(I do not own the consumer version of the Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, Gear VR, or other headsets, so the only images I have available are with my DK2. Please understand.)
Welcome to the second week of VR week! With the release of the CV1 of the Oculus Rift last week and this week’s release of the consumer version of the HTC Vive, the heavy headliners of the virtual reality landscape are in full swing. Funny thing is, nobody really knows what full swing is yet. VR news has been slightly common due to the more public nature of the
development kit releases of the Oculus and the spin off VR-ware such as the Gear VR. It certainly did not take away all of the excitement of the true releases of the headsets, but the “official” release felt a little like how the “official” release of Minecraft felt. More of an “About time” rather than a “I cannot believe it is finally out!”
Virtual reality is coming out at a very interesting time. A lot of things are happening in the world right now, and it can be tempting to just hang out in the confines of the home and get lost in a show, video game, book, or whatever is available. At this point in VR’s new fledgling life, it does not necessarily fit into the “whatever is available” category due to price point and literal availability. But it is not going to stay that way. In fact, VR is going to change a lot of the ways that we interact in our daily lives, and that is not a hyperbole. Don’t believe me?
Weird, different, awkward, but promising. The very idea of allowing talk shows to step into the very subject they are discussing is such a fantastic concept. Especially on the digital front, it allows for a more immersive experience, gives bloggers/news/hosts a more direct line of access to the material that they are talking about, and it can make for some unique commentary. The idea gets even more grandiose once you consider the viewers using the same technology. Does the show want to talk about a particular scene in a game? Drag the viewers into the very game that is being discussed, bring up the moment as if onlookers are watching the scene in person, and break it down. Another idea could be to VR televise professional MLG tournaments, but in a coliseum/board game viewpoint. A 1:1 scale of a LCS match in League of Legends while sitting in a massive VR arena would be nothing short of breathtaking if visualized correctly.
Oculus and HTC are not the only player in this new frontier, and some companies like Microsoft and Google are looking to take it in a new direction. With the HoloLens, Microsoft is opting for an augmented reality, or AR, approach by allowing their hardware to “augment” the user’s actual reality rather than immerse the user in a new one. Google is still working on their
smart contact lenses that are rumored to possibly start using some of the Glass technology, and it would allow a more convenient, albeit limited, AR experience. Whether VR and AR will have to duke it out in the future or come together as a hybrid reality solution is still in the air, but the answer is clear: we will change our reality, we will wear headsets a lot (and hopefully we will get some style with them along the way), and we will experience a virtual Rickroll in the near future.
As far as current releases go, there are a few interesting experiences that are available for early adopters. Colin Northway’s Fantastic Contraption allows players to step into a cartoon world and solve puzzles while getting a full view of what you are attempting to solve. Hover Junkers by Stress Level Zero is set in a post-apocalyptic world where players pilot a little junker and fly around and fight against other players while building up their own junker with literal junk. EVE: Valkyrie is a release game for the Oculus that gives players a more personal view of the EVE universe while dogfighting in personal spacecrafts. Chronos by Gunfire Games plays as an adventure RPG that hacks and slashes its way through dungeons and puzzles. The list continues on, but a majority of the games feel rather small in size and can be seen more of a fun tech demo rather than a full game. But if a player is wanting to put their headsets through their paces, there are definitely experiences that are available.
We are at the beginning of something that has the potential to change our paradigm as players, but an open mind is needed. Too many times have I heard that VR is another gimmick rather than giving change a chance. While it is important to remember what playing a video game is, it is not fair to limit that scope and try to level it onto everyone. It is an unknown world that we are stepping into, but not an unfamiliar one. Adventuring is in our blood, and maybe even more so in players. And if the concept of myndferre (a concept of making short story video games and allowing players to participate, but not necessarily allowing them to become the main character) continues to develop from games like The Beginner’s Guide and Firewatch, the possibility of immersion will truly become endless. Right now, the headsets are a bit pricey and it will probably take some time for the user base of VR to become a majority. But the frontier is close and in reach for a new way to play in our medium. Maybe it is time to take off the rose colored glasses and try on a new pair.