IndieCade was home to standout gaming titles and next-gen consoles, but the event also hosted the exciting Oculus Rift VR peripheral. This was my first opportunity to get my hands on the highly-praised headset, though I must confess I felt somewhat anxious. Even decades later, I had flashbacks (and headaches) recalling the failed Nintendo Virtual Boy and wondered if this would be a similar experience.
After trying it out with several games, I walked away amazed. This is not the gimmicky peripheral I was expecting. Oculus Rift showed amazing potential and a level of immersion that I had never experienced before.
The first impression that I got when playing the games on-hand was that the Oculus Rift completely eliminates the notion of faulty camera work. With this device, you are the camera. With no noticeable latency to speak of, you can check out the environment simply by turning your head.
Dumpy: Going Elephants was a rather unique experience for Rift. You are in control of an elephant, and as you move along, you can see your trunk swinging in front of you. Dumpy allows you to go on a pachyderm rampage, knocking objects over, Godzilla-style--all in VR!
"What we wanted to do with the Rift was to make a game that's playable for anybody who just walks up and plays it and also uses the core affordances of the Rift, which is head movement and the depth and immersion that you get from VR," explained Dumpy co-creator Brian Schrank. Schrank adds that working with the Rift has been a simple process, because of how well it works with Unity. "All of the technical stuff is taken care of, so you're really just dealing with design issues and using the Rift effectively."
Horror game Dreadhalls also shows off Oculus' potential. Set in a dimly-lit castle dungeon, you must explore, with random ambient noises emanating from every corner. The idea is to trudge forward with a controller and use it to explore, never knowing what's lurking in the shadows. Sure enough, as I walked forward, I was attacked by a large monster that jumped out of nowhere. This was the moment that I saw the Rift for what it could be. It was a fairly routine gaming moment, but because the headset had me fully immersed in the moment, it felt far more realistic and the scare was much more intense.
I'm pleased to say that the Oculus Rift VR has won me over. It's one thing to hear about the peripheral's potential, but it's an entirely different thing to strap one on and experience it personally. This is a potential game-changer for first-person experiences, especially in genres like horror.
Oculus Rift VR is still in development and the final version is expected to be ready in 2014.