s, Sega and Nintendo both were coming out with their own VR headsets, the Sega Master System (SMS) and Virtual Boy, respectively, and both met with lackluster sales. True, the difference in tech between the 80’s and now is enormous, but at the end of the day, it’s still a question of getting people on board with this new headset.
How do we do that? Well, if history has taught us anything, the Morpheus is going to come out with a whole host of simple little games designed to show off the new capabilities of the system. If the Morpheus is going to get any traction, it has to have a game that doesn’t just show what the headset can do, or it risks becoming just another novelty. Of course, to make the best kind of game for the Morpheus, it makes sense to stick to areas where the Morpheus can really excel before guiding it to the mainstream. If we want to get the most possible advantage out of the new Morpheus headset, we’re pretty sure that a few genres will make it easy to make solid games that get people on board with this new headset.
A Mirror’s Edge Style Freerunner
Let’s look at the big advantage of the Morpheus first; with a real first-person view and the processing power of the PS4, you can make some incredible visual effects. Of course, it’s not just about pretty pictures and gorgeous landscapes; with Morpheus’ ability to deliver realistic 3D effects, we can play with the senses in ways that weren’t possible before, giving people a very real sense of scale.
With that in mind, a game like Mirror’s Edge, or more recently, Dying Light, would be a great candidate for the Morpheus’ first run. Since your peripherals are full of the landscape and your ears are connected right to the sound, it’s pretty easy to trick your brain into believing you’re actually looking up at a giant building or, slightly more terrifying, looking down from one. This is a formula that’s already worked with the Oculus Rift, the Kickstarter funded VR platform that really primed our generation for virtual reality gaming; a simple search of Youtube can point you to a few videos of people getting very real vertigo playing Mirror’s Edge with this setup. If Sony can find a good candidate for a first person freerunner game (maybe a Dying Light sequel or spin-off) that uses the Morpheus, it’ll definitely be able to bring in new players.
Continuing on the idea that “seeing is believing”, the Morpheus seems custom-made for survival horror. Combine the illusion that you’re actually walking down a small dark corridor with the jump-scare potential of the Morpheus’ motion capture, and you’ve got a recipe for real terror. Think for a moment about the 2013 hit Outlast, but imagine it with the immersive power of the Morpheus, and you’re not just playing a horror story anymore; you’re in one. While it may not seem like it from the outside, much like for Mirror’s Edge, there’s a huge difference between watching a game like that on a TV and doing it on the Morpheus; you’re so connected to the game that you start to react to it on a much deeper level.
Everything about the survival horror genre can be improved by the Morpheus; the sound is right in your ears, the screen covers all of your peripherals, and, thanks to the motion capture on the headset, the game moves with you. The isolation is more pronounced, the little visual quirks are impossible to ignore, and the jump-scares are absolutely terrifying. If any studio comes out with a horror game that really pushes the Morpheus to its limits, it’s not only going to be a hit, but it may be the deciding factor for customers who aren’t sure about buying the new headset. A good survival horror game for the Morpheus will get people buying; a great survival horror for the Morpheus will keep them awake at night.
What We DON’T Need: Full Motion Capture
Of course, for all the good ideas there are for the Morpheus, there is one avenue in particular that Sony should really stay away from, and that’s full-motion capture. The allure is there, and nobody’s denying that; after all, complete virtual reality is an incredibly tempting prospect that would make both the freerunning games and survival horror even better. As hard as it is to say, we just don’t have the technology to make full-motion capture games work yet. Case in point? Xbox 360‘s Steel Battalion: Heavy Armor. While the Steel Battalion series had met with success, due in large part to From Studio’s creative direction, Heavy Armor tried to control almost every aspect of the game with Kinect. The intentions were good (better than a $200 special control board, at any rate), but the results were catastrophic; Heavy Armor was almost universally panned because the Kinect simply wasn’t sensitive enough to react with the on-screen controls. Trying to get full-motion control with the Morpheus would be pushing a good thing too far, and it would be too ambitious to try right out of the gate. In the best case, it’ll be a novelty; in the worst case, a full motion capture game will bomb and take the Morpheus down with it. Either way, it’s a too-risky prospect for too little reward that Sony should probably avoid, at least until the technology improves.
The Morpheus seems like everything we’ve been wanting for years now; all it needs is to bring in a bit wider audience and it can become a household product. With the right games behind its launch, we might finally be able to move VR gaming from a novelty into a reality.
Dusty has interviewed some of the brightest minds in the video game industry at E3, written for Lifehacker, and much more. Dusty is also a passionate PS4 gamer who has a BA in journalism.