As we started planning for E3, the busiest week of the year, we decided that simply covering every PC game we could get our hands on at the convention wasn't enough. We wanted to do something ambitious. Something that would make our lives harder. Something like shooting the first episode of a new bi-weekly series about PC games. We're calling it The PC Gamer Show.
Developers offer plenty of reasons for 30 frames per second in blockbuster games, but Palmer Luckey isn’t having a bar of it. According to the Oculus Rift founder, not only is it inexcusable in virtual reality, but even consoles and onscreen PC games shouldn’t be let off the hook.
The Oculus Rift was one of our favorite things about last year's E3, so we were even more excited to see it at E3 2014. While both Evan and Wes got to try the new Rift DK2 unit and a trio of demos, they also spoke with Oculus vice president Nate Mitchell about the company's big hires—such as Naughty Dog co-founder Jason Rubin—and big plans for first-party content.
Every Tuesday Andy straps on the Oculus Rift and dives headfirst into the world of virtual reality. Is it really the future of PC gaming? Let’s find out.
Now that the Facebook buyout story is yesterday’s chip paper, everyone has stopped talking about Oculus Rift. Not me, though. The headset is a permanent fixture on my desk, and I’m always keeping my eye on sites like RiftEnabled and Oculus VR Share for new demos to try. It’s a minefield, though. The open nature of the hardware means there’s a lot of crap out there in Rift land, but it’s amazing that most of the good ones I feature in The Rift Report are made by one person in their spare. Imagine what a team of 100 developers with a blockbuster budget could do.
Three days after Oculus announced that it was being purchased by Facebook for $2 billion, the VR company has hired programmer Michael Abrash, who has worked at Valve since 2011. Abrash has been working on Valve's virtual reality technology for the last couple years, and regularly posts deep technical discussions of VR on his blog. Abrash is joining Oculus as Chief Scientist, and in his introductory post on Oculus' website, he cites the Facebook acquisition--and Facebook's deep pockets--as "the final piece of the puzzle" necessary for VR to achieve greatness.
All week long, we're peering ahead to what the future holds for the PC gaming industry. Not just the hardware and software in our rigs, but how and where we use them, and how they impact the games we play. Here's part three of our five-part series; stay tuned all week for more from the future of PC gaming.
Palmer Luckey has dedicated his career to virtual reality and bet millions of investment dollars on the idea, so it’s expected that he would call it “the most exciting technology of the last century.” It’s still a bold statement from the young entrepreneur and founder of Oculus VR, and we told him as much during our chat at CES 2014.
The Oculus Rift has been making waves in PC gaming for a while, but mostly absent from the buzz has been the company behind Oculus, Oculus VR. Apparently they’ve been saving up all that excitement for this year’s CES, where they unveiled a new prototype, the Crystal Cove. Our friends at Tested got to have a long hands-on with the new prototype, and I’m not even a tiny bit bitter or jealous about that. At all.
Jonathan Blow, the frequently outspoken developer behind indie hit Braid and upcoming puzzle game The Witness, has posted a pair of pictures hinting that virtual reality support may be coming to the Myst-alike. The images feature the unmistakable double-vision familiar from every Oculus Rift game demo, and as pointed out by an eagle-eyed commenter on Blow’s site, the images are titled VR1 and VR2.
We reported last week that Half-Life 2 now has official, Valve-implemented Oculus Rift support, but let's face it: the odds are against you actually having an Oculus Rift dev kit (and if you do: can I come around and play it?). In an effort to convey some insight into how the classic works in full VR mode, YouTube user Vaecon has offered up a 15 minute walkthrough. As with most Oculus Rift "footage", it's riddled with amazed gasps and lots of childish moaning.
If you're looking for an excuse to take another trek through City 17 and points beyond, and you've got an Oculus Rift developer kit handy, you can now opt in to a beta build of Half-Life 2 with support for the VR peripheral. It's as simple as adding "-vr" (without quotes) to the Set Launch Options line in the game properties, and making sure you've opted into the beta for SteamPipe.
