Words Which Fail To Do Justice To Elite 4 On Oculus Rift

Amid my frequent worrying that the rise of the YouTuber means I’m going to starve to death in a couple of years’ time, I take occasional solace that there’s one aspect of games that even those new frontier-folk can’t replicate the experience of either – VR with a game that truly suits it, which in this particular case is Elite: Dangerous. Words or videos cannot describe it, but so help me I’ll give it a shot anyway.

I have a love/mild disdain relationship with the Oculus Rift, a first-gen version of which I’ve had sat around for some time but very rarely use. Whenever I do rig it up – which involves far too many trailing cables, and that’s part of the problem – I will then spend a short while marvelling at the first couple of minutes of whatever I’m playing with it. Ooh! *Gazes*. Wow! *Cranes neck in all direction*. Incroyable! *Moves head in slow figure-8 pattern*. Then I’ll try to actually play the game and it all goes horribly wrong.

Most of that’s down to the ultra-low resolution of this initial model meaning text is unreadable unless it’s typed a mile high. Some of it is because very few games have full, official support for the headset, so their interfaces and menus precariously dangle somewhere at the furthest edge of my over-exerted peripheral vision. A lot of it is because successfully using a keyboard or gamepad when you’ve got a piece of black plastic strapped to your eyes is about as easy changing a tyre during a total eclipse.

Even so: those first few minutes. ‘Immersion’ is a bit of a dirty word to me, because it’s a term that’s been much-abused by marketing people over the years, squandered on anything from “ludicrously long and involved storyline about nothing” to “really big explosions” to “but look, you can see your own legs!” Perhaps the fight to reclaim to it, to make it once again mean “I really do feel as though I have been transported to another place and now exist within it, at least until I realise I’ve lost track of where my hands are on the keyboard so I’m going to have to take these damn goggles off”, can begin here.

Let me stop moaning and get back to the wonder of modern VR. I’ve never written about it before because I’m not sure how to. Yeah, there’s all the practical stuff, about wires and artificial blindness and discombobulated menus, but the part that matters, the part that’s about my brain saying “wow wow wow” in a hundred different wordless ways, how do I that? How does one of those charismatic YouTubers who’re inadvertently destroying my hopes of a stable career do it either? Well, probably by actually saying “wow wow wow” in an engagingly sonorous tone, but even so: we’re in the realm of the purely sensory and first-hand experience is the only way to get any true sense of what it’s like.

My case in point today: finally getting around to rigging up the Rift with Elite: Dangerous, as part of my impending forays into its ‘Premium Beta.’ It took some fiddling, because it always does (and this remains the major reason I struggle to see this tech ever going mainstream, regardless of how many Zuckerbucks are ploughed into it), but once that was done, I found myself sat in space. Sat in space. Low-resolution space with a distracting visible pixel grid, yes, but space. Star-speckled, inky-black enormity above and around me, the soft hum and twinkling lights of a ship’s cockpit below and also around.

The game even rendered a body – arms, torso, legs – which seemed to connect to my own neck at just the right point, and while they were not my own hands I saw twitch around the throttle or toy with the rudder, they did feel a part of me. I knew I could do what they were doing, I knew that they would react to and replicate my pushing forwards on the thrust or yawing the stick to the left. A gap between man and machine was bridged, at least in part and at least for a time. And all I did for a good fifteen minutes was sit there, beneath the stars – in the stars – and look around. Living the smallest part of a dream humanity has always had: to be up there, to leave land behind, to feel like part of the infinite.

See? You see? I am trying to describe the indescribable, and all I can manage is cloying purple prose. The Rift/extremely pretty space game combo is doing something to my senses that I haven’t experienced before, and I don’t know how words or video can possibly convey that.

In any case, the spell was broken the first time I tried to target something. Oh, it’s a lovely thing to simply turn my head down and left and see the targeting menu pop up in a gold-orange hologram shimmer, such a natural gesture and such an improvement upon the non-VR version of the game’s protracted button combo. A split-second after that though, suddenly I’m squinting to read the text, squinting to see where my selected target is on the mini-map, and most of all crushingly aware that I’m in a videogame, wearing something that makes me look like I’m doing budget Daft Punk cosplay, and battling the rising urge to wrench the thing off and just get on with playing the game and shooting some spaceships without complication.

Instead I gritted my teeth, squeezed my eyes into ferocious shapes until I could make out words that might be ‘Request Docking’, and proceeded towards the vast, rotating hexagon that was the nearest space station. My problems faded away as I made the approach, this majestic collision of nature unbound and humanity’s greatest technological vision (or at least a vision of that vision). Part of its great effect simply boils down that I’m moving my head as though I’m moving in space, which is a profoundly different thing to pulling a mouse of stick and making space move across a screen, but it’s coupled with the Rift’s total takeover of peripheral vision. A lot of it, too, is that Elite: Dangerous is a game which has clearly decided “let’s get the feeling of being in space right before we shovel feature after feature into this thing.” It looks right. It moves right. It sounds incredible, which is a big part of why it feels incredible.

