NeoGAFs Kent Brockman
Elden Ring, GTA V, Red Dead — is this a way forward for VR?
LukeLuke Ross* has a hard time telling friends what he does for a living. He can’t quite believe it himself. “I’m a kid with a fake steering wheel in the backseat who pretends to know where they’re going,” he tells The Verge. In 2020, he released a free mod for one of the most popular video games, Grand Theft Auto V, that lets you play the entire game in VR. Now, thousands of people pay him every month to stick their heads into some of their favorite video game worlds.
Today, he currently makes over $20,000 a month modding PC games like Elden Ring, Red Dead Redemption 2, and Horizon Zero Dawn to run in VR headsets instead of the traditional monitors and TVs they were designed for. Every one of his Patreon backers signs up for a $10 monthly fee, and — incredibly — he says two-thirds of them stick around.
He suspects that’s because they aren’t just there to buy his mods. They’re also supporting his mission to show the video game industry that it’s got VR all wrong.
*Luke isn’t his real name; he agreed to speak to The Verge on the condition we wouldn’t reveal personally identifying information. “I want to be judged for the quality of my work and what I put out, not for how I look or sound.”
“Poisoning the well.” I remember hearing that phrase a lot back when the Oculus Rift was new — it’s what they said behind closed doors when devs brought games to virtual reality without redesigning them to keep players from throwing up. VR startups and VR enthusiasts were deathly afraid a bad first impression would cause people to write off VR entirely before it could reach its potential.
For the most part — I’m looking at you, Resident Evil 7 — that fear didn’t come to pass because the video game industry played ball. Some invested in games with full-body movement and motion controllers; one helpful tip to prevent simulator sickness is to let you turn naturally instead of flicking a joystick to jerk your virtual head around. Most companies also drastically reduced the graphical fidelity of games they brought to VR so they wouldn’t require a powerful, expensive PC. For fluid comfort, VR games have to deliver high-resolution images for each of your eyes — and that has meant a trade-off in fidelity. It’s why most VR titles look like they’d be at home on a Nintendo Wii. In general, instead of blindly bringing their big-name games to VR, they stuck to bite-size “experiences” or made small original titles that, it’s probably safe to say, didn’t bring them the returns they hoped.
Luke thinks those efforts were misguided. He worries VR is still in danger of becoming a passing fad because the common wisdom of how to build VR games is pushing game studios away.
He believes his popular Patreon is proof that there’s an easier way. If a single man can make Grand Theft Auto V or Elden Ring playable in VR, doesn’t that mean these companies are leaving money on the table? “It’s an incomplete experience,” he says, “but it’s enough to make a lot of gamers understand that this should be the future of gaming.”
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