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Face On With Oculus Rift

Sitting Down VR.

As I sit down to put the headset on, it’s almost a slightly daunting task. The helper behind me gives clear instructions about what I need to do; place the displays in front of my eyes first, adjust them until the images properly resolved and as sharp as they can be, and then pull the strap over my head to secure it properly.

Now that I’m blind to the outside world, I need more help, with an Xbox 360 controller placed in my hands and the handful of controls I can play with explained, before the headphones are put on. They’re not too loud, so that I can still hear the Eurogamer Expo show floor, but loud enough for the rumble of the aircraft in War Thunder and the game to make sense.

Even though I’d been instructed to move my head and look around the cockpit of this WWII fighter, I’m still playing it as though it were just a monitor directly ahead of me. I don’t really move my head to look around, but instead rely and moving the plane itself to change my point of view. I’m doing it wrong.

WarThunder-Cockpit

It does take me a while, but I start to consciously decide to look around me as I’m flying. That way I can track my targets – who invariably escape me anyway – better, as they go “off screen”, so to speak, and catch up to them without the need of arrows to point me in a direction. It’s certainly immersive, but an experience which you really need to get accustomed to.

However, it’s also a very revealing demonstration of what Oculus Rift is all about. This is not really a system designed for first person shooters, which is the first kind of game which I feel everyone jumps to as an example of what VR can do. Yes, you can combine the Oculus Rift with the Omni – omnidirectional treadmill – so that you can have that physical experience, but even there you’ll bump into problems.

This is very much a sitting down system, for games like War Thunder or Gran Turismo, where you can sit in a cockpit and look around. This was my own logical conclusion before I played with it, and going face on with the system only affirmed my beliefs, along with talking to Joseph Chen, Product Lead and part of the team presenting the system to people on the show floor.

This is still a somewhat flawed experience too, with control inputs in particular needing a lot of work and thought put behind them. You need a natural understanding of a 360 controller right now, because mouse and keyboard inputs would be seriously impractical, and this is one of the simplest and most basic systems out there right now.

OculusRift-EGX

It’s still not perfect, and especially from the point of view of learning an unfamiliar control scheme, not being able to look down at the controller and see what is what in comparison to something shown on screen makes it near impossible to give universal access. This is something which Oculus VR have to work on over time, with some developers creating innovative solutions like crafting a 360 gamepad in game, which shows you exactly what you’re pressing. It could even be that Valve’s new Steam Controller might hold some value in this regard.

Thankfully, I came out of this experience without an ounce of motion sickness. Again, I think that this is down to the kind of game I played, with a first person view and plenty of in-game constants for me to effectively use for spotting, like a ballerina. I do know that others have struggled with games such as Half-Life 2.

This too will come down to developers getting their game up and running, and working to create as slick and seamless an experience as possible. For Gaijin with War Thunder, they were able to get a working build within a matter of days, thanks to already having support for 3D screens and head tracking via TrackIR.

OculusRift-Final

It all boils down to a system which, though still in the midst of heavy development, is shaping up to be a very slick and polished experience. The main problem that can’t be solved via smart software solutions and innovative control systems is with the screens themselves. I was playing with a unit which featured the higher resolution 1080p display, and yet even with this higher resolution, I could still resolve the pixels, and lose that little element of immersion. A slight element of eye strain and watering may have come as a consequence, too.

This is still very much the beginning of a long journey to explore what the next step in gaming could be, and despite the flaws, the problems still waiting on solutions, and the clear position that this is a work in progress, it’s quite an exciting and enticing prospect.

24 Comments
  1. bravotangosix
    Member
    Since: Nov 2009

    I for one am really excited about the prospect of VR as far as racing and flight sims go. I’m also extremely excited about SONY producing a version of their own. Here’s a the best vid I found showing what the Rift is about. The one in the video is only the Dev kit version which is an even lower resolution but gives a really good idea of what’s coming.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OKwA_wDO3o0&feature=youtube_gdata_player

    Comment posted on 09/10/2013 at 11:29.
    • Blair Inglis
      hisnameisblair
      Since: May 2009

      The spectator mode in that video is the best use I’ve seen of it so far, as if you’re really in the audience!

      Comment posted on 09/10/2013 at 11:49.
      • bravotangosix
        Member
        Since: Nov 2009

        Agreed. I think that’s why people who have it set up correctly for certain games say it becomes the most immersive experience you can get (while in a room, on your own, with a screen strapped to your face!). I am sold on the whole idea and haven’t even tried the thing yet. Just the very idea of getting complete perspective and scale of your digital world would rock your socks.

        Comment posted on 09/10/2013 at 12:19.
  2. baggyg
    Member
    Since: Apr 2009

    Had my dev kit for 4/5 months now and really enjoying it. I’m very jealous you were able to use the higher definition version but saddened to hear pixel / screendoor is still a slight issue. Ive tried a myriad of games with it and surprising how many are enhanced by VR. Played Sonic Generations on it the other day and it was intense! At the moment the Oculus is becoming a bit of a first person horror experience. Horror works very well (too well) for me on it so it is easy to see why devs are drawn to creating this. Played Slender: The arrival (which now has official support) and was completely freaked out.

    There is room for lots of improvement before the final consumer edition. With things like the Stem and PrioVR coming , this really is the beginning of something huge.

    Comment posted on 09/10/2013 at 11:46.
  3. lambchop
    Member
    Since: Aug 2013

    I`ll be really interested to try this out sometime. Looks epic for War Thunder or Racing games

    Comment posted on 09/10/2013 at 12:11.
  4. Tuffcub
    On the naughty step.
    Since: Dec 2008

    I remember VR the first time.

    http://garymucklow.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/4b37.jpg

    Not changed much, didnt catch on then, won’t this time.

