Versions is the essential guide to virtual reality and beyond. It investigates the rapidly deteriorating boundary between the real world and the one behind the screen. Versions launched in 2016 at the eponymous conference dedicated to creativity and VR with the New Museum’s incubator NEW INC.

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The road to fixing the design of portal locomotion in VR

The road to fixing the design of portal locomotion in VR

Moving in VR has proven itself to be one of the everlasting challenges of developers for VR. If a game or experience accelerates the player in a way they aren’t physically moving in reality, then motion sickness can quickly rear its ugly head.

Some merely attribute motion sickness to users not having their “VR legs” yet (a shortened term for not being used to the hardware, thus causing the nausea), ignoring the problems that lie in developers repeating the same issues of early VR. “[VR legs] don’t exist,” wrote Valve writer and game developer Chet Faliszek on Twitter in early July. “[Three] years in and bad VR gets me sick as ever, more so as I am accustomed to good VR.” He’s right. And luckily, he’s not the only one paying attention.

Creeping up on an unsuspecting enemy in Budget Cuts.

Stockholm, Sweden-based developers Neat Corporation are currently making the stealth-oriented spy thriller VR game called Budget Cuts. In Budget Cuts, the player must navigate multiple levels of an environment, all while evading eerie robot enemies. How the player navigates is via a nifty teleporter gun, something akin to Chell’s handy portal gun from Valve’s 2007 classic puzzle game Portal. In a recent Medium blog post cataloging development on the game, Neat Corporation co-founder Joachim Holmér discussed the problems that lie in point-and-click teleporting in VR, and how they solved its issues for Budget Cuts’ purposes.

“This solves the speed limit problem in a natural way”

There’s a lot of issues that lie in point-and-click teleporting, according to Holmér. If someone teleports too often in too small of increments, it can cause motion sickness for the player. Without a distance or speed limiter, that dizzied opportunity flourishes. Teleporting also isn’t believable in the game world, and suffers from jarring transitions and inaccurate positioning that can easily disorient the player. Holmér and his team set out to solve all these issues for the teleporting mechanic in their game, with a familiar inspiration setting them on the right path.

Valve's Portal (2007) is one of Budget Cuts' notable inspirations.
Valve’s Portal (2007) is one of Budget Cuts’ notable inspirations.

In Epic Games’ Unreal Tournament 3 (2007), there’s a device called the Translocator. The Translocator fires off a small beacon, which the player can then teleport to after seeing it land. “This solves the speed limit problem in a natural way,” wrote Holmér. There’s a natural wait time, which halts the speed and clumsiness of other less-tested teleportation mechanics. Since the Translocator is also a projectile, it limits the distance to which one can travel, in addition to making the device feel a bit more believable to the player.

The teleportation device that’s ended up in Budget Cuts is somewhat of a love letter to Unreal Tournament 3 and Portal, as it shares qualities with both games’ devices, but couples them together. Once the player tosses their projectile-esque portal in Budget Cuts, they can peer around their new environment via a window like circle—especially keeping an eye out for sneaky enemies—and then seamlessly teleport to the spot with no nausea to be had. Problem solved.

Budget Cuts will be released sometime this year for the HTC Vive, and you can stay updated via its Steam page.

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