The Oculus Rift has been making quite a name for itself since it’s wildly successful Kickstarter campaign. With the development kits out in force, more and more titles have been showing up on forums with various degrees of success. We’ve previously reported how Half Life 2 was now fully supported for the Rift, and this weekend our Singapore office got a chance to try it out.
After enabling the SteamPipe beta and adding the ‘-vr’ line to the launch commands, we were sure we had it figured out. Yet, there is a small snag with the DirectX mode we were running on (DirectX 11), so we added the ‘-dxlevel 90′ command and presto, it was go time for the Rift.
First impressions are everything, and the Rift had our jaws dropping almost immediately. The menu was pretty clear running on 1280 x 800, and after the initial cut scene was over, and you wake up to ‘smell the ashes’, you are immediately immersed in something extraordinary. Walking and looking around take on a totally different experience for the gameplay. It’s nothing short of unique, and after a few minutes you tend to forget you are wearing a VR device and become totally involved…that is, until the motion sickness occurs.
I had to stop playing after about 20 minutes because I was getting headaches and a slight case of nausea. We’ve read plenty of reports of people experiencing a certain motion sickness that makes for a fairly negative experience. I’ve never experienced motion sickness before, so I gave it a few hours and was determined to try again to see if the experience would repeat itself.
Sure enough, after about 20 minutes, the nausea crept back, but much slower this time and far less acutely. In fact, the gameplay experience the second time around was much more engaging as it was after Gordon gets his trusty crowbar and picks up a gun from one of the fallen Combine. One thing I noticed was I was sitting quite awkwardly in the chair and always seemed to be looking sideways for most of the gameplay. You find yourself wanting a lot of mobility for your head to move especially when you are being grabbed by the barnacles and need to look straight up to blow them away. Another thing HL2 does particularly well with the Rift is make the HUD constantly floating somewhere in the background – you never have to turn your head to see it.
Ladders were difficult to navigate, but that could be my unique keyboard setup and nothing to do with the Rift. Keeping the target centered isn’t the easiest task when the mouse movements control your view after a little tracking, and I seemed to be crab-walking through most of the game. Perhaps it was due to the fact we had the Rift setup essentially as a second monitor that was the problem, as everything seemed to take place to the right of the main screen. We’re working on testing as a solo monitor and will report back with our results.
Other thoughts on the Rift are what we’ve heard before from different testers and developers – the resolution is an issue right now. Granted, it’s just the devkit, but it took a little while to stop noticing the pixels and suspend my disbelief. Menus are hard to read sometimes and even though we experimented with three different lens types in the config files, the picture was blurry and disorienting from time to time. The Rift does need to sit squarely on your face in order for everything to stay in focus. A slight move up or down makes everything more blurry, so a snug fit is key.
We tried the Rift with Lost Cost as well, but my crabwalking ways didn’t make it far up the cliff and I kept missing the jumps. Lastly, we tried the Rift with the rollercoaster simulator and it was a hell of a lot of fun.
With all this being said, the Oculus Rift is still pure entertainment. When you put on the hazmat suit and see your hands – they feel like your hands. Jumping onto a moving train feels like it’s actually right under your feet, and the full immersive experience is nothing short of amazing. With a better resolution and some of the kinks worked out, this VR technology has the potential to be mind blowing and you should be excited for it.
Will it make you a better game player? No, not at all, and I really don’t think it will change the industry very much at all. But it will be a lot of fun…and that’s something we tend to forget a lot of the time, that games are sometimes just meant to be fun.
We’ll be trying the Rift with Minecraft this week. Stay tuned.