Thursday, 22 May 2014

Virtual Reality and where I stand

Today I thought I would post my views about the fast approaching new way to experience games in the form of virtual reality headsets.  Oculus is naturally the first product most will think of when they discuss the idea these days, the crowd funded project has certainly raised some eyebrows and made itself a tidy profit recently from Facebook, raking in $2 billion to continue development and integrate into Facebook in the near future.

Obviously there are competitors out there such as the Sony designed Morpheus amongst others who will also be fighting for that top spot in an area of gaming not really explored yet and not proven to be profitable as such.  Sure the idea is incredibly interesting much like 3D monitors where when they first launched for gamers, but I am not entirely sold on the idea of using a VR set for gaming regularly.

It's not that I am against it or anything, some games will be enhanced by the system such as horror titles and certain first person games.  What I am not so sure about is the fact that in the past other technologies that have been popular right up until release have fallen flat over the decades of gaming.  Augmented reality failed to find a space in gaming after Sony experimented with the PS3 and it's "eye" camera system, relegating it to the PSP and later PSVITA systems as side attractions to the main show.  Motion sensors are still relatively poor in their ability to track body movement and have been slowly abandoned by Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo with their next gen systems.

The main issue these items have are a real lack of that killer app to sell the product to a mass market.  There was no Kinect game that sold the Kinect, no Move game to sell Sony's light up dildo and aside from nostalgic brands from Nintendo nothing really stood out as the must have motion controlled game outside of Wii Sports which came with the console anyway.  Augmented reality which was only really tested on the PS3 had a promising start with the eye of judgement but faded out after prohibitive costs and lower than expected sales of the CCG.

Now Oculus and presumably Morpheus have a slight advantage in that some games are already setup for use with VR sets.  I'm not sure any of these games would qualify as killer apps for the players to go out and buy an Oculus for as time will only tell when and if it has anything specific to really get it off the ground with the mass PC gaming market.  The people who already want it are either backers of the original project or have bought in already with their development kits but whether or not the mass of gamers out there really want this peripheral is a big question and only time will tell.  I do think the tech has some great potential much like Motion controls and Augmented reality, but it's how they sell it that will be the deciding factor here.

Personally I don't have the cash for an Oculus although I would gladly try one with as many games as it works with to see how they feel compared to the "Vanilla" experience.  I am sure games like Mechwarrior Online, Battlefield, Red Orchestra 2, Star Citizen and many more will have that extra element for me, but I don't feel like I really need this tech to truly enjoy said games anyway.  It's an immersion thing I guess.  How into a game you get is based on your immersion and for some people this will be the icing on the cake.

Still it's now a race to the finish line for both Oculus and Morpheus to be the first out on shelves this year or early next.  Sony have the advantage of brand recognition and money to really push Morpheus while Oculus arguably have the fact they are the ones to bring this tech to the fore and have a loyal base of subscribers to their company still, even after the Facebook purchase debacle.  What may really hurt Oculus now though is the recent lawsuit filed against them by Zenimax.  Zenimax claim that certain technologies used in the Oculus are the property of Zenimax and blame John Carmack for essentially aiding a rival company while he was working for them prior to his move to Oculus.  I guess it's lucky they have the financial backing of Facebook now to support them since a lawsuit like this will no doubt drag on and cost a fair bit for both parties.

In closing I welcome any new gaming tech, I just hope those behind it's creation give us that must have game to get us hooked every time.  Virtual Reality is something many gamers have dreamed about having in the home and we may soon be able to live that dream whether it be a Sony or Oculus sticker on the side, we shall have to wait and see.


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