Anyone who reads
The Rift Report
will know that I'm a tedious VR evangelist. I have a Rift on my desk and spend much of my working day plugged into it, staring open-mouthed at things that aren't really there and going “Wow!” So I've been following the
news closely—and the predictable backlash—and I'm really not sure what to think. I'm no fan of Zuckerberg's social media empire, but I also don't think (perhaps naively) that it'll have an adverse effect on the hardware.
The nightmare scenario is that Rift becomes a closed platform like iOS, and you'll only be able to download games for it through some horrid blue-coloured Facebook bloatware. But the idea that VR experiences will suddenly be full of floating banner ads seems a bit short-sighted to me. They might well ruin it, but not like that. I'm fully prepared to be proven wrong, but it'd be mad for them to buy something so revolutionary and then turn it into a jumped-up Farmville console.
It's just a shame that there's now all this negativity orbiting the Oculus Rift, because, for me, it's one of the most exciting things in gaming at the moment. I wasn't convinced at all when I first heard about it, but after experimenting with the office development kit for the last couple of months, I'm convinced it's going to be a big deal. I do feel for the Kickstarter backers, though. Their anger is justified. Virtual reality is a difficult concept to sell, and it doesn't need all this bad press stinking the place up.
Bethesda revealed their
Wolfenstein: The New Order Panzerhund Edition
box this week, which comes with a model of a robot dog, some story materials and a metal tin, but not the game itself. Bethesda advise you to "hold onto your pre-order" and have that delivered separately. It's as though a factory's worth of marketing tat has gone rogue and charged off into the world without a master. Without the game to give them context, the contents of the Panzerhund toybox look a little sad.
Collector's Editions can be nice, however, especially if they come with cloth maps and lovely art books, but the culture of pricey pre-orders is as dodgy as ever. Pre-orders are great for publishers: they get early sales data and circumvent reviews. For customers, they're a gamble. I'd almost always recommend saving your money and waiting for recommendations from friends and reviewers you trust before paying full price. Failing that, a Steam sale is never far away.
The Facebook/Oculus news just seems to bring out the worst in everyone. Markus 'Notch' Persson
for a Minecraft-Oculus project after hearing about the deal, tweeting that Facebook “creeps him out” and writing a blog post that questions his $10,000 Kickstarter pledge. Then Cliff Bleszinski, formerly of Epic Games and current Oculus investor, weighed in on the potential benefits that Facebook can bring for the impending release of the Rift, and took a moment to call Notch a
I get it: everyone has an opinion on the surprising news of the acquisition. But the name-calling and fingerpointing is, frankly, a bit too far. You don't have to be happy about Facebook and Oculus joining forces, but you can show your displeasure in a more civil manner. Notch, Cliff, I respect you both, but leaders in this industry need to conduct themselves at a higher level than a Reddit commenter. When the mainstream looks for stereotypes to apply to our beloved hobby, this level of immaturity is what stands out. Let's grow up a little bit.
Like Andy, I'm waiting to see how Oculus's buyout plays out. But even though I'm not convinced it's the end times for VR tech, I can't help but sympathise with those who feel let down. You can see the pain all over the
comments of the Kickstarter community
, where people are using emotive terms like “betrayed”, “saddened”, and “douchebag”.
These are the people who originally believed in Oculus. They invested in it—not in the banking sense, but in the emotional one. The counter-argument to their complaints is that they received a Dev Kit, and so completed the “Kickstarter transaction”. That seems to go against the service's spirit, but perhaps the real problem is that nobody really knows what that spirit is. Is it about fostering ideas and creativity, or securing a cheap version of a potential future product? Whatever the ultimate role of crowdfunding, leaving so many feeling so unhappy seems to go against it.
Shit. It's happened. I've started dropping actually money on Hearthstone expert packs. If anyone's looking for me over the course of the next month or so while this jag lasts, I'll be under the arches offering services rendered in exchange for sweet rares.
Not that we'd expect anything less from a franchise that's been mired in delays and development controversy for more than a full decade, but it's worrying to see Gearbox and 3D Realms
still apparently engaged in a tug-of-war
over the rights to Duke Nukem.