To me VR isn’t a new thing, I’ve been intrigued by it ever since the early days of Virtuality in the arcades. Now, in 2016, we are able to experience it ourselves in the comfort of our own homes. It’s a great time to be into technology and gaming, being able to experience this stuff first hand and watch others explore it via services such as YouTube and Twitch is just amazing.
I’ll be honest, when VR started to make a come back (as I like to think of it), I was extremely sceptical. I thought, why? Surely it isn’t going to be worth it, it’ll be so limited and pointless that it will come and go extremely quickly. Time has yet to determine how long this iteration of VR will be in our lives, but I for one am sold. No, the technology isn’t perfect, yes it has some weird issues and behaviour, but holy crap it is some seriously good fun!
I skipped all the Kickstarter campaigns and pre-order nightmares, instead I started my VR experience with the Playstation VR. The cheapest of the 3 main headsets on the market and rightly so. PSVR is good, but flawed. It works for the most part and you do get a good immersive experience from it, but the technology they’re using for tracking leaves a lot to be desired. Put as simply as possible, PSVR uses the Playstation Camera to track LED lights in the headset and controllers. Sounds simple and it more or less is, but it has some serious stability issues with tracking. Worlds can move when you’re sitting still, virtual position can shift over time and this leads to feeling very disconnected from the experience and sometimes even extremely nauseous. Will they fix these issues and make it a stable and more enjoy experience? I sure hope so, because with Sony behind it some of the best games and experiences are going to come to the platform and unfortunately be exclusive.
After getting my feet wet with PSVR I knew I wanted to try more. I was lucky enough to have a friend with a HTC Vive (and an Oculus, but I’m yet to try that), so I was over at his place and was lucky enough to be able to give it a go. Already being pretty familiar with how the Vive worked from watching many hours of the Giant Bomb guys play around with it I had a reasonable expectation and even knew a couple little tricks that the owner of this particular setup didn’t know. My first experience was the great Space Pirate Trainer, a relatively simple wave shooter with an awesome style and kicking soundtrack. Within minutes I knew I was in love with this thing, from the moment you put the headset on and see the Vive controllers moving in VR space you know you’re in for a special experience.
Within the next week or so I’d ordered myself a Vive kit and over the last weekend I played many hours of VR games and experiences. Some good, some not so good, some downright silly. By the end of the weekend I was still wanting more, I’d say that over the past weekend I have spent more time in VR than I have since owning the PSVR from launch, so that has to say something for the quality of this thing. I was planning on writing up my thoughts and comments on all the stuff I’ve tried in this post, but I think I’ll save it for a separate post.
My wife who has been relatively against me getting into this stuff (mainly due to costs involved) has tried out both PSVR and the Vive and even she, who is an extremely casual gamer at most (e.g. Minecraft, Lego games, etc), said the Vive was a much better experience. Hell she even beat me at one of the games in Carnival Games VR with minimal to no instructions from myself, this thing seems to just come naturally to most people who try it and within a few minutes you can get into it and have a good time.
I’m probably the most excited I’ve been in years when it comes to new technology or advancement in games, it feels like we haven’t had a big jump in how we experience games in a fair while. Yes graphics technology has improved (though at a slower rate than in past if you ask me), things like physics, AI, etc have all improved as well, but the end user experience is still sitting in front a TV or monitor with the appropriate control method experiencing games how we have been for many years. VR brings something new to the table, it doesn’t always have to be a first person experience either, some of the most awesome stuff I’ve seen has involved looking at what feels like a virtual board game or controlling a character from a third person perspective while you’re able to check around corners for hidden traps and dangers. In the wise words of Vinny Caravella from Giant Bomb, there has never been a better time to be playing video games and he is most definitely not wrong.
VR is here, VR is now, VR is pretty damn amazing.