Virtual reality with Oculus Rift
We're only just scratching the surface of what is possible with virtual reality and gamingIBTimes UK

Already hugely impressive, virtual reality is only now at the stage video games were when Pong was released in 1972, says Left 4 Dead, Portal and Half-Life writer Chet Faliszek.

Speaking at the Slush Play virtual reality (VR) conference in Reykjavik, the Valve video game writer gave advice on what he expects to see from the technology in 2015 - and said that the honest answer is, no one really knows.

"None of know what the hell we are doing. We're still just scratching the surface of VR. We still haven't found out what VR is, and that's fine. We've been making movies in pretty much the same way for 100 years, TV for 60 years and videogames for 40. VR has only really been [in development] for about a year, so we're at Pong level."

In its first year, Slush Play is a spin-off of the popular Slush conference, which takes place annually in Helsinki to celebrate Nordic technology startups. Instead of being open to all forms of tech startup, Slush Play is focused on young companies in the video game and VR industry.

Faliszek likened forcing VR into the style of video games we already play to fixing a rudder to an early car, because that's how steering had always worked. He says entire game genres could be changed and rewritten to fit with what VR is capable of, and cited attempts to bring VR to Grand Theft Auto 5 as examples of going about VR development in the wrong way.

Locomotion is a real problem

"Just because a game genre has been around for 35 years doesn't mean it'll work with VR. How do you move around in VR? Locomotion is a real problem. Or you might find out that that genre shouldn't exist anymore. It doesn't work."

The video game writer added that VR, which provides a 360-degree world completely surrounding the player, "fundamentally changes the way you interact and experience the world. VR actually changes the game and experience - embrace that and experiment with that.

"We can get into gamers' heads in ways we never have before. The feeling of vulnerability has never been higher. You aren't looking at the action, you're in it and you can't escape it."

Chet Faliszek
Chet Faliszek takes to the stage to talk VR gaming at Slush Play conference in ReykjavikIBTimes UK

But there's one thing that VR game developers must be careful to avoid, and that is motion sickness and nausea. "There's one thing you can't do and that's make people sick," Faliszek said. "It has to run at 90 frames per second. Any lower and people feel sick."

Putting a nose on the screen isn't the answer

Thwarting a recent suggestion that adding a virtual nose to what the player sees stops them feeling sick by giving them a fixed and familiar point of reference, Faliszek said: "Putting a nose on the screen isn't the answer, when you do it right nobody gets sick.

"Telling people they will be ok 'Once you get your VR legs' is a wholly wrong idea. If people need to get used to it then that's failure."

The excitement surround VR at Slush Play is positively palpable. Even after eight hours of talks and fireside chats, the audience of developers and investors were keen to tell each other just how fundamentally the technology will change the gaming landscape. One attendee was overheard saying VR was "everything I dreamed of as a kid." Another told a colleague: "There have been more updates in VR in the past two years than in the 15 before that."