In and around the space stations, “looming” is the only appropriate word, but it doesn’t begin to convey the enormity. What my eyes saw and believed was an impeccable science fiction fantasy: what anyone else walking into the room would have seen was a man with a box strapped to his head, holding what looked like a toy machine gun sawn in two in his hands, mouth gaping, head yawing wildly, completely lost to something that wasn’t there.

I feel no shame. Whatever I looked like, I was having an incredible journey to another universe, and that seems more important than a passer-by thinking I looked like a right dildo.

Yeah, I know, they should have sent a poet. And yeah, c’mon, you knew full well that quote was coming at some point.

There is, sadly, no way I am going to play an even remotely substantial part of Elite Dangerous while wearing an Oculus Rift, or at least not this version of the Oculus Rift, because although I’ll have these magical moments, I just won’t get anywhere. I can’t fight like this, I can’t know where I’m travelling to like this. It’s a song that begins beautifully, breathtakingly, but descends into atonal clanging after the first verse. The goggles, they do something, but not quite enough.

It will improve, hopefully when that second-gen headset is released, and though I retain many doubts about whether the Rift can be fleshed out to find mainstream acceptance or suitability for most games, I do suspect Elite will prove to be its first milestone game. It’s recreating something so specific and so otherwise impossible – something that is really part and parcel of what this game is trying to do, rather than just an additive gimmick.

More from Elite Dangerous – this time goggle-free – very soon.

102 Comments

  1. johnkillzyou says:

    There is a lovely little thing, called the Oculus Rift simulator. Right here: link to vr.mkeblx.net

    Its a perfect representation of what you actually see with the rift.

    • Cockie says:

      So all you see in the rift is “Your graphics card does not seem to support WebGL. Find out how to get it here.” ?
      Disappointing.
      ;)

      • johnkillzyou says:

        It does if you launch a game which requires WebGL and you do not have a card capable of using WebGL.

        E: Ooh, the editing is really slick. Never used it before. I like it.

    • DrGonzo says:

      Just having a quick go on that it looks like it will take until a 4k rift before it looks good. So until I can get a gpu capable of 4k for 150 quid or less I’m probably not going to be able to use it!

      • merri1 says:

        Pay no attention to it, that “simulator” is inaccurate as hell.

    • bj says:

      It looks far from perfect to me. Isn’t the accuracy going to be dependent on your monitor, how close you’re sitting to the screen, and all sorts of other intricacies that are impossible to reproduce without actually strapping the thing to your face?

      • Premium User Badge

        Harlander says:

        If that’s anything to go by, my reaction to the rift will probably be “Ooh wow BLLEUUUURRGHHH”

        • Sven Viking says:

          Note that the default settings are for Dev Kit 1. For the consumer version, you’ll need to select “CV1” and enable Low Persistence. Any screen tearing or judder in the WebGL window is unrelated to the attempted Rift emulation.

          Apart from that, as bj says, it’s far from a “perfect representation”. The apparent size of the pixels is entirely dependant on the size of your monitor/browser window, and your distance from the monitor. The refresh rate is also locked to 60hz.

          Also, the precise resolution of the consumer version hasn’t actually been confirmed yet, by the way. It most likely will be 1440p, but at this point there’s still a slight chance it could be higher.

      • ShineDog says:

        This isn’t accurate by my understanding.. Theres a couple of things that seem wrong.

        You know that walleye effect the oculus has when you see images for it on a monitor? when corrected by the oculus lens that means you get a higher resolution when looking forwards and a lower resolution around the edges. This doesn’t appear to be accounting for that.

        It also looks to my eye, and I’ll happily admit to being wrong, that the resolution is being lowered uniformly on both axis, when it should only be on the horizontal. A 1920×1080 display becomes 2 960×1080 displays, rather than 2 960×540 displays, which this looks like

    • Taidan says:

      I’ve been playing Elite with FreeTrackNoIR and a nice big screen, which is nice, but I need more. My fingers keep leading me to the DK2 pre-order page, but there’s a little voice in my head telling me to wait for the consumer version…

      Halp.

      • TacticalNuclearPenguin says:

        Listen to the reasonable voice.

        Personally i’d need to try first hand even the future consumer version before deciding. VR is fascinating, but the issue is that the Pros are too good and the Cons are too bad.

        And really, TrackIR + good, big monitor seems already a winning formula. Sure, the Rift would be more immersive, but i also wonder about the inherent “quality” of it’s visuals.

        • merri1 says:

          “And really, TrackIR + good, big monitor seems already a winning formula. Sure, the Rift would be more immersive, but i also wonder about the inherent “quality” of it’s visuals.”