    Comment posted on 09/10/2013 at 13:05.
    • bunimomike
      Member
      Since: Jul 2009

      Agreed. It won’t. However, it’s heading in the right direction but won’t be embraced properly until we lose the silly looking headsets.

      Comment posted on 09/10/2013 at 13:38.
      • JustHonour
        Member
        Since: Dec 2008

        I was at one of the first VR shows in the UK. The tech needed to run those was way beyond what most could reasonably put in their home (or even arcade). Now I don’t suppose the average consumer will pick a Rift up but I kinda think the uptake will be pretty good – I’m really looking forward to picking up a consumer version.

        Also, I’m not too sure how VR could be done without the “silly looking headset”.

        Comment posted on 09/10/2013 at 16:09.
      • Joe
        Member
        Since: Aug 2009

        Yeah… Losing the headset just leaves you with, reality, which is what we’re trying to escape!

        Comment posted on 10/10/2013 at 08:10.
    • Severn2j
      Member
      Since: Aug 2008

      I don’t know, it seems to be making big waves in PC gaming circles and the technology is way ahead of the original VR. I think it may just catch on this time.

      Comment posted on 10/10/2013 at 12:35.
  5. colmshan1990
    Member
    Since: Apr 2009

    How heavy is it?

    It doesn’t look all that comfortable.

    Comment posted on 09/10/2013 at 13:18.
    • Stefan L
      Community Team
      Since: May 2009

      It wasn’t really that heavy. I think the official numbers are 400g or so, which could eventually become tiring, but with secure strapping holding it in place, it was nice and comfy.

      Comment posted on 09/10/2013 at 13:54.
      • colmshan1990
        Member
        Since: Apr 2009

        That’s still sounds a bit heavy for something I’m supposed to stick to my head, but still…

        Surprisingly light for how it looks (and I assume the weight is only going to go down if it changes at all before full release). I could likely get used to it.

        Comment posted on 09/10/2013 at 15:36.
  6. Dazbobaby
    Member
    Since: Aug 2010

    If you want to have children ever, then you’ll probably avoid the Omni.
    Bottom of the page:
    http://www.ps4gamers.co.uk/eurogamer-expo-2013-gallery/

    Comment posted on 09/10/2013 at 14:52.
  7. gazzagb
    Master of speling mitakse
    Since: Feb 2009

    I would love to try it, it sounds and looks great! However, I doubt it will catch on simply because it’s going to have a ridiculously high price point I bet.

    Comment posted on 09/10/2013 at 14:55.
  8. cam the man
    Member
    Since: May 2009

    You can pre-order Sony’s version in the states for $999. In the same article it said it’s going to be priced at either £1200 or £1300 over hear.

    Comment posted on 09/10/2013 at 15:12.
    • colmshan1990
      Member
      Since: Apr 2009

      Sony haven’t announced their rumoured version yet, have they?

      I think you might be talking about another Sony product, which they’ve been making versions of for years, which is basically this without the VR aspects- a headset which just looks like you’re watching a big stationary screen, rather than one where it tracks your movement and adjusts the game image for it.

      You’ve raised a point though- if just the standard TV version is over a grand, how much would Sony’s VR version be? Prohibitively expensive, I should think.

      Comment posted on 09/10/2013 at 15:34.
      • Stefan L
        Community Team
        Since: May 2009

        Oculus Rift dev kits cost $300, and they’re aiming for a resonable price for the eventual consumer release too… In order to compete, Sony will need to get the price right.

        And because I’m lazy, @Colm, at no point did I think that the device felt heavy on my head. They’ll obviously try to make it as light and compact as possible, but I didn’t feel it was a problem at all.

        Comment posted on 09/10/2013 at 15:57.
      • cam the man
        Member
        Since: May 2009

        It’s the HMZ-T3W ‘personal 3D viewer headset’ I meant.
        If the Rift is going to be priced similar to the dev kit I can’t see many folk opting for Sony’s 3D viewer.

        Comment posted on 09/10/2013 at 16:18.
    • NotSmartEnough
      Member
      Since: Sep 2013

      The oculus rift and Sony’s current range of 3d headsets aren’t competing. As mentioned above the Sony hmt range aren’t VR at all, they just simulate a big 3d tv.

      The rumoured Sony VR headset hasn’t been confirmed yet. If/when it is it would need to be priced competitively or it will simply fail. My guess is that they need to keep it at or below the price of the Ps4 itself. Assuming it’s built from similar kit to the rift there’s no reason it wouldn’t be sold at a similar price point.

      Comment posted on 10/10/2013 at 00:08.
  9. fatmanplaying
    Member
    Since: Oct 2013

    Maybe they could put a small camera up front of the mask and you could toggle a key on or off that will show towards your hands holding a controller.
    also would be good for say if your masked up and you want to see what time it is or look around your room you can toggle FULLSCREEN view and it would shouw useing your camera the front view around you.

    Comment posted on 10/10/2013 at 00:06.
    • NotSmartEnough
      Member
      Since: Sep 2013

      I’ve been wondering whether they’ve considered putting two cameras on the front of the headset, one over each eye. Toggling from VR to the cameras would give you a normal 3d view of your room. If you could pipe the feed from the headset cameras to the pc or console then you could potentially overlay your real hands and controller onto the game world. Alternatively you could overlay generated content onto the camera feed for true AR.

      Comment posted on 10/10/2013 at 00:19.
  10. Galgomite
    Member
    Since: Oct 2010

    Just spoke with a friend today who got to play with the Oculus. He said it was the most amazing videogame experience of his life. I’m not too familiar with the product, but he was blown away by the cockpits and the scale of structures. He also had to take it off twice, once during a shark attack and once in a horror title. It’s now the only piece of next-gen tech he’s interested in.

    Comment posted on 10/10/2013 at 05:53.

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