Onward, an Arma-like squad shooter made for VR and currently in early access, has a minimum height requirement of 5’6”, excluding 13% of American men and 78% of American women. However, head height can be a problem in many VR experiences, and solving it is far from trivial.
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The issue in Onward was first raised on Reddit by metalforever, who said “I was considering buying your game, but I realised I can’t play it because I’m [an] adult woman who is five foot five. Please fix this for all the gals that like shooters.”
Developers Downpour Interactive are aware that the height requirement is a problem. They published a ‘near-term road map’ on the game’s Steam page which includes the goal “lowering minimum height required to play”, so presumably we can expect a fix at some point in the future. That said, this roadmap was published over three months ago on September 6th, so it’s taking a while.
Software engineer Mike Schneider claimed on Twitter that handling varying player heights in VR is easy, pointing out that Stress Level Zero solved it before launching their game, Hover Junkers, on early access. They did this by allowing players to manually adjust the head height, which is also an option in Job Simulator.
This article by VR Influx discusses the implications of these solutions for multiplayer shooters like Onward: “if the hit box for the player is set to a body model, does the hit box change when the head height changes? Players may exploit this by choosing the smallest body model possible so as to avoid being hit.”
VR developer Steve Bowler made this point in reply to Schneider on Twitter, suggesting Downpour haven’t allowed shorter players until they “can figure out how to balance/correct for” any gameplay advantages they may get. Onward is still in early access, after all, and as important as accessibility is, it’s understandable that some design challenges have yet to be overcome.
Indeed, VR Influx conclude that some may be insurmountable, as VR takes us another step toward true realism in games. “Take it from me, the real world isn’t always accessible.”