          Many people, myself included, are having a hard time going back to playing certain games outside of the Rift…. that’s with DK1 experience. There’s an HMD out that uses the supposed resolution of the consumer version and visual fidelity is not going to be an issue in the slightest.

          Most people don’t follow development and ongoings enough to know that the main heads at Oculus aren’t going to release something you describe with your concerns. Even in the DK1, people have been saying that they are legitimately better and more effective in combat in both Star Citizen and Elite:Dangerous… that’s with the extremely shitty and archaic (by 2014’s standards) development kit #1.

      • Zenicetus says:

        Consumer-level VR has always been about having enough resolution, while still being affordable.

        I’ve been using TrackIR with flight sims for years — long enough to know how useful and (yes) immersive that is. And with a good HOTAS rig you won’t need to see the keyboard. But until the resolution is good enough, it’s just an interesting tech demo. My credit card is burning a hole in my wallet just hearing about the potential, but it has to be the real deal, with resolution high enough for small text, lack of flicker, high frame rates and so on, or it won’t work.

        • merri1 says:

          I think so many people don’t realize how intentionally cheap and, now, archaic the old, 2012, duct-tape inspired DK1 is. Of course resolution is a problem in –this thing,– it’s just barely scraping 720p ffs. We’re getting 1440p to 4K displays at around 5 to 5.5 inches in 2014. Anyone that thinks resolution is going to be a -pronounced- problem is probably still focused on this extremely crappy Rift DK1.

      • Rindan says:

        I have an original Rift. Zuck be damned, I’ll still buy the consumer version… but it is going to have to be the consumer version. Don’t buy a devkit unless you have money burning a whole in your wallet or have a project you want to do. The Rift is amazing, mind blowing, and doesn’t have enough resolution. DK2 is going to improve the resolution issue, but maybe not as far as it needs to go.

        Personally, I hope that they release at least two commercial versions. Give me a cheap one for the masses that is good enough, and then build another one that is north of a 1000 USD that has the resolution done correctly. A Rift with high resolution is something I would sell my soul for. I would certainly drop a large pile of money on it if it delivered.

    • Jahooba says:

      Wow, the OR simulator is pretty awesome. It looks as though we won’t see VR perfection until we have 4k screens. Seems about right. The 4k sim looked almost flawless on my 1920×1080 monitor.

      So, essentially we just need 1080p screen for each eye.

    • Stephen Roberts says:

      Forgive the layman here, but why is this an Occulus Rift simulator? It just looks like a 3d view of a little scene. I’m not seeing what makes this distinctly Occulus Rifty.

      • johnkillzyou says:

        That is actually what you can see if the screen isn’t separated. I have a DK1, I can vouch for the accuracy. Its the same level of quality.

        • Malarious says:

          Yup, I was quite surprised by how accurate the simulator was, as a fellow DK1 owner. The whole not being able to read text unless I was literally right in front of it part, in particular. DK2 is going to be a step in the right direction, and a low persistence CV1 looks almost perfect (and still possible to run on most modern gaming rigs — I’ve been gaming at 1440p for a year already). When we inevitably get to the 4k Rift, it’ll be better than a monitor for most purposes, I think, assuming we have a decent UI to go with it.

      • thebigJ_A says:

        It’s what it actually looks like, bar the VR part (unless you’ve somehow strapped your monitor to your face…)
        It’s low res and ugly, like the Oculus.

        You realize when you’ve got the thing on your face, the two screens merge. You don’t actually see the two fish-eye images.

    • merri1 says:

      “Its a perfect representation of what you actually see with the rift.”

      It’s a horrible representation of what you actually see with the Rift. Firstly, the DK1 itself doesn’t look as bad as this simulator portrays. Secondly, 1440p still looks relatively awful in this “simulator,” yet there are other existing, actual 1440p HMDs with similar optics that are much, much better looking than the “simulator” depicts.

      • PoulWrist says:

        Also at 1440p it should pixel map to my screen, but it still aliases like crazy :p stupid OP is stupid.

    • CookPassBabtridge says:

      I can see I am going to do a lot of dribbling in the near future.

  2. PopeRatzo says:

    I’ve never written about it before because I’m not sure how to.

    Keep trying.

  3. CookPassBabtridge says:

    Hi Alec, can I ask you a bit more about the peripheral vision thing? I have a DK2 on order, and lately I have been reading a lot of conflicting information about the field of view on the DK1. Some articles say its like looking at the world through a scuba mask, with very clear black borders edging everything, and true peripheral vision is absent (EDIT: though I have just read that this is partly controlled by how you set your lenses up?)

    Still others say the image completely occupies peripheral vision – the 180 degrees-plus that lets us be aware of what’s 90 degrees to our heads and which so powerfully gives that much talked about ‘presence’. Yet both the DK1 and 2 are specced as having a 100 degree FOV, which sounds fairly limited.

    When you fly in to dock, can you sense the hull of the station off in your peripheral vision, in the same way as if it truly was 90 degrees out to your side as you look forward?

