With the recent announcement and pre-orders opening for the Oculus Touch controller, both top-end VR Systems (Oculus Rift & HTC Vive) now have a way for users to track their hand movements. Having worked with the HTC Vive motion controllers, it is obvious why both companies have decided to introduce motion controllers instead of the traditional gamepad; The experience is simply more immersive.

At its core, the addition of hand tracking controllers bring more of the user’s body into the experience. Whereas a headset only VR system allows for verbs like Look, Rotate, Leanthe addition of the controllers add new verbs such as Point, Grab, Throw, and a wide range of ways to manipulate the world around the player that was previously not possible, like Google’s Tilt Brush:

With the introduction of the hand controllers, new questions and challenges have arisen from the its use, in particular, the ergonomics of allowing both left-handed and right-handed users to comfortably use your product. This is an important issue, as we’ve found that although many players are right-handed, there are players who would prefer to use their left hand as their dominant hand. Enabling these users should be a part of a VR designer’s responsibility.

To date, there are a few different approaches to this issue:

  • Allow both hands to do all actions: If the design allows for it, this is the most simple method; Players will naturally pick what they’re comfortable with. A example of this are the dual guns/shield in Space Pirate Trainer, which allows the user to pick whatever configuration of gadgets on either hand. For a limited set of potential actions by the player, this is the best approach.
  • Inventory based actions: Role playing games like Vanishing Realms use a system where a hand is a generic object that can pick up various items, which give it additional functionality. Players can choose to pick up an item with either hand to suit their needs. This allows for more extensible functionality, at the cost of some complexity to the player. It also presents challenges to the design of the UI, as the equipment in Vanishing Realms is stashed in places that assume a right-handed player. (Swords are stashed to the right side of the body…etc)
  • Physically switch controllers: This is relatively simple, but sub-optimal. Physically switching controllers represent an immersion breaking scenario where the player is reminded of their connection to the real world. This should be avoided.

For Torus Syndicate, we’ve decided to create a setting menu that switches the dominant hand. This approach works well for situations where there is a clear dominant and auxiliary hand. This also has the benefit of being easy to implement, as SteamVR handles arbitrary assignments of devices on the fly.

Development is going at a rapid pace here at Codeate; We’re excited to be showing off our levels in just a few weeks!