At a glance...

Previewer Platform Publisher Developer Players Release Date
Richard Pilot PC/Mac Oculus VR, Inc (Oculus Rift) CCP Games (EVE Valkyrie) 2014

Oculus Rift and EVE Valkyrie preview

After getting my hands on the Oculus Rift back at Rezzed earlier this year, I was a convert. I had already suspected that I would want to purchase the device, but my experience of it at the show was so convincing that I immediately began looking into this fascinating technology further. For those of you who haven't heard of the Oculus Rift before, let me explain. Funded as a Kickstarter just over a year ago, the Oculus Rift is a virtual reality headset which, whilst not an original idea, has enough momentum right now to bring the technology back to the forefront after a long period of it being dismissed as a fad. Although the long term prospects for a virtual reality revival aren't quite clear right now, the Oculus Rift offers an exciting glimpse as to what the future might hold. After the massively successful crowdfunding drive, the company behind the device has been continuing to offer a developer version of the Oculus Rift to companies and not a week goes by before yet another developer big or small announces support for the game, such as Valve's Team Fortress 2 or Surgeon Simulator 2013. It's great to see the developer community as a whole embrace the device but there is a lack of games being made that are designed exclusively with the Oculus Rift in mind.

Oculus Rift Development Kit

Oculus Rift Development Kit (Source:Wikimedia/Tmfroehlich)

Last month, at Gamescom, I got to try the latest iteration of the device, the HD prototype and I was blown away by the changes. Whilst already looking impressive, the original device achieved, in my mind, the team's original aim which was to provide an immersive virtual reality environment. Within a minute of trying the original version on I was convinced that this aim had been met; the game, UnderCurrent, had me exploring the ocean in a submersible and was I completely immersed in the environment. The biggest weakness of that first look was that the display units inside the device didn't have a high enough resolution. That was understandable as this first version was designed for developers and we had yet to see what a consumer device would look and play like. The HD prototype marks a big leap forward towards a final version. The resolution issues have been resolved and now you can no longer identify pixels so you are absorbed into the environment. This increase in fidelity was really noticeable in the two games I played. Both games that were being shown on the show floor, Hawken and iRacing offered great experiences. Notably, the cockpit views in both games were incredibility detailed and, I kid you not, they almost made me think they were real.

It's EVE, but not as you know it

It's EVE, but not as you know it

In the business area of Gamescom, CCP were showing off a virtual reality experience of their own. Originally a project designed to experiment with the technology, EVE VR - now named EVE Valkyrie - has evolved into a fully formed product and the team at the Newcastle branch of CCP have designed the game with the Oculus Rift in mind. The game is looking to capitalize on EVE Online’s repertoire for cool spaceships by creating a spacefaring dogfighting game. The demo I got to play was only a brief snapshot of what the team wanted to create, but it was an extremely well polished and fun sample of the game. After donning the Oculus Rift headset I found myself in the cockpit of a spacefighter. It was a chance to get orientated and familiarise myself before the action began. As the match started, the ship hurtled down the enclosed launch tube before being engulfed by the near silence of space. Using a gamepad to control the ship, the alerts of enemy fighters came into view and I hurtled towards them. The ships in the game have two weapons at their disposal, lasers that will fire directly forward, great for when you're chasing down a ship, and the ship's missiles; it is these that are designed with the Oculus Rift in mind. They work by lining an fighter in your sights, holding down the arm button and then releasing it to fire. The important point about aiming those is that they rely on where you're looking at; whilst in a traditional game they would fire directly ahead of the ship, because this is an Oculus Rift game that means they go wherever you are looking. This adds that extra bit of excitement to dogfights as you move your head all around the cockpit keeping that enemy in sight, whilst you drag your ship around to match. It was an exciting and immersive experience, and more importantly, something that could only be done with an Oculus Rift.

Make sure you follow those targets

Make sure you follow those targets

I am now convinced more than ever that the Oculus Rift offers something a little special and really works to augment and immersive players in games like nether before. Whilst I wouldn't expect all games to implement Oculus Rift support, I welcome all games that do and hope that other developers are keen to explore the ways in which games designed explicitly for the device can offer new and exciting experiences.

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