How A Virtual Reality Racing Game Could Be Amazing

The future is an open road, but who is ready to drive?

Contributed by Ian McGraw

Virtual reality is the next big thing in gaming, and it’s starting to feel as if we’ll be seeing consoles for sale sooner rather than later. Oculus Rift is leading the way, but Microsoft’s HoloLens and Sony’s Project Morpheus have gained ground. Also, those two could have advantages because of their natural combination with the Xbox One and PlayStation 4, respectively. But regardless of which system is the first to generate significant attention, one thing looks certain: we’re going to see racing games among the early releases for virtual reality.

This has been made evident by numerous lists of early planned games for virtual reality, though perhaps no title is as enticing as Project Cars. It’s an existing PS4 title that, according to Kotaku, could be getting adapted to the Project Morpheus. A straightforward version of exactly the same game on VR would be pretty sensational, as Project Cars is widely regarded as one of the better racing games produced in recent years. But there are also a number of specific steps that could be taken to make sure such an adaptation —- or any racing game on VR, for that matter —- would be truly sensational.

A Real Wheel

mariokartwii

Project Cars on PS4 actually supports play with various independently designed steering wheel controllers. However, it wasn’t a standard option that came with the game, and some players had trouble finding the right wheel or setting up the game with it. That’s fine for an ordinary console game, but once you strap into a racing car in virtual reality, controlling the action with a joystick is going to feel bizarre. Project Cars on VR needs a a standard steering wheel controller designed specifically for the game the way Nintendo produced a wheel for Mario Kart Wii.

Non-Urban Scenery

There are examples of non-urban scenery in various games that employ auto racing, but most serious racing games limit themselves to city-based tracks and specific racing venues. That’s all well and good, but VR gaming will be as much about atmosphere as activity, so any developers working on a new racing game ought to take inspiration from those few that go with rural and even exotic settings. In online casino gaming, for example, a popular game called Rush featured at Gala Bingo does more with these different settings than the bulk of Project Cars. While the term “rush” is meant in part to describe the quick nature of bingo game turnover, its racing imagery is centered on a country road with dense trees. This simple image alone should serve as inspiration for level creation in a VR racing game that should explore all kinds of tracks and scenes, rather than just the ones we’re familiar with.

Vehicle Prizes & Upgrades

driveclub

As mentioned, VR gaming will be about atmosphere and visuals, and that will place more emphasis on the actual cars than most any racing game ever has. Because of this, there needs to be a heavy focus on the ability to upgrade your vehicle, buy a new one, or even win a new one through competition. Fortunately, there’s some recent precedent for these ideas, as the PS4 game Driveclub focused a great deal on the culture of racing, rather than solely on the races. Incidentally, VR Focus recently previewed a new version of Driveclub being developed for virtual reality, and it was a pretty encouraging glimpse. So, perhaps this and the other ideas mentioned in this post will soon come to fruition.

The early looks at racing on virtual reality systems are pretty exciting. But by building in these elements, a developer could create a truly original title to address the best of the genre. At this stage, Driveclub for VR looks like a good candidate.

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David Oxford

David Oxford is a freelance writer of many varied interests. If you're interested in hiring him, please drop him a line at david.oxford (at) nyteworks.net.