Short version: I want a Vive. It's awesome. It's hard to describe. All of my scepticism has vanished, at least in regards to how fun it would be for me (how they market and sell it is another matter). No motion sickness, not from any attendee at the event I was at. The size of the play space seems perfect for living rooms, much less area is needed than I expected.
I went into this demonstration trying not to expect too much. I figured there was a 50/50 chance I'd be disappointed, or get a demo that underwhelmed. So I told myself I was going to judge it on technical merits: framerate, motion-blur and especially head-tracking speed. The moment I tried the first game though, all of those considerations just washed away and I was immediately immersed.
I had two sessions with the HTC Vive and saw 4 games, 3 of which were "game jam" games created just this weekend. As you can expect, some were more rough than others.
The first game I tried (not my choice, they cycled from 12 game jam demos) was a flipping-burger game. Not usually my thing, but this turned out to be the best demo I tried. As I said I was instantly immersed, as if I were teleported to another physical place. That sounds cheesy, but it's absolutely a thrill. I did not try to get my head into that space, I was taken there.
The controllers get a representation in-game and it's really trippy to have someone hand them to you, because they float in the air. The tracking is damn near perfect, my hands went out and grabbed the controllers without any sort of slip (and with 100+ attendees I watched everyone else do the same). For this game, I was grabbing two pronged BBQ forks.
For a moment I misgauged the distance between the controller and the burger pile, but that itself was this neat-o discovery moment, as if I was calibrating myself. From then on, the controllers were a natural extension of my hand. The trackpads on them are wonderful too-- which makes me want a Steam controller now (I wasn't interested before).
Another discovery moment: I placed burgers on the grill, then turned to get another burger and when I turned back my initial burger patties were gone. Then a giant wasp flew down and carried away the next burger I had. I totally missed these wasps at first and now I was batting around my forks trying to swat them. I dropped a burger patty onto the floor, bent down to pick it back up, then against my better judgement put it on the grill. After flipping it (slightly burnt), I turned around and put it on a plate (where a creepy child representation sat in front of). I then tried to wrestle away a patty from one of the wasps buzzing around.
It doesn't sound like much of a game, but I fully describe it because all throughout I was giggling like a giddy fool!
I tried Valve's balloon demo, which I got a chance at before they loaded another game jam game. It was very slick. The right controller had a color wheel on the trackpad, so you swivel to a color and pull the trigger to inflate a balloon, then bounce that around. The physics on this are excellent, but it definitely comes across as a VR demo.
Another game was a sort of VR castle defense thing. It was a bit too timed-goal oriented. That factor came up in discussions with other game designers and I think the consensus was that VR comes with an even stronger sense of personal agency. Allowing the player to set the pacing might be more important within VR than we're accustomed to.
The last game I tried was a VR tennis / ping-pong thing and while it could have been promising the collision on the paddle was terrible, so I couldn't swing at the ball very fast. This is the kind of thing that gets easily missed during a jam. These jammers had very little time with the target rigs, so they were developing somewhat blind to simulations on flat screens. I wanted to try the "Legolas Simulator" VR archery, but it was a long wait for another round of demos.
- The tracking is far better than I expected, on both the head and the controllers. This is so key.
- Players did not wander around much, so very little space was needed. In fact the partitioned "rooms" had people walking in and out of them often in close proximity without effort. It was kind of funny to see people swipe their hands through the air inches away from someone else, but I didn't see any mishaps or trips or anything. It's not random flailing and movements are natural.
Someone told me the Valve techs turned off the room constraint system, but I hadn't walked far enough in-game to test if the walls would come up. Maybe some games might use the full-sized space, but so far I don't think it's necessary.
This is way more living-room friendly than I thought it would be. No more area needed than a Kinect (and less than Kinect dancing games).
- The ability to bend down, tilt and sway your head is SO much more immersive than typical side-to-side / up-down head-tracking. An IR tracker is so lame compared to this, especially since the VR tracking is one-to-one (screen is moving with you!)
- Realism in graphics isn't needed. I was very immersed in the cartoony burger flipping game.
- Valve was enforcing a 90Hz framerate per eye. Only the games from the jam that met that requirement were approved.
- The goggles fit over my glasses just fine. I could see clearly. Someone else took his glasses off and had a blurry experience, but I think the goggles have a focal adjustment? Maybe. I don't care, I'd just wear my glasses.
- I asked around and couldn't find anyone who had any motion sickness. Many comments about the Oculus making them motion-sick, so quite the comparative difference. One of the jammers did mention that Valve's techs requested he remove a swirly teleport effect from his game, so I think they (smartly) want to keep any disorientation effects away.
- The one big downside: There is a cord to the headset, which I think is going to be a big drawback for marketing this thing. I didn't have any issues with it and few others did, but what if you had kids and they tried to run around in circles?
- No one has any idea on retail price yet. I'm not going to bother guessing.
