The Big Video, and a first look at Oculus Rift

After the little gameplay snippets in the last update I thought people might like to see a good solid chunk of genuine gameplay as it is on the current alpha build. I’ll inline the YT video of it but be aware that the YT compression hurts it a LOT (you can’t see how clean and pure it is and the background tunnel detail gets entirely lost most of the time).

If you really want to see it at its best then I’d recommend downloading the mp4. Now it is 1.5 gigglebytes, but if you have the space to spare it is well worth a look. It’s a pleasure to watch and listen to multiple times :) .

Here’s that huge mp4 file.

If you look at it you’ll notice a few changes already from the version I showed in my last update. Most people felt that the more orgasmic lady noises were a bit much and that they didn’t want the game to be something they couldn’t play on the bus or in front of their mum, which I think is absolutely fair comment and I don’t want to alienate people with making the game sound like a porno, it really doesn’t need such gimmickry. I’ve left a couple of the mild “mmm”s in the bonus round, but the full on orgiastic sounds have been cut. Also getting the Yes Yes Yes bonus no longer gives you the red heart every time on the level transition sequence (it just makes it a bit easier to hit), so the transition remains more of a challenge to steer for maximum bonus even with the Yes Yes Yes powerup.

You’ll see me playing an actual game mistakes and all, just up to the point of entry into the second bonus round. You can see how the game is divided into “chapters” of 8 webs each (I used to have them 16 each but I think it’s more interesting having them 8) and the web colour changes each chapter. Typically the start of each chapter brings something new to learn about, along with a bit of a change of pace.

Since doing the video I’ve added another enemy that’s a “carrier” type that should bring more variety to the levels as we move on.

Having finally got alpha pretty much sorted I decided this bank holiday to finally set up the Oculus Rift devkit that I’ve had sitting around and not dared touch for the last couple of weeks. And I have to say that it’s an incredibly promising technology – hell, I was around for the first wave of VR back in the early 90s and you could see the promise of it even back then but the technology of the day was both hugely underpowered and incredibly expensive, and it’s not at all surprising that VR became a bit of a laughing stock and consigned to the same ridicule bin as the Virtual Boy.

I think that’s going to change though. Cheap flatpanels and accelerometer tech and the ready availability of GPUs mean that what was once rubbish and expensive can now surprisingly enough be done for pretty much beans. And it works.

First the bad news. Rift as it stands today is low-resolution and a bit of a faff to actually use. You have to fart around with your display adapter settings to set the thing up to use the right secondary screen, and Windows isn’t really set up to handle a situation where one of your multiple displays is a HMD very well, meaning you’ll be doing stuff like peering through the Rift to try and find a Windows dialog box that’s appeared in there and needs clicking on, and good luck finding the mouse cursor. Stuff will sometimes crash, you need to faff around with settings a lot to get things working. You really need to use headphones for full immersion, and getting your phones on then the Rift and dealing with all the associated cablery is a bit of a pain. Setting up the optics in the Rift is a bit fiddly, and the display itself is pretty low-rez and you can see black borders round the pixels (the so-called “screen door” effect).

But having said all that, when you find something that really uses the Rift well, there are absolutely genuine moments of “Oh. My. Fucking. God” awaiting you. And I can’t emphasise enough just how much better it is even in its early clunky state than even the best hardware anyone had back in the 90s. It’s like night and day. It’s clear that this technology is finally going to begin to fulfil the promise and dream of VR that people hoped for back when it was first popularised and then discarded in the 90s.

I’m particularly pleased to see it because none of the existing purely stereoscopic 3D techniques work for me – I was born with squinty eyes and I can’t use them together the way most people can (apparently up to 10% of people have the same inability to see stereo 3D). It doesn’t bother me IRL because I get my 3D cues from parallax and the way things move when I turn my head – but no purely stereoscopic 3D system accounts for that. Oculus is of course stereo 3D but it also fills your entire field of view and tracks your head so that when you look around you the view changes accordingly, and that makes it work really well even for me.

Thus far I’ve only looked at a few tech demos and I did try Team Fortress, which does work but runs really juddery on my 6 year old GPU. I’m saving that and HL2 for when my new PC arrives (the GPU is nearly 10x as fast as my current one so it should work great).

But I think to me one of the most impressive demos is actually quite a simple one – it’s an educational piece that is set up to demonstrate the relitive sizes of the planets and moons of the Solar System and it basically lines them all up close to the Sun, and then puts you in a little pod and flies you round them all in VR.

On a screen you probably wouldn’t even bother with it. But in VR it is nothing short of stunning.

Just watch this video of a guy trying it out. You’ll see at various places he is just lost for words at what he’s seeing, and I can vouch for the fact that yes, it really is that awesome – in the true sense of that word – when you see it in VR. It’s just stunning.

There’s another good one on Steam which has you in a lunar lander (that is a right bugger to fly I can tell you) flying between moonbases. You have a whole cockpit laid out around you and you can turn to look at the screens or out at the lunar landscape – wonderfully immersive but I need that better GPU to see that one at its best.

So yeah. Oculus devkit – clunky as hell right now but already delivering moments of pure awesome. And they are deliberately not selling it to end users yet because it *is* a devkit, and the people using it now will be using their experience to remove all the clunkiness from the end user experience so that it’s easy to use straight out the box when it gets a consumer release. And it’s already been confirmed that the release version will have a higher rez panel in it which should alleviate the issues with rez. And I am sure the release Oculus will bring cheap, accessible VR into the mainstream and the technology will just get better and better. Interesting times.

And yes, I certainly intend to get OR support baked into our new PC engine as we develop it. When I get the chance I think I’m going to have a lot of fun developing stuff for VR. Think of the games and lightsynths I could do :D .

Should you buy one now? No, not really – let the developers put up with the clunkiness and get a feel for working in VR, so that by the time it comes out properly there’ll be loads of amazing stuff for you to see.

If you can get to see a demo now, you should definitely do that, just to have a look at what’s coming. And when it finally is released for real, hell yeah, get one :) .

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