I'm still here. I've received a lot of good feedback from users of the last week or so about the Freedom Locomotion System, and it's hugely appreciated. While I did what testing I could before release, it simply cannot compare to range of feedback that you'd get from a public release.
A lot of the feedback was highly positive. They got what I was trying to do, and like I had hoped, after playing around with it for a bit, started to really get immersed into it. A lot of people are hoping to see this system or one like it in future VR games, and given that's my goal, makes me very pleased to hear indeed.
Not all of the feedback was singing high praise though. A good number of users commented on a number of issues (although many of them still enjoyed other elements of the demo despite the shortcomings that they identified).
A few key things that have been identified from the demo and I'm currently working hard to resolve, remedy and improve include:
Walking movement not sensitive enough. This seemed to affect a large number of users. On the other hand, others seemed to be very happy with the way things moved. After watching a couple videos from the community that tested out the demo and posted their own experiences of it up, I realized that the range of movement styles varied significantly, especially at lower speeds.
I mean, we all walk at roughly the same speed in the real world. But the specifics of how we walk can vary significantly from individual to individual. When you take out the horizontal component of movement (as on the spot movement does), that difference is quite significant in terms of head motion.
As a result, the required solution is to provide a system that can allow users to calibrate for a wide range of movement styles, and that's what I've been working on today. From my own early testing, it seems to have been very successful, providing reasonable motion for a wide variety of movement styles. Hopefully I can get some extra testing to prove it out, but I'm excited to get this fix out there - because if it works as well as I think it does, it'll mean that the rest of the people that weren't won over by CAOTS will start seeing what the fuss is about.
Another issue is that some users were still getting motion sick, especially during the less standard movements, like going up or down a slope, or falling down. This is of significant concern to me, as it goes against the broad based solution I'm trying to achieve. I'm not just trying to make an immersive locomotion solution, but a widely accessible one.
In reality, I already had a couple solutions that could help to reduce the amount of motion sickness experienced under the comfort options. The comfort option that restricts field of view when moving the user around artificially is a tried and proven technique, while the comfort boundary option is analagous to a 'virtual cockpit' that works well in other cockpit based VR experiences.
But neither of these were on by default, as the field of view restriction functionality I had in the demo was not up to the level of quality I was hoping for. The main problem been that instead of a sharp boundary restricting the user's field of view, it was a vignette that darkened the outside and gradually got lighter towards the middle. This had the unfortunate side effect of making it feel like the user was wearing sunglasses every time the comfort functionality activated.
Over the last week, I've worked hard to improve this functionality, and have resolved the technical issues that prevented me from utilizing the better version of the field of view restriction. I've also made it more 'intelligent', so that it'll change how much it blocks of the view depending on how much vection is expected from the motion (so that falling for example restricts the field of view a lot more). An extensive set of options have also been included to allow users to tweak the parameters individually to their hearts content if the defaults aren't to their preference.
Additionally, this new field of view restriction solution works extremely well with the comfort borders, allowing the user to see the borders in their full field of view, even while the view of the game world is restricted.
Beyond the comfort options, I've also improved the climbing mechanics significantly. Users will now get a lot more feedback on what they can and can't grab at when climbing, and when they're successful in grabbing at something. Additionally, I've communicated more clearly in the tutorial how the climbing works (you put your virtual thumb and forefinger around an edge so that you can pinch it).
As a result, these changes should make climbing around a substantially easier task for many more users than before.
Finally, I'm currently working on a detailed first time calibration system. Instead of providing a set of defaults that just haven't worked for everyone, I'll be making first time users go through a process of finding the options that suit them best before they're put into the demo proper.
In reality, this amounts to explaining the options clearly and allowing them to select it for themselves. But this sort of communication and expectation setting is an important part of design I feel. It should prepare them for some degree of complexity, but also introduce those concepts before hand, rather than dumping them into it cold.
Also it helps as many users simply accept the defaults as a given, and won't delve into an extensive range of options even if they're available. The calibration process then simultaneously provides a better fit to the wide range of different users, as well as making them aware that they can actually change and alter a lot of settings in the system.
Once I'm done with this, I'll publish an update so that users can try it out. After this update, my plan is to resolve the Oculus Rift compatibility issue (i.e. it's barely compatible currently, as I've done nothing to make it so - and as a result there are a number of issues with running the current version of Freedom Locomotion VR Demo on the Rift). The Rift enabled version should see a launch on the Steam store once it's done.
Very excited to get these updates out there and into the hand of more users. I'm hoping to get this pre-Rift compatibility update done in a few days. I strongly believe in what I'm doing here; making VR locomotion more immersive and more accessible, and I don't plan on resting until that's true for as many people as possible.