Smile for the camera.
I’ve had one previous experience with the hotly anticipated Oculus Rift VR headset, going eyes-on at PAX Prime to blow up some stationary mechs in a Hawken demo. I wasn’t impressed. The game I played didn’t demonstrate what I really wanted to use Oculus Rift for, and with Sony’s announcement of Project Morpheus for PS4, I was desperate to give the tech another try. If this is the future of gaming, am I about to miss the wave? Do I even want to catch it?
Thankfully, the team behind World of Diving kept the water warm for me. Ew. That sounds terrible, and my experience with the game was anything but. The developers behind this ever-expanding adventure let me try their social diving game with and without the Oculus Rift. Demand for World of Diving isn’t limited to early adopters of virtual reality tech, as those without can still get the transportive underwater experience they didn’t even know they wanted.
Vertigo Games was quick to stress that their Steam Greenlight campaign was successful, not for the implementation of Oculus Rift, but for the genuine interest people have in exploring procedurally-generated oceans with friends. SCUBA diving classes and equipment are prohibitively expensive, and... well, you get wet. What if you don’t like getting wet? How can you explore the seas otherwise? I jumped into the virtual deep end to discover that World of Diving has an extensive progression system offering unlockable islands, boats, new diving spaces, new underwater toys, new character customization options and gear, and more, which will be determined by the community moving forward.
You’ll be able to vote between three different tasks for the developers at Vertigo to work on. Whatever the community picks will be the next addition to the game, capitalizing on the in-development market that’s springing out of Steam and other crowd-funding efforts. While World of Diving is still early in development, there’s a feature-rich base and a truly transportive quality around the experience, especially with Oculus Rift.
The developers hope consumers will add World of Diving to their Steam Libraries before VR support reaches full maturation and market penetration. You can enjoy the game with a controller in Steam’s Big Picture mode, for example, if you haven’t taken the $350 plunge on an Oculus Rift kit. Still, I loved the feeling of exploring a sunken ship with the headset on.
In the demo, I swam with the left stick and used the face buttons and directional pad to send hand signals to my fellow diver or equip different tools—like a jet that could speed me around the ocean bed or a camera for capturing fish and other sea creatures. I got to take pictures of clown fish, sea turtles, and even a selfie by leaving the camera floating in the ocean and swimming around to pose next to a deep-sea statue. This particular mission really made the virtual reality pronounced, as I truly felt like I had dropped the camera and floated away from it, even though the controller was still in my hands. Turning my head also manipulated the direction I swam, but standing still allowed me to check out the entire environment around my avatar, including the buxom body my head was connected to. Awkward!
As soon as queasiness kicked in, it helped to take a break for mindfulness. I was still sitting in a hotel on the 24th floor in the heart of San Francisco, and mentally checking in with my body helped to fight the urge to barf. We then moved on to a sunken ship, and entering the wreckage threw me for another loop but I could stomach the effect. If your only objective is to enjoy the title with a friend and revive the love you had for Pokemon Snap, World of Diving seems like it’ll do the trick.
This game offered a totally different VR experience than the Hawken demo; one more focused on transporting us to another world rather than blowing it away with explosive graphics and action. Maybe that’s the sweet spot for virtual reality. Regardless, it’s good to know you can still enjoy the game’s exploration and progression, or community-made missions, without it.
To preorder and get access to the game's beta, visit divegame.net