Monday, February 1, 2016

How We Beat Motion Sickness in The Witness

When The Witness was finally released, I was really excited that Simiao and I would be able to enjoy a video game together.  Previously, the only games that Simiao could really get into were old-school arcade and Atari games, but I thought that this was right up her alley:  puzzle focused, not scary, and I trusted that Jonathan Blow would settle for nothing less than brilliant design in his games.

Much to my dismay, we quickly learned that like many others Simiao experiences motion sickness in first-person style games.  It took several sessions of experimentation to come up with a permutation of settings that worked to make the game playable for her.  In case you find yourself in this position, here's what we had to do to make the game playable for her:

  1. Play the game with the lights in the room on.
  2. Position the monitor so that she is sitting a bit further back from it.
  3. Set the field of view to 90 degrees.  While there is no field of view slider in The Witness, this was attainable by right-clicking The Witness in steam, going to Properties then Local Files, clicking Browse Local Files, then opening Local.variables in the data folder.  Under ":/misc", we added the line "fov_vertical 90" to achieve this.
  4. My monitor, the ASUS PG278Q, has a GamePlus button on it.  By pressing this button on the monitor, I am able to overlay a crosshair on the center of the screen in the monitor settings.  This unchanging, central focal point helped with her motion sickness.
  5. Finally, we used the amazing RivaTuner Statistics Server to cap the frame rate at 30Hz.  It installs in a snap, appears to be fully compatible with GSYNC and The Witness, and offers a simple means to control frame rate.  We set the Framerate Limit to 30Hz and it worked like a charm.

We did try some chemical methods without success.  Simiao tried taking Benadryl which works similarly to Dramamine for motion sickness, and we tried ginger tea to settle her stomach.  Though these were not helpful, the ginger tea was delicious.  I couldn't help to think while discovering the techniques that did and did not work for Simiao that games should include a "motion sickness friendly" graphics mode that would automatically apply some of these settings to a game.  It would be fairly trivial to overlay a cross hair, increase the field of view, and limit the frame rate to something more friendly to those affected by motion sickness.

Together, the five techniques listed above enable us to enjoy The Witness together, which is a beautiful and intellectually satisfying game to play.  Now all we need is some more free time to play it in!