User comfort in VR: player options

Original author: Josh Savage
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In traditional game design, the shape and size of the player’s body is always constant. Having unchanged character parameters, you can easily create levels on their basis and plan interactivity, as well as rules for interacting with the world. However, from the very moment of the advent of room-size virtual reality, this approach is not applicable.

Indoor VR flips the equation upside down. Now the size of the player is one of the most unstable components of the game. From the point of view of mechanics, this does not cause big problems, because most often we can get around this detail and just be more attentive to the design of the levels. But in the "room" VR there is a new, unique task - ensuring player comfort.

Previously, control was created in such a way that it was intuitive and comfortable for the player. Often there was the possibility of reassigning keys so that players could customize the control system as they liked. But game designers rarely care about which chair the player sits on, or the angle at which his hands are to the keyboard. Caring for ergonomics is usually the destiny of jobs; it reduces the likelihood of injuries and stress, increasing comfort. All these factors must now be considered by VR developers.

The developers of VR-games in room format should prevent injuries to players by using borders, free game spaces and taking into account common sense. But without a well-thought-out design, games can definitely be stressful or uncomfortable. Room systems are highly dependent on the size of the players, which can vary over significant ranges. Take, for example, a simple riddle with a highly suspended object. The designer expects the player to find him and drop the item to knock him down. Undersized players may have difficulty finding an item due to a different viewing angle, and it may be more difficult for them to find the right angle for the shot. They may also feel uncomfortable with their heads raised too high. The average player in this case will not have problems, the level will most likely be designed for him. But it may turn out that a tall player is able to simply reach out and take an object with his hand, greatly simplifying the solution to the problem. At the same time, if the object is low, then tall players may have difficulty interacting with it.

I encountered such problems in my last VR project. The game was simple resource management, players had to create an island and balance it in such a way as to avoid pollution caused by a gradually increasing population.


I completed most of the initial design by setting the heights as I liked. However, when testing, we found that each had a different relationship with height: some testers were too high, others too low. To solve this problem, we measured the height of the player at the beginning of the game and adjusted the height of the island relative to the player. So we have achieved a more comfortable gameplay that causes the user less stress.

I must admit that this is a very specific problem, because the game took place on a surface resembling a table surface (as can be seen in the screenshot above), and it was very easy to adjust it, but similar principles should be applied to the scales of the whole world, if justified.

Of course, we can develop this idea, and try to further tie the game process to the player’s parameters.

Using mathematics and the basics of human anatomy, we can get a staggering amount of information. The approach will be the same as the artists used for some time: human bodies have much in common in anatomical proportions. In particular, our anatomy usually corresponds to the golden ratio. The Golden Ratio is the ratio between two quantities (denoted by “A” and “B”), which satisfies the following equality:


Where B is part of A.

For our purposes, we simplify the equation to the following:


This ratio is important in the human body, because it is used in its key parts (see image below).


All dimensions shown above are deduced from each other. From left to right, we can find the next size by simply taking the previous one and multiplying it by 0.618. To demonstrate this, I have compiled several examples for comparison.

The sizeEstimated (previous line * 0.618)ValidDifference (valid - estimated)
From crown to fingertips101.98104+2.02
From the top of the head to the elbow63.0264+0.98
Between the shoulders38.9540+1.05
From the top of the head to the chest38.9543+4.05
Head size24.0723-1.07

I readily admit that this is not the most accurate data set, just one example of hastily taken measurements. However, it shows the relative accuracy of the calculations.

The margins of error are quite significant, but, more importantly, all sizes are found by only one measurement of user growth. They can be easily improved by measuring other player parameters. The gameplay can be integrated calibration procedures in the same way as is done in the training levels of ordinary games. At the same time, we will be able to approximately measure the player’s parameters and carefully adjust the gameplay for them, changing the size of the level so that they are more comfortable.

In addition, with the help of this system we will be able to realize interesting opportunities related to limitations and physical animation.

This is based on a simple theory. With the growing popularity of VR indoor format, developers will have to strive to better match players with different parameters, thereby increasing the comfort of the game. The "room" virtual reality provides an unprecedented level of immersion, and in order to maintain it during the game, we need to guarantee the players the greatest possible comfort.

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