With every new development in virtual reality technology, our digital avatars are more and more becoming extensions of ourselves. The company AltspaceVR (with the motto “Be together, in person”) wants to capitalize on this with a notion that, so far, seems to have taken off: VR Dungeons & Dragons. Yep, that means your and your friends’ digital avatars sitting in a virtual room with a virtual D&D board in front of you, embarking on a virtual campaign.
Reporting on this phenomenon, Gizmodo discusses how AltspaceVR has the backing of Wizards of the Coast to keep developing virtual D&D, with the potential to expand into another of Wizards’ properties, Magic: The Gathering. Based on the latest edition of D&D released in 2014, this virtual experience includes an integrated 2D web browser that allows players to keep track of resources, set up a game board, and visualize die rolls for the whole group. The DM will have extra access, including the ability to select music and change up the game board. Bruce Wooden, AltspaceVR’s head of developer relations, explains the company’s aim to make this product increasingly hands-on: “One thing we want to do is create things you can only do in VR and make experiences people are going to want. But the next big challenge will be enabling people to make their own games, to basically take this over from us.”
Here’s a little “trailer” that Gizmodo put together:
And here’s a demo of AltspaceVR’s “v20” prototype, narrated by Wooden:
While the Gizmodo article reports that beta testers didn’t want to take off their Oculus DK2 headsets for five hours, reactions in the comment section are mixed. One commenter points out that certain virtual experiences are more effective in 2D, such as paying one’s bills; in this case, he would rather look at a 2D character sheet than a virtual recreation of one. Others debated whether the VR tech should continue forward to give players first-person perspective; would it immerse them in the D&D campaign, or just mimic every other first-person video game? Others suggest having a feature to change the type of room in which you meet to match the campaign, switching from a tavern to a dungeon to a forest to whatever location in which your campaign finds itself.
Tech like this raises an interesting question: Is there interest in doing in-person activities in a virtual setting?