Reloading in VR

I’ve written a few articles about VR FPS’s and I always make a comment about the reloading mechanisms, so I decided to create a dedicated post explaining VR and reloading.

There’s a balance developers need to handle when developing reloading mechanics in VR FPS titles: Realism vs Ease of Use. While you have 1000x more dexterity in VR than you do on mouse & keyboard (we’ll gloss over mouse & keyboard vs controllers), the dexterity in VR isn’t as perfect as people may think it is.

VR vs IRL

boy holding Tony's chocoloney pack

To reload a pistol, you need to fit a magazine that’s about the size of a candy bar, into a hole that is slightly bigger than said candy bar. In the real world when you pick up that candy bar, you’re able to put it in your mouth because your brain can triangulate the exact position of the part you want to bite through sight and feel.

You can see the shape of the candy bar, and you can feel its orientation based on the sides and edges of the
part you’re holding. Your brain does some magic, that I can’t claim to know how, and you take a successful
bite.

When you’re in VR, you don’t have any accurate tactile feedback. You’re holding your controller which is most definitely a different shape and size than the magazine in VR. This makes determining where the end of the candy bar much more difficult.

Not only is the controller a different shape than the magazine, the dev’s have to program the angle between your controller and the magazine angle in VR. If the angle is off and not what you are expecting, or you have a weirdly shaped controller, then its going to make it just that much more difficult.

The Balance

Thus, there is the balance between Reload Assistance vs Realism.

Games that focus heavily on the realism side don’t have any assistant mechanisms that help to align the magazine
into the magazine well. But this poses a problem – you don’t have the tactile response of the angle of the magazine which makes reloading in VR without any assistance very difficult. There are videos floating around of a lot of people struggling to reload in early VR titles because of that lack of guidance – but I haven’t been able to find them after a 5 second google search.

On the other hand, some developers put in a lot of assistance into reloading because it can be a real pain for some players; thus, unnecessarily detracting from the experience of the game. When I want to reload, I don’t want to worry about making sure the magazine goes in perfectly (depending on the game and the scenario); I just want the thing to go in!

Reloading Steps

There’s also the process of reloading that VR titles tend to follow that mimic IRL firearms:

  1. Drop the empty magazine
  2. Put a new magazine in
  3. Charge the weapon (put a round in the chamber)

By eliminating some of those steps via magic, you make the player focus more on the game play, rather than the reloading mechanism.

I can see how new VR users would prefer a simpler mechanic to reload. However, I much prefer the full-process version with a small assist with aligning the magazine to get it in. See my Pavlov Review, or Gun Club VR Review.

Conclusion

Ultimately, the balance is up to the dev’s to decide as they know their target audience better. I would love for every VR FPS to adapt a more realistic approach to reloading, but it doesnt always make sense.

If the reloading mechanics work and are consistent throughout the title, you can’t fault the dev team.