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Doom in VR - everything you need to know

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Remember this? That could be you! Classic doom translates surprisingly well into VR, though it's obviously not for those with weak stomach. Having played through all of Doom 1 and 2 including Sigil and the first 7 maps of Going Down (yes - I took a break before The Spooky One), I've jumped straight into the current edition of the DWmegawad Club with PUSS IX: Mapping at Warpspeed and I'm having a blast. More importantly, it seems people are also enjoying my playthrough, so I decided to make this thread to share all I know about Doom in VR. Also to control the urge to derail that thread and talk about VR instead of PUSS.


Ultimately I'd like to make a few maps tailor-made for VR play, but that plan is on the backburner. It's probably best to get some more mapping experience under my belt first, and I'm still in the process of figuring out what works and what doesn't.


I will be updating this post with new information as I do more research, think of other things and maybe have other people chime in with their own experiences. I already added some suggestions posted by @Helm in the DWmegawad Club thread, thanks!


I. My setup



I'm using the excellent QuestZDoom by Team Beef, a ZDoom standalone port for the Quest and (I believe) Pico 4 headsets. It comes with optional upscaled textures, remastered sounds, a few mods (including brutal doom and some lightweight variants, since it reportedly eats a chunk of CPU power), a small selection of 3D weapons and some of the more popular map packs. More mods can be found on Team Beef discord, though I have yet to sift through those, and you can just drop any wad into the mod folder on your headset and most of the times it just works.


I haven't looked into a PCVR alternative yet, but it's Doom, there has to be one. I'll update this post once I find the time to try it out.


1) Weapon models

I'm alternating between 3D VR weapons vanilla, a good looking "realistic" set, and Voxel VR weapons vanilla for the nostalgia factor. The set 3D VR weapons alternative vanilla is the best looking by far, but comes with visible hands which are way too tiny. Might be good for a dinosaur themed wad, maybe.


2) General settings

I'm actually close to the default settings, having done a clean install not long ago. There's all the familiar VR options - hand/head movement orientation, handedness, height adjust, snap/smooth turning etc. Of interest is sprite and wall culling distance tucked away under Display -> OpenGL. The default values are fine for the iWADs, but you may want to increase this for certain custom wads.


QuestZDoom has a very rudimentary form of two handed aiming - since your off hand is invisible (unless playing a mod with dual wield, I guess), you don't have to grab the gun like in most other games. Simply holding down the left grip button snaps the weapon into the two-handed stance. It felt awkward to use at first, but I've grown to really like it. Anecdotally using both hands is useful for more precision in games like Quake III in a lot of situations, but Doom isn't really about precision, so it's more about immersion for me. Notably, left grip button being used for this purpose makes using it as an input combo (see point 4) awkward, so I'm sacrificing a lot of utility with this, but it's worth it for me.


I've turned off all levels of autoaim. Aiming is what motion controls are for.


3) Locomotion

There is teleport, though I imagine that's going to break stuff in ways that jumping couldn't even dream of.

Doom's trademark slidey motion is on by default and takes a while getting used to. Alternatively you can just turn it off, though be aware that this messes with Boom's scrolling floors. Thankfully it doesn't seem to affect voodoo dolls, so it doesn't break stuff too hard.

You can adjust your movement speed too. Given that you're using an analog stick, there is no strafing and thus no straferunning (doesn't stop me from trying from time to time). Forget about SR50 too, obviously. So far I didn't have much trouble in the wads I've played, but you may need to adjust this up for some specific jumps. On the other hand you may want to turn this down a bit if your VR legs aren't quite strong enough yet. 


4) Controls

You can set up controls in any way you want and I recommend spending some time until you come up with a setup you're comfortable with. Make sure you have "allow seconary button mappings" on under VR options. This allows you to use the grip buttons as modifiers, greatly expanding the number of inputs you can map to limited number of buttons on the Quest controllers. I got rid of the jump and crouch buttons in favour of mapping all weapons except for the pistol to their own (combination of) buttons. There seems to be a bug which prevents you from cycling to the "lesser" shotgun/melee option once you get the SSG/chainsaw, so I have a "previous weapon" input mapped as well, which also allows me to get to the pistol if I want to for some reason.


