7 votes

The sensory overload of Half-Life: Alyx points to the promise and problems of VR

2 comments

  1. [2]
    PetitPrince
    (edited )
    Link
    This article spoils a mid-to-endgame game mechanics (it spoiled me at least). It's an obvious mechanic in retrospect considering it's Half-Life, but I managed to forget this aspect of the series....

    This article spoils a mid-to-endgame game mechanics (it spoiled me at least). It's an obvious mechanic in retrospect considering it's Half-Life, but I managed to forget this aspect of the series.


    The title of this article me and how it is sorted ("Analysis") infuriate more than it should.

    It spends very little time on the sensory overload part, except for this one half paragraph:

    [...] Alyx is exhausting. Even though the game provides welcome options for seated play, it throws so many details and dynamic game mechanics at players at the same time; I felt legitimate sensory overload.

    How is this an analysis ? The author could describe how Valve introduce new game mechanics in an invisible fashion, and how it became too much (for him; I don't think Valve have done too much, or too little). Or how Nintendo also have games packed with game mechanics but how it manage to stay friendly compared to Valve (again, from his point of view) ?

    Or I've misunderstood : does the author think that motion-sickness = sensory overload ?

    Also: "the promise and problems of VR". Maybe I'm making a strawman, but I'm reading that as "VR: the good and bad aspect of it". The article competently describe how HL:A is stupidly cool and immersive, so the good parts are covered (but: no mention of industrial application ? And/or creative usages of VR like the guy who used the whiteboard markers at the beginning of HL:A to give an actual math lesson?).
    About the bad part:

    • The "headsets are expensive, the computers to run them even pricier." problem: Apart from this single sentence, no further analysis on that. I would have mentioned Oculus Quest and Vader Immortal - a Quest is still expensive and Vader Immortal is no Alyx but still goes something like 33% of the way. No mention that Valve is aware of this problem -- when presenting the Index Valve said VR needed three "pillars" for mass market VR: fidelity, low friction, and affordability. And the Index only checked the "fidelity" checkbox.
    • Motion sickness: This is developed a bit more but then I feel like the author lose a bit of credibility when he states that teleportation is a "VR compromise for anyone who gets motion sickness. ". From my point of view I rather think that Valve made it pretty clear that teleportation is no second citizen within HL:A. But even then, no mention of how Valve tried to tackle this problem (by being accessible and offering different means of locomotion) ?
    • No mention that HL:A had in practice unlimited budget (hi Steam), near-unlimited time (no investor to satisfy, hence the famous Valve time), world-class engineers (who made the Vive ?), and world-class story-tellers (they got most of the old writer team back AND they have Campo Santo)? And this combination is unlikely to be repeated?
    6 votes
    1. ShrubOfRegret
      Link Parent
      I largely read the article the same way. Half way in it seemed like they were just saying "I felt this way about it, so everyone else must have too." On top of that they really do fail to be...

      I largely read the article the same way. Half way in it seemed like they were just saying "I felt this way about it, so everyone else must have too." On top of that they really do fail to be specific.

      One thing I would have liked them to expand upon is HL:A throwing "so many details and dynamic game mechanics at players at the same time." Did it, really? In my experience it was all very straightforwards. It basically has a full level dedicated to players getting used to moving around and picking stuff up. The level after that has a slow trickle of enemies so the player can get used to shooting. Hacking is introduced somewhere in there, and they're just basic minigames. I fail to see the issues that others might hit, not to say they aren't there.

      As for motion sickness, it's something I completely lack perspective on; I cannot recall a time where I have ever been motion sick. That being said, I've heard some anecdotal evidence of "VR legs" being a thing. Perhaps people just aren't used to the medium yet. It's something I would be interested in research on. However, like you said, they really fail to explore the problem.

      3 votes