Oculus Touch, the handheld VR controllers that let you throw balls and knives at things that don’t exist, will come out on December 6. The whole kit costs $199 and includes two sensors needed to detect the controllers. Of course, if you want to play in a bigger space you might need another sensor – and that’s another $79. Not to mention that you will then be dragging wires all over your living room as if you’re setting traps for rabbits. This was all announced at the Oculus Connect 3 conference. But how many games will there be? And what will they be? Well, come with me and I’ll tell you.
There’ll be 35 games. That is, 35 which are Touch-capable, on top of those already available. Some of them even look good (click on these links to see some trailers). There’s Arktika.1, a shooter from the developers of Metro 2033, set in a frozen facility that looks to be overrun by mutant nasties. Then there’s Lone Echo, a sci-fi spacewalking adventure that looks a lot like a more futuristic Gravity, with your robot character cutting panels open with lasers and grabbing calmly onto the handrails of a space station before things inevitably go spacewrong. Meanwhile, Robo Recall from Epic Games is an on-rails (on-the-spot?) first-person shooter with silly robots. A software developer announced this robot murder-em-up with a parody tech ad, featuring calm voices and tranquil music and white backgrounds, perhaps lacking the self-awareness he was speaking at a technology conference full of exactly the same utopian rhetoric.
There were also some glimpses of what Oculus is working on next – a prototype wireless VR headset was briefly shown, with Marky Zucks saying he hoped this product, when it finally gets made, will lie somewhere between the kind of VR headset which you slot your mobile phone into and the full-fat cyber-noose of a PC headset.
For now, there were a few other features Oculus wanted to share. There was an avatar editor that gives users a floating bust and lets you dress it up. You can go to a dressing room and put on aviators and scarves and then cover yourself in weird metallic paint so you look like a memorial to all those who died in Top Gun. You can then meet up in virtual spaces innovatively called ‘Rooms’ which are places where you can watch videos with pals or play poker or other games together. One image during the conference showed a man playing pool with another virtual person, who was holding a virtual drink in his virtual hand for reasons yet to be understood.
The Oculus Touch was delayed earlier this year. So early adoptnerds will be glad to see it come out in time for them to splurdge their Christmas bonus on it. In the meantime, I may be full of snark for VR but it certainly looks like Silicon Valley is getting behind it. The main question in my mind remains whether the entry price is too high for Joe Videogames. I would certainly love to stick my head into Elite: Dangerous or have a go at shooting those funny robots, but the cost of the kit makes me break down into hysterical laughter. And it’s my job to get into this stuff. Despite one developer during the conference insisting that the line-up of games is not made of ‘tech demos’, that is precisely what each of them looks like to me – not enough to justify the sky-high price. What do you think? When will VR really take off? Will it ever? Tell me because I don’t know.