Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Virtual Reality Experiences - Standing Room Only

After the first amazing evening with the Vive, I made the effort to properly mount the lighthouses in the office. This is a pretty simple affair as the supplied brackets just need two screws to fasten them to the wall. In fact, I found it more difficult to run power to them, as I had to run an extension cable around one wall of the room and up onto the bookcases!

Once the two lighthouses were in place, I re-ran the room setup, hoping that I might be able to tease a room-scale play area out of the space available, but alas, it was not to be. While I was still in the office, I'd be restricted to standing and seated experiences, which was disappointing to say the least; especially as how two of the titles I'd received with the Vive were designed for room scale, and there were countless more on Steam (including the Trials on Tatooine experience from Lucasfilm)!

On top of this restriction, I found that while playing standing experiences I would occasionally knock into our glass-fronted bookcases! As I was just getting to grips with being in VR, I had a tendency to be rather timid with my movements. However, even at this early juncture, I could see this becoming more of an issue, especially given the nature of some of the more intensive games/experiences. I'd also seen a lot of posts on the r/Vive subreddit where people have damaged TVs, lamp shades, etc. and it would be all too easy for me to punch right through the glass! I would need to move the setup to a larger play-space eventually for my own safety.

Despite this setback, I thought I'd have a crack at playing Elite: Dangerous, which is a seated experience that I had been aching to try ever since I found out the game had native VR support (back during the Oculus Rift DK1 era)! Once again I had my mind blown. Even after the approximate 120 hours I'd sunk into the the game by this point I wasn't prepared for how amazing it felt when I found myself actually sitting in the cockpit of my Asp. The large open glass canopy surrounded me, allowing me to stare around the hanger interior and the ships consoles curved around me and the holographic displays activating as I glanced at them.

Launching the ship gave me my first brief feeling of nausea, as I was propelled forward by the loading ramp, but this swiftly subsided as my ship rose up into the expansive hanger. Now, I'd been playing Elite with a cheap head-tracking solution up until this point and this had been invaluable in helping me to check clearance before I leave the landing pad and tracking targets during combat. VR allowed me to actually lean forward and check directly above my ship when taking off (invaluable when I switched to a Viper); the improvement over simple head-tracking was breathtaking. I could go-on, but suffice to say I still get goosebumps when I launch from a Coriolis station, or fly through planetary rings.