The Persistence does all it can to help alleviate VR sickness


Extreme Poster
Mar 27, 2006
I've tried many VR games, and they all - eventually - make me feel sick. So sick, in fact, that I have to take the headset off sharpish for fear of chucking up into my lap.

So when I found myself faced with playing The Persistence, a new PlayStation VR first-person stealth horror roguelike set on an abandoned spaceship, it's safe to say I was bricking it.

What I found was a VR game clearly built by developers who were mindful of the great VR sickness problem and had thought long and hard about how to solve it. And, while I still ended up feeling a bit queasy after around 45 minutes of play, I got the a sense that The Persistence could be one of the best VR games released.

The Persistence is a sort of Dead Space in first-person and in VR. You creep around an abandoned spaceship and try to defeat various humanoid monster types in a rock hard roguelike that proceedurally-generates levels upon each respawn. Using the DualShock controller, you move and shoot in standard FPS fashion, and, occasionally teleport around via an ability that's on a cooldown. Aiming is done by physically looking, which, if you're not into your VR games, can take some time to get used to. So far, standard first-person VR stuff.

What I like is that Firesprite provides three settings to play The Persistence: comfort, standard and snap. These are all variations on an attempt to successfully fuse typical first-person combat controls with virtual reality in a bid to help players keep their lunch down.

I started playing with comfort, thinking it would be the best option for someone who tends to feel sick quick with VR. Comfort is designed to let you play with standard first-person shooter controls but minimise any sickness, game director Stuart Tilley tells me.

What's interesting about comfort is how it tweaks standard FPS controls to minimise sickness. It does this in a number of ways. Take character rotation, which is governed by the right stick on the DualShock 4, for example. In comfort, this rotation is incredibly fast - so fast, in fact, that you can spin around in less than a second. This, you'd think, would make you feel pretty awful, but it actually helps. If you rotate slowly, your eyes perceive this movement as a rotation, which then causes your inner ear to recalibrate to balance against it. Obviously, you're not actually rotating when you're playing, so unless you've got strong VR legs, you feel sick. So, in comfort, right stick movement is incredibly fast in order to trick your eyes into thinking you're not rotating. Clever!

It's also worth noting there's no feathering here. In most first-person games, a half stick input triggers half rotate speed. That's not the case with comfort and The Persistence. The milisecond the right stick moves out of the dead zone, acceleration is full. There is no ramping in.

Nor is there any acceleration in movement. In regular FPS games, when you push the movement stick forward there's an acceleration curve as your character gets up to speed. But, Tilley says, acceleration can be a bad thing in VR because when your body perceives it, your stomach and inner ear react to compensate. The disconnect between this sensation and not actually accelerating in real life can cause people to feel sick. In The Persistence's comfort setting, you can still have your character walk slowly, but there's no acceleration.

Tilley, who worked on the Killzone series at Sony and, before that, the Battlefield series at EA, said ditching acceleration was counterintuitive to everything the developers knew about design.

"When we were working on Killzone we did a lot of work on making the character feel weighty, and part of that was that initial movement," Tilley says. "Coming from having worked on Battlefield and Killzone, that's a really cool thing to do. But as soon as you put it in VR it's like, oh my god, that's not a cool thing to do."

Where The Persistence does have acceleration is when you play it in standard setting. This one's for VR veterans as it strips out much of the anti-sickness tricks you find in comfort. You don't rotate as fast - even when fully extending the thumb stick. Couple this with acceleration and you can feather your movement. So, if you want to aim at something with the right stick, just like in a regular FPS, you can.


All this work, then, has been done to try to make The Persistence as comfortable to play as possible by as many people as possible. And yet, some will feel sick from it. Playing comfort, I felt sick, then had to switch to snap, which felt a lot better but, perhaps inevitably, eventually made me feel sick too.

To its credit, Firesprite has done a huge amount of testing to see how well its anti-sickness mechanics go down. Tilley says 80 to 85 per cent of people who've played The Persistence in standard, which is aimed at VR veterans looking for as pure an FPS control experience as possible, are okay with it. But that means 15 to 20 per cent of people succumb to nausea in standard. Tilley, though, sounds enthused. "I'm pretty happy with that because it's how we're used to playing FPS games," he says. "So, the majority of players should be able to select that and be okay, particularly if they've got a bit of experience in VR."

With comfort, around 95 per cent of players are okay with The Persistence, which means five out of 100 complain of nausea. "It's just down to biology, with a little bit of experience," Tilley reckons.
Full article:
Likes: VayMasters86


Elite Guru
Feb 16, 2007
Don't get motion sickness, so I can't quite empathize with this, but it's good that games do things to avoid it. More options are always good. Of course, I think most people with motion sickness can cure it by slow exposure.