Why Gran Turismo works in VR without making you sick
I was not expecting this Gran Turismo 7 be the most relaxing and heartwarming game on the PlayStation VR 2. Yes, it is a high speed racing game with extremely realistic physics. But for me, it became the most meditative PSVR 2 experience next to Tetris Effect Connected. Even more surprisingly, despite its high speeds, Gran Turismo 7 on PSVR 2 doesn’t make me sick.
Gran Turismo series producer Kazunori Yamauchi spoke to me via video chat to discuss what makes the GT7 so comfortable to drive and what inspired his design decisions. Also, will we ever have a mode where I can talk to friends and listen to my own music, like I can in my own car?
I really loved playing GT7. It’s also oddly the most heartwarming game. How much of a part of the original GT7 design was virtual reality?
Yamauchi: I think car games are a great fit for virtual reality. In a car game, you are first surrounded by the interior of the car. And then you also have the view outside the car around that. This actually makes it harder for you to get nauseated from VR. The cars are just moving forward. And the cars don’t go very fast. They rotate very slowly, depending on the will of the user when driving.
For example, when driving in a car game, VR doesn’t often spin you against your intention. When racing on the track, you turn left or right depending on what the rider wants to control. And it makes sure the movement of your vision doesn’t go against what your brain predicts is going to happen next, and it helps reduce nausea.
These are things that apply to racing games in general. But if you’re talking more specifically about how well-suited Gran Turismo 7 is to VR, the reason is that the interiors, the outside view that you have, everything from the resolution to the precision of how everything is created, having the right scale so things aren’t too big or too small, making sure it’s all really balanced and perfect, that’s what makes for a good VR experience.
Especially for someone who has ever driven a car, this space is something you know well. When you’re inside a car, you sit in it, you immediately recognize the surroundings and say, “Hey, I know where I am. I know what I’m doing.
Did you know from the start that GT7 was designed with virtual reality in mind? Or did this decision even precede GT7?
Yamauchi: Wanting to implement true virtual reality was a dream I had since the very first Gran Turismo, to really bring true virtual reality to the consumer level. I think we were part of that group of people who dreamed of seeing this happen.
The development of virtual reality in Gran Turismo 7 began right after the end of Gran Turismo Sport. When we first did VR for Gran Turismo Sport, the development of VR hardware and Gran Turismo Sport was out of sync: we could only provide limited support for the hardware (PSVR) at the time. But VR 2, we knew it was coming. We knew the hardware specs. We were able, from the start of development, to make sure that everything would be supported in VR.
And GT7 is one of the few games where we have native support for 4K 60fps rendering. We can do this because we had virtual reality in mind from the start.
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Now that you’ve worked on PlayStation VR 2 support, are there things you’ve learned during this process that would be interesting to explore? Do you like eye tracking?
Yamauchi: When we did the development of Gran Turismo 7, the development goal was to provide a very natural VR experience. And one of the key parts of that was how to control nausea and prevent it from happening. It is a difficult subject; it differs from person to person, how a person is more susceptible or more resistant to contracting virtual reality disease. And the reason is that a person’s brain’s prediction model of what’s actually going to happen next differs from person to person. Someone who’s a race car driver, for example, will have a different prediction pattern in their brain of what’s going to happen in the next zero point X seconds, as opposed to someone who doesn’t normally drive at these speeds. It’s when there’s that gap between what’s on the screen and what your brain expects that causes nausea.
After we finished development, we thought it would be nice if we had ways to adjust some of those comments that I was personally looking forward to. For example, when you brake hard on a car, the car nose dives and the driver’s head tilts forward. But the level of expectation as to how much tilt there should be differs from person to person. It’s just a personal preference. It would have been nice if we had added more options to optimize this and customize it from person to person.
And when you have a high slope on a track, your head doesn’t tilt with the horizon. But there are people who want the horizon to tilt with their head. And there are those who don’t want that to happen.
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I really like using the DualSense controls for steering, and the haptics are fantastic. But will you also support the use of PSVR 2 Sense controllers?
Yamauchi: For us right now, we think we can really deliver every possible VR experience on the standard DualSense controller. So we’re not really thinking about suing the Sense controller at the moment. If you haven’t used a steering wheel layout, you should definitely give it a try, because you really will have the perfect VR experience.
Music Rally is a really interesting mode. And it reminded me of something I had been thinking about: the game is very meditative. When I drive in the real world, I connect my phone, make calls, and listen to music while driving. Are there any possibilities for things like this?
Yamauchi: I guess it would be something like a voice chat during the Music Rally. Music Rally is a mode that I really like too. I think that’s one of the great inventions we’ve come up with in Gran Turismo 7. There’s a possibility — when you’re driving relaxed, you can enjoy driving, you can enjoy music. I think being able to talk to friends could also be something interesting to do in virtual reality.
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