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Oculus Rift Hands-On Preview – Say goodbye to your TV

Author:
Brendan Griffiths
Category:
Features
Tags:
Hands-On Preview, Indie Games, Oculus Rift, PC games, Play Blackpool

Oculus Rift Hands-On Preview – Say goodbye to your TV

Even as a resolute console gamer, I couldn’t wait to get my face into an Oculus Rift virtual reality headset. Even with the recent Project Morpheus announcement for the PS4, I was keen to see how the one that got the ball truly rolling for VR again handled.

Was Oculus Rift set to become the future of gaming? Well to look forwards, I needed to look back. More specifically, I visited the Play Blackpool expo, an event that focuses on retro consoles and arcade cabinets. So rather appropriately, I was able to try out one of the earliest attempts at VR in the Nintendo Virtual Boy and Mario Tennis. Who was I kidding though; the main reason I had for attending was for a little glimpse of the future by being able to get my head into an Oculus Rift.

Oculus Rift Hands-On Preview – Say goodbye to your TV

FortressCraft Evolved

So when FortressCraft Evolved, another take on the often-copied Minecraft formula was one of the two games available at Play Blackpool, I have to admit I was a little deflated while waiting in the queue, and a bit more so when I discovered that the demo was an on-rails flythrough, with just head-tracking allowed.

Then I tried it.

The short version, this is amazing. This on-rails demo acted as flythrough of a pre-made fortress in order to show off how the Oculus Rift would feel with the game when navigating from a first-person viewpoint. First-person games are what have me excited the most for the Oculus Rift as I feel they would be a natural fit for one-to-one head tracking that replicated a character’s in-game movements. And now I’ve seen a first-person Oculus Rift title in action, I can’t wait for the likes of Battlefield and Mirror’s Edge to make that new TV I’ve just bought completely obsolete.

Oculus Rift Hands-On Preview – Say goodbye to your TV

Anyway, enough future-gazing, back to FortressCraft Evolved. Today’s demo took me through a factory-like creation with large halls and many horizontal shafts, where I was free to look anywhere I pleased. The total immersion offered by being able to look upwards as the walls rushed by when I descended one of the many tunnels was one of the most engaging gaming experiences I’ve ever had and gives you an impression of depth and scale that just doesn’t exist in regular gaming.

This sense of depth and immersion was aided by the 3D conversion. There was no denying the 3D made some objects blurry with some rough double-images but I was told that the lenses of the Oculus can be calibrated to smooth out the experience. But seeing as this was a demo at an expo, it couldn’t be set up each time for each player’s eyes, which is fair enough given drawn-out queuing is fun for nobody.

The headset itself was very comfortable to wear and was surprisingly light, as the weight seems to be evenly distributed thanks to the straps around the back of your head. The rubberised goggles do a great job of blocking outside light too, I don’t recall seeing any screen edges either further adding to that all-important sense of immersion.

Oculus Rift Hands-On Preview – Say goodbye to your TV

VR is going to be a great addition for existing fans of FortressCraft who are planning on picking up an Oculus headset. You can give the regular game a go right now via Steam’s Early Access for £4.99.

Minotaur Rescue

This is the game at Play Blackpool that had gamers swaying their heads with massive Stevie Wonder smiles all weekend. This simple retro-style shooter uses only head tracking to steer your vessel, with the guns firing automatically in any direction you face. Check out the video below to see me playing it to get a better idea.

The handling sees the ship float around in almost slippery fashion as if it’s on ice. Tiny head movements allow you to spin on the spot and shoot, while sharper turns move the ship quickly, allowing for a surprisingly high level of responsiveness once you get used to accounting for the extra distance you might slide forward after turning.

Oculus Rift Hands-On Preview – Say goodbye to your TV

The basic graphics were enhanced by some excellent 3D effects, which gave the playing area a spherical feel instead of a squared arena. Most impressive were the bursts of pixels from exploding ships, most notably my own when I’d get a little too carried away and smash into an asteroid.

While I’ll be hoping to use control pads in most VR games, this title showed just how capable the Oculus is as a control method itself. Interestingly, everyone ahead of me in the queue seemed to get to grips with it very quickly and the age-range of people keen to try it was as wide as the queue was long. Now that Oculus has been acquired by Facebook, this really could be a huge leap forwards for gaming.

