Seeing is believing.
The Oculus Rift is preparing to share virtual reality with consumers for the first time. But no hardware can survive without the proper software to drive interest. Here to answer the call is CCP Games’ (EVE Online developer) EVR. What might be a tech demo is very well what could help propel VR into the spotlight.
Strapping the Oculus Rift onto my face for my first time was daunting. How can you really prepare yourself for entering the world of virtual reality and leaving the world you know and understand behind? Upon engaging my eyes with the headset’s two 720p displays, I felt like I had left everything I had known behind.
Warping into the EVR ship, I was immediately embraced with the humbling vision of space. There were stars as far as my eyes could see. I then made my first connection with virtual reality by moving my head downward. While my mind was convinced I would see my own body, what I was met with was a body other than my own: feet, arms, and spacesuit included. For a moment I experienced confusion as my mind battled to understand the senses.
As I looked around the cockpit I could see the location where I would face off to the death in aerial battles. Problem is, I’m not an aircraft pilot, and I sure as hell don’t know how to fly a spaceship confidently. Nonetheless, I took a moment to take in the view, looking in every direction to take everything in. It wasn’t just a space devoid of obstacles or challenges. It was filled with five other player characters who were sitting next to me in real life—the real life I had completely forgot existed—,debris, a space station, and enemy ships. I knew I was in for something, but didn’t know what it would be.
Turning on the engine of my ship I was immediately thrust into the unfamiliar world before me. It felt like the equivalent of being pushed into a pool when you don’t know how to swim, but my body immediately fought to remember that I was just playing a game. Before I knew it I was rolling my ship like a professional dogfighter and blasting enemies to smithereens. To say that it was thrilling to trail a hostile, lock-on successfully, and unload a rocket into its structure would be an understatement.
It was more than just looking forward and pressing a few buttons, it was about looking around in 3D space to determine how to maneuver for optimal trajectories. It was also about visually identifying threats, including rockets, and using boost to dodge them. Without looking around the cockpit I would have been nothing more than prey. While you can say camera angles can be changed with analog sticks, there’s something to be said about doing it manually with your own head. It’s like a window into another world, one that developers have been trying to bring alive for decades and gamers have been striving to find.
The only thing that haltered my experience with EVR and Oculus Rift was the unit’s 720p displays. It was admittedly a bit blocky, adding a small hurdle of entry between the the virtual world and our own. However, that has become a non-issue with a new 1080p unit that has just exited the production line. The CCP Games developers I spoke to shared an incredible amount of anticipation for the upgraded unit. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the luxury of experiencing the 1080p version as only two were known to exist at the time of E3.
If there’s anything you should take away from this it’s that Oculus Rift is the real deal and EVR is the best way to prove it to yourself and your friends.
Look out for Oculus Rift when it releases sometime later this year. A developer kit version is currently available at $299 and, based on what I’ve heard, the final retail version will be in the $199-$299 range.