Every year I look forward to October 1 because that’s the day I get to start with Halloween. The decorations, the music, the movies, and all the spoopy stuff – October 1 is when that begins. Some years we start planning ahead and other years, like this one, we’re sort of behind. I’ve only just started thinking about having friends over to play some horror in VR. Over the last year we’ve held a few gatherings that were PSVR-centric and those experiences have revealed certain titles are better for group play than others. Sadly, horror titles so far haven’t made the list of good group play. I have a friend who has specifically requested playing Resident Evil 7: Biohazard (RE7), but I don’t think that will happen in a group setting. Sure, it’ll be fun to watch him jump, but the game itself is mostly incompatible for showing many people a good time. I know that there’s been a long and sustained call for quality long-form VR, but there’s also a need for quality short-form too.
The same friend that wants to play Resident Evil 7 in VR also really wanted to play Batman: Arkham VR (B:A VR). He got that experience but it was drag for everyone else in the room. After I completed B:A VR for the first time I remember being really excited, but it also felt too short. When my friend went through it he was removed from the party for about an hour while he worked through it. At that time, from my perspective as the host, the experience felt too long. One person monopolized the PSVR for an hour. When he was done he was sweaty and VR weary and that was basically it for him at the party. He had a great time and I’m glad he did, but the duration of the experience kept others from using it. The game has breaks built into it, but they’re not obvious when you’re going through it and plus he really wanted to experience it in full. I suspect he’ll want the same thing from Resident Evil 7 – and that’s a considerably longer experience. It’s possible that, like me, he’ll get so spooked in RE7 that he can’t continue beyond a certain point. Even if he can’t, though, RE7 isn’t a good choice for a party.
When I first got Farpoint I played for as long as I could stand it. I got pretty deep into the campaign. When my friends came over to try it I was really reluctant to let them at first because I didn’t want them to affect my position. The good people at Impulse Gear who made Farpoint had my back. They built in non-campaign experiences. My friends got to try those. We all had a good time and I didn’t need to stress. One of the other problems with Resident Evil 7 is that it’s all campaign play. When my friend tries it he either advances my play or starts again at the beginning. I’m okay with him starting over because I wussed out so early on, but it’s just another strike against the game as being something fun at parties.
Some games are a lot of fun to watch the player and to watch their progress on the television. Single track games aren’t those type. Watching someone play The Heist reduces the experience for the next person to try it, whereas Carnival Games VR is improved by having friends watch and compete. I think horror games can get away with being single track. They create such as sense of stress to the person wearing the goggles that those watching the TV can still go second and get an equivalent stress, which really is part of the fun of VR horror. The problem would come with people watching campaign play and seeing secrets revealed that take away from the experience of going second.
Last year in October I didn’t have the PSVR so I got my horror VR fix with my Gear VR. There’s an app called Face Your Fears that really worked for me. It’s a series of short experiences that are similar but not interconnected. There’s a main menu from which you select which experience you want, you experience it, and you’re back at the main menu. The experiences have you seated in place as the room around you becomes possessed or otherwise moves you around. Each one concludes with a jump scare to provide the thrill. It’s a good Gear VR app, but I wouldn’t call it good horror. Jump scares are cheap. I wouldn’t use this app as the cornerstone of a VR horror party, but it is the blueprint of what I think a good VR horror party app would look like. All of the experiences would be designed to be short form; I don’t know the exact duration but something that lets the headset move around a few times in an hour. The experiences would each be standalone, with each one comprised of a complete story. There would be enough experiences that they wouldn’t need to be duplicated. Again, I don’t know an exact, but something that can be played for a couple or three hours before repetition is required. If they really wanted to get fancy they’d let the people watching on the TV interact with the goggled player, much like how Playroom VR allows.
There are VR horror experiences that I think will work for party play. I’m looking at Arizona Sunshine’s non-campaign play and Until Dawn: Rush of Blood. The latter is all campaign play, but as far as I’ve gotten into the game it all feels more like different levels than a building story. I’m okay with that. I don’t own all of the horror apps because VR horror is mostly too intense for me, so I still have a few to research. Maybe some of what I haven’t tried is just the thing. All I know is here at the beginning of October I’d like some more good quality, short form horror that I can share with friends while we take turns under the goggles.