    • Sven Viking says:

      Anyone saying it has a 180 degree FOV is sadly mistaken. A scuba mask might be a bit unkind to the DK2, though, as it should be slightly expanded over the DK1.

      It’s been confirmed that the consumer version will have a larger FOV, but nobody knows how much larger.

    • dvorhagen says:

      I have a DK1, and my understanding is that it’s got a nominal 110 degree FOV. This can change depending on a few factors. You can adjust the lenses’ distance from your eyeballs, which affects the FOV. Also, there are 3 different interchangeable “eye cup” sizes, from “A” (closest to your eyeballs) to “C” (farthest), for people with vision impairment. Finally, a game itself (usually one without native support) might not be configured to occupy the full 110 degrees — sometimes you can fix this, sometimes you can’t.

      I will say that the FOV is Enough, whatever it is. If you ever do notice the slight edge of blackness at the periphery of your vision, you stop noticing it pretty quickly. And I often find myself scanning the landscape in a game using just my eyeballs, which, to me, says it all…

      • ShineDog says:

        I think thats part of why the oculus is so suited to space/plane sims. Slight loss of peripheral vision? Sure, it reflects your helmet/hud combo.

    • bj says:

      The field of view depends on how far the lenses are from your eyes. If you’re able to have everything set up optimally it will be around 100° with the DK2, but if you wear glasses, or have eyes set particularly far back in your head it may be slightly lower. It’s definitely not 180°.

      You can’t see things which are perfectly adjacent to you, but you can simply turn your head and glance at them, then turn back. This may not sound like much, but unlike using the mouse or joystick to look around, using our head results in a much greater retention of the information and a sense of spatial awareness.

      Assuming developers have done their job the transition to black at the edge is gradual, and it’s far enough away from the fovea (where you can actually perceive detail) so as not to be distracting when your eyes are facing forwards. I don’t notice it if I’m actually doing something instead of analysing the visuals.

      It can be jarring if I suddenly try to look out of the corner of my eye without moving my head, but doing that is rare unless we see movement in that area, which we obviously won’t, or if we desperately want to look somewhere we can’t while remaining motionless. That probably will happen in horror games.

      Be wary of talk of ‘presence’. It’s rapidly being stripped of all meaning in much the same way as ‘immersion.’ Many people say presence when they mean immersion, just like many people say immersion when they mean woo explosions. You don’t need complete peripheral vision to experience it, particularly not if you’re in a situation involving what appears, to your lizard brain, to be danger.

    • kalirion says:

      I’m sorry, but which port of Dungeon Keeper are you talking about? It sounds fascinating!

  4. Mittens89 says:

    Those sound effects are absolutely stunning.

    • Perjoss says:

      After playing for a few hours I can say the sound design is perfect, Frontier have really impressed me with everything they have shown so far in this beta. I kind of knew that they were capable of creating a top quality game ever since i played LostWinds, but I never expected ED to be this good.

  5. SuicideKing says:

    “OK, Goggle”.

  6. DarrenGrey says:

    I’ve seen reports from Frontier Developments that the DK2 is pretty amazing. Looks like they’re working closely with Oculus to get the experience really phenomenal.

    In other Elite news there’s whole bunch of books been released to tie in with the game:
    link to amazon.co.uk
    (as one of the authors I feel compelled to mention this when Elite comes up in polite company ;) )

    • Shadowcat says:

      I was staring at the title “Elite Dangerous: Docking is Difficult” thinking it must surely be a piss-take / April Fools joke, but I see it’s actually a comic novel. Not at all what I was expecting from an Elite tie-in novel (in fact, that goes for a few of them), but it feels like a pleasant surprise.

  7. felisc says:

    Just pointed my finger at this glorious picture of Alec and told my girlfriend “that’s me in a few years! Future !” with glee and pride. She seems concerned.

    • Gap Gen says:

      Felisc is sitting in the kitchen when the mirrored energy sphere crackles into life in the centre of the room, smashing windows, crockery. It subsides as a naked Alec Meer rises to his feet. He beckons. “Cone with me if you want to live, me.”

    • TacticalNuclearPenguin says:

      Same goes when i’ve shown my GF the picture in there, told her something like “Well, you look a little wrong to an outsider, but…” and she just said “No.”

      :(

  8. J. Cosmo Cohen says:

    Are YouTubers this much of a threat to writers? I hardly ever watch YouTubers, except perhaps to see a Let’s Play of a game I’m mildly interested in, and would never have that replace being able to read at my leisure. Most of them have annoying voices and do nothing but self-promote during their videos.

    Of course, it wasn’t so long ago that I would sit on the toilet with my favorite game magazine. What do I know?

    • Dozer says:

      I’m sat on the toilet right now.

      My experience of YouTube game videos: link to youtube.com

      I like written articles. Because they’re not so sloooow as videos. I can read quicker than they speak.

