Common Types of Artificial VR Locomotion

The list below describes common scenarios where the camera movement is driven by the application and not in response to physical locomotion. These refer to the higher level concepts of how and why the camera moves, as opposed to movement driven by controller inputs which is described later in this guide.

Avatar Movement

Avatar movement is when the experience requires you to move a character using some combination of thumbstick, button, headset, motion controllers, or gameplay states. This is the locomotion method used by a large majority of VR games today. It’s how people move through any first-person game where they are in direct control of their speed, direction of movement, and orientation of the camera at all times.

Scripted Movement

Scripted movement is when the virtual camera moves along a predefined path of motion. Sometimes, but not always, the orientation of the camera is part of this movement. A few examples of scripted movement include roller coasters, theme park rides, trains, and cinematic camera moves.

Steering Movement

With steering movement, the player is controlling artificial motion that continues to move without continuous input, such as driving a car. Typically, this kind of movement has inertia and momentum. Unlike avatar movement, steering movement prevents immediate starts, stops, or changes in direction. Examples include flight simulators and driving games.

Environmental Movement

Environmental movement is when movement occurs as a byproduct of where the person is, what they’re doing, or what else is going on in the virtual world. Examples include:

  • Falling off a ledge
  • Moving platforms or elevators
  • Explosion or other forces that move the player
  • Being pushed by a car
  • Being pushed by an NPC
  • Sinking into water

Teleportation

A teleport is an event that leads to a sudden change in the user’s perspective. The additional benefit of teleportation is that unlike other types of movement, they are not always a form of continuous movement. This can be helpful for people sensitive to the side effects of vection, since teleportation can prevent vection entirely.

Teleportation can be integrated into the design in a variety of ways, for example:

  • Player-controlled teleports, where the user selects the destination within legal game space or from predefined destinations.
  • Teleports to dynamic locations determined by gameplay mechanics. Damaged Core uses this approach, as moving through the map is a side effect of taking over nearby enemy robots and having the camera shift to the new host robot.
  • Automatic teleports controlled by game logic. Often used to move people during major transitions or narrative events, which can be disorienting to users if they aren’t expecting it.

World Pulling

World pulling is when the user is stationary until they grab some point in the world and pull or push it. This action shifts the perspective as the world moves to follow the push or pull motion. A few examples include rock climbing, ladders, wall scaling, and zero-gravity movement.

These techniques can be seen in many popular games, such as Lone Echo, The Climb and POPULATION: ONE.

Abstract and Creative Locomotion Techniques

There are many other interesting and abstract ways to move people through an environment which are less commonly used, but can serve as the basis for compelling and interesting locomotion design. For example, the non-Euclidean environment in Unseen Diplomacy allows people to move through connected spaces that couldn’t exist in real life because they would overlap. The shifting environments of Sightline VR delivers an experience where the world outside the field of view slowly evolves in a way that leads the player from a void, to a forest and eventually to a city as a result of merely looking around while sitting still. For more inspiration, check out the VR Locomotion Vault which maintains a list of VR locomotion techniques and related information.

What’s Next: Forms of Control and Input for Artificial Locomotion

There are still opportunities to invent novel techniques for locomotion that will lead to new and interesting experiences. We invite you to be creative and to experiment with the goal of discovering new and innovative techniques.

To learn more about VR locomotion design, we recommend reviewing the Forms of Control and Input for Artificial Locomotion guide.