It seems like gaming is in the age of Virtual Reality. Most game companies now are making a push to incorporate gaming with this up and coming technology, luckily we were able to get into the HTC Vive exclusive standing room demo and see what all the fuss is about!
First off the HTC Vive setup at EGX 2015 was incredible, great waiting area, happy as Larry staff and a lot of blacked off rooms so that everyone didn’t see what they had in store, or so that people didn’t see you with a headset on walking around the room looking stupid, either way it was cool! After a short wait we were invited into an actual VR space, a medium sized room that is blacked out in the dark with small sensors and a small PC. A member of staff came up to us and explained that we were going to experience 4 demos, each one would portray a different style that can be done with VR, I stepped up first both nervous and eager at the same time and put on the stunning looking piece of hardware which is the HTC Vive.
Before we move onto each individual demo lets quickly talk about the hardware itself, from what we could see the setup HTC had to achieve what these demos could do is to have a beefed up PC, a lot of open free space, multiple room sensors (which were used when you had the headset on to tell you when you were about to walk into a wall for one thing), 2 controllers which looked like futuristic wands and also the HTC Vive itself. The headset itself feels remarkably comfy and light when you wear it and when you are not wearing it really looks like a futuristic bit of kit from the future as depicted on 70s movies.
The first demo that I played was set on a deck of a sunken ship way below the sea’s surface, when I looked up I could see a small bit of light skimming the top of the water and slightly shone dawn upon me, shedding light onto the ship which was very old and eery looking, this ship had defiantly been down here a long time and had seen better days. Still in awe and not walking around yet I started to see small fish swimming around me in schools, I decided to test how well the controllers worked and slowly reached out one of my hands to see if the fish would react and true to life they swam away from my hand. I decided to turn around 180 degrees to see even more of the decaying ship and a Manta Ray just casually swimming towards me, it cautiously came towards me and started swimming around me. I then decided it would be a good idea to walk to the edge of the ship, to see a bit more of the environment, this was a bad idea as walking over and looking down (which was all massively responsive) I discovered the ship was on the edge of a huge drop, looking down below just gave me what could only be described as virtual vertigo as I stared into the darkened abyss. All of a sudden I heard a loud echoed groan behind be so I turned around to see a huge whale coming my way. This whale came right up close to me and the realistic detail from this just completely blew me way, as it came alongside the ship I decided to walk up to it and stroke its fin, the majestic animal decided to then swim off into the distance and the first demo was over.
The second demo was a 3D style top down game demo where you had to take control of a cartoon style airport and you had to land multiple planes into their individual run ways, kind of like a kiddy airport simulator. This was done by using a controller to grab which ever plane you wanted and draw a flight path for them onto the runway, this actually makes it sound really simple but the planes could potentially crash if you plotted a path that declined in height too fast or you made too sharp a turn for the plan to take. This was a good demo to show that a game can work well that isn’t technically first person play and that not realistic graphics can still make a game truly immersive. I crashed a few planed before I got used to it but once I did the game just felt really fluid and fun to play.
The third demo was something completely different, this came across as an example way to do graphic design using virtual reality. Placed in a blank dark 3D space you are able to use you controllers to pick colours and styles to drawn what ever you wanted, this may sound really boring but this was all done in 3D space, you could draw a large cube and actually step inside your drawing. I felt like such a kid doing this, it reminded me of being a kid with a sprinkler on bonfire night! I was able to write clear letters and the controller allowed for me to make really intricate drawings and shapes.
The final demo was the best in my opinion, I was placed into a realistic square looking office which seemed to be set in a science setting with not a clue in my mind about what was ahead of me. The environment really didn’t set anything off in my mind (which most of you probably know by now since this was made by Valve) until I saw a small robot on one of the desks, this was Atlas from Portal 2. My mind then just thought this was a fun little easter egg so I continued on with what was asked of me by a male voice, this was to open a drawer that was in front of me. I tried for around 5 minutes to open that damn drawer, I thought the controller was messing up, that I was doing it wrong and even that the game wasn’t working.
I was then told that I was useless for opening drawers and was instructed to open a mechanical door which I was able to open this time with relative ease. The door struggled to open and then a worse for ware looking real Atlas came staggering through into the room sparking all over the place, I was then instructed to fixed the robot from the male voice which increased in speed while giving instructions on how to fix him to the point where you couldn’t make out a single word. It then gladly told me I had a minute to fix it before he self destructs as a holographic schematic appeared from Atlas’s eye showing all of his robotic innards laid out for me to see. I then quickly tried to find a way to fix him before he would blow me to pieces by rotating the schematic and trying to grab all of his mechanics with not a clue what I was doing like some kind of drunken dentist. My minute was up and Atlas fell into pieces on the floor, as I stood looking at the floor shocked the tiles from the floor tilted allowing all of the robotic mess to pass through into what looked like a never-ending drop which again gave me virtual vertigo. As this happened a familiar voice started speaking and as the walls started to be taken away by robotic arms appearing out of no where was GlaDOS coming down to look at me (which was mighty bloody impressive!) saying “Oh, it’s you..”. The room was still being disassembled as this point as I got a firm telling off from the psychotic robot mastermind for basically being useless which ended up with be being crushed by a huge clamp which ended the demo.
All in all these individual demos themselves, the hardware and the total immersive small worlds that had been created left me in shock and awe at what gaming could potentially be in the very near future. Wearing the headset for this 20 minute (ish) period did not leave my eyes strained or my head hurting, it was overall a positive experience. The HTC Vive will defiantly been one to keep on aye on for virtual reality gaming and we cannot wait to see what comes next!