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Yesterday, while cleaning up my media center, I found my copy of Ratchet & Clank: Into The Nexus, which I bought sometime before Christmas last year. I had been pretty excited about this game pre-release, what with it being the first "traditional", albeit shorter than usual,...

The Oculus Rift: Moving Us One Step Closer To The Holodeck

Posted on Saturday, March 30 @ 21:26:38 Eastern by blake_peterson

While it might be easy to look at an iPhone or iPad and wonder why this is so, the Oculus Rift is strapped directly to the face, just scant centimeters from the eyes. It requires the use of precise lenses that have to be calibrated for the individual user to see the images. Add more tech or more complex lenses, and you increase the weight, making it harder to play and wear. However, Luckey said, as hardware solutions present themselves many of these problems will be solved and some will have been made for the dev kit devices currently shipping (currently the Rift is also a wired device, due to issues of power and latency).

Still, the device is incredibly impressive. One of the things the techs had people do in the demo was fly the Hawken mech as far above the level as possible, and then drop, while looking down all the way, to a crash against the concrete. As the machine fell faster and faster, and finally reached terminal velocity, my stomach turned and I experienced vertigo, something I've never felt from a video game.


The Valve devs talked fairly extensively about ways to combat the problem of motion sickness. One surefire way to create it was to change the angle of the head against the player's wishes. This caused motion sickness because the view didn't match the person's inner ear adjustments. The company's founder talked briefly about a unit that could artificially stimulate the inner ear to create the illusion of the head-tilting, but mentioned these units were hardly ideal, least of all because they involved sending a strong blast of electricity threw a person's head.

Similarly, the realism in visual motion, even if the system is currently lacking in resolution fidelity, meant that people had problems playing faster player classes. The scout, for instance, runs far too fast (20 miles per hour, according to Ludvig, but more like 40 according to Oculus Rift creator, Luckey) and that the rocket jump made people particularly nauseous, because they had to look down to perform the action and saw the ground rush away at an accelerated rate (something most people aren't used to).

After playing Hawken for a few minutes, I began to get the hang of it. Jumping, flying, and then dropping while firing were accompanied by a straight-up adrenaline rush and butterflies in the stomach that I wouldn't have believed was real before I strapped on the glasses. To put it simply, it felt more real and scarier. Targeting in the game was difficult because of the low resolution, HUDs have been discouraged for game developers (for the moment, though, the device's creator expects resolution to quickly get better as they move forward), and all firing was blind.


The Valve developers' solution for this for TF2 was to paint the reticule on the side of the target itself, so it would change distance, like a true laser sight that paints a dot on the side of the target. This solves a general problem with 3D targeting that those who played Resistance 3 in 3D may have encountered. In Resistance 3, in order to line up the iron sights properly you had to shut one eye, just like in real life; however, this proved more annoying than immersive in that game.

Regardless of the developer learning curve and the current limitations of the resolution, the Oculus Rift is an amazing piece of tech that feels at the very least like the future of 3D gaming, providing an experience you can't get anywhere else. It almost makes me sad I didn't get in on it when the Kickstarter was up, so I could get my hands on a dev kit to play those early VR-ready games sure to be developed by the people in the full giant hall for the Valve talk, almost all of whom raised their hands when asked if they'd either pre-ordered or were getting the Rift dev kit from Kickstarter.

Blurry? Sure. Can it cause eyestrain if not calibrated correctly? Yeah. Does it need new control schemes and best practices? Indubitably. But I absolutely see a future for a whole new kind of game development, one where everything will feel just that much more real, even without the work they are already doing on those issues. The Oculus Rift was like seeing the future through beer goggles.

Related Games:   Resistance 3, World of Tanks
Tags:   Oculus Rift, GDC

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