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Why virtual reality is better than augmented reality for gaming

Hayden Dingman | Jan. 23, 2015
Microsoft's HoloLens Minecraft demo got people excited for augmented reality games, but that might be premature. 'Specific games under specific circumstances' is the unmentioned asterisk.

This is how story works, even when it's a game that's procedurally generated--like, say, the Oculus Rift demo Dreadhalls. The developers of Dreadhalls don't necessarily know what the layout of each level is, but it's always going to fit into some set of parameters controlled by the creators.

Not the same in AR
Now let's jump back to augmented reality. All that control is gone.

Let's transplant our Commando example from earlier into augmented reality. The game boots, and you're suddenly standing on an island paradise. "Amazing!" you shout, pulling the headset off to confirm you're still standing in your living room. You start walking forward, but realize a dense grove of palm trees is blocking your path. In real life, it's your living room wall.

No matter. You start infiltrating the island, taking down soldiers left and right. The HoloLens is steering you down "corridors" made up of like, burning tanks or walls of palm trees or conga lines of soldiers or whatever. It needs to make sure you don't run into any real-world walls.

And, not knowing when to trigger the "climactic boss battle," it's all kind of left to chance and you end up fighting the big baddie in your broom closet. Well, your broom closet that's cleverly made to look like a boiler room that's two feet deep and three feet wide.

Oh well, bad luck. Run the game again, right? Except there are only so many times you can play the same level layout. Your house isn't changing. There are still walls where there were walls last time around. Still a broom closet where there was a broom closet before, except maybe this time the broom closet just has some ammo in it instead of a boss crammed between two boilers.

What do you need to do to get a new level? I guess bring HoloLens to a friend's house?

microsoft windows 10 holographic
IMAGE: MICROSOFT. Using your normal computer desktop projected onto the walls doesn't need to fundamentallychange each time you experience it, the way games do.

I know this, because I've done it. I played a "real game" on The Cortex. A shooter, to be exact. Basically, zombies would pop out and try to kill me and I'd have to shoot them before they got close. I played it in a San Francisco hotel room, which was about 11 feet square.

At first it was incredibly cool. "Oh yeah, the walls in the game are actually the walls of this room." But it's basically a lightgun game. You can't simulate me walking out the door into another room, because I'm physically stuck in this one hotel room. Everything that's ever going to happen in the game needs to be able to accommodate that restriction, or even be able to work in a 2 ft.-by-2 ft. closet if that's where I happen to be located.


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