I've been using my passive setup for at least 3 months now. My current setup consists of my passive VR shoes and ceiling mounted support rig.
In this log I'm going to go over my thoughts about this setup. Please keep in mind that these are my personal opinions on how the setup feels. It's going to feel different to everyone. Also keep in mind that I have been using the joystick on the controller to move in-game, I don't have feet tracking set up yet for this setup like I did with my motorized VR shoes. I've been gaming my whole life so using the joystick is 2nd nature and I do not have to think about it. So using the joystick has not been a big deal to me. I plan on adding feet tracking to this setup later.
First, I find this setup a lot of fun to use. I've made several demo videos, but I've used this setup a lot more than I show in those videos. I have used it for many hours at this point. I went through the entire Half Life Alyx campaign with it.
It's not a completely natural walking feeling. These are passive VR shoes, no motors, so you push against the support rig to bring your feet back, similar to a slidemill. That being said, it feels good to use after a little bit of practice. I now have learned how to walk with this setup and it feels good to use.
I don't notice the harness keeping me in the center. I do not feel constantly restricted. After a few minutes in the device my body tunes it out.
You can hear how loud this setup is in my demo videos. It's not very loud except while running. Regardless, I always wear headphones when I play VR so I hardly hear the VR shoes. The noise the shoes make is another thing I don't notice after a few minutes.
Putting the VR shoes on, strapping into the rig, and putting the headset and controllers on takes around 4-5 minutes. If the rig is stored along the ceiling it will take a little longer to set it up. I realize for some people they don't like the idea of it taking several minutes to get setup. I find it completely acceptable, especially since I can then use it for an hour or more once I'm strapped in, without feeling very fatigued while using it.
In general, I've seen people make the argument that if the VR locomotion system isn't near perfect, your brain will notice the difference and it will not feel natural and be a bad experience as a result. Maybe this is the case for some people but it is certainly not the case for me. With some practice I found it easy to use this setup. Constant sensations are tuned out quickly. The feeling of this device doesn't fall into the uncanny valley, at least for me.
So I find this device a ton of fun to use. If you're a person who is okay with practicing, learning how to walk with this device, and just in general have an open mind about it, then it may be great for you.
It takes some practice
As I said above it take some practice to use this setup. These are the things that I did and had my wife do when she tried it out. I'm going to make a training video going over this in the future. The steps here can probably apply to slidemills as well.
- Take small steps at first.
- Learn how the stoppers on the front and back of the shoes work. When you lift your heel or toes, the stoppers will go into the ground, stopping the shoe.
- Push against the harness to bring your feet back instead of leaning forward. If you find yourself leaning way forward, you will fall over. Push at your hips instead.
- I found that if I keep my knees very slightly bent that I could take longer steps easily.
Walking forward and turning feel great. Turning while walking took a little bit of practice while playing games but I can do it very easily now.
Crouching works great without the upper harness. It doesn't work well with the upper harness attached because I can't lean forward, which I go over in this video. I normally don't use the upper harness so this hasn't really been a problem for me.
I can duck walk pretty easily. It doesn't feel as nice as just regular walking but it feels good enough to where I used it a lot in Half Life Alyx during gun fights. Duck walking also takes a little bit of practice.
Sitting works just fine. It's about as comfy as you'd expect from a safety harness. Not terrible, but not as good as a regular chair.
Walking backwards took a lot of practice and I can do it pretty well now. It's very nice to be able to do when an enemy is chasing you and you can shoot it. However it still feels awkward and I am not yet good at turning while walking backwards.
I can run with this rig, but I hardly ever do. I find walking and duck walking to be good 95% of the time. I don't really like running with this rig because it's louder and I feel less stable when I do, so I need to concentrate while running. If I use the upper part of the harness running is easier. In my next support rig running might be easier.
Slopes and stairs
I've seen a few videos where the author says that the device not simulating slopes or stairs will limit its use, even saying they could only be used in flat, arena style games. Or saying that these devices are dead end solutions because they don't simulate slopes or surfaces.
I have no issue going up and down slopes and stairs and don't believe it is a limiting factor. I have experimented a little with a suggestion from this video where you do more of a stomping motion for slopes, but I have found it to be unnecessary. My brain does not immediately ring alarm bells when walking on slopes, I hardly notice it. Perhaps, like I've mentioned several times, it just takes some practice. Or perhaps I'm an oddball, but VR users that just use artificial locomotion can also handle slopes. Unlike others who seem to see slopes/stairs as an extremely limiting factor with some device, I find them to hardly be an issue at all.
Differing speeds in real life vs. in VR (speed multiplier)
In some games you will be moving faster in the game than your walking speed in real life. Half Life Alyx was perfect in that Alyx walks through the whole game, so I felt very much that my in-game speed matched my real life speed pretty well. In No Man's Sky I move faster in-game, but did not find it to be an issue. In-game it was still slow enough to where it didn't bother me one bit.