    • SomeDuder says:

      It reeeaaaally depends on the person doing the video – it’s so much easier to get annoyed by someone’s autistic character or general annoying behaviour when he’s presenting a video. A written article, I can just ignore the retarded bits, but a YouTube persona’s voice will haunt you for the rest of the playback.

        • kael13 says:

          For some reason, kids enjoy grown adults making fools of themselves. And until Markiplier realised this, he was a relatively normal persona.

          I was subscribed to him for a brief while before it became unbearable, looking at his channel, his latest video has 250k views.. In 16 hours! I guess if you’re willing to throw away your dignity in the name of raking in big bucks…

          • TacticalNuclearPenguin says:

            Like PewdiePie or whatever is the name, raking 4 millions per year.

            BRB, suicide time.

          • CookPassBabtridge says:

            JFTR, I actually quite like Markiplier as I have the mind of a child myself (in a jar with pickles, yes), particularly his rift horror stuff. NerdCubed and JacksSepticEye are also on my subs list, and recently RaedWulfGamer. Its definitely true that if you watch enough of them, from time to time the mask slips and you do find yourself doing the old embarrassed knuckle bite with some stuff they do, with varying levels of self awareness on their behalves (behalfs?) and wondering if they have an editor. Lately, JSE’s “Positive Thinking” video was an international face-to-palm incident. I fear he is angling to set himself up as a YouTube Motivational Speaker.

          • Fathom says:

            I’ve interacted with Markiplier in person a few times over 4 days at Comic-Con last year, working as a photographer at a booth he was signing at. Every time I talked to him I just thought “how can this be a real person?” to myself. He’s very strange and never drops the fake voice/laugh thing.

          • CookPassBabtridge says:

            When you left each time, did he say “I will SEEEE YOU… in the NEXT photo shoot. BYEBYE” and wave maniacally?

          • alh_p says:

            Fathom, when you say that you “interacted with him”, does that mean you pressed the F key?

  9. Lion Heart says:

    isnt elite 4, and if youve used a rift for over half an hour like i have (in own one) youll know how unberably hot it gets and how it strains your eyes like hell.

    • quintesse says:

      I own one too and I can tell you that if you strain your eyes you are probably using the wrong cups, the wrong distance setting or not centering correctly (the lenses have a very tight margin where things look good), or even a combination of any of these.
      Once everything is correct your eyes should be completely relaxed as if you’re gazing into the distance.
      Of course trying to see details (like read text) where there isn’t any because of the low resolution might strain your eyes, just don’t force yourself.

      • Lion Heart says:

        thats the thing though, people think its “oh herpa derpa all i have to do is put them on and its awesome” when in actuality it takes ages to dial the settings in… also you cant move your eyes around naturally and see what you would normally if you did without the rift, so its not as immersive as people say

  10. Arbodnangle Scrulp says:

    Hey Alec, I see the HOTAS on your desk (which one is it?) but do you also have pedals on the floor, or is it a twist stick? I’m thinking of getting pedals but not sure which ones, or even if they are worth it. What do you think?

    DK2 on order . . . not much longer now . .

    • Synesthesia says:

      It’s a saitek X-52Pro. I got the same after the piece he wrote on it. And now I’m addicted to flight sims.

      I found it for cheap, so i decided to buy it. I wouldn’t end up spending much more than that. Two weeks later, i had a pair of CH rudder pedals, and a TrackIR5 on my desktop. It got bad.

      I’ll get my revenge though. I think.

      • Dozer says:

        TrackIR abuse patents to try to get a monopoly on headtracking systems. Have a go with FreeTrack/FaceTrackNoIR. It’s easy to make your own 3-LED clip and to remove the IR filter from a cheap webcam.

        • Synesthesia says:

          I know, i thought about it for a while, but i got enough cable clutter already. Between my external drive, the joystick, dhte pedals, thecamera and my headphones i’m very close to getting stuck in here.

    • derbefrier says:

      I got the saitek pro flight pedals this last week for star citizen and love them. I got the x52 pro as well and together with the pedals it damn fun and I can pull off some pretty nice manuevers. Deffinately worth it.

  11. Bashmet says:

    I’m definitely getting the consumer model once it’s released, can’t see getting the dev kits, just seems a bit foolish. Only concern would be about its effect on eye sight over extended use. You’re looking at something right against your face for long periods of time.

    • bj says:

      You’re not – the lenses focus the image at infinity, so the muscles which deal with focusing are relaxed.

      There is a mismatch between accommodation (focus) and convergence (rotating your eyes inwards to look at close things) but after five or ten minutes your brain adjusts for it.

      Problem is that it takes five or ten minutes to adjust back after you’re done, maybe longer if you spend ages in there, so driving around town right after orbiting Titan is a no-no. Don’t rift and drive.

