The Dagger of Time is a 2-4 player virtual reality escape game created by Ubisoft. The game requires players to make use of the tools found inside the virtual world, interact with the objects and solve the puzzles.
I enjoyed this game a lot because the puzzle design are very intuitive, and the game attempted to design the tools in a way where it’s usage is not achivable in reality (such as stopping and going back in time).
Why is it engaging?
Escaping from an open space
Escaping in the virtual world is a total different experience compared to doing it in reality. In the physical world, players are usually given a realistic story, brought to an enclosed space and escape by exploring around a few rooms. However, VR allows the game designers to be imaginative so that the players are now able to explore an open space, which is a lot more spacial. Players can also use their controllers to grab onto things and do actions such as climbing and swinging, which can be extremely fun and engaging, especially for first timers.
Creative usage of tools
In the game, each player gets a different special tool that gives them distinct abilities, so that every individual can be useful in some part of the game. When I played the game, I got the dagger of time, which allows me to control the time in the game. My friend got a sword which allows her to break things and explore more. Here, communication and collaboration becomes extremely important as players will not be able to progress without one another.
Easy to learn
The game controls are designed in a way such that first timers are able to learn it without reading much text and introduction, which might affect their experience in VR games. This game made use of a one-button control system, so that players can interact with objects and do actions just by pressing one single button on their controller. By doing this, players are able to understand how to play in five minutes, and explore the world without needing too much actions (in reality).
Although the gameplay experience is interesting and enjoyable, I personally felt that there are still space for improvement. In The Dagger of Time, players will only be able to walk to a very near distance with their feet. If they want to travel to a location that is further away, they will need to use their controller to ‘teleport’ themselves to that place. This feature gave me a less immersive experience since I always tend to walk to any specific place (by habit), and will need to be constantly reminded by the VR shop staff that I am physically walking out of range. I believe the game could provide a even better experience if it supports equipments that allows players to travel ‘inifinitely’, such as the KAT-VR Omini-Directional Treadmill.
Ubisoft have published escape games that have similar gameplay with connected background stories, which could attract players to look forward to explore more about the virtual world that they are escaping in. The fact that VR allows the design of escape games to be more creative amazes me.
Rec Room is a free, social virtual reality game that allows people to get together, join one of the many worlds offered, and enjoy a wide variety of activities; most of the said activities and worlds, are also, in fact, user-created.
Rec Room’s content is mostly user-generated, similar to games such as Roblox or VRChat. The users create the world, model the objects, and script the necessary behaviours before sharing their creations for others to enjoy. Players have even gone on to recreate well-beloved games or franchises in Rec Room, such as Five Nights at Freddy’s, Uno, Wordle, Harry Potter and many more. The only limitation of what they can create is their imagination.
With many users developing content daily, it allows for a seemingly limitless number of activities for other players to engage in. Players can bowl with one another, play laser tag, do stand-up comedy and much more. With so many different activities, there is bound to be something for everyone.
But what makes this game different from Roblox or VRChat besides the graphics?
All of the games share a similar concept, players can join their friends in various activities, and they can create content and share it.
However, one of the key differences is that, unlike Roblox or VRChat where the player has to download external tools to create and script the world (VRChat uses Unity, while Roblox uses a tool called Roblox Studio), Rec Room tools are built into the game. This not only allows for a much gentle learning curve for beginners compared to the other two games but also allows users to immediately view and interact with their creations, making the process more efficient.
An immersive experience
While the game is available on various other devices such as mobile phones, PC, Playstation, and many more, the experience is simply not the same as compared to playing it on a VR headset.
Rec Room makes full use of the motion capture system of a VR headset. Players can freely look around the world just by moving their heads around instead of having to manually pan their screen.
The arm motions through the controllers are also replicated in-game, such as waving your arm in real life will result in your in-game avatar’s arm waving. Users can also use this functionality to interact with in-game objects; for example, to play in-game basketball, players would just need to perform actions they would normally do in real life. This also allows for more expressive and unique interactions with the world and other players.