Resident Evil 4 was different. You can either move very slowly in that game, too slow, or way too fast. It's just the two options. I was still able to get used to the speed difference after a little while but I would prefer it if the speed could be more adjustable. I imagine a game like Doom VFX would be even worse.
So I think this rig is better in games that are slower paced, but it's completely useable in faster paced games. Very fast paced games may take some getting used to.
I don't really suffer from bad motion sickness. Resident Evil 4 and Ancient Dungeon can make me feel dizzy after a while. I did notice that when playing Ancient Dungeon and Resident Evil 4, I got less dizzy when I was using the rig vs. just using the joystick. I didn't notice any difference in the way I felt when playing Half Life Alyx or No Man's Sky in the rig or not.
With any VR locomotion device, you're not actually accelerating so your inner ear isn't getting the same stimulus as it would with actual walking. But with this device, you actually use your legs so that may help a little. Using a device like this could help a bit with motion sickness, but it won't be a cure and I don't believe it will be enough help for those who really suffer from motion sickness. This is just based on my personal experience and I hope to be able to a lot more people try the device to get more data.
I believe one of the biggest advantages my setup has over slidemills is that it is not tiring to use. When I used the virtuix omni I was getting tired after just 10 minutes. It's harder to slide my feet, even with the bowl shaped surface, than sliding my feet with my VR shoes. With the virtuix omni, I ran most of the time because running created more force to bring my feet back, but running also made me tired much quicker.
The first day I got my setup working, I used it 3 separate times in one day, 1 hour each. I also walked my dog for an hour that day. Since then I have used my setup for 1-1.5 hour sessions. I'm normally playing a game where I walk a lot of the time, but I'm also stopping a lot to search the environment or wait for dialogue and in-game events. With those games, I do not feel tired or sweaty at the end of the session. If I'm playing a game where I am constantly walking without breaks I'll be more sweaty and a little fatigued after 1.5 hours, but could easily still keep going. In general I just don't play VR for longer than 1.5 hours.
Again, I hardly ever run with my setup. It's pretty much all walking, turning, crouching, and sitting. Your experience will differ based on how you use the device and your fitness level.
I still use the joystick
Sometimes it's just easier to use the joystick and not move my feet. If I'm in a very tight space in the game or have to move a tiny bit I may just use the joystick. If I'm in combat and something happens where I need to react very quickly, I may just use the joystick. If I'm on a ledge in the game and one small error will cause me to fall to my character's death, I may just use the joystick. I find it nice to have that option for making small, precise movements.
The best games for this setup
As you may be able to guess by now, slower paced games are better with this setup. Exploration games will be great. Games like Half Life Alyx and No Man's Sky work great, even in combat. Resident Evil 4 worked fine too once I got used to the speed.
Very fast paced games like Doom VFX or maybe multiplayer games may be harder to use this device with. In multiplayer, you will be at a disadvantage to those who are just using the joystick. But this device is meant to increase immersion, not make you better at PVP.
Games where you circle enemies are not ideal. This setup can work for those, but I myself am still learning how I can circle enemies comfortably. I have not tried my setup in a boxing game, but imagine it may not work too well. I want to try my setup in Skyrim and I imagine you may want to circle enemies there so we'll see how it goes. Blades and Sorcery may be another one that tests how comfortable this setup can be. In Ancient Dungeon I find myself wanting to circle enemies, but often times just end up backing up, turning around, running further away, then turning back around to face the enemy.
These VR shoes are uni-directional, so they do not support strafing. The user needs to turn at the hips while facing forward. I can turn my hips about 45 degrees and walk just fine, but a full 90 degree turn is awkward and still not easy to do. I have not focused very much on practicing this movement though.
I'm not sure how nice strafing will feel with a passive VR locomotion setup. I haven't seen any videos of people using slidemills where they are strafing without turning their hips. I wonder if it's just awkward because if you try to strafe, or circle around a point, the support rig will just turn on you if you don't keep your core tensed.
Major limitations with this setup
With this support rig, the major limitations are it needs a low ceiling and you need to bolt to the ceiling. I am currently working on a new support rig that eliminates these limitations.
Lots of people have opinions on what is important for VR locomotion. Some think walking is just fine, others want full-out sprinting. Some want to be able to lay down. Some think simulating slopes and stairs are crucial.
Now that I have used my device for a while, here are my opinions on what is important and what isn't.
The must-haves for any VR locomotion
- Safety from falling.
- Enjoyable experience after practice, and a training guide.
- Walking forward.
- Smooth, quick turning. Including turning while walking forward.
- Walking backwards.
Nice to haves
- Omni-directional movement (for circling enemies).
- Laying down
- Slopes/stair simulation
So there are all my thoughts after a few months of using my setup. I need to try it out with more games to see if there are more limitations I am not aware of. I want to practice turning at the hips and walking more. If I learn more as I continue using this setup I will write another log about it.