At the end of last month, gamers everywhere finally had the chance to dive in to developer Jonathan Blow’s long-awaited brain bender The Witness, and though it seems suited for a more immersive experience, the game’s developers explained that the prospects of a VR version of the game seem unlikely.
Speaking in a Reddit AMA with Blow, The Witness programmer Andrew Smith explained in response to fan questions of whether The Witness would ever support a VR-enabled version that VR would be “quite problematic” for the format. Smith mentioned specifically:
VR is actually quite problematic for The Witness (outside of the broader issues that current seated or room-scale VR is just bad for navigating any huge open-world environment in first person) in that some of the alignment-puzzles (I won’t go into spoilers) can be “cheated” by crouching down, or tilting your head etc.
On the upside, The Witness’ geometry-heavy art style works really well in VR where a lot of traditional methods, like normalmaps, lose their magic.
Smith explained further on that “The Witness can be played in VR, but its far from optimal because it was very much designed to be a traditional non-VR experience,” describing that convincing VR games need to built for the format specifically, rather than just grafting the functionality onto an experience that wasn’t originally intended for it.
Smith also described that navigation in VR-enabled games can also be problematic, as he explained later on in the AMA:
Any kind of free navigation in VR is a hard problem. If you move around with a gamepad, but can move your head freely, what happens when you move your character up to an in-game wall and then lean forwards to stick your head through it? Should we disconnect the camera from the head tracking before it passes through the wall? Or do we move the collision boundaries in so you can’t get close enough to any object to do that? Both are pretty bad options.
Stuff like this is why most current games are designed around seated or room-scale, where the real bounds are known. It’ll be interesting to see what people come up with as solutions to this stuff.
The Witness is available now for PS4 and PC.