In the game, there is also an in-game microphone that enables players to communicate with one another. The volume of their voice changes dynamically depending on the distance between their avatars.
All this makes the game feel immersive as the motions and actions in the real world are also closely reflected in the virtual world.
Motion Sickness? What if you don’t have your VR legs?
Motion sickness is something many suffer when they first enter virtual reality, especially so when it is their first time. This happens when users aren’t accustomed to the mixed signals received by the brain from the eyes and the inner ear (contains ‘sensors’ to help keep the body balanced).
Visually, the players see themselves moving in the virtual world, however in reality the body is stationary. This disparity between what the inner ear and eyes senses causes a disconnect among users, which in turn, causes the feeling of motion sickness and nausea. (This can also happen for first-person games, not just VR games)
Of course, one way to fix this would be to use an omnidirectional treadmill, but that’s not exactly something that can be readily obtained by most consumers. (It’s pricey and big)
Rec Room like many other VR games and applications uses the joystick of the controller to move around the world. However, Rec Room also added an additional feature, the ability to “teleport” around as a substitute for walking in the world.
This feature helps to reduce motion sickness as users are no longer forcing their inner ear to constantly adapt to the artificial motion since the visuals comes to them. Thus, making the experience much more enjoyable.
Why I personally enjoy it so much
During the height of covid lockdowns, Rec Room was one of the few ways I could engage in activities with my friends.
The motions and controls are intuitive as they closely replicated the physical world. With this, my friends and I were able to play a wide variety of games without much confusion.
The user interface was also easy to understand and did not feel intrusive. All I had to do was look at my Avatar’s wrist, and a simple menu will pop up. I was even able to use hand gestures to invoke certain actions, such as shaking hands with another player to become friends or putting up a stop gesture to ignore a player. Not having to open a separate menu to perform those actions made interacting with the world much more enjoyable.
And while the visuals were simplistic, it was visually appealing and the low poly graphics suited the wide and wild variety of activities offered.
I had a fun time with my friends trying out the different activities and getting immersed in the world.
While I did have a lot of fun with Rec Room, my biggest gripe was the lack of options to adjust the volume of other players’ microphones.
Some of my friends had a softer mic, and it was hard to hear them from time to time even when their avatars were standing close by. It can also be quite disorienting in VR to hear the different volumes of voices even when the avatars are standing at the same distance from you.
There is a universal volume setting for the players’ voices, however, raising it meant every player’s microphone sound volume will also be raised. The players with a louder mic will still end up talking over those with a softer mic, thus, defeating the purpose of turning up the volume.
A possible solution will be to have a setting similar to what Discord has, where you can adjust the volume of a specific player. This will make it so that we can better hear one another and the experience won’t be ruined when you’re barely able to hear someone, or when someone with a particularly loud mic starts shouting beside you.
Rec Room is able to take advantage of what a virtual headset can offer to provide a fun and immersive VR experience for players. The controls are intuitive, the user interface and experience are pleasant, and it has a wide range of activities for players to engage in.
It is a fun game and a great experience in the virtual world that I, along with many others greatly enjoy!
For anyone who has done some research on gaming with VR systems, Beat Saber is a title that is almost impossible to miss. Officially released in 2019, the rhythm game has since accumulated great popularity, with its Steam version currently sitting at an overwhelmingly positive review with a whooping 60,924 total reviews count (as of 15th Jan 2023). Being a huge fan of all kinds of rhythm games myself, I too have tried it out myself and quickly became addicted to it too. In the following passage, I will try to explain what made Beat Saber a successful VR experience and maybe convince you to try it too.
So, what is Beat Saber?
