Monday, November 03, 2014

Oculus Rift

My brother has a developer kit for a pretty cool virtual reality system that's being developed called the Oculus Rift. It's basically a headset with a couple of high definition lenses, an infrared camera, and a lot of infrared lights that combine to track your head movement while showing you a 3d display that moves around as you do. My brother's wrists are worse off than mine are so he brought it over to see if I could get it set up and working with my computer. My computer is a good 7 years old by now, but I did get set up with a good video card setup when I got it, and it turns out to work reasonably well.

I got a couple of 'games' working last night. The first is not really a game; it's just a demo called Tuscany which lets you walk around in a house in virtual Tuscany. There's a fire place and a fountain and the like and it all looks pretty real. And it uses stereo sound based on where you're looking so by turning your head you can change which headphone the crackling of the fire comes from.

The second one is a game called Windlands where basically you're exploring around in a 3D world filled with trees and platforms and such. You have the ability to shoot grappling hooks out of each of your hands (using the trigger buttons on a xBox 360 controller) and can use those to swing around and climb up as if you were Spiderman. You aim your shots not with the controller like you normally would, but by moving your head to look where you want to shoot.

Some people report issues of nausea with the system like with other 3D screens, but I didn't notice anything. I have no troubles with the 3DS either, so maybe that's just me. I did get a headache after using it for not too long, because I'm blind and I don't really like contacts. I've been told the headset doesn't play well with glasses (the screens need to be right close to your eyes) but there are other lenses in the box so I'm going to need to find out if I can use those in some way instead. Otherwise having everything be blurry is pretty much a deal breaker for me.

It does have me wondering about how one would actually use such a device to make a good game as opposed to a game that shows off what the device can do. It reminds me a little of the Wii controller. A cool idea when I first saw it, but ultimately really finicky/gimmicky. It can do some things you just couldn't do otherwise, but when it tries to work with a 'normal' game it just feels wrong. But then maybe I'm just old and crotchety.

A lot of the games I like to play are about mechanics and numbers, not so much about looking cool. I still like it when a game looks awesome, don't get me wrong, but Final Fantasy X is such a good game because it had a fantastic undercarriage before the great paint went on top. Is there the space for a cool looking VR game that also has a solid game underneath? I guess I could see something like Oblivion working well with this sort of system. Or a more movie like game? Alan Wake perhaps? Or maybe steal from Ready Player One and rebuild old games inside a world... Play a Pacman arcade table or such. Or run Zork as a 3D puzzle adventure instead of a text adventure. I wonder what the copyright timeframe is on something that old...

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