The most interesting part of Rez Infinite, a modern port of the classic Dreamcast rail shooter, is Area X, a built-for VR reinterpretation that removes the guard rails.
You help your free-floating, free-roaming avatar, who goes where you look as slow or fast as you want to go, zap psychedelic robots and turn them into pulsating sounds and melodies. Some might even say that you’ll see sounds and hear colors, without having to strap into a full-body synesthesia suit.
As you explore and observe the colorful abstract designs appearing and floating around you, you’ll notice that this weird, charming world is reacting to you. Maybe it starts to feel familiar, and perhaps you get used to quirky robots following your avatar around. If you felt like a stranger in this weird, wonderful place, maybe you’ll start to feel like you belong.
Why Area X is immersive
In most VR experiences, you move your head to look and press a button on your controller to move. Camera control and locomotion typically solve unique user experience needs. Camera control helps you see the environment, and locomotion helps you move around in it.
In Area X, they’re fused together into one concept: Your avatar always floats and moves toward where you’re looking. It sounds simple, but it’s revolutionary. In VR today, most forms of locomotion cause motion sickness. That’s why we’re stuck with strange, unsatisfying locomotion paradigms like teleportation, which is safe and nausea friendly, but feels stilted, hurts immersion, and limits gameplay potential.
Area X’s “look where you’re going” locomotion technique is revolutionary. By combining camera control with movement, you can seamlessly explore immersive open worlds at length without feeling motion sickness. You get to enjoy the journey without worrying about how you’re getting there.
You can also press a button and experience the immersion of speed. When you accelerate, Area X activates tunneling, a user experience technique that typically temporarily crops your screen, almost like you’re watching from a TV screen. This grounds the user, prevents motion sickness, and creates a thrilling experience. Area X performs a version of this:
Exploring with friends
What if you could fly and experience new worlds with friends in social VR apps like Altspace, Sansar, or Facebook Spaces? It’s impossible to walk alongside friends in VR without feeling motion sick. If you flew seamlessly with friends instead, social interactions would feel realer. Imagine sitting alongside a good friend in real life with a portable Oculus Go headset on flying exploring a new world together.
Area X combines camera control with movement and creates a new user experience technique that makes it easy to explore immersive open worlds without inducing motion sickness. The sooner that we can apply this user experience technique to experiences like social VR apps, the more immersive and intimate those experiences can become. Until then, over and out.