Why PC gamers are the worst at VR—and what that means for China’s VR gaming

People who have played a lot of PC and console games are the worst at VR gaming and slower to improve than those who are new to both, a Chinese VR gaming company has found, forcing it to alter its plans. The firm has also found that the way people take to VR reveals so much about the players that they are now looking into developing a personality testing game for recruitment agencies.

To get an insight into the current field of VR gaming beyond the big numbers, we spoke to Beijing-based Nordic Trolls VR (the founder is Norwegian) which specializes in fantasy combat gaming.

“Gamers from PCs and consoles have been conditioned to play in a certain way. One example is, someone shoots an arrow at you and it gets stuck in you. A PC gamer will just leave it there because, in a traditional game, you can’t do anything. But non-gamers will grab it and pull it out,” said Thorbjoern Olsen, CEO of Nordic Trolls. “We found non-gamers will try more things that feel natural to them. The things they would do in real life they take into those conditions. For preconditioned gamers, it took them longer.”

“In a normal [PC] game, how fast you fire is based on your character, but in VR it’s you. Some people are very good and fire and fire and have a great time,” said Olsen. “We’ve seen that the completely new players improve faster, but that there are other aspects that they don’t get as well, such as progression, developing weapons.”

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Olsen also believes general life is part of our preconditioning which is partly why children take to it so much quicker: “Little kids haven’t been shaped completely by society. If you’re a one-year-old kid and you see someone fly, you’re not going to react that much, you might laugh a little as you haven’t seen it before, but do that to a 30-year-old…”

Developing for VR

“One of our developers said developing for VR compared to traditional PC gaming is 100% different,” said Olsen. The “traditional” development of games is not going to work in VR gaming, the Beijing company has found.

“Our biggest challenge is to take care of individual players in a sense that the game is not too easy and not too difficult. In a traditional PC game context, you balance the enemies and you balance the hero, very often just by numbers. But in VR, sure we can change numbers, but at the end of the day it’s the personal skills of each individual player that count,” said Olsen.

Previous dynamically changing PC games have not really worked out and Olsen believes they were developed to stop players from completing the games. They need a radically new approach based on the individual. “Do they have a warrior inside themselves? We want to be able to change the game depending on the person wearing the headset and how they play. It’s not enough just to change the difficulty, we need ways to change the game dynamically. Every person is very different.”

The team is using data gathered from gameplay but has found that observing players try its games is by far the most valuable insight into VR interaction as data mining from VR is not yet sophisticated enough.

Beyond the gameplay itself, the company has found that the immersion of VR means a different approach to the platform’s development.

“It’s even harder to get a person with a VR set to read something outside of the game. All the information they need, they expect to find inside the game. You cannot expect them to go to a website to figure something out or ask other players a question. Everything has to be accessible inside the game. We realized this about two weeks after launch and started moving more information into the game.

“We’re still learning what works in VR,” Olsen admitted.

VR for HR

The team has found that the individuality of the way users react when they put on the VR headset has other potential uses. “It’s equally difficult in China [to get the right staff] as anywhere else.”

“We’ve found that even just using our game as an example, the type of people we’re looking to hire in terms of personality types, we can use the game, get them to play, watch them and that tells us a huge amount about them,” Olsen explained. “It tells us more about a candidate than a traditional personality test would. We can see things like how they react to a challenge or non-challenge, levels of frustration. A whole bunch of things that I’m not going to go into.”