  12. Armante says:

    I want Elite coupled with a consumer OR so bad..

    Aaargh be 2015 (or whenever already)

    • WotDaFeck says:

      2016 at the earliest, and you’ll be paying at least £49.99 for elite, probably £59.99

  13. Artiforg says:

    Alec, why don’t you do a Nathan and make a video with you playing Elite Dangerous with your Rift on? We wouldn’t need the Oculus view of what you’re playing just the normal 2d monitor view. Obviously you’d need to remember to talk but a couple of minutes of “wow” would be ok.

  14. Stephen Roberts says:

    Here’s a legitimate question question for your author or OR user to answer: Does the Oculus Rift improve depth perception in space? Because one of the weakest parts of all space games is the lack of an ability to distinguish scale. Remember that Infinity tech demo ( link to youtube.com ), where the ship goes from space, to asteroid belt to planet? It’s really hard to ever tell how big his ship is going to be, without reference objects or shadows. Does the Oculus Rift fix this by providing two views much like our two eyes?

    • CookPassBabtridge says:

      I know what you mean. X3 had the same problem especially with asteroids – a lack of scale cues meant you couldn’t be sure if you were on top of a little tiddly rock or were 6km from a heffing motheroid without either flying into it, firing on it or clicking and monitoring your distance. It made manual mining even more of a chore, but then I guess THATS X3 :)

      I know its not the answer you are after (I am sure someone will provide it) but my experience with 3D gaming suggests the rift will solve this problem. The way you experience depth totally changes the game experience. In FPS you really feel like your projectile now has to traverse a distance to the target, rather than the “clicking on the screen” feeling you usually get.

    • Zenicetus says:

      I’ve never used the Rift, but I assume that like all binocular vision devices, it will fool the eye-brain system into thinking it’s seeing depth in whatever you’re looking at.

      Your eyes don’t have enough separation to get true 3D perception of objects in the mid to far distance, but your brain will process cues like foreground/background movement to simulate depth anyway. The brain does that with any system that feeds slightly different images to each eye, like what happens when you look at something distant through binoculars. There is a perception of depth, even though you don’t have anywhere near enough lateral separation in the optics for true 3D perception. You can even get an amazing sensation of depth by using binoculars or a binocular eyepiece on an astronomical telescope, looking at stars hundreds and thousands of light years away, as if you’re seeing them in full 3D. It’s just a trick your brain knows how to do with differential input to the eyes, and I’m sure the Rift is good at doing this.

      • bj says:

        This is correct. The tracking with the Rift even enables an effective perception of depth for people incapable of stereopsis.

    • fish99 says:

      The rift is stereoscopic 3D so yes.

      • Stephen Roberts says:

        Sounds very much like piloting games will benefit the most from this! Now I’m legitimately excited.

        • Malarious says:

          There’s a pretty neat flight “simulator” for the Rift, which you control by looking around the world, accelerating in the direction you’re looking, dodging mountains and the ground and such. I must say, knowing almost exactly how far away a given obstacle is makes it much easier to dodge it. The Oculus is at its best when things are moving from far away to close-up and you can really feel the distance diminishing. After about an hour on the Rift, I stopped being completely awed by it, but the feeling of depth is very much still there.

          CV1 is going to be amazing.

  15. communisthamster says:

    Can we stop with the “wearing the rift looks silly” thing now, the wii was 10 years ago already.

  16. waltC says:

    “…the wonder of modern VR…”

    I thought that was a really funny line…;) I also liked the line about “goggles” because the correct phrase would have been “diving mask.” (“Goggles” really not capturing the essence of the masque, somehow.) Do people really want to play games trussed up like a Thanksgiving turkey? Do they really want to have to crane their necks 90 degrees just to rotate a scene 20 degrees? (Imagine doing that–constantly, for hours.) Do they really want to use BRAILLE controllers, one in each hand, because they won’t be able to see any controllers or keyboard while playing? The only thing needed to complete the pic in this article of the “modern VR victim” would be a set of phones overlaying the diving mask!

    • thebigJ_A says:

      I stopped looking at my controller while using it about ten minutes after the first time.

      • PoulWrist says:

        All the complaints about “i can’t use my keyboard because i can’t see it” and “i have to take it off or spend 5 minutes trying to find my wayback to the right keys” are always very “wtf” to me. I mean, f and j have little dents on them to tell you where you are on the keyboard and I dunno if I’m the only person in the world to master using a keyboard without looking at it… I mean, seriously? How do you play games normally if you spend all that time looking at the keyboard.
        I
        can tell if I press the wrong buttons while typing, before I’m even reading what’s on screen. hell, I can sit here reading the chat onthe other monitor while typing this at 100 + words per minute… I cant be the only one? And it’s especially strange to read that a writer can’t use a keyboard without looking at it O.o

    • Zenicetus says:

      If it works like TrackIR, you won’t be craning your head 90 degrees to see sideways. With that head-tracking system, you can set up a config for each game that scales the movement so it’s steady and smooth with your head forward, and the motion gets progressively faster as you move your head to the sides, or up and down.

