Thoughts on Virtual Reality

This past week, two Virtual Reality (VR) headsets released on a consumer level, the Oculus Rift, and the Vive.

Now, let me start this off by saying I haven't personally experienced what it's like to use these headsets, but I HAVE experienced a bunch of random strangers experience them! That's more or less the same thing, right? What I mean is, I'm at least qualified to give my two cents on where the software development for these things should be headed.

Because in terms of the hardware, both of them seem like perfectly capable devices. They both have displays in Full HD, twice horizontally, one for each eye (That's like double the HD, bro!). These displays are also in 90 Hz, which is smooth enough, but ideally they should probably be 120 Hz. In terms of input, the Vive seems to be ahead of the game. The Vive utilizes "room scale" technology in order to track the movement of your head relative to the size of the room you're in, with the help of two hi-tech sensors. In layman's terms, this means you can walk around the room and the in-game camera will move accordingly. It also makes use of two motion-tracked ergonomic controllers, acting as your "virtual hands", so to speak. Meanwhile, amateur hour over here, the Oculus Rift merely tracks the movements of your head flawlessly. Walking around the room with the Rift is an option, although it's slightly less accurate, because it only has one hi-tech sensor doing the tracking. Oculus Touch, an official motion controller for the Rift is a thing, although it hasn't been released yet.

As a result of all this, the Vive is slightly pricier ($799) than the Oculus Rift ($599). It's something to consider when choosing from these devices, but if you're rich enough to be buying this stuff so early, you're probably going to end up buying both anyways.

Alright, now let's have a look at the premiere software available for both devices.

EVE: Valkyrie

EVE: Valkyrie is a first-person multiplayer space combat game which was designed for VR in mind. I personally think this is a great idea, something as menial as sitting in a cockpit will easily feel real with the tech we have at our disposal. My only complaint is that it isn't Star Wars themed. Imagine piloting an X-Wing or a Tie Fighter in VR!

 

Hover Junkers

Hover Junkers is a multiplayer first person shooter where you build and take control of pseudo-futuristic spacecrafts and engage in shootouts with other players. This game was built from the ground up for VR, and it shows. The shooting itself feels like the main appeal of this game. You have to physically strafe, aim, and take cover to ensure victory. It seems forward-looking in terms of design, and it really takes advantage of the Vive's aforementioned controllers.

 

Lucky's Tale

Lucky's Tale is a platformer game that...doesn't look as impressive as the other games I've listed here. Right off the bat, does this really need to be in VR? I mean, the game has a fixed third-person camera like any other 3D platformer. Imagine how weird this would be to actually play, you'd feel like a magical floating cameraman! Also, even by the standards of other non-VR 3D platformers (Banjo Kazooie, Super Mario 64, Spyro the Dragon), it looks mediocre at best.

 

Modbox

Modbox is a physics sandbox game where you toy around with different objects and invent new ways to use them, similar to Garry's Mod. It seems like playing this would be like having a "virtual lucid dream" of sorts. Like Hover Junkers, this game uses the Vive's controllers effectively.

 

ADR1FT

ADR1FT is an adventure game where you take the role of an astronaut who survives a catastrophic event in space. This game looks stunning, but other than that, it doesn't offer much as a VR game. You could watch the 2013 film Gravity using VR and have more or less the same experience. 

 

There are plenty of other VR games out there in the VR sea, but for now, we can atleast come up with a generalization for the current state of VR software. There are only a handful of developers who are truly taking advantage of this mind-boggling technology, whereas the rest of them are like "just add VR it'll make our game so much cooler". To be fair, this whole VR thing is still in its infancy. I'm sure in the coming years we'll start to see this change for the better, but either way, let's make one thing clear:

The Simpsons totally predicted this shit.