Tekton Games’ Announcement Regarding New Virtual Reality Locomotion System
Tekton Games announces their development of WalkAbout — an exciting new locomotion system for room-scale virtual reality that allows users to explore arbitrarily large virtual environments comfortably on foot using only a relatively small play area. This new system will be featured in their soon-to-be-announced psychological thriller/horror title, The Dark Within, coming to the HTC Vive among other VR platforms.
Since the beginning of the modern era of virtual reality, the question of how to allow a user to explore an arbitrarily large virtual environment in a way that is natural and comfortable has plagued the industry. Tekton Games believes it has finally found an effective and novel solution that is suitable to a wide array of VR applications, allowing users to traverse large virtual areas on foot in comfort without requiring any additional hardware such as a treadmill.
Tekton Games Presents the WalkAbout System
The WalkAbout system allows users to look in the direction they wish to travel in the virtual environment, and then hold down a button to enter the WalkAbout system. Once engaged, the virtual environment is frozen in place relative to the user. The virtual world is blurred while at the same time a grid representing the physical play area in the user’s room appears.
The blurring of the environment and appearance of the grid serve to shift the user’s focus from the now frozen virtual world to a representation of the actual physical space around them, preventing the discomfort which would otherwise be caused by the mis-match of visual cues and the vestibular sense of motion. The user simply turns around until they are facing toward an open, walkable stretch of the physical play area and then releases the button to drop back out of the WalkAbout system, at which point the grid may disappear and the environment resolves back into focus. The user then continues walking in the desired direction.
The visual impression of the physical world is further re-enforced by a field of dust particles which also serve to give feedback as to which direction the player ought to turn in order to keep their headset’s cord from becoming twisted. “In initial testing, we found that with all the turning around, your cord could get twisted up really badly,” explains Brady Wright, the system’s inventor, “so I added a feature which tracks the player’s head rotation at all times and keeps track of whether the sum of that rotation is in one direction versus the other. It uses this information to give the player feedback in the form of a very subtly twirling cloud of dust particles around them which indicate the direction they should turn to keep the cord untwisted. The more twisted the cord starts to get, the more noticeable the twirling of the dust becomes.”
“When I first had the idea, I wasn’t sure how it would translate inside a game,” remarked Wright, “however once testing began, I was surprised how natural it felt, how non-disruptive it actually was, and how great a sense of freedom it gives the player. Out of all the locomotion techniques I’ve seen and tried, this one seems to be the least disorienting and most physically comfortable. It also has the added benefit of placing comparatively few constraints on game design compared to solutions like teleportation, etc. Without requiring an expensive, dedicated piece of hardware such as a treadmill, it really is the next best thing to simply having an untethered headset and a warehouse of infinite size in which to walk around.” Wright says he is excited to see how players enjoy the system in Tekton Games’ up-coming VR game, The Dark Within, but also looks forward to seeing other developers adopt the system for their games as well. “It’s not a silver bullet for every conceivable VR locomotive challenge, but I believe there is a very wide range of VR applications that can benefit greatly from WalkAbout.”
More information about Tekton Games’ WalkAbout system, as well as their up-coming game, The Dark Within, can be found at the Tekton Games site, TektonGames.com.
About Tekton Games
Tekton Games was established in 2011 by Brady Wright for the development of games with more serious, somewhat dark, thoughtful themes. Tekton Games strives to be at the cutting edge of virtual reality technology and storytelling in order to create unique, innovative, and deeply engaging experiences. Tekton Games is a brand of Above and Beyond Software LLC, creator of several mobile game titles, as well as a popular set of game development tools for the Unity game engine.