Oculus Rift Hands-On Preview – Say goodbye to your TV

I’ll be keen to try out Sony’s Project Morpheus headset when they start showing it off at expos, but for now the Oculus Rift is clearly the one to beat. It’s also the biggest reason (as a console gamer) I may consider buying a PC rig. I can already hear our Deals Editor Carl chanting “one of us, one of us.”

Add a comment8 comments
Zeipher  May. 11, 2014 at 16:23

Brilliant piece. I opened this up with a lot of questions, such as whether or not you could see the edges of the screen, but you've already answered a lot.

One thing I don't recall reading, is whether or not it felt like there was any delay when looking around in Fortress Craft? Oh, also, what was the resolution like? Was it 1080p for each eye?

Last edited by Zeipher, May. 11, 2014 at 18:14
Tsung  May. 12, 2014 at 09:07

One question I always find missing from VR reviews is this..

Is it possible to wear glasses whilst wearing this?

If not.. Is there any facilities for image / sight correction on the headset (or in software)?

MattGardner  May. 12, 2014 at 10:39

Morpheus is said to be supporting space for glasses. As for the Rift, the first prototype had no specs support. It did fit over my specs for Loading Human, but it wasn't quite aligned properly and was very very snug. Palmer Luckey did say way back at Gamescom that the final retail version would support image correction, and the demo or Valkyrie I played at Gamescom last year did focus properly (glasses off).

Tsung  May. 12, 2014 at 12:08

Excellent news, thanks :D

Arkio  May. 12, 2014 at 16:11

Brilliant piece. I opened this up with a lot of questions, such as whether or not you could see the edges of the screen, but you've already answered a lot.

One thing I don't recall reading, is whether or not it felt like there was any delay when looking around in Fortress Craft? Oh, also, what was the resolution like? Was it 1080p for each eye?


I can possibly help, I own a DK1 myself and have played a lot with it. The delay is referred to as latency, and the DK1 runs anywhere from 40-70ms. This is fast enough to provide no perceptible delay, but enough to make some people uncomfortable. The next Dev Kit, DK2, will be 20-30ms, which will be leagues better.

The resolution of the DK1 is 720p split to both eyes (So 360p/eye). DK2 will be 1080p split between each eye, and the consumer version or CV1 will be higher still.

Glad to see such excitement out there for this thing. It truly is amazing, author nailed it.

Keitaro333  May. 12, 2014 at 16:15

whether or not you could see the edges of the screen

One thing I don't recall reading, is whether or not it felt like there was any delay when looking around in Fortress Craft? Oh, also, what was the resolution like? Was it 1080p for each eye?


The Devkit (DK1) they were using has a horizontal field of view of about 100 degrees so while some (like the author) may not notice the edges, other do, especially if you're activelly looking for them. Some describe it as a bit like looking at a world through ski goggles.

Most people report it has no noticeable delay and thats with he DK1 which is about 50ms. DK2 is about 30ms and they're hoping to go under 20ms with the CV1 (consumer version 1).

As for resolution, DK1 display is only 1280x800 (640x800 per eye), DK2 is 1920x1080 and CV1 is rumored to have 2560x1440 or similar (so still less than 1080p per eye)

Keitaro333  May. 12, 2014 at 16:18


Is it possible to wear glasses whilst wearing this?

If not.. Is there any facilities for image / sight correction on the headset (or in software)?


Yes and yes. Its possible to move the display from your eyes so you can fit glasses in it although it will decrease your field of view. There are also different types of corrective lenses you can use (3 types with the DK1, probably more options with the consumer model)

merri1  May. 12, 2014 at 18:07

Brilliant piece. I opened this up with a lot of questions, such as whether or not you could see the edges of the screen, but you've already answered a lot.

One thing I don't recall reading, is whether or not it felt like there was any delay when looking around in Fortress Craft? Oh, also, what was the resolution like? Was it 1080p for each eye?


Even in the first, relatively old and archaic, Dev Kit #1, the latency is extremely low, and practically imperceptible to some people. The latency is improved massively in the next dev kit, to the point that I've not heard of anyone that has noticed any latency with tracking at all, and the final consumer version might improve on that further, seemingly unnecessarily.

The resolution of the early dev kits are less than 1080p, and that's not even per eye- the entire display is less than 1080p. It's horribly, really, but it's kind of a testament to the effectiveness of the device, that even the crappy, super low-res version delivers some compelling experiences. The second dev kit is a 1080p display, not per eye. The consumer version will be greater than 1080p, but a specific resolution has not been described. It's speculated to be 1440p.

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