I've seen a selection wheel mod posted on the discord linked above, so that might be a good alternative, but I've personally always disliked selection wheels so I haven't tried it yet. You definitely do not want to be cycling your weapons one by one in the heat of the battle though.


5) Misc

Voxel Doom is amazing in VR. The 3D models look great on a computer screen, but they really pop when you can see them in 3D. Additionally it fixes the awkwardness of looking at sprites above or below you. Alas, it's Doom 1 only for now, but once the Doom 2 version comes out, I'm never turning that thing off.



II. Weapons




1) Melee

Punching demons by swinging your fists is not implemented. You just press the trigger and the fist moves forward a bit. This is not very satisfying and a bit awkward even with berserk. Chainsaw is much better. It moves you around just as in vanilla, which is quite familiar and easy to adjust to. Of note is that you can look around while chainsawing the demon in front of you and easily switch between targets around you. I think you can also reach just a tiny bit farther than in vanilla if you stick your arm out.


2) Pistol

Pistol is kinda miserable, but same goes for vanilla, no surprises there. I like sniping low level enemies from a distance by aiming down the sights, but that doesn't come up very often. Some manner of shooting gallery using either shootable switches or pre-damaged enemies could be fun with it, maybe.


3) Shotguns

The shotgun feels great, especially killing imps and zombies, but that applies to vanilla too. Without autoaim it can be a bit harder to hit monsters at long range, but that falls squarely under the git gud category. The weapon pack I like to use has nice sights, so there really is no excuse for sloppiness.


The SSG, eh, it depends on the weapon models you are using. The issue is the lack of the reload animation. While the rhythm is the same as in vanilla Doom, it just doesn't feel great waiting for it to be reloaded. Its has a great stopping power of course, so there's no avoiding it in normal maps. And shooting demons from the hit at close range never gets old. The 3D model I use looks like a sawn-off. I would prefer something with longer barrels, but it makes it easy to shoot behind corners.


One trick with both of the shotguns is to tilt the gun sideways - this will makes the pellet spread go vertical too, which can be helpful to get more damage on enemies at medium distances. But it makes aiming harder. Holding guns sideways is for posers, and you will feel like a dumbass when your point-blank shot goes wide.


4) Chaingun

Not much to say here. It behaves exactly as in vanilla. You can aim down the lack-of-sights to get more precision, but I prefer holding it at my hip, pretending it's heavy. 


5) Rocket Launcher

This weapon requires practice. Same goes for the vanilla version, but here I'm finding myself having to re-learn how to operate it safely. Of note is that it fires from the side (where your hand is) rather than from the middle like in vanilla (unless you contort your arm), which also messes with my muscle memory.


Voxel Doom helps immensely, since everything including explosions becomes 3D making it much easier to gauge splash, but I haven't played with it a lot, since it came out after I was done with Doom 1 and most wads I've played since use Doom 2 as their base. I like to go into fights with the RL equipped so I can spend some of its damage potential before switching to a safer weapon.


Much like when using freelook, you can aim your rockets at the ground to guarantee splash on monters who could otherwise dodge the shot. What you can't do wtih free look is to raise your hand above your head to get a much better angle when doing this. A bit exploity, but fun. When in a safe spot, I like to shoot it from the shoulder, but in a fray I forget immersion and aim it one-handed like I would a pistol. It works, even though I still usually have to expend one rocket as a tracer shot when shooting at far distances. The voxel version is easier to aim, but it doesn't look as good. The 3D version has a little sight thing which is really hard to use effectively.


Oh, and rocket jumping is much easier in VR, since you can just aim at the ground behind your back while still looking forward, so that's neat.


6) Plasma Rifle

I love it. It's simply amazing. It obscures your view with its shots quite a bit, but that's normal. What isn't normal is the constant haptic feedback with every single shot. Wonderful. Gameplay-wise it's fairly close to vanilla, but you can raise it above your head to get a clearer shot at monsters on raised platforms and in a pinch you can shoot blindly behind yourself as you're running away from danger.


Shooting from behind a corner is less viable than with hitscan weapons because of the relatively large hitbox of the projectiles.


