Oculus Rift first thoughts
we’ve been waiting for VR headset, the Oculus Rift, since we tried a prototype for the very first time three years ago. But the Oculus Rift also represents something we’ve been waiting on for decades – real, high-quality virtual reality.
simply Fly over Mars, take a trip through the jungle, tour a house that has not yet been build. It’s called virtual reality. And as Jay Schaefer found out, all it takes is a special helmet, and a glove, and you’re off.
It’s the first really powerful VR headset you can buy, a piece of technology that feels like something out of science fiction. But is the Oculus Rift the cutting edge of virtual reality right now?
One steps to full experience
The most revolutionary VR headset brings your whole body into a game. But Oculus’ motion controllers aren’t coming out until later this year. When that happens, the Oculus Rift could feel a little like the Holodeck .
Right now, it’s more like those nutrient pods in The Matrix. But you know what, those nutrient pods are a lot of fun. Before we actually plug into virtual reality, we should talk about how the Rift looks, because Oculus has some excellent design work here.
Oculus Rift Design
Before you even open it, all the parts come in a black carrying case with a magnetic top. we are not sure how durable it is, but it has a great texture. And the actual hardware looks even better.
The Oculus Rift doesn’t look like a gaming device or an old sci-fi movie prop. It looks classy… for a big face mask, anyway. The most important part here is the VR headset, but there’s also a tracking camera, plus an Xbox One controller that you’ll use for most of the games.
The last thing is a little remote that you can use for very simple games, or for controlling video. Oculus has its own app with a VR game catalogue, which you can use either inside or outside VR headset.
Oculus Rift Gaming experience
The Oculus Rift is launching with 30 games, which cost anywhere from $5 to $60. The cheapest ones are mostly ported over from the Samsung Gear VR and playing them on the Oculus Rift has mixed results.
Let’s take the Dead Secret game as an example, it’s a point and click adventure game that I actually really liked on Gear VR also. It’s kind of a case where the Gear VR is actually better than the Oculus Rift for it, because the whole point of this game is that you’re supposed to be able to turn 360 degrees and look at whatever you need to, but here that would get me tangled up in this cord really horribly.
So instead, you can press a button and you’ll sort of blink around. The blinking motion is there to cut down on motion sickness. And it does actually work pretty well, it just doesn’t feel quite as good.
The fun part
This is also a game we really like to play with the remote because the whole idea is that it’s very, very simple. You’re supposed to use the equivalent of a mouse in VR, so a full game controller just seems sort of weird. So this is exactly why they included the remote.
One of the most fun, obvious things to do on the Rift is to pretend you’re in some sort of cockpit. Whether that’s a jetpack, a space ship, or a car in some sort of weird, 360-degree racing strip.
So the real interesting thing about radial G is that it’s a 360-degree track and you’re trying to race against everyone else while not falling off occasionally and while trying to find the fastest path. It’s a super intense game with super intense techno music, and that’s what makes it fun in VR. And no matter how crazy this looks, I actually don’t really get motion sickness in it because it’s kind of like driving a car.
Those games are all personal. But there are actually a lot of titles that make you an invisible observer. The Rift’s tracking system means that you can lean around as if you’re looking over a tabletop model. It’s a smart system, and it’s probably the least likely to make you motion sick.
Oculus Rift The comfort
The camera isn’t moving until you move your physical body. I wondered for a while how long I’d be able to stay in the Oculus Rift at a time, and it is actually pretty long.
If we adjust the headset too tight, we’ll get a headache, and until somebody installs a hands-free or a tube here, I might end up missing a lot of meals while I’m playing. A few experiences make me sick, mostly ones that weren’t originally imagined as VR games. But otherwise, we can spend hours without taking it off. And more importantly, we really want to spend hours.
More on games
So if you’ve ever played Dark Souls, Chronic is almost exactly like Dark Souls in that the third person character… you have a field, you have heavy attacks, you get to dodge, and you have to fight a bunch of monsters, and it’s sort of unclear what they are but you’re in this dark fairy tale kingdom that has much more going on plot-wise than I am willing to reveal here, but it’s actually incredibly interesting. The sort of big difference in this and how it would probably work if it weren’t in VR is that you’ll see there’s not a camera following me, there’s just one in various directions as I move around.
This can actually get sort of complicated because it means that if a monster comes up and attacks me and I’m trying to dodge right here, okay, then it backs me up, and then suddenly I’ve got this entirely different camera angle to go through. It is maybe not the best decision. But that’s alright because this game is fun enough.
The elephant in the room here is that you could play most of these games just as easily on a normal PC or console screen, even if it wouldn’t feel the same. There’s nothing stopping you from getting up and moving around in the headset. I can take a few steps to either side and still have it track me.
But Oculus’ launch lineup has a lot of games where you’re gonna want to sit in a chair and play. They don’t take advantage of the thing I like most about VR – the fact that it can put your body into an experience.Especially when I don’t have an avatar, I start to feel like a disembodied brain hooked up to an Xbox controller.
Of course, virtual reality isn’t just about video games. Oculus has a photo and video apps, so you can see 360-degree movies and pictures. You can also watch 2D video, like Twitch streams or anything stored on your hard drive in a virtual movie theatre.
It’s got a few interactive animated shorts, like “Lost” and “Henry.” But for now, that’s about all. Oculus has put a lot of non-gaming apps on the Gear VR and it makes sense that we could see things like Netflix come out to the Rift after launch. And everything will change this year when the Oculus touch controllers are released.
controllers lets you do things like sculpt with your hands, realistically grab and throw things, and play action games that involve real, physical action. At its best, Oculus allows you to have new experiences that would otherwise be totally impossible outside of virtual reality.
Right now, it’s mostly adding an extra dimension to more familiar ones. But that extra dimension is still worth seeing, especially with the games Oculus has lined up. The Rift isn’t nearly as cool as it might be in six months, but that doesn’t mean it won’t blow your mind just a little.