Developer experiences from the trenches
One hundred million people in VR at the same time isn’t a goal — it is the starting point.
The real goal is obtaining the inherent user lock-in related to hosting the most accurate simulation of materials, humans, goods and environments available. As we approach perfecting simulation of aspects of the real world, things that we used to do in the real world will now make sense to do in a VR context instead.
This upward trend will intersect another: real raw materials are increasingly strained, forcing the cost of production for goods beyond the access of the middle class. For activities that can be well simulated in VR but require hard to access materials to do in the real world, VR becomes a reasonable substitute.
Early VR 2.0 pioneers have talked about the opportunity to create a game that caused a mini-revolution like Doom did. That’s small potatoes. We are talking about a platform with control of artificial scarcity with the ability to make copies of goods for fractions of a penny. The winners in this game are the controllers of this exclusive simulation.
In this environment, Ferrari’s most valuable assets are going to be its trademarks many times over anything else it holds.
Dominoes will fall. VR headsets are the leaping off point, but not the whole picture — haptic controls, motion sensors, binaural audio interfaces, the list goes on. As each improves, more activities will make sense to perform in a virtual environment.
Looking back twenty years, referring to VR as a headset is going to seem trite. The world is changing from a place that “has Internet” to a place that is the Internet, and for the first time, you only have to extrapolate the fidelity of current simulation technologies to see it.
The biggest challenge the game industry faces right now is not the invention of new games and IPs but the discovery of new models to supplement the existing, more traditional ones. Model experimentation is to the game industry in 2011 what cellular regeneration is to an injured human.
One example of a model innovation is the Free to Play model. In Free to Play, an effective game designer teaches players about a value system in their game. Once this is underway, they upsell the player on in-game features that have value within that system. In this model, the developer ultimately convinces people to buy the game. Usually this job belongs to the marketing team. (Yes, Free to Play should be called Pay to Play).
In traditional boxed retail, the marketing team teaches the customers the value of the product through screenshots and trailers. If the proposition resonates with the customer, they’ll probably buy the game.
In some situations, Free to Play teams have, effectively, put marketers game designer’s chair. These games are often thin veneers overtop of a spreadsheet that optimizes customer conversion.
A lot of dedicated gamers love escapist multiplayer experiences. If Free to Play is to truly succeed amongst dedicated gamers, it is the game designers and developers who must stretch to understand how to account for player behaviour and incorporate it into their tool belt.
Free to Play is definitely coming to your favourite types of games. Game development incorporates such a wide range of professions and skill sets. I am excited that it now incorporates one more.
If you find Free to Play ominous, you are always free to prove out a different model. :)
Signed, a guy who plays Free to Play Team Fortress a whole heck of a lot.
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