Just as most rhythm games go, Beat Saber requires the player to follow the rhythm of a chosen piece of song, and react to the beats by swinging an imaginary lightsaber. Once the game starts and a song is selected to be played, the player is immediately immersed in a futuristic neon-lit setting. As the music starts blasting, notes represented by glowing blocks will approach the player from the front, requiring the player to swing the controller in a designated direction just as the notes reach the player. Depending on the difficulty chosen, players may also need to squat down to avoid obstacles or maintain various poses.
Adapting the pros of traditional rhythm games into virtual reality
In the world of rhythm games, a deciding factor that determines the satisfaction a player gets is the feedback provided after hitting a correct note. This feedback can appear in various forms depending on the platform of the game, and it is particularly important as it serves to ‘reward’ the player for hitting a right note. Such interactions usually happen through simulating the sense of sight and hearing, but sometimes the sense of touch is involved too. For example in the popular pc rhythm game osu!, notes glow brightly when hit at the right timing and produce a loud ‘cluck’ sound. Notes hit outside of the perfect timing window (aka a good instead of a perfect) will produce a lighter glow as well as a duller sound compared to that of a perfect hit. In the arcade rhythm game Taiko no Tatsujin, the motion of the drum stick bouncing off the drum is in itself a form of feedback through the sense of touch to the player as well.
Compared to the above titles, Beat Saber has done an equally extraordinary job in interacting with the players to provide such positive feedback. When a player hits a note at the correct timing, the glowing block will be sliced swiftly into two halves and subsequently fly over the player’s shoulders. At the same time, a clean cutting sound will be played to indicate the successful hit, further stimulating the release of dopamine. Beat Saber also enables controller vibration when encountering obstacles, which is used to provide negative feedback to the player. Given that Beat Saber is a VR title, all the gameplay happens within the front field of view of the player. Compared to a mobile rhythm game where visual feedback could be blocked by the player’s finger, a note in Beat Saber grows in size as it approaches the player’s player model and eventually takes up a significant portion of the view space. This means that any form of visual stimuli in the game is almost impossible to miss, thus greatly enhancing the intensity of interaction between the game and the player. These interactions are vital in providing positive feedback on the player’s actions and making sure that the players will continue to play the game.
Immersing in the world of music
As a game hosted on VR platforms, Beat Saber also provides a great level of immersion that allows the player to indulge in the world of rhythm and dancing beats. In order to achieve that, Beat Saber implemented a series of outstanding feature that serves to enhance immersion. Firstly, the game places significant emphasis on simplicity and reduces the instances of unnecessary information in most parts of the game. Throughout the duration of a song, the gameplay information displayed on the screen is limited to the models of the sabers, the track the notes travel on, as well as the notes/obstacles. Other than that, the only UI elements shown are the combo multiplier, the current combo, as well as the current score, and the current hp. In terms of representational fidelity, Beat Saber is highly iconic and all representations used in game are very intuitive to the player. By minimizing distractions, the player is encouraged to focus on the notes themselves while dancing to the rhythm.
Beat Saber also makes use of carefully crafted background scenes during gameplay that further enhance the level of immersion experienced by the players. Compared to the bright glowing colors of the notes and the saber, the background usually takes on a darker hue and seemingly lacks in detail. However, throughout the duration of the song, the background will also pulsate and change in color, all in sync with the tempo of the music. Even if it is just a subconscious part of the player’s view space, the background ‘breathes’ with the music and is continuously engaging with the player as well.
Areas for future improvement
As much as I would like to spend multiple hours daily on this amazing VR title, there are quite a few areas that need further improvement. Firstly, Beat Saber on higher difficulties can get very physically intensive, and it can be quite a torture to play in VR headsets that doesn’t come with in-built fans. On top of that, given the headset’s limited battery life, attaching an additional power bank is often needed in order to support longer play duration. All these add up to a decent weight that needs to be carried on the player’s head, and this can be very immersion-breaking when the player begins to experience discomfort from wearing the headset for extended durations.
