The Wizards Enhanced Edition Articles RSS Feed | The Wizards Enhanced Edition RSS Feed on en Launch Media Network What's Does the Future Have in Store for PSVR? 6 Changes We Need to See Fri, 03 May 2019 10:04:15 -0400 Ty Arthur

If you've got a PS4 and haven't yet jumped on the VR train, now is the perfect time to hit the station. Prices are lower, upgrades have been applied, and the catalog of games is currently booming.

Last year, we took a look at the PSVR's current incarnation and tried to determine if it's worth your money. It's still (essentially) the first-gen trial version of the hardware, and there are a lot of kinks to still be worked out. With big news arriving from Sony, it's nearly time to revise that opinion.

The cat is out of the bag: the PS5 is in the works and potentially coming in 2020. Although, we aren't supposed to call it the PS5 yet for some reason. We also know VR will be supported in some fashion, but the specifics haven't been revealed at this point. 

With new consoles on the horizon and the sea of virtual reality titles steadily expanding, it's time to take stock of what PSVR could do better. That's a fact compounded with Steam putting their Valve Index VR machine up for pre-order, and the Oculus Quest set to launch soon.

What's more, some players may not realize that a handful of quality of life upgrades have already arrived since PSVR launched at the end of 2016. I (sadly) bought my PSVR just before a 2nd-Gen edition came out that includes an inline headphone jack and slimmer connection cable.

While those are welcome additions, there are still some major shortcomings to overcome in its hardware and its overall design. Let's take a deeper look at the top 5 changes the upcoming iteration needs to implement to take the console VR experience to the next level.

Build The PSVR Breakout Box Into The Console

Anyone considering VR knows that price is a barrier. However, what a lot of new PSVR players don't realize is just how much shelf real estate this system takes up. 

Take it from someone who knows  you absolutely need to get a charging stand to hold all of the components in one place. This helps avoid a ton of extra clutter from the headset (with its massive cord) and the Move controllers all rolling around.

Even with a charging stand, though, you are still stuck with the connector brick (called the "breakout box") sitting next to your console. That's where the design could easily be improved. Sony absolutely needs to have the PSVR brick built directly into the base console at the PS5 launch.

Considering that devices like the new Oculus Quest completely ditch everything but the headset and controllers, its clear that smaller devices that take up less space are the future of VR.

Improved Tracking

I have to admit, the current PSVR camera is pretty nifty. Sony's engineers managed to make it highly adaptable in a very tiny package.

However, there's big room for improvement here. The PSVR has a major Achille's Heel not present in other PC-based setups: you only get a single camera for motion tracking.

Other systems like the HTC Vive, Oculus Rift S, and impending Valve Index all use multiple camera setups for significantly improved tracking (either with two base stations or with multiple cameras built into the headset).

The PS5's VR headset desperately requires either a multi-camera setup or some new design that tracks better with the single, forward-facing camera system. This single feature alone would catapult the PSVR past "novelty" into "must-buy" territory.

Foveated Rendering

Hardware setup aside, the biggest issue with the PSVR right now is that nearly all of its existing games feel hampered or restrained in various ways by existing technology.

On-rails or stationary games tend to be the most fun because you don't expect them to have huge open environments that can be fully explored.

Granted, some developers have found clever ways to get around that by using limited areas like the confines of a mansion in Intruders: Hide And Seek or by implementing teleportation-based movement.

Those are just workarounds, though, and they don't address the root problem. To make bigger, more immersive VR worlds, the next iteration of PSVR needs to take advantage of foveated rendering. If you haven't heard this term before, prepare to see it flung around like crazy in the coming months.

Essentially, what this technique does is track where your eye moves so the headset only renders what you are looking at. It then ignores all of the stuff you aren't actively seeing at the moment. The result is a massive reduction in system resources needed to render huge VR environments, allowing developers to go hog wild with bigger areas.

Quickly Switch Between Normal Vision And VR

I've spent hundreds of hours in VR at this point. However, I'm constantly wishing for a way to quickly switch between the VR game and the real world without taking off the headset. There are a couple of different ways the PSVR 2.0 could tackle this issue:

  1. Placing a button on the side of the headset to pop off the front of the helmet or slide it back into position for an easy physical solution.
  2. Using a see-through material for the front of the headset and then projecting the VR image against it, with an option to quickly turn the image off by tapping a button on the headset or the DualShock.

  3. Adding an in-screen segment in the corner of the VR image that shows your surroundings by using the camera, with the ability to turn this inlay segment on or off quickly.

  4. Implementing a boundary system like the Oculus Quest, which scans your surroundings and notifies you if you are getting too close to the edge of the play space. If you step outside of the play space, the Quest automatically shows you your surroundings with built-in cameras.

If you haven't played VR games extensively, you might be wondering why this is such a big issue.

First up, it's very (very) easy to get turned around when you can't see your surroundings.

That's not just an issue of looking silly if other people are in the room. Due to the current single camera setup of the PSVR, this can result in reduced precision for your movements. This is especially true if you are facing sideways where the camera can't track the controller lights.

