I’ve been gaming since 1977 and I truly never thought I’d see the day when I felt like I was in the game. I’ve tried out a couple of VR helmets in the past and they were nothing but a tiny screen in front of my face. The Virtual Boy was playable for about 5 minutes before I had to take it off due to eye strain. Was I ever going to be completely immersed in a video game ala Holodeck or The Matrix? I didn’t think so, at least not until PAX Prime 2012 at the Oculus meeting room on level 2A.
I walked into a huge room that had meeting rooms for a few other publishers. In the corner was the Oculus room. I was greeted by Brendan Iribe, co-founder and CEO of Oculus. He had a huge smile on his face and was full of energy. At this point of the day I had decided to meet up an hour early and check out of PAX. I was completely dead and had no energy. While they demoed the unit with some other press members, I relaxed and waited. I had heard many wonderful things about the Rift, but my expectations were very low because up until this point, VR Helmets have been pretty much bunk.
When I first walked into their tiny meeting room, I was introduced to the founder of Oculus, Palmer Lucky. Another very happy man full of energy. I shared my meeting with a woman from another outlet. I noticed a large white PC, some peripherals dawning a hand painted Oculus logo, a keyboard, Xbox 360 controller, a mouse and no monitor. I sat down and briefly talked VR and how fucked up the Virtual Boy was.
Picture shows early, early, developer prototype
I was chose as their first guinea pig for this last meeting of the day. I was hoping to go second because I knew I could milk the clock if no one was after me. I decided to do the demo without my glasses for comfort. After they carefully placed the Rift on my head and adjusted it, all I could see was a hallway, the same hallway I remember from playing DOOM 3. They let go of the Rift and I was instantly in the Matrix. I looked all over, up and down, left and right. I was in that hallway. It was amazing. It was more amazing than anything I’d seen in the video game world since it’s inception. It was better than 3D and at this point I knew 3D, Move, Kinect and Wii motion controls were dead unless they found a way to exist using the Rift.
The demo lasted about 7 minutes. I ran through the halls blasting away at demons. The Xbox 360 controller allowed me to shoot, strafe and control my flashlight. While the right analog stick was functional, it was only to be used to make corrections on hard corners or when turning around. I was sitting down and my head movement was limited to about 200 degrees. Had I been standing I could just turn my whole body around. The thing that was hard to get used to was aiming with my head. At the same time, I was blown away at how good this 8 year old game was now that I was inside of it. I wanted to play everything over again from start to finish. I knew that the Oculus Rift was going to forever change the gaming industry and here I was enjoying it for the first time.
The lady who went after me ended up getting motion sickness, which is a good thing. It shows how well the device works. With some tweaking she wouldn’t have had any issues. The Rift itself is VERY lightweight and I’d argue that it was even lighter than ski goggles. What they demoed was an early, early, developer prototype. The final unit will be a beast of an accessory. I was upset that I missed the boat on the Kickstarter and declared myself as a developer so I could get a kit. I just want to show this to all my friends so they don’t think I’m crazy. I want to give them the red pill.
Without spitting too much hyperbole and hype at you, I can say that I’m more than pleased with the Oculus Rift. It actually has me excited about the possibilities. Imagine taking Kinect or Move to the next level with the Rift? What about adult oriented games or games like Myst where you have freedom of movement and level becomes your world to play in. Oh and don’t forget, when you are playing with the Rift, you don’t need a screen as the Rift is your screen. I’m more excited about this than any new console or accessory you could mention. This is the future of gaming.