VR At Any Price

The Oculus Rift will be retailing for $599. Like what.

I am not necessarily the sort of person who will say that VR, conceptually, is a fad – I’ve seen too many sci-fi movies to say otherwise. But! I also truly believe that VR is a solution in search of a problem in ways similar to that of the Kinect. VR is a part of the future, not the future.

First, there are the practical issues: the headset on your face. Do any of the models work well with glasses? I’d be surprised, considering that buying goddamn comfortable headphones that don’t grind your frames into your ears remains a struggle to this day. Even if they were comfortable, I’d still be near-blind with my peripheral vision in VR space. Can I take a drink with the headset on? Is there a transparency mode to allow me to check my phone, or look at my keyboard?

Do I really want to be standing/squatting for more than an hour anyway?

Then comes the software issues. How many first-person games are you playing right now? I’m not seeing (har har) much of a point in VR 3rd-person games, so the majority of MMOs are right out. Nevermind the fact that you’ll clearly be needing to play all these games with controllers instead of keyboards/mice. Hope you like teamspeak in your games, because that’s how you will be communicating.

“Have you even used VR before?!”

Yep. Not EVE Valkyrie or anything, but once back in the late 90s at Epcot and again last year in Japan. In the latter case, the friend I was with was blown away, but the whole time the skiing demo was playing I couldn’t help but realize that I didn’t exactly want to be standing up and gyrating my neck every which way. I am a gamer – it does not take a 360 degree virtual view to immerse me. I still get a rush of vertigo falling down large distances in Minecraft with a simple 22″ display three feet away from my face.

Like I said earlier, no doubt the technology will improve, and perhaps something like Sword Art Online/Ready Player One/Matrix/etc/etc/etc will be enough to have us all abandon meatspace gaming (and perhaps meatspace altogether). But in the scheme of things, I personally believe that something like Augmented Reality is going to be worlds more relevant to the future of gaming and life in general than VR. It has most of the advantages and none of the distinct disadvantages.

Well, I suppose we haven’t seen a price tag yet for AR.

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Posted on January 8, 2016, in Commentary and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. As I previously stated I think I’m pretty like-minded, however I am a big fan of VR and see it as the future for many game genres.
    I owned the Oculus Rift DK2 for over a year already and tried many things. I have even tried playing WoW in VR witch is kind of cool even tho my idea of how to make WoW in VR isn’t possible right now, at least I could simulate it a bit. Games don’t really need to be first person to be enjoyable in VR you see. I have this idea of being the camera in WoW in VR hanging up in the sky looking down on my character but also look around.
    I simulated this idea by running WoW on a virtual curved 200″ screen in VR. This obviously led to me having to turn the head around a lot if I needed to see some of the UI elements but otherwise was pretty “interesting”. :)
    You should also know that there is a 3rd person platform game shipping with the oculus rift.

    However, back for the real reason I like VR, the games that are ideal for it.(no, not first person games)
    Simulators! Games were you sit in something just like you already sit in front of a computer are the naturals for VR. ofc these are in a sense first person games too but without the need of moving around. One game in particular I have been playing since alpha and is one of the front runners on VR is Elite: Dangerous. VR allows me to be inside my ship, not necessarily just siting but I can move around the cockpit a bit as well witch is really nice.
    Remember my first evening with the rift as I stood up from the pilot chair you are usually confined to and walked over and looked out through the window. Following this I was crawling around on the floor of my living-room to see what was under my chair in the game.

    I agree that VR is a part of the future as you do, however after experiencing all kinds of visualization I have learned that the limitations of what you can do in VR aren’t nearly as limited as I first thought. I changed my mind a bit on that and realized that computers without a real monitor is a real possibility in the future.(remember I said I ran WoW on a virtual 200″ screen)

    However, the hardware needed aren’t here just yet and won’t be in 2016, probably not in 2017 either but we could be getting closer. Suprisingly what Im talking about is performance of the machines and a wireless connection to the headset.

    Currently you will need the best PC you can buy for money to just be able to run some games at decent performance using the release versions of Oculus Rift and HTC Vive. Rendering games in VR means:
    1. Much greater FoV.(many more objects in view at once to render)
    2. Render the game from 2 separate points of view at the same time.(two eyes)
    3. Locked at constant frame rate of at least 120fps(120hz screens) to not getting any lag that ruins it right away.

    Being able to do this over wireless connection without lag is also a technical impossibility today and as long as that cord is there the walking around experience can never really work out, hence why I think the simulator kind of games firstly stand the best chance.

    The other main downside is that even tho the screens in these headsets is over 1080p that is no way near enough. Currently the pixels in VR are way too visible and ruins the experience. not even 4K screens will be enough. We might start talking when we see 8K screens fitting in the headsets able to run at 120hz at least connected to a PC that is capable to run games with good graphics in 8K res constant at least 120fps.

    Sorry for this huge wall of text. Also give Elite: Dangerous a chance if you haven’t tried it. Its an very interesting games, that has some issues that still need solving but its still just at an early age. Once could at least watch the animeMoretsu Space Pirates to be inspired to play it. :)

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    • The virtual screen bit was originally what I was more excited about in terms of VR, especially given my experiment with projectors instead of TVs. But that was when I sort of realized that, hypothetically, an Augmented Reality solution would be more straight-forward by projecting a virtual TV screen on the wall. It wouldn’t be 360 degree immersive, but I don’t feel that it needs to.

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    • The part about hardware not being ready to push 120 fps at a good enough resolution is not true. All you need to do is tone down the graphics. Of course, if you want high resolution, 120 fps and graphics parity with current non-VR games, you are never going to get it. No matter how good the hardware becomes, it will always be easier to push 1080p60 than 4k at 120, or whatever the equivalents are in the future.

      That is to say, VR will always lag behind in graphics quality when compared to contemporary non-VR games.

      I agree with the need for wireless, but… yeah, that’s still a long way off. Even 2x1080p at 90 Hz is a lot of data, and 2xUHD at 120 would be more than 5 times as much. I’m not even sure DisplayPort can carry that much data yet. The only way I can see this being possible with wireless in the not-so-near future is with lossy compression.

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  2. dachengsgravatar

    Agreed, Zalamander. It’s games where you don’t need to move your body that will sell VR right now. Flight simulators especially. I was impressed by some of the descriptions of playing Elite: Dangerous with the Oculus Rift, and I can imagine that aircraft simulators would benefit from it, too. Games where you play the part of somebody who is sitting in a chair!

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