The launch of the Playstation VR 2 will be marked by a lack of brand-new VR games, but developers explain why their PSVR 2 ports still feel new and can be an advantage for the VR headset’s launch.
Sony’s long-awaited Playstation VR 2 VR headset is less than a month away from release, but some excitement is being dampened by a mixed lineup of launch games. Out of a total of 27 VR games that will be available on the launch day of the PSVR2, there is exactly one new and exclusive title, Horizon Call of the Mountain.
The second new exclusive title, The Dark Pictures Switchback VR, has just been delayed to March 16, 2023. All other PSVR2 games are either ports of popular VR games or VR versions of already released Playstation games like Gran Turismo 7 or Resident Evil 8: Village.
Although Sony doesn’t offer backwards compatibility with the PSVR 1 like the PS5 does with the PS4, that doesn’t mean PSVR 1 games won’t be released for PSVR 2. Playstation VR games can be reworked by studios and re-released for PSVR 2. Few are offering free upgrades. Some developers have now commented on the quality of their ports to Gamesindustry.biz.
Does the lack of backwards compatibility make for better ports?
For Enhance’s Mark MacDonald, the PSVR 2’s lack of backwards compatibility is an advantage for their games: “The awesome thing is that it’s kind of the excuse we needed to go back and do a full PS5 version,” he explains.
“We’re really excited because ‘superficial’ things like resolution and framerate really matter in games like Tetris Effect: Connected and Rez Infinite, where sound and visuals sync and the crispness of it are extremely important and a big part of the experience.”
The Playstation VR 2 features 4K HDR OLED displays with a resolution of 2,000 × 2,040 pixels per eye. By comparison, the PSVR’s single OLED display had a resolution of 1,920 × 1,080 pixels, or about 960 x 1080 per eye. There was also a screen door effect that muddied the overall image. According to early previews of PSVR 2, this should be almost invisible in the successor.
Moss and Moss: Book 2 are two of the games that will be released at the launch of PSVR 2. Both have already been released on PSVR. At least in the case of the first part, a revision and adaptation to the new hardware was inevitable, according to lead designer Josh Stiksma.
“To the best of our ability, we always want to bring players with us when we can, but I think there’s just a lot of technical changes that go into the new hardware,” he says. “The obvious big one that comes into play is now it’s a game that involves two hand-tracking controllers, rather than a single DualShock. Fundamentally, the input needs to change in order to handle that.”
While Moss relied on the DualShock 4 controller’s light bar for tracking, the PSVR2’s Sense controllers use much improved infrared technology. The unreliable light ball tracking of the PSVR 1 is history.
Eye Tracking and Sense Controllers bring new possibilities
Many PSVR 1 games have also been released for PC VR or the Meta Quest (2). However, according to the development teams, the upcoming PSVR 2 versions are not simple ports. Due to the features of the new Sony headset, the games could be improved significantly.
For example, the Playstation VR 2’s new eye tracking allows for foveated rendering. This means that only what the eye actually sees needs to be rendered. In the case of Moss, the resulting performance boost allowed the developers to add new dynamic shadows. Tetris Effect: Connected uses eye tracking for the Zen Flow Zone mechanic, which you activate by closing your eyes.
Then there are the haptic features of the Sense controllers, such as adaptive triggers, which Pistol Whip, for example, is set to benefit from. “Our team tuned the haptics to the PSVR 2’s greater range and sensitivity, and the new headset haptics will give players a bit more of a jolt when they’re hit,” explains game director Tyler McCulloch.
“Adaptive triggers add different levels of trigger resistance when the clip is full or empty, provide more realistic firing vibrations, and those distinct satisfying clicks when you reload. It’s great,” says McCulloch.
Sense technology also opens up new possibilities for Moss, according to Josh Stiksma: “If you think about just how many interactions we have across both Moss Book I and II, there’s a lot of different textures and different feels that you can actually accomplish using that feature. It’s pretty amazing when you start to play with it, so that’s something that’s going to feel really, really new.”
How much should a PSVR 1 port cost?
But do these new features really warrant a whole new version of these long-familiar games? At least for owners of the PSVR 1 or PC VR versions, that may be in doubt. Still, studios see a PSVR 2 release as an opportunity to reach a wider audience. To achieve this goal, they are pursuing different pricing models.
Buyers who already have Rez Infinite or Tetris Effect: Connected in their PS4 library will receive a discount on the PSVR 2 version. 17-Bit, Vertigo Games, and Cloudhead Games are even offering free upgrades. Polyarc, on the other hand, will charge full price for Moss and Moss: Book 2.
For Stiksma and 17-Bit CEO Jake Kazdal, the case is clear: The relatively small studios put a lot of time and effort into the PSVR 2 versions and simply can’t afford to give them away. Song in the Smoke was also released late for PSVR and didn’t sell well there.
Studios hope for a successful PSVR 2 launch
But for gamers who already have multiple VR platforms, there is a lack of new, big VR games. From the outside, it lacks a big system seller and a clear commitment from Sony to its product. It appears that the company is not willing to take a big risk with its current lineup of games.
Still, Stiksma is hoping for a successful launch: “My hope is that the launch titles, us included, make a really strong showing of welcoming people to the platform. Sony can then further prove how great the platform is by getting their new titles out.”
After the Fall producer Alastair Burns sees potential in a launch with mostly familiar games: “So many more people get to play these tried, tested and proven titles now and a quality line up on launch will only attract more curious gamers to VR.”
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