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What Crisis on the Planet of the Apes says about the future of VR

Crisis on the Planet of the Apes came out this week, and what they’re doing with locomotion mechanics is an interesting take on VR immersion.

The usual VR setup means camera control mapped to the player’s head, weapon aim mapped to the controllers – and locomotion controlled by joystick. After all, in the absence of a giant VR treadmill, you can’t reliably track player movement solely on their physical location. The solution is usually to combine standard joystick controls with some VR specific controls, like crouching in real life to crouch in the game, or leaning to peak around corners.

But Apes adds another level of locomotion that doesn’t require the joystick. To climb vertically up pipes or horizontally across scaffolding, the player has to imitate that motion with their arms. If you run into trouble climbing, you have to shoot with one arm and hang on tight with the other! And when it comes to leaping out of the way of enemies, the player has to throw their arms up in the air to activate the jump!

These mechanics, combined with the ability to move from point to point by swinging your arms like an ape, put the player in an unusual place physically. This taps into something unique about VR. When you move a certain way, it increases the immersion you feel. Unconventional controls like these put the player into a different mindset. With a new state of mind, it’s helps distance the player  from the standard man-with-gun character, and fit into the role of an ape.

What’s most exciting about this progress is what it means for VR as a medium. All artforms have the potential to engender empathy in their audience – but in VR you can go one step further, and actively live someone else’s experiences! Imagine traversing a world as someone living in a different era, or who is wheelchair bound, or interacting with the world as a race or gender other than your own.

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