7) BFG 9000

You press a button and stuff dies, some things just don't change. You can shoot the ball at your feet to get the tracer damage ASAP, which also helps prevent your vision from being obscured by the massive blast.




III. Other gameplay considerations


Playing in VR is funny. Some things are easier, some are much harder, a and lot of stuff is just the way you remember it. So what works?




1) Shooting from cover

Doom in VR can kinda turn into a cover shooter if you let it. When playing in roomscale, you can often park yourself at a corner and just peek around it by moving in real life without touching the analog stick. Hell, you can even just stick your arms out and shoot blindly. It works, sometimes. What's even better is shooting through windows, over walls and obstacles and down from ledges. There is a spot in One Humanity where there's a window at about the height of your knees leading to a room with monsters that can pelt you as you make your way to the door to take care of them. In VR you can just drop down on the floor and shoot them that way. Immensely satisfying.


2) Shooting without looking

I've touched on this a couple of times already but it's worth repeating. Your weapon is decoupled from your view, so you can do a lot of crazy stuff. Or just dispatch a demon to your side without giving it a glance to be cool. If you set your movement to be hand-relative rather than view relative, you can also look around while going in a different direction. What that usually means for me is that I get to see revenant missiles chasing me while I'm scrambling for safety, only to run into a wall because I wasn't paying attention to where I'm going. But it's fun and exciting, so I'll keep it in this column.


3) Running and gunning

Your mileage may vary if you get motion sickness easily, but for me being able to run around at full speed, perhaps in a large circle around a big arena and blasting demons left and right (without changing movement direction) is such a rush! Even circlestrafing can be quite enjoyable. I do it by spinning in place while moving around the virtual space in the opposite direction. There needs to be enough room, though. More on that later.


4) Doomcute and detailing in general

You see in 3D in VR, which amplifies the effect of any doomcute present in the map. It makes the map pop up and in VR you can get close to examine it in detail. Detailing on the floor and ceiling is also important. Anything which breaks the normal flats looks gorgeous, more so than in vanilla.


5) Chasms, pits and towers

One thing VR gives you is an amazing sense of scale. The cyberdemon towers over you like you wouldn't believe. Revenants are extremely imposing with their size. Spider mastermind looks amazing up-close. The Icon of Sin is a total letdown. It looks like a painted wall. But the arena itself is great! I was dreading The Chasm in my Doom 2 playthrough because ledges are totally miserable (more on that later), but the level actually looks so. damn. good in VR that the ledges were only a small price to pay.


6) Boom deep water effect

It looks great. You feel like you're really wading through some water. The only problem is that QuestZDoom doesn't render the geometry under the water's surface and it's easy to look under it in VR. Still, I think its worth it for the effect.


So what doesn't work so well then?




1) Platforming

It might be just a me problem - I never owned any sort of console in my whole life until I bought the Quest (in my defense, I thought I was buying a monitor) so I'm not used to movement using the analog stick. But there's also the sliding which takes a whole lot of practice to master. I'm quite far from that actually. Even just running across a few raised platforms poses a problem to me, since I often just start running in the wrong direction and before I can correct my course, I'm in a damaging floor looking for a teleporter. Or shooting a rocket at my feet to reload a save without going through the menu. Ledges with chasm on both sides require me to walk very slowly and rather than using the stick, make course corrections by moving my hand. Ledges running along a wall are safe in theory, but only if I'm running into the wall which slows me down. I've yet to come across any platforming that is more complex but I can already feel the pain it will bring me.


2) Tight arenas

I've been thinking about this ever since I got my ass handed to me by Myolden's Ancient Covenant and I think I know what the problem was - Doom physics tend to take all of your momentum whenever you run into a wall (or a dozen of angry skeletons) and that does not go well together with not looking where you're going. A lot of it was my poor grasp of analog controls, but the extra awareness you get by quick glances around while running from danger costs you dearly if there's too much stuff to run into or tight spaces you'd ideally squeeze through to get ahead of the monsters (and rockets) chasing you.


3) Berserk

Just give me a chainsaw and I'm happy.


