As for the games, Front Defense is a WW2 shooter that sees you as a solitary resistance fighter defending a fixed position from an advancing army. The title, which was announced last year, gets you pretty sweaty as you skulk around the sandbags grabbing weapons. But, ultimately, the sandbags and lighting that surrounds the booth are little more than theater for those watching you take part.
On the other hand, the Project Cars setup harnesses a pair of VR racing chairs very few could afford to own in their homes. Racing around the track, you feel every jerk and shudder of the race, and I was told that if I started feeling nauseated to alert the attendants immediately. It's easy to imagine that VR experiences like this would be an easy sell for virtual petrol-heads looking for a thrill.
But neither of those games were particularly gee-whiz, even to someone with little VR experience like myself. That's because the former could easily have been played at home, and the latter is like every other premium racing sim on the market, albeit with VR. I couldn't imagine traveling to the other side of the world, or to my local mall, to experience either, but that's not where Viveland's strengths reside.
Dino Commando requires four players to stand in formation against an on-rushing army of velociraptors in the ruins of a city. It's a title that goes up against the limits of VR, and having the dinosaurs clip into you as they attack helps break the player's suspension of disbelief. But that's not the point because what made it fun was playing it together with your friends in a social context. Yes, games like this can be played online, but there's a reason people still drag their gaming laptops over to their friends' homes.
Similarly, HordeZ, an on-rails survival shooter in which you combat an army of the dead, is a hundred times better with friends. Our quartet began as an uncoordinated team, but as the game's intensity increased, we began barking orders at each other to direct our attacks. It's the same sort of thrill that you may have felt half-sprinting through your local laser-tag arena. But that's exactly the sort of feeling that Vivelands of the future will need to capture to have any hope of becoming a hit.
Star Trek: Bridge Crew wasn't available at Viveland, although HTC recently announced that the title would pack in with new Vive headsets. That, similarly, is a collaborative gaming experience that's far more enjoyable when played together rather than apart. Part of the charm is that interacting with your friends helps bridge the isolating effects VR sometimes causes. It's also something I'd expect to see at future Vivelands because just needs players to sit down rather than stand.
My experience at Viveland has taught me that a VR arcade's greatest strength is tapping into that sense of wonder you can only get exploring new worlds with friends. Yes, you can scale virtual mountains or shoot digital dinosaurs on your own, but it's far less meaningful if you can't feel the people beside you. Since it would be prohibitively expensive to kit out your own home with this gear, an arcade makes perfect sense.
Viveland also houses a mixed reality studio, which is exhibiting a title based on the Taiwanese children's book All of My World is You by Jimmy Liao. It features the player helping a small girl get over the death of her pet dog by growing a tree pig for her to play with. A pair of small children took turns playing the game during my visit, and the squeals of delight coming from the studio were infectious. Not to mention, of course, that it's a great ad for those folks who don't just want to shoot stuff in VR.