      With my TrackIR 5 in Rise of Flight, I can move my head no more than about 50 degrees to either side and get a view of my plane’s tail and rudder, and it’s still smooth enough with slower motion when my head is aligned forward for shooting.

      The other concerns about comfort with wearing a brick on your face are valid, but I wouldn’t worry about the motion scaling for head tracking. If it works on TrackIR, it can work on the Rift.

      ETA: Also. the “braille controllers” thing isn’t an issue for flight sims and space games if you’re used to a HOTAS system and have a good one (like the image above). It’s second nature. It probably will be an issue for other types of games, but for those that do everything from a gamepad it shouldn’t be too hard to get used to.

      • bj says:

        It doesn’t work like TrackIR. :)

        There’s no motion scaling or acceleration or anything like that. If you want to look 20° to the side you just look 20° to the side. It’s a 1:1 mapping of head movement, and when the display moves with you anything other than that is a recipe for vomit.

        And while the Rift looks pretty substantial the first development kit is only 380 grams. The second is slightly heavier with the lack of breakout box, but it also extends forward less. The first consumer version is said to be significantly lighter, with one person in the know saying they picked it up and asked how much heavier it would be when all the internal components were added, only to be told they were already in there.

        • Zenicetus says:

          Okay, that’s good to know. However, I have to assume that there will be scaling options in supported games and simulations, like there are for TrackIR to make this workable.

          If I’m using the Rift in a combat flight sim like Rise of Flight, there is no way I’m going to use direct 1:1 scaling and twist my head to look behind me in my computer chair, just to see if someone’s on my tail. Ain’t gonna happen. And flight sims are going to be a major market for this, since flight and cockpit-level space game fans have been the traditional supporting market for high-end peripherals like this. They have the money to spend.

          If they don’t support that kind of motion scaling, or it’s just not workable due to nausea in a large enough percentage of the audience, then they are going to seriously limit the audience for this thing.

        • Zenicetus says:

          By the way, I can appreciate the way that TrackIR lets you violate normal head motion in that way. Real fighter pilots don’t get to swivel their heads, “Exorcist” style, to easily see directly behind them. People like me using TrackIR may have some adjusting to do.

          On the other hand, there are some real issues here with the combat flight sim audience, who have the money to buy this kind of thing. I assume it’s not an issue for a space game like Elite:D because you’re not expected to swivel your head and see directly behind you, from the cockpit. In a first person shooter, it’s easy enough to just swivel your body, but in an airplane obeying flight dynamics, it ain’t that simple to quickly turn a 180. It will be interesting to see how the game developers handle this.

          • drinniol says:

            Well TrackIR -has- to use acceleration to keep the monitor visible, the Rift doesn’t.

    • Rindan says:

      I’m not sure why you would have to rotate your head 90 degrees to look 20… shouldn’t 90 degrees equal 90 degrees? Hell, you could probably crank the relationship up higher and make it so that moving your head 30 degrees makes you go 90. That doesn’t sound terribly straining. I look around all the time already in this really good VR system called real life. The story is shit and the game play sucks, but I have never noticed any neck strain.

      As for controls, if you have a throttle and joystick covered in buttons, there is nothing you really need to see. Hell, they could make it so that they detect what hardware you are using and simply insert it into the game. Imagine when where you look where your joystick should be, you see it with all the buttons exactly where they should be and your hand resting on it. Let folks move around where the joystick is, and pimp up the graphical representation of it such that it doesn’t look out of place (put blue LEDs on it, blue LEDs = future) , and now there is no disconnect at all.

      I am sure it will be a while before VR comes to the masses. Thankfully, I’m not the masses. The second a consumer Rift comes out, I am dropping a large pile of money on it, a now joystick, and a new computer/graphics card to run it.

      • merri1 says:

        “That doesn’t sound terribly straining…”

        On the contrary, those kinds of movements not translating as closely 1:1 as possible would be uncomfortable, disorienting, and/or nauseating even for those who aren’t sensitive to “simulator sickness”.

    • Vinraith says:

      Ouch, I hadn’t thought about it but it’s a good point that you can’t see the keyboard while this thing is strapped to your face. That’s going to severely limit the range of games that can use it, basically down to games that can be comfortably played on a controller and games that support elaborate HOTAS setups (and people that have them). There are any number of reasons the whole thing was already unappealing, but that’s a peripheral killer to my eye.

      • Zenicetus says:

        We may eventually see VR systems that have built-in cameras on the gadget, so you can flip to a “real” view of the outside world without removing the headset. Either as a semi-transparent overlay, or just an optional toggle.

        Even someone like me who is completely comfortable with hands-on joystick, throttle, and rudder pedals for flight and space sims might want that.

