Valve has been one of the companies in the forefront of the current VR movement, so when company chief Gabe Newell talks, people listen. And when the conversation touches on "house-scale" virtual reality, better VR hardware, and the VR game valve is working on, ears perk up even more.
On the hardware front, Newell said in a recent press briefing (via Gamasutra) that he believes room-scale VR will soon progress to house scale, with wireless headsets used for the experience. He believes it is possible to tie rooms together into a larger cohesive experience. Right now, wired headsets are holding the process back. "My expectation is that [wireless] will be an add-on in 2017, and then it will be an integrated feature in 2018." he said.
In addition to wireless, he sees lighter, more mobile headsets with even more computing power. "I would argue that the smartest thing AMD and Intel and Nvidia could do is give away VR development systems to software developers, because we're going to consume... Intel and AMD CPUs. Much more so than high-end games are doing right now."
As for Valve's plans, we knew they were working on VR games internally, but Newell adds that they are three full VR games, not the demos that the company has done previously. "We're definitely trying to build stuff with mass appeal," he said. "We have this theory: we think we can make three big games, we think that we know enough now to do that, and we're going to find out if that's the case. We're pretty sure that all the game developers are going to learn positive or negative lessons from what we do, which is sort of where we think we need to be."
Each game, using Source 2 and Unity engines, is very different and has its own set of design choices, something other developers can look at a cherry pick what they like and don't like. It is another aspect of the Valve mission to push VR forward so that it will not only be more affordable, but more appealing to the masses.
"If you took the existing [PC-driven] VR systems and made them 80 percent cheaper, there's still not a huge market," Newell said. "There's still not a really incredibly compelling reason for people to spend 20 hours a day in VR."
Newell also addressed why Valve thinks it's important to develop hardware and software at the same time. "What we can do now is we can be designing hardware at the same time that we're designing software. This is something that Miyamoto has always had, right. He's had the ability to think about what input devices and the design of systems should be like, while he's trying to design games. And our sense is that that's going to allow us to actually build much better entertainment experiences for people."
He concluded by saying that right now, VR is a novelty, but devs should not get discouraged. "I can't point to a single piece of content that would cause millions of people to justify changing their home computing at all. It's like a great thing for enthusiasts and hardcore people, and where we are today is way further down the road than we were a year ago, but it's just going to be this slow, kind of painful, fits and starts kind of thing."