OPINION

VR hack: A simple add-on multiplied my immersion

VR hack: A simple add-on multiplied my immersion

Sometimes you don’t need elaborate gadgets and technologies to increase immersion. Classic tools will do.

Walking machines, haptic gloves, smell simulators. I don’t need that kind of stuff.

Hardware of this kind is expensive, time-consuming to use and maintain, and often enough doesn’t achieve the desired effect. Less virtual reality? That is usually more. Because my brain makes me believe in reality better than the most elaborate technology. You just have to know how to harness your sensorium for immersive purposes.

Recently, I had an idea that pushed my VR immersion to unimagined heights. But first things first.

Until You Fall: When body and play merge

Until You Fall is a VR game that skillfully simulates hand-to-hand combat with slashing weapons: from swords and axes to fist weapons, clubs and daggers, it’s all there. In the game, you charge enemies, dodge blows, and parry artfully until the opponent tires – and then strike him down with counterattacks.

Not randomly and by wildly waving around, but by the game given attack and movement patterns. This exchange of blows is so well done that the body and the game merge into one. The mixed reality trailer above illustrates the game mechanics. Regular MIXED readers know that Until You Fall is one of my favorite games.

Heavy weapons, light controllers

Until You Fall had been available for PC VR for some time before it was released in a mobile version for Meta Quest (2) a year and a half ago. Fans waited in vain for new content for a long time – until now.

In mid-March, an update was released that brought three new weapons. Their special feature: They are two-handed weapons and thus bring a new gameplay experience.

The VR game simulates the weight and inertia of the warhammer, longsword and greataxe by gently pulling the weapons as they move. This trick is known from other VR games.

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The brain can only be partially fooled with it. Pulling effect or not: In reality, you only have two light VR controllers in your hand. But there is a solution.

Hand weights: a literal game changer

My idea was to put on the two wrist weights that I otherwise rarely take out of the closet. They weigh a kilogram each and can only begin to simulate the actual weight of steel two-handed weapons. But hey, you have to start somewhere.

The result is an unexpected immersion boost. With two kilograms more in my hands, it almost feels like I’m clutching a heavy slashing weapon.

Hände mit Gewichten und das digitale Pendant im VR-Spiel Until You Fall.

My hands with weights and the digital counterpart. | Image: MIXED

The extra weight adds to the immersion and changes how I play. I stand wider and have to lunge farther. Attacks and strike directions can no longer be broken off and corrected in the middle. This increases the realism immensely.

That’s the great thing about Virtual Reality and Until You Fall: each weapon goes with a different physical fighting and movement style. The weights even force me to move differently, more carefully and with more control.

But also for the sake of my wrists, I’ll only indulge in this kind of game occasionally. Not that I’ll have much strength left afterwards. Until You Fall is strenuous enough as it is. With weights, sore muscles are pre-programmed.

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