4) Falling

Falling in VR can be quite uncomfortable for a lot of people. Chasms look great, but railings are definitely a thing to consider. Luckily Doom gameplay doesn't typically rely on jumping and falling all that much. And it goes well with the shooting over small walls thing.


5) Hiding things on tall pillars

This might have been a one-off brainfart type of thing, but when I was playing @Steve D's Bellicose Barista, I completely missed a very obvious RL because I was looking at my feet while stepping over nukage. It may not be obvious from the video, but keep in mind my eyes are not always focused at the centre of the screen. So yeah. Maybe I just did a dumb here, but the lesson here is that a VR player views the map very differently from even player with freelook.


6) Pushing buttons

In the heat of the battle, that is. The use action targets the middle of your view (like in normal Doom), so if there's a button with a short linedef, you need to be looking straight at it, not just glancing roughly in its direction. Until I realised this, I was trying to aim my weapons at buttons, which doesn't work if you're not looking at them too. This also means you can't activate a linedef by reaching behind your back.


IV. General rules for VR mapmaking



This section in particular is going to change a lot as I get more experience and test things out, but let's start with some of the ideas I have now:


- Difficulty should be kept low. I think the iwads are quite a good baseline. Maybe some trickier fights wouldn't hurt, but playing in VR adds its own layer of difficulty, so no need to go crazy here.

- Maps should be small and use very large rooms only sparingly. This is obviously a consideration for standalone headsets only, which is my preferred way to play at the moment, but not the only way. While VR will always eat more processing power than pancake play, with the need for high framerate, relatively high resolution and all that being multiplied by two (for each eye), people with PCVR setups should have PCs powerful enough for most of anything Doom has to offer. There's probably only a handful of us VR Doomers, though, so it's probably a good idea to tailor any maps to the lowest common denominator not to fracture the already small player pool.

- Use setups which encourage stationary play and leverage real life movement like leaning, peeking and ducking.

- Give the player enough space to move around. Try to minimise opportunities where you can get stuck on geometry, make corridors wide enough with curved corners. I've been experimenting with using Boom's fake floor/ceiling action to give the player the ability to get closer to certain walls and objects, though the idea still needs more testing. Less important in calm moments - some claustrophobic rooms/corridors can be great and lead to some cover to cover action, but bigger fights should always give the player enough space.

- Leverage free aiming. Aiming in VR is fun! It's like real life, except there is no recoil and you can't kill anyone. QuestZDoom has the option for a laser sight which is great if your aiming is not up to snuff. On the other hand...

- While making a map which is impossible to finish outside of VR would be a simple matter, I'd prefer to keep it friendly towards flascreen players, much like a map made with freelook in mind can be made so it's beatable without it.




V. Recommended existing maps

PUSS IX: Mapping at Warpspeed, MAP31: Lazarus Labs by Cheesewheel

While most of the maps in the wad are not very VR friendly, this one checks almost all the boxes.





Q: Why have a FAQ before anyone asked anything?

A: Futureproofing



That will do for now. Any comments, questions, suggestions? I'd love to hear it.

Edited by Klear

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That's a lot to take in, and me without any VR gear. But one thing I can say for sure about the Bill Gates Doom Video . . . Go monsters!!!!! ;D


I plan to get to your most recent maps this weekend at the latest. Looking forward to it.

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I once borrowed an Oculus set (don't remember the exact model) from a friend and managed to make Doom work in VR using a special version of GZDoom I found somewhere. Sadly, after only a few minutes I had to stop as motion sickness was killing me, and I felt nauseous for hours even after stopping :( 


I'd really love to give Doom in VR another go at some point. Could you share your experience on this respect? Did you ever experience motion sickness when you first started playing in VR? If so, does it getter better with practice? 

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2 hours ago, Fernito said:

I'd really love to give Doom in VR another go at some point. Could you share your experience on this respect? Did you ever experience motion sickness when you first started playing in VR? If so, does it getter better with practice? 


I can't speak from my own experience, since I never had any motion sickness issues at all, but from what I hear it does go away relatively quickly for most people. You just have to take VR in small doses and perhaps start with more mild titles. Anecdotally from sharing VR with people I know, people who are already used to playing fast-paced PC games have an easier time adjusting to VR and being prone to motion sickness in vehicles doesn't mean being prone to motion sick in VR.