But here's the biggest reason: people have pets and kids. At the moment, I almost always have to wait until my toddler has gone to bed to play VR. That's because he loves to get underfoot and try to figure out just what the heck his papa is doing with that weird helmet on his head.

For The Love Of Everything, Go Wireless!

If you haven't seen it in person, it's hard to overstate the bulk and length of the PSVR headset cable. That length is needed so you have room to maneuver while playing. But the girth and weight of both are out of control.

Thankfully, that was dealt with when Sony released the 2nd-Gen update and the cable was made much thinner, but frankly, there shouldn't be a cable at all.

Whether you have the huge first version or the slimmer second version, the cable gets in the way during games where fast, precision movement is important, like Beat Saber.

It seems like a flat out necessity for the PS5's VR headset to be entirely wireless if Sony wants to get a bigger selection of gamers to lay down the money on the virtual experience.

Add Multiple Headset Support

This is perhaps more of a personal preference than a "must have," but I'd like to see a local co-op solution for the PSVR. At the moment, only one PSVR headset can be connected to the PS4 at a time through the breakout box.

The desire to use two VR headsets at the same time may seem odd at first. Since you are immersed in a virtual world and many of these games already offer online co-op, why two headsets? Well, for a certain section of couch co-op fanatics, it's a must that is sorely missing.

In particular, it's noticeably absent from games just screaming for the functionality, like Dick Wilde 2. Both stationary shooters and VR versions of local co-op favorites, such as Fruit Ninja, would be more fun with in-room co-op. If your friend or spouse could play next to you in the same room and discuss strategy or just shout expletives together, that would considerably increase the social factors of VR.

This option wouldn't be useful just for games where you are getting up and moving, however. There are plenty of mini-games in The Playroom VR, for instance, where a group of people sits on the couch and one player stands in the middle. Adding multiple headset support would mean the whole family could sit together and watch VR movies.

Of course, making this work is entirely dependent on the on-screen surroundings solution above being effectively implemented so you don't smash into each other unexpectedly.

There's another potential barrier to local co-op, and that's the issue of CPU power. Rendering all of those fast-moving VR images at a constant rate is already taxing on the PS4. It's something that results in noticeably reduced graphical power from non-VR games. So, doing two at once might be a no-go even with the PS5's increased specs

What Do You Want To See From PSVR 2.0?

When do you think VR support will be added to the PS5, and what do you most want to see in the PS5 rendition of PSVR? Sound off in the comments below or take our poll of the most-requested new PSVR features! 

What feature do you most want to see in the next generation of PSVR?
Backwards compatibility
Built-in power brick
Improved tracking / multi-camera setup
Foveated rendering / bigger environments
Quick switching between living room view and VR view
Wireless connection
Multiple headset support
Something else entirely - leave a comment!
The Wizards Enhanced Edition Review — Spell Flinging Combat Refined For The PSVR Tue, 12 Mar 2019 05:15:01 -0400 Ty Arthur

The catalog of worthwhile PSVR games just keeps expanding, this time with a new and improved edition of fantasy spell-slinger The Wizards.

Somewhere between the slew of stationary bullet hell VR games and free-range combat titles, The Wizards fills an important niche for fantasy fans who have taken the plunge and invested in virtual reality equipment.

I distinctly recall loading up the warp-speed wizard arena battler Ziggurat a year or so back and thinking, "I absolutely MUST have this in VR!"And now we kind of do.

While The Wizards isn't nearly as fast paced as Ziggurat (which is probably for the best, considering how often PSVR games can still cause nausea), you get everything else. In terms of taking up the role of a spell-slinging mage while burning hordes of enemies in virtual reality dungeon environments, it's hard to beat The Wizards.

Magic Come To Life

With a first-person dungeon crawler like The Wizards, we finally get to see some of the promises of VR come to fruition, especially when using hand motions to conjure different spells, having to physically crank a turn wheel to open gates, and so on.

Each spell is conjured with a different motion from the Move controllers, which often requires holding them in a specific position (like a magic shield to block projectiles) or even pulling the string on a bow made of ice.

It's difficult to have imagined something like this just a decade ago, and the prevalence of VR games in this style can be absolutely wild for older gamers to experience. Younger gamers may not appreciate The Wizards as much as kids who grew up with parents influenced by the Satanic Panic.

From the moment the tutorial started, I was struck by how a large majority of '90s-era parents would have despised this whole setup. There absolutely would have been a daytime talk show segment about the dangers of role-playing a spellcasting mage had VR existed at the time. 

I'm certain if my D&D-averse mother had seen me playing this as a teen she'd have had a heart attack on the spot while trying to ward off the demons such a game was sure to summon.

Nobody Said Spellcrafting Was Easy

While hurling fireballs at orcs and teleporting away from pit traps is as fun as you'd expect, there is one big potential hurdle to enjoyment in The Wizards: aiming.

Magical apprenticeships in fantasy settings always seem to take decades to complete, as conjuring magic and properly channeling it into destructive spells is tough work. 

It's even harder if you don't have great aim.