#SteamVR #HTCVive #GameJam
Demo was meant to last 20 minutes but I'm guessing this included setup and the actual play felt longer. Multiple games were available but each demo participant only got to play one which was a shame.
Wearability was nice. I wear glasses and asked if I needed to take them off, the Sony rep (also a glasses wearer) told me to try with them on first as he always does and sure enough there was no pinching or squishing, of course this is a 10 minute experience so maybe pressure points will show up after a more extended play. Not really much they can do about that though, for now I'll say it's glasses friendly.
The device has a padded extended back which you pull out, you then rest the main display and press a button to move it back up against your face until it's comfortable. Works nicely and again you can get a personally preferred snug fit without excessive pressure.
Weight wise I wouldn't say I noticed any front heavy or excessive momentum when you turned your head.
My game experience was Eve:Valkyrie a space shootemup. Cockpit check, 3D movement check, lots of pew pew. I think I'll class this in the gimmick games for VR as there was nothing like Valve's experimental software pushing the VR, it was simply a means to look around your ship. So yeah, not the worst but certainly not a system seller. All demos as far as I could see took place with the player sitting down.
I have to admit that when first putting on the headset (this is my first VR experience outside of Cardboard) I was immediately hit with anxiety and the loss of visual input from the outside world. It lasted probably 5-10 seconds and faded as soon as I had movement control with my head and the display. VR coders are going to have to take care with this IMO. More than ever, ripping control from a players senses to run a cutscene could result in some people ripping off the headset.
Onto the experience. As I was waiting for my turn I notice the guy in front of me barely moved his head, it was like he was just playing a standard 3D game. Likewise, as I fill out a questionnaire after the experience the person after me did the same thing, rigid head. I asked the second person afterwards why they didn't move their head, did they forget they could. Their short answer was the initial anxiety in the beginning made them very cautious not to push their luck and bring it back through wild head movements. Again, something Devs are going to have to hand hold people through until the VR experience becomes more common.
That all said, I of course made sure to look around as much as I could. At on point, mid boost, after multiple barrel rolls and my head flipping all over the place trying to track an enemy ship I had to concede and just let go of the controls and let the ship level out. Now I don't think that is a bad thing, I got myself into that mess by pushing it, recovered immediately but it does make me concerned that we're going to see some VR horror games attempt to make you hurl.
Game wise, it was a regular shooter. Lots of cockpit glass to look out of, super cool to enter a turn and look up to better track your target. I kind giggled (internally, pls I'm big man) when I looked down and saw my hands on the in game joystick, felt natural.
Framerate looked good as was the latency. Again, wasn't a very extended period of play but I certainly didn't feel motion sick beyond that barrel roll scenario. Graphics were a little pixelated but I think we're going to have to live with that for a few years. Certainly serviceable.
As a non console owner, price dependent, it could be a good alternative to building a beefy PC and getting Oculus/Vive. Colour me impressed.
Bonus EGX Tips
If you're still attending EGX and want a VR Experience but you don't have appointments with Vive or PSVR. Then you still have choices. The Elite Dangerous stand has Vive hooked up to try. There are also a few games in the Indie area which have Oculus and Vive to try. Queues were pretty reasonable from 2-3 people "Kart VR" to 15-20 "Crystal Rift"
Also say hello to the Project Zomboid guys because they're just awesome and also stop by the Prison Architect stand as that gets my best stand of the show,
#egx #egx2015 #PlaystationVR #Morpheus #Vive
http://eu.square-enix.com/en (should be available in other regions if you select the right store)
It is particularly ironic that the men who perpetrated today's massacre in Paris were angry over satirical depictions of Muhammad, because in doing so they have forgotten the exact reason why his depiction was forbidden: because the depiction of animals or of people encourages idolatry.  Islam has always been profoundly careful to avoid even the slightest suggestion of veneration of anything other than God: even the time for the mid-day prayer begins just after the Sun has passed its zenith, to avoid the appearance of Sun worship. The purpose of the hadith is to prevent people from worshipping the Prophet, not to put the Prophet on a par with God.
No, the reason for this had nothing to do with holy writ, and everything to do with people who want the right to declare that they may not be insulted, that their pride has more value than human life. And any claim which can be enforced with bloodshed is a claim which comes from power -- and thus a claim which itself has no claim on immunity from mockery. Because they demand it must not be spoken, and because they wish to prevent it from being spoken by creating a fear of murder among anyone who speaks out, it must therefore be spoken.
In the spirit of this, here are several of the cartoons which Charlie Hebdo published which brought down this rage. As its cover I present the best possible summary of all: a picture of Muhammad, saying "It's hard to be loved by assholes."
 See e.g. Sahih al-Bukhari 3:34:318, http://www.usc.edu/org/cmje/religious-texts/hadith/bukhari/034-sbt.php#003.034.318
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