The biggest gripe that I have with VR is how limited it feels to be stuck in one room. If I want to explore a game environment, that means I need to use artificial motion on my thumbsticks. And that feels more like I’m sliding around on a conveyor belt than exploring a virtual environment.

Natural Locomotion, developed by Myou, is a SteamVR-based software overlay that offers a simple solution to this problem.

How does Natural Locomotion offer such a solution, you ask? By letting you use the motion of your arms to activate movement in your games. It’s a simple trick, but it goes a long way.

After all, your controllers even detect motion when you walk or run in place — because your head and arms bob up and down as you move.

But now that the standalone Oculus Quest has been announced for Spring 2019, active VR fitness gaming may see a major shift into mobile territory. Of course, not all existing VR gamers are going to make that shift. Nor should they be expected to.

While omnidirectional treadmills still have a way to go until they hit primetime, tricks like Natural Locomotion do quite a lot to make VR gaming more immersive.

Remember: The strongest component of any VR fitness routine is repetitive motion. That repetitive motion is activated in your arms, your legs, or any of your other muscles. The more you move, the more calories you burn.

Natural Locomotion gives you a faux sense of natural movement in a game’s world via repetitive motion. By pumping your arms and/or walking along in place, you will have a much more nuanced feel of a VR game world than if you were simply pushing your thumbsticks.

Here’s how to get Natural Locomotion set up in a game. 

  • First, go to the Software section of your Steam apps.
  • Next, go to the left side of the screen where your Software library is shown, and activate Natural Locomotion before entering any of your games.
  • Choose your game of choice.
  • Let’s choose The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim VR as the game we’d like to play. Next, hit the “Start selected profile” button. You can find the complete list of Natural Locomotion-friendly VR games on the front of its Steam store page.
  • Read the instructions and run the game.

But what if you want to configure the settings to your taste?

Keep in mind that each game has different settings. Natural Locomotion has been built with hooks for customizable profiles that you can swap out and change on the fly, and it also has global variables for certain gameplay integrations.

For Skyrim VR, this is what the global variables look like when you hit the “Open all settings” button:

As you can see, the GUI has a few different options here that affect your controls at a basic level. Most of the customization happens, however, after you press the “Edit profile” button on the previous menu.

When you go in and edit your current Natural Locomotion profile (for whichever game you’d like to play), this is the screen you’ll see first:

In this menu, you can tell Natural Locomotion three distinct things about the game you’re trying to play. Since each game is different, you should absolutely take the time to read through the instructions that Myou has set aside for you.

  • “Configure buttons” — This is where you tell Natural Locomotion which buttons will toggle motion-activated movement.
  • “Configure speed and trackpad/stick emulation” — This is where you tell Natural Locomotion how thumbsticks should behave inside the game. You can also entirely disable thumbstick movement in this window if you’d like.
  • “Describe the original locomotion” — This is where Natural Locomotion gets its information about locomotion behavior from the original game. As stated in the image, this section doesn’t need too much tampering unless you use other software (such as a mod) which alters the behavior of the original game.

Conclusion

Natural Locomotion is a nifty way to get additional exercise from games that offer free exploration. I tend to recommend it as often as I possibly can, not only because it’s a quick way to burn extra calories, but also because it makes games way more immersive.

As you can tell, I enjoy using Natural Locomotion when I play Skyrim VR (with mods).

With it, and with the addition of my 40 lb weighted vest, I end play sessions feeling like I’ve taken a jog through Skyrim. It’s a really fantastic feeling, and it lends itself to the already extraordinarily immersive nature of Skyrim’s core design.

I’ve also played games like Rec Room and Onward with it, and though I’ve run into trouble staying in Onward servers with Natural Locomotion activated — presumably due to Easy Anti-Cheat — I have to say that it improves locomotion in those games by leaps and bounds.

Is Natural Locomotion a tool that you’d use? Let me know in the comments.


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