VR and the Future
The biggest worry I have about VR is that it’s a tech that has been done several times. When I was younger I visited the Trocadero in London with family and discovered VR SimPits, primitive affairs which let you simulate being a WW1 fighter pilot or futuristic Mech Pilot. While they don’t hold a candle to the experience offered by the rift I was sold on the concept of VR there and then. Being able to sit and experience flying a biplane with the games primitive physics and graphics engine was an experience unlike many I had encountered up to that point. But then VR, then touted as the next big thing, thanks to blockbuster Hollywood films like Lawn Mower Man and seen as the Cyberpunk scene as the future of communication, thanks to novels like William Gibson’s Neuromancer seemed to just vanish from the public’s consciousness almost as fast as it appeared. Even now, with much better technology driving it and a significantly improved experience many are calling VR a fad, the question is, is it? As things stand, in terms of games it’s a tough one to call – in some cases the current titles available with VR support are a mixed bag, with many of them not offering any benefit to being in VR over being on a standard monitor, game like Lucky’s Tale don’t need to be VR exclusive titles to be enjoyable and certainly little is gained from it being so in my opinion. In other cases, VR brings enhancements to games that are already loved by many on standard monitor set ups. Games like Elite Dangerous and Project Cars come to mind, being able to have a level of presence in your car or space craft is an incredible feeling, it can add significant advantage to players who take advantage of the platform, since it provides a level of situational awareness that a standard monitor set up can only dream of. Sure, you can use tools like HeadTrackIR to provide similar functionality, but its limited by comparison and chock full of compromise, since time is needed to get the curves right for how harsh or gentle you want the movement to be tracked, you are limited to always have to look mostly forwards, at your monitor and so on. VR is currently far from perfect either, since as mentioned the display still suffers from some pixilation and screen door effect, god-rays become distracting and of course there is the potential for nausea.
While I doubt the likes of Oculus VR, HTC, Valve, Samsung and others will just give up on their VR ambitions the current high cost of entry for many will also mean it stays relatively niche for now. The basic specs needed in terms of PC hardware plus the cost of the device itself are a significant barrier for many. Hopefully the forthcoming PSVR will see VR start to hit more living rooms over time, thus keeping this technology very much active and under development. While its flawed currently the future certainly looks interesting as far as Virtual Reality is concerned.
So, with an initially unexpectedly high asking price of $599 (US) £549 (UK) and €699 (EU) for just the headset and basic peripherals needed to operate it, should you buy it? Honestly this is a tough one. As it stands VR, while much more mature than it was in the 80s is still very much in its infancy with games and developers needing to work to catch up to take full advantage of the tech, add to this the potential for nausea, which I suspect may be mitigated when using motion controls (I have heard from friends with the Vive that they feel no nausea when gaming on it, though again as ever everyone will have a different experience here.) its honestly hard to give it an outright yes. The rift is an amazing piece of tech and using it is an experience that defies explanation. Indeed it’s something which will only get better as the Oculus touch hits the market, but the fact that the touch will be an extra cost is also another concern, VR, as it stands is not cheap but this will hopefully change as the technology matures and develops. Certainly there are already 4K headsets coming out in China for less though to be fair these headsets are made much more cheaply and lack more advanced features such as lateral tracking and so on, still it’s a sign of where the tech will end up in the long term. I’d say the rift is certainly worth it if you have the income to cover the cost of the needed PC to drive it, the rift itself, any optional extras that may take your fancy and are a fan of trying new and early tech, for everyone else? While I love my Rift and rave about it at every opportunity, the best advice I could probably give to most of you is to perhaps hold off until the CV2 launches, those of us who are happy to pay a premium to be early adopters however will do well to give the Rift a look in.
- An utterly immersive experience
- Nicely designed headset with great build quality
- An increasing number of supporting titles
- VR is something you really need to experience to 'get' which may make this a hard sell
- Potential for nausea when gaming
- An expensive peripheral that needs an expensive computer to run it