On VR, onboarding, and lackluster tutorials

I promised myself that I wouldn’t write more this year, but since Steam 2022 recap came out and I noticed how much I played VR stuff, I thought “hey, why not write a few words on it?”. I jumped on a “Contractors VR” lobby due to a Christmas event and some random kid was talking about how hard it is to figure out the game mode (Ground War), that they said in a previous lobby that they were new to the game and got yelled at. Up until this point it was the “typical” multiplayer experience (that shouldn’t be the norm”. Someone else asked “well, did you do the tutorial?”, to which the kid replied “Yeah, but I don’t know how to play this map” and then that same person explained the rules to them.

I have put over 15hrs in “Contractors VR”, it wasn’t up until this point that I had noticed that, indeed, the game does not explain its major mode rules in the tutorial section. The only place you can figure out how it works is in the game lobby, 30 seconds before a match starts. While I am not one that thinks that everyone must go through an extensive tutorial, “Contractors VR” is easily one of the *worst* I saw in a mainly multiplayer shooter.

But I’m getting a bit ahead of myself, most of you must be “What the HELL is Contractors VR?”. Well, the VR community says it’s “kind of like Call of Duty in VR”. I say that “It’s kind of like Call of Duty in VR if you only count some of the game modes”. Ammo counter? Nope. All weapons are reloaded in a slightly different way. Most of them can be break down to “pull the mag out, insert a new one in, press button”. The major exception is the AK platform which asks you to physically pull the bolt to put a bullet in the chamber.

Contractors VR

While on the training grounds (that acts sort of a “single player” hub) you can easily learn this by trial and error, remembering to do that on the fly, during a multiplayer match with 15 other players, hearing shots pass by your head or hit a wall near you is another thing entirely.

Where is the mag stored, how many bullets you have? Should you pull the mag out and check? Are you in a safe spot? Did you hear the sound of weapon shooting its last bullet amidst this entire chaos? No? Oh well, then you are screwed.

I know, this can be somehow applied to a lot of games. You won’t learn “Sea of Thieves” if you don’t go on a boat and sail. You will probably get stomped in CS: GO for your first 5 hours at the bare minimum. But both “CS: GO” and “Call of Duty” share the same key bindings. You press “R”, and you reload your weapon. In “Contractors VR”, there is no such thing as just pressing a button.

Even during this session – the same that inspired me to write this article – I forgot that contractors uses a slightly modified version of the FN-FAL and the bolt did an odd animation after cocking it. “Wait, do I have a bullet in the chamber?”, I asked myself. Pulled the bolt midway through and yup, it was loaded.

By the way, if you never seen a FN-FAL, it’s this monstrosity. And yes, it is also huge in real life, a cold war relic that is still used by Brazil Armed forces and throughout the world.

Contractors VR

While I won’t go into many other aspects “Contractors VR” fails to onboard the player or even give a glimpse of minor mechanics (Rifle size, corner checking, etc.) that may play a role in their match or in its barebones single player campaign, this is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to most games I played in VR for the past year or so.

Unless it’s a game like “Ultrawings 2”, or games with extremely simple and approachable mechanics such as “What the Bat!”, “Among US VR”, “The Last Clockwinder” and others, I’d say 99% of the playerbase will hit a brick wall in a niche market that already has way too many brick walls. (Don’t get me started on Bonelabs — this game spawn a class of assholes, elitist and gatekeepers of its own). Even “Walkabout Minigolf”, that I consider a very beginner friendly game has its own set of issues.

Over the course of 2022 I have read, listened and watched many people talk about how “There won’t be a market for your game VR unless you also release it on the Quest 2”. Possibly the most popular headset right now and by the looks of it, for a good while. Well, here are some news: “Contractors VR” is also on Quest 2 with mostly the same features as the PC version. Sure, some mods might not work on the Quest 2 but that’s it.

It doesn’t matter which platform you launch your game, be it Steam, Oculus, Quest, Pico or PSVR1 and soon PSVR2. As long the transition from a flat screen to a virtual space stays this awful, VR won’t grow at all.  It’s not about outstanding visuals or how much you can “recreate physicality”, it’s about making the jump easier.

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