Co-founder of id Software, current chief technology officer at Oculus VR, and all-around game programming genus John Carmack recently took to Twitter with a comment on Sony’s recently announced virtual reality headset, Project Morpheus. Due to the power of the PlayStation 4, you might have visions of becoming fully immersed in a world every bit as detailed as Killzone: Shadow Fall or Infamous: Second Son, but Carmack’s tweet suggests that might be a mistake.
“Calibrate PS4 VR expectations: a game that ran 60 fps on PS3 could be done in VR (stereo 1080 MSAA low latency 60 fps) on PS4.”
Put simply, virtual reality requires a good deal more hardware power than traditional games. Xbox One and PlayStation 4 owners might be currently debating the importance of 60 fps and 1080p resolutions on a game by game basis, but these aspects are anything but optional when it comes to virtual reality. Framerates below 60 fps can make VR headset users nauseous, and screens using resolutions less than true 1080p are much more likely to lead users to noticing the sea of pixels that is literally inches away from their eyes.
For those closely following the ongoing development of the Oculus Rift, Carmack’s cautionary recommendation shouldn’t come as a surprise. Speaking to TechRadar last November, Oculus Rift inventor Palmer Luckey stated, “Consoles are too limited for what we want to do.” He went on to suggest that Oculus VR would prefer to support platforms that can quickly change with new technology, and aren’t locked into the same hardware for a number years, which obviously would rule out consoles.
That isn’t to say, though, that Sony’s Project Morpheus won’t be worthwhile. If the current interest in the indie game development scene has told us anything, it’s that games don’t need cutting edge graphics to be worth playing. If a game is well-designed or well-written, it can be every bit as enjoyable an experience as the latest AAA blockbuster.
And thankfully, as developers become more familiar with the PlayStation 4 hardware, both traditional and virtual reality games should continue to increase in graphical quality. I would guess that towards the end of the PlayStation 4’s lifespan, we could very well be seeing Project Morpheus games that look better than anything standard PS3 titles had to offer. And really, hypothetically speaking, would you rather play a game that looks as good as Killzone: Shadow Fall on a television screen, or feel completely enveloped in a virtual reality The Last of Us?