Beat Saber also sets great limitations on the kind of headphones/earpiece that can be used. Bluetooth earpieces, while convenient, are horrible options due to the unbearable delay they can cause. Beat Saber’s timing window for hitting a note is speculated to be around 44ms, and Bluetooth earpiece has a much longer delay than that. While wired headsets do not have that issue, it is much more cumbersome to wear, and the wire management can get messy if not done properly. A possible improvement to this would be to add a function to detect Bluetooth delay and adjust gameplay accordingly.
Another issue with the game in its current stage is its lack of content, specifically the choices of songs. While the game regularly releases DLC packs with new songs every few months, the songs are largely limited to western pops and rocks, which is a shame for fans of J-pop and K-pop. While modding support is available, it is more troublesome to set up and maintain, and modded songs also come in varying qualities.
Overall, Beat Saber is an absolute must-get for fans of other rhythm games, as it provides a totally new and immersive experience that is different from all existing rhythm games on the market. Even for those who never played rhythm games before, Beat Saber is still worth a try as one of the best-rated VR games available. Just slide on a VR headset, and enjoy the sensory feast while dancing to the beats!
: “Beat saber on steam,” Beat Saber on Steam. [Online]. Available: https://store.steampowered.com/app/620980/Beat_Saber/. [Accessed: 17-Jan-2023].
The COVID-19 pandemic has greatly changed people’s lives around the world. Despite the real-world inconvenience caused by the coronavirus pandemic, applications utilizing XR technology are booming to create convenience and enhance user experience.
In the post-pandemic world, people are reluctant to walk into crowded stores and rather purchase anything they want online. According to Statista, more than 20% of the sales are bound to take place on the internet by 2022. Brands like IKEA were among the first to realize and jump in on the opportunity. They refined their e-commerce side of things to prove an all-around better experience for their customers.
IKEA has created an entire app from the ground up dedicated to XR. The app, called IKEA Immerse, helps users and customers to create, experience, and share their own configurations in a virtual living and kitchen room set.
Why do I like it?
I like this application because IKEA Immerse invites consumers to experience, design, and create in mixed reality. Instead of choosing from what has been provided, we become part of the designers ourselves. We can feel free to design what we want before purchasing.
Why is it engaging?
Enhancing in-store experience
Thanks to XR technology, IKEA Immerse has made it simpler for customers to view and try different furniture before purchasing. Compared with traditional offline shopping, people can more efficiently try different combinations of colors and styles, and customize their preferred lighting and shading.
Social interaction and sharing
With transferable VR equipment, customers could share their instant feelings with friends more conveniently and at a lower cost. In a virtual environment, people could also interact with furniture items through vision, and obtain instant feedback.
Extending the relationship beyond purchase
XR is still playing its role even after purchasing. After-sale service and support can be far more helpful with XR user manuals, instructions, and feature guidance. Instead of having a user interface directly into these physical products, users could engage with their smart refrigerators or ovens via an XR app on their own digital device.
What features are well done and what can be improved?
I think the following features are well-constructed:
Photorealistic representation of the physical world. All the real items are projected into the virtual world in a 3D and highly realistic manner. Textures are rendered so well that you can feel no visual difference between viewing and experiencing virtual reality and the offline store.
More adaptable and diversified features than the physical world. You can adjust the lighting and shading freely by virtue of real-time rendering, beyond physical limits. Eg, night mode can be chosen during the daytime and you can add more shading without having to draw the curtain.
Meanwhile, I think there is still room for improvement regarding the following features.
Adding a sense of touch. When purchasing furniture, both visual and tactile communications are essential for customers. IKEA Immersive has done quite well on vision, but if customers cannot feel if the bed is soft enough, it would definitely affect their purchase decisions merely based on virtual viewing.
Making it more trustworthy. For online shopping and remote experiencing, it is easier for sellers to exaggerate their product effects and attract customers in a dishonest way. If IKEA Immersive could prove the authenticity of products and experience shown in XR devices, I believe it will gain them more advantages compared with similar products.