I think the whole thing might be a tiny bit overblown, though I admit my experience is probably coloured by never getting sick in the first place. I was recently reading the manual for the original Quake (as I was starting my VR playthough =P) and I found this little tidbit interesting:



Q. How do I prevent motion sickness when watching Quake?


A. If you're one of the unlucky sufferers from motion sickness in Quake, we're sorry to say the answer seems to differs from person to person. Try sitting closer to the screen, or further away. Dim the lights in your room, or turn them up high. Adjust screen brightness up or down. Take a break from Quake and rest your eyes every hour or so. One or more of these tricks, or a combination, ought to work.



Fast-paced FPS games used to be known to cause motion sickness, but nobody talks about it any more. I'm hopeful that the same will go for VR, if it ever goes mainstream that is.


Edit: It also helps when you can rotate by turning IRL rather than using the stick, which is a major source of discomfort. Luckily wireless VR solutions are gaining traction.

Edited by Klear

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Thanks for your reply! 


Anecdotally from sharing VR with people I know, people who are already used to playing fast-paced PC games have an easier time adjusting

That's the weird thing, I've been playing FPS for more than 30 years and have never experienced any kind of motion sickness. With VR, on the other hand, is a whole different story :(


In any case, I'll probably give it another go at some point. Hopefully my brain will get used to it and I'll stop getting sick. 

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What a great summary and guide :) I’ve tried GZDoom in VR as well - this is quite an old video by now, it’s likely changed a lot. 

I have exactly the same problem with motion sickness - I thought I’d have no problem as I’d been playing games for 30 years, then walked four inches and was sick everywhere. Playing like this mitigates it a bit, taking on the role of Doomguy in his rocket powered electric wheelchair.


It also makes Doom intensely frightening again - being in the environment with the monsters feels like 1993 again when Doom was the most realistic thing ever seen!

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5 minutes ago, Mystic 256 said:

does it only work with quest or is there a way to use valve index?


The port I'm using is for standalone headsets only, but GZDoom supports VR play in some capactiy. Haven't looked into it myself yet, as I suspect it's going to lack some QoL stuff I've become accustomed to by now, but I plan to research it and update the OP with my findings soon-ish.


If you figure stuff out on your own before that, I'd love to hear your thoughts/tips!

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That was very comprehensive. I'm also a VR Doomer, though not quite as experienced. I started uploading videos of Ultimate Doom and Sigil to YouTube and Rumble. I like your idea about using secondary buttons for weapon selection. That had not occurred to me.


You are right about the little baby hands in the Alternative Vanilla 3D Weapons pack, but there is a way to re-scale the weapons. If you go to Options > VR options, there is a setting called Weapon Sprite/Model Scale, which if changed to 1.00, will resize the baby hands and mini weapons into adult hands and full sized weapons.


It's also useful to have a button mapped to moving forward in a perfectly straight line, similar to the W key on a keyboard. I have found it essential for platforming, since moving forward with the thumbstick will almost always have some unintended left-right movement, which is hazardous in a level like The Chasm.


My links https://rumble.com/user/RoxOfBockets

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I've also been trying Doom in vr and found the weapons to be rather unsatisfying, so I made this. There's some slight gameplay changes and some very hacky "motion controls" for punching. It's meant to be loaded alongside Voxel Doom. I've only tested it in GzdoomVR with the HTC vive, so I can't speak for how it works on other setups.


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5 hours ago, LoneAlpha2401 said:

I've also been trying Doom in vr and found the weapons to be rather unsatisfying, so I made this. There's some slight gameplay changes and some very hacky "motion controls" for punching. It's meant to be loaded alongside Voxel Doom. I've only tested it in GzdoomVR with the HTC vive, so I can't speak for how it works on other setups.



I like that you made it so you have to swing your actual fist to punch instead of pull the trigger to punch.


It seems the weapon offsets in GZDoomVR are different than in QuestZDoom. E.g., If I select the pistol, then my real life hand will be slightly in front the pistol, rather than being back where the grip is.


That is still pretty neat, though.

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