The Enhanced Edition of The Wizards allows players to tweak the auto assist aim settings, which I heartily recommend you do immediately until you find the aim level that makes the game the least frustrating for you. Even at 100% sensitivity, I still found times where my fireballs did not even remotely go where I was flinging my hand.

It can be quite easy for the camera to lose track of your Move controllers while standing, which makes this one of those rare games that can actually be better to play seated, all so you don't move around the play area inadvertently.

While the fireball can be mastered with practice, I found I very rarely used the ice bow because of how touchy the drawstring mechanic can become. When a horde of enemies is bearing down on you, there's just no time for wonky mechanics to get in the way of survival.

That led to me relying heavily on the lightning bolt spell during the campaign, especially with the chain lightning upgrade since it fires continuously wherever you point.

There's a downside though: movement is slowed while channeling lightning bolts, and you can't teleport, so a smart wizard will have moved to a defensible position before unleashing that spell.

Learning how to use each spell effectively is a big part of the overall experience, although you may eventually feel some spells aren't worth the trouble if you can't quite master the proper motions during difficult battles.

What's New In The Wizards Enhanced Edition

Aside from the game's aim assist settings, there's plenty of new material in the Enhanced Edition to lure in old players, too.

Most notably, there's an entirely new level with the Enhanced Edition, along with several quality of life upgrades like the ability to customize your glove color scheme after defeating the second level.  

One change that is relatively minor but carries a lot of weight is that your health is now displayed as a glyph on your gloves. That's much more immersive than having a health bar and scorecard float in front of you during levels like in the original version.

Other changes are bigger and more frequently requested by fans of the original version, like the option to choose between free-range movement or teleportation at any time, all without switching settings back and forth. Instead of a menu toggle, you control free movement with the left controller and teleportation with the right controller.

More VR games need to come standard with such a choice available, rather than forcing players into one mode or the other.

I found myself using free movement extensively while exploring areas to find hidden chests or fairy crystals, and then mostly using teleportation during combat.

It's an incredibly useful skill to suddenly wink out of existence and appear behind an onrushing goblin horde, although there's a mechanic wisely built in to prevent players from abusing this power.

During combat, the distance of each successive teleport is shortened if you repeatedly teleport in a short amount of time, so it can't be used indefinitely to always avoid enemies.

 It really seems like I should be able to hang out on that ledge...

While giving players the option to choose is a huge leap forward in playability, unfortunately, the areas you can teleport onto in each level are fairly limited. There are several narrow ledges it seems like you should be able to reach but actually can't, which limits your tactical options.

I understand that the developers want the player engaged in frantic ground-based combat with specific obstacles, but coming off a long stretch playing Dishonored: Death Of The Outsider, I really missed the ability to teleport to elevated areas for assessing situations before raining down death from an unexpected location. 

That limitation aside, one of the game's main strengths is that it gives you the freedom to tackle combat in whatever way best suits your play style.

As you collect hidden fairy crystals across the campaign, your wizard gets to upgrade spells with new abilities. This is where playstyle heavily factors into The Wizards gameplay, with options for reflecting enemy projectiles with the magic shield, charging up the fireball for extra damage, arcing lightning bolts to multiple enemies, and so on.

The Bottom Line

  • First-person spellcrafting is awesome in VR
  • Fun (and challenging) trap encounters
  • Lots of replay with the arena mode
  • Spell control can be difficult with the Move controllers
  • There's not a ton of story, and what'st there is more silly than serious
  • Not enough open areas with additional ledges for traversal

Although you'll be flinging lightning bolts at giants and goblins while trying to avoid flaming traps, its worth noting that The Wizards isn't a particularly serious fantasy adventure. It carries with it a much lighter, funnier tone than some other games in the fantasy genre, bringing the 2004 remake of The Bard's Tale to mind. 

There also isn't a huge emphasis on story despite being a single-player game. The campaign is moved forward more by learning the spell mechanics than by getting to know specific NPCs or watching a sprawling story unfold.

The game's campaign mode will last around five to seven hours depending on how frequently you die, which is actually pretty decent for a PSVR game. While you can replay campaign levels with different fate cards to make them easier or harder in various ways, that's not really where you'll find the most replay.

Instead, arena mode is probably where you'll spend the most of your time, especially if you bought The Wizards as a VR party game to show off to your friends. The replay value skyrockets here as you choose different battlegrounds with varying challenges while you try to survive as long as possible against waves of enemies.

But whether in campaign or the arena, The Wizards provides an overall satisfying, if sometimes frustratingly limited, take on the first-person fantasy genre.

It seems clear that VR developers are still figuring out how to make everything work smoothly, and they are hampered in some ways by the single camera setup of the PSVR, which makes tracking the controller and headset more of a challenge.

That leads to the same criticism I have at the end of nearly any PSVR game these days: if this was all just a little bit smoother and more intuitive, it would absolutely explode in popularity and overcome standard gaming entirely.

While that's not the case with The Wizards, it is a fun time for fantasy RPG fans who have wanted to take up the role of a fireball-flinging wizard.

[Note: A copy of The Wizards Enhanced Edition was provided by Carbon Studio Games for the purpose of this review.]