I went to PAX West back in 2015 with two friends: Shank and our resident Planet Zoo expert Brian. The weekend was full of fun: we saw new games, we hung out in Seattle making memories (seriously, follow Miserable Brian on Twitter for more), and I met up with some really cool industry colleagues while there that weekend.
However, one memory specifically stands out: waving to Shank.
This was no ordinary wave, mind you. We were at the Nvidia booth and the company had a VR unit set up to try out. This was during the years where VR was starting to become a thing again, and it was the first time I had tried it out myself. We stepped into a co-op game, the name itself escapes me, but when we loaded into the VR environment both Shank and I instictively looked for each other. It was cool to see each other in game, fully realized. But it was what happened next that stands out in my mind: we both instinctively waved to one another.
The Lord of the Rings Online is where this action originated. We were playing for a stream one night and Shank and I started to quote the South Park "Make Love, Not Warcraft" episode. In it, Randy shows that he can "even wave to this guy over there." From then on, when Shank realized he could wave in LotRO it became our thing.
So naturally, one of the first things I did when loading into Zenith: The Last City last week was start to wave to people. Running around the first main hub you spawn in, randomly waving to players took up much of my time early on in-game. I was having too much fun waving, doing our best James May impression by saying "Hello!" (In Zenith you're in general proximity voice chat by default, and the mic is always hot unless you turn it off on the Oculus Quest 2). However, then I remembered you could wave to NPCs.
Many MMOs incorporate emotes to NPCs or with NPCs into quests. But for me, it's never really felt organic. When Shank and I waved to one another in VR back at PAX, we weren't being instructed to do so, it was organic. Both of us at the same time realized we could, and so we did.
This is how it feels in Zenith. Waving to NPCs to get their attention and kick off quests is a cool new way to interact with the game. Sure, you can point your controller and click on the quest icon to do the same thing, but for me that takes some of the joy out of being in a VR space. It's me, in Zenith, standing in front of this person. Why wouldn't I wave or gesture of some kind?
RamenVR have made something as simple as triggering a quest or interacting with an NPC one of my new favorite things to do in the MMO. It's not always accurate. I have noticed sometimes I have to wave a lot to get an NPC to fully give me their attention. But when it works right away there is just something about it that makes me happy. I really hope other VR MMOs take note.
It makes perfect use of the advantages of VR: physically being "there" in the world. However, what really makes me happy is what I mentioned earlier: it's organic. It doesn't feel forced. I instinctively want to wave to people and NPCs in Zenith because that's what I would do in real life. And that is a strong pull that is going to keep me coming back for more.