How to Not Break Anything or Vomit

Motion Sickness
Who let the pumpkin use the Rift again?

Users of virtual reality headsets tend to experience negative side-effects such as headaches and vomiting. Many games counter this by having the player be stationary and using the famous “teleport” mechanism to move around instead. To me, it seems like a cheap way to fit a conventional game into a virtual reality headset.

Virtuix Omni, the first serious virtual reality project to be developed with a treadmill.

If moving around is desired, the virtual reality headset should come along with a treadmill or various sensors that are able to detect the wall of the room that you are in. The player can then use his or her own legs to move.

A knee surgery in virtual reality.

The drawback is that the treadmills are expensive, and not everyone has a big room to walk around in. Maybe the games should be designed for the virtual reality devices, instead of it being the other way around. The immersion of virtual reality is its biggest draw, giving rise to its popularity in the medical industry as it is used as a training tool.

Tourism is an industry where virtual reality might make a difference.

Other industries might be better suited to use the virtual reality headset technology instead. For example, the tourism industry could use it to hold virtual tours, where you can transport yourself to another location using a headset, but you would be only able to look around the area rather than moving around.

Using virtual reality to become a great driver.

In fact, I feel that virtual reality may make a difference in other forms of technical training, not just in the medical schools. It could be used to learn driving, for example, though you would not be able to feel the actual acceleration and forces that are present in a real car (and that might make you sick). Jordá Autoescuelas is a school that has adopted this method of training, though it is currently only provided for interested students.

Definitely, more research has to be done into the area, which would have to be boosted indirectly by a heightened interest in virtual reality by consumers or businesses.

Mobile gaming revenue over the decades.

What makes a platform successful for gaming? I would argue that it would be how useful the platform is outside of gaming. A good example is the mobile gaming industry. Smartphones were originally designed for business use, and only became popular when they were tailored towards consumers and included features like touchscreens and 3G mobile data networks. It seems to me that mobile gaming became a big market only because these phones became popular, not because people were buying it specifically to play Angry Birds or Candy Crush.

As for virtual reality devices, I reckon that they should follow the same path as well. First, aim for widespread adoption in fields such as medical training and tourism before a market for games naturally grows and matures.

Image Sources and References:

Pumpkin, Virtuix Omni: (The Virtual Reality and Its Methods of Locomotion)

Driving: (Virtual Reality for Learning to Drive)

Tourism: (Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality Also Present in the Tourism)

Mobile Revenue:

An Objective Analysis of Stardew Valley’s Design

Stardew Valley is a farming role-playing game (RPG) developed and published by ConcernedApe (Eric Barone). Released in 2016, it has been featured in Independent Games Festival (IGF) 2017 as a finalist for the top prize (Seumas McNally Grand Prize) and an honourable mention for the Excellence in Narrative prize.

Stardew’s official website is at We begin our analysis by looking at the game’s “elemental tetrad” – aesthetics, mechanics, story and technology.


Stardew adopts a pixel art style with a focus on saturated colours and strong outlines. Colour is one tool used heavily to highlight differences, from villagers’ hair colours to quality of items.

Spending time with Vincent in town.

For example, for the different seasons:

  • lush greens with pastel undertones for spring, the season of renewal
  • warm yellows in summer, the season of activity
  • wistful browns in autumn, the season of nostalgia
  • gloomy greys and pale whites for winter, the season of dormancy
The different seasons in Stardew Valley.

The aesthetics serve to give the game an unrealistic, cutesy appearance, which gives the game a fantastical and detached tone, almost whimsical.


Some key game mechanics are the management of energy and time, as the player is given only a finite amount of energy per day. Energy is required to engage in some activities. Time is an important resource to manage since crops take several days to grow, and only grow in certain seasons.

Running out of energy is a bad idea.

Most activities that require energy generate resources of some kind. For example:

  • watering crops and tilling land → fruits and vegetables
  • fishing → fish, treasure, artifacts
  • mining → stone, ores, gems
  • chopping down trees and stumps → wood and hardwood

Movement, interacting with villagers, cooking, crafting, and processing raw materials with machines all do not require energy, however.

Leah needs help to pick a fruit.

Overall, the game’s mechanics influence different players in different ways. To some, they serve to keep the game slow-paced and relaxing, a reprieve from the external world. To others, they create a preoccupation for the player, crafting a calculated strategy to make the best use of the limited resources.


The game’s main story revolves around the player, who has a responsibility to his/her deceased grandfather to maintain the farm. The player also plays a crucial role in improving the town, which is run by an arguably corrupt mayor.

Grandpa leaves us the farm as inheritance.
Grandpa revisits Stardew Valley as a ghost.

Other than the main storyline, each villager has his/her own story which they will tell in cutscenes and dialogues when the player gains friendship points with them. The stories are diverse and explore a surprisingly wide range of topics.

Leo tells the player about his life.
Emily and the player go camping in the woods.

Although the storyline is one of the highlights in the game, it is completely up to the player to decide whether to pursue friendships or not. Getting to know the villagers’ individual aspirations and regrets in life does help the player become more emotionally invested in the game.


Stardew uses relatively simple technology. It was originally designed for keyboard and mouse input but has been ported to mobile and consoles. The 2D graphics are easy to render on all devices.

Leo is entertained by a clown.

Multiplayer co-op was added in a patch after the game’s initial release. Although on this front the game is not too adventurous, the simple technology may have allowed it to reach a wide audience.


Overall, the “elemental tetrad” creates a game which appears deceptively simple on the surface. After the initial “hook” into the game, complexities emerge which keeps the player drawn to the game. Now, let’s look at Stardew’s design through other lenses.

Lens of Surprise (4)

Chatting with Granny at the Feast of the Winter Star.

Unless a player searches the game wiki, many cutscenes in Stardew with the villagers come about unexpectedly, triggered by parameters unknown to the player. The game is wired to slowly release content across the first two in-game years, as well as unlock big chunks of new content whenever milestones are reached. This keeps the game fresh and exciting.

Lens of the Toy (17)

Gameplay of Junimo Kart, an arcade game.

Apart from the main gameplay, Stardew includes other small arcade-style minigames like Journey of the Prairie King and Junimo Kart.

Placing candy canes on the farm.

Players can also design their own farm layout and decorate their farmhouse with dozens of specialised furniture objects. This gives players reason to return to the game even if farming is not their thing.

Lens of Time (27)

As mentioned earlier, time is a fundamental mechanic. Crops grow on a fixed schedule, villagers move about on a fixed schedule, and seasons and weather determine what one can do on a given day.

The Skull Cavern is only unlocked when the town’s bus is fixed.

Some activities are only unlocked after a certain amount of time in the game. This gives the game a slower, possibly more manageable, pace, though impatient players may lose interest.

Lens of Secrets (29)

Buried treasure!

There are many secrets hidden in the game, from hidden areas to items only unlocked at a specific time and position. “Secret Notes” are a rare item in the game, which are texts that hold a cryptic hint to unlock one of these secrets.

Lens of Juiciness (64)

For every action in Stardew Valley, there is a corresponding sound effect and animation which gives an instantaneous reward to players. Walking on dirt kicks off small dust clouds, while walking amongst planted crops causes the plants to wiggle.

Sparrows and squirrels run away when the player approaches.

Animals are often startled when the player walks past, scampering across the map to hide.


Stardew Valley may not be the most innovative game out there, but its attention to detail in all aspects of game design has drawn many fans (including me). Sometimes, incremental improvements to a tried-and-tested design results in an exceptional product!