DICE has put out a call for a master thesis student capable of implementing support for the Oculus Rift SDK in the Frostbite Engine, meaning the much-hyped VR headset is at least in the developer's periphery. It also answers the question: "Can university life become even further removed from reality?"
There are two amazing things about this video. The first is what its showing: DICE's first-person freerunner Mirror's Edge running (mostly) smoothly in the Oculus Rift. The second is the reaction cam, and the chance to see someone responding to a VR playthrough of a game that heavily features head-twisting balance challenges and running face first into a wall.
Okay, three amazing things. Those googly eyes should be an out-of-the-box feature.
Valve's wearable computing wizard, Michael Abrash, hosted a lecture at GDC about the challenges of virtual reality, and where the tech might be headed in the future. He's now posted a transcript of the talk on his Valve Time blog. Abrash's musings will be familiar to anyone who follows the incredibly detailed analyses he posts. The talk is a sort of amalgamated greatest hits - presumably the crowd were on their feet cheering when he blasted out the first few bars of Latency.
It's April 1st, meaning there's a good chance that everything you read today will be a lie. Even that last sentence? Well, it's April 1st, so best be safe and assume so. Luckily, the news that Oculus Rift development kits are now being shipped out comes from the tail end of last week, back when people weren't arbitrarily required to make stuff up.
If you backed Oculus Rift - the fancy virtual reality headset thingy - on Kickstarter, you were probably hoping it would ship with a game for you to use it with, when they send ze goggles out to you in the next few days. That game was supposed to be Doom 3 BFG Edition, as an "extra thank you" to backers, but unfortunately the offer's no longer on the table. As relayed to backers, and posted on NeoGAF, the game won't support the Rift development kit by the time the headset starts shipping out - but it's not all non-Doom and gloom. There are number of compensation options, detailed below, including Steam credit or even a full refund for your pledge, if you've lost faith.
Today's jaw-dropping VR hack comes not from the Oculus Rift, but the Virtuix Omni - a sort of half baby walker, half Moonwalk simulator. Between the device, the glasses and the Kinect sensor, we see some amazingly responsive (as prototypes go) tracking of Skyrim being played. Just think, a No Fast Travel playthrough could end up an effective exercise regime.
Listen, developers: if you're planning to add Oculus Rift support into your games, you'd better do it quick. Wait too long and modding powerhouse Nathan Andrews will beat you to it. He's unstoppable. Fresh from taming the Source engine to add head and gun tracking to Half-Life 2 and Black Mesa, he's now turned his attentions to the CryEngine, and has a video of Crytek's first nanosuited outing running with the tech.
Valve will be delivering two talks at the next Game Developers Conference in March. No, you can stop swinging your replica Gordon Freeman crowbar with joy - both sessions will focus on the developer's work in the field of VR and wearable computing. One of them, titled "What We Learned Porting Team Fortress 2 to Virtual Reality," suggests that Valve have been attempting to port Team Fortress 2 to Virtual Reality. Granted, it's a subtle hint.
Ladies and gentlemen of PC gaming, we've officially come full circle: A gaming studio used a Star Trek reference while discussing the future of virtual reality on the internet. In a lengthy dissertation posted last week on the Valve Time blog, programmer Michael Abrash stated display latency represents the primary bottleneck VR hardware—including Valve's secretive wearable computing project—needs to address when compared to the eye's behavior in the real world. The post also apparently proves Valve's slow transformation into a real-life Aperture Laboratories.
Over at the Valve Time blog, Michael Abrash has posted an in-depth examination of the effect that screen resolution will have on virtual reality headsets. Valve's wearable computing wizard recalls the ancient times (or, as they known back then, the mid-90s), when games like Quake could run at a dizzying 640x480 display. The point of this reminiscing is to highlight that the public's perception of graphical size and fidelity is all relative.
A 640x480 display looked great at the time, but to our modern sensibilities, when Steam's own hardware survey tells us that the majority of its users are sporting 1920x1080 monitors, it would look downright offensive. We've tasted the future, and there's no going back. Abrash argues that the same theory applies to VR.