        Musicians who wear in-ear monitors are isolated from the rest of the stage and audience just as much, on the aural level. The higher-end systems have audience microphone feeds that let them relate to the surroundings. VR may need something like that.

      • Malarious says:

        I’m super confused by how not being able to see a keyboard is going to affect anything at all? I understand not everyone can touch type, but if you’re only dealing with, at most, 12 or 13 keys, memorizing their location isn’t terribly difficult, is it? Do you like down at your keyboard regularly when you’re playing games? I can’t even imagine a genre of game where there are so many keyboard hotkeys that I’d need to look down and check what I was pressing. RTS games probably have the most (excluding Dwarf Fortress-esques) and even then you’re mostly limited to the number keys for control groups and half a dozen letters for quick queuing units.

        • waltC says:

          Think about the fact when people sit in front of a computer screen playing a game what they are there for is *leisure*–not astronaut training…;) If by a few energy conserving keyboard presses or mouse movements I can shift the view 20 degrees/90 degrees/180 degrees/ even a full 360 degrees, all because I am moving the *camera instead of my head*–then I think far less raw physical effort will be required to actually play the game. For hours. Etc. That is far more desirable than having to actually rotate my head to move the camera 1:1 -oh, I think it would look really cool the first few times you did it, but after awhile it would become very tedious and, I think, tiring. And finally just terrible, imo. The novelty of it would end quickly.

          I mean, the demon in the the little girl Reagan in the movie The Omen could actually twist her head on her neck 360 degrees, but I kind of think that’s going to be beyond most of us…;)

      • merri1 says:

        I’m confused. Do you only play simulators/similar like Arma or DCS that have you using more than the typical WASD and mouse setups? Besides, you make it sound like “only games comfortable on a controller,” is a nominal amount or something… Additionally, why would expensive HOTAS setups be the only meritable input?

      • PoulWrist says:

        I don’t get what games you could possibly want to play with this thing that would require you to look at the keyboard. I’m also sort of confused as to what games you play that requires you to look at the keyboard O.o the thing is designed to be operated without looking, you know… those little dents on f and j? Those are for your index fingers to help you position your hands correctly.

        Color me confused about all the comments everywhere saying that “i can’t see my controllers when wearing this thing” … why do you need to see your controllers? But I guess maybe the vast majority of PC gamers aren’t capable of touchtyping? And sit looking at their controllers/keyboards a large amount of the time and why backlit or lighted keys are such a popular thing.. I specifically looked for my keyboard to have no lights in it, it would just be distracting.

    • Malarious says:

      Please keep parroting your unfounded beliefs regarding the Rift, a device you clearly have no experience with. Many of the same criticisms could be levied against PC gamers in general (“Who wants to sit in a chair, hunched over a keyboard, looking like a complete dolt, just to play a video game?”) but frankly, who cares what you look like when you’re playing a game by yourself? Hell, I’d get naked or strap pingpong balls to myself if it meant getting closer to a holodeck-like experience. The Oculus Rift represents the next logical step for gaming. There are many, many valid criticisms you can lay against the current Devkit, but you brought up precisely zero.

      As for braille contrrollers — what on earth are you going on about? Have you played a game with a controller before? Are you honestly telling me you forget where buttons are just because you can’t physically see the damned thing? Maybe you can’t touch-type, which is a little odd, (I assume you’re a computer enthusiast, given that you’re posting on RPS) but you’ve surely used a keyboard for gaming before? Don’t tell me you’re so forgetful you can’t remember where the WASD, shift, control, and space keys are? Do you look down at your mouse to remember which one’s left click and which one’s right click?….

      • waltC says:

        Well, your belief that I said something about “Rift” is completely unfounded because I didn’t say a word about “Rift”….;) As for you being unable to understand what the concept of “braille controller” means–that you have to use the controller when you cannot see it–at all–then there is nothing I can say to help you overcome that deficit of imagination…;)

        And, really, guy, learn that people are going to have differing opinions on any number of things, not just Oculus, and try not to get so upset about it. It’s not good for your blood pressure…;)

        • merri1 says:

          “–that you have to use the controller when you cannot see it–at all…”

          That describes 98% of most users’ gameplay. The TV, monitor, other display is what’s being looked at. Actually seeing the input device is necessary for initially grabbing it in a large majority of cases, and not for actual gameplay. Any hobby gamer doesn’t operate WASD and similar controls while having to look at them, unless of course in very specific instances as in some simulators and such.

    • merri1 says:

      “Do they really want to use BRAILLE controllers…”

      Yeah, man. The TV is already distracting enough. I try to watch the gameplay, but the TV’s keeping me from staring at the controls. That’s only gonna get worse with these facerift googles.

  17. P.Funk says:

    I still think people are going to get tired really quickly of gaming for hours on end with goggles strapped to their faces.

    • merri1 says:

      They’re about as light as the gaming headphones many people use.