Virtual reality is a newly emerging, and very exciting concept. It enables us to take our minds to new places – to explore, to discover, and to really feel immersed in what seems like a very real environment… except it isn’t real… you’re wearing headgear. This marvellous headgear is due to become a new addition to the PlayStation universe, which means it is time to jump into your PlayStation worlds – to really feel like you are in the game.
The Sony hardware project, dubbed “Project Morpheus”, attempts to revolutionise the PlayStation world, by providing users a virtual reality headset with which to play the games you love in a more personal perspective. The question is: will this revolutionise PlayStation? Technology such has this has only just emerged, and is obviously in its early stages; but it has great potential. Instead of just moving the player around and seeing his/her/its perspective from a distanced viewpoint, you will only see what your character sees. There is no background image, no TV bezel to distract you… people alone can’t even distract you. You are inside this character’s mind, and you are playing out its own reality. As aforementioned, this makes a world of difference. You move your head, the character does too; your character sees something in its peripheral view, so do you! As you’d expect, this adds a great deal of realism, and really amplifies your emotions – the fact that you are more immersed, means you get scared more, panic more, and collectively feel your emotions more; you really make a connection with the game. In concept, this could well be the next big evolutionary step PlayStation takes.
In terms of specifications, Morpheus operates with “high FOV, 6DOF head-tracking, stereoscopic 3D, and an unwarped output to a TV for others to view what the user sees.” Judging by this, Sony hasn’t lacked in the technology department. This isn’t some flimsy prototype, but something that may be worth waiting for… and, if we consider these specifications, we can see that a clear advantage is the field of view. The FOV would operate in much the same way as human FOV does; wide, and natural. In addition, there seems to be a 3D effect; the environment will also pop out, as if you could almost touch it. What’s not to like?
A problem here, especially in its early days, is finding games that are compatible with the device. Compatibility has always been a problem when new developments arise, and, sadly, this would also indefinitely be affected. How would Sony inspire and persuade cunning developers and gamers to try out Morpheus, to take risks? I can’t honestly imagine it taking off at any impressive speed; developers would be overwhelmed with pressure to make their games compatible, or lose out on mass profit. Because of this, Sony would pressure first-party developers like Naughty Dog to produce games that are compatible. This would encourage other, third-party developers to see the potential Morpheus has. Further difficulty, however, would evidently occur when the game a developer is producing a third-person game; how would Morpheus be compatible with that? It wouldn’t. This limits the range of games available for Morpheus and its users. Furthermore, with a tiny library of games that are compatible, Morpheus would barely be used. Gamers want something that just works, and doesn’t make things more complicated. We don’t want another PS Vita situation on our hands.
Unfortunately, another, more negative side of this development would hit classic, loyal gamers hard; it just isn’t the same. Ever since the era of gaming began, millions have taken pride in their little TV screens, their miniature displays – the feel of sitting in your living room, and playing away till the early hours of the morning… somewhat still attached to the world you live in. It just doesn’t feel the same to be blinded, and thrown into a virtual world. Want to fetch yourself a beverage? To see the priceless expressions on other’s faces? Well, you can’t. We all love to feel accompanied, to feel a sense of teamwork; gaming isn’t just playing games, but a social opportunity, too. It is this that really puts me off Project Morpheus – I feel as if I have to sacrifice everything I know to experience something new… and that, perhaps, gives me second thoughts.