A Rift in Reality

Now as we know, gaming technology has seen an explosion of development. The next-gens are pushing consoles to the limit, and handhelds like the 3DS / PS Vita have seen a spike of interest for on the move gaming. So what’s the next step for PC gamers, or in fact the next step in general? Well say hello to the next step, the Oculus Rift.

To give you the low down for those who don’t know, the Oculus Rift is a VRHMD (Virtual reality head mounted display). You could say it looks like something you would see in the sci-fi films. It’s a head piece which sits entirely over the eyes, meaning you can’t see anything but what is portrayed through the Rift. The hardware has two lens’s situated in the front, both currently portraying a separate image at approx 640 x 800 per eye, giving a total of 1280×800. It also has a motion sensor which picks up any movement you do with your head. You look left; your character will look left. Turn around 180 degrees; you do the same on screen. It really is impressive to behold. Its something that will take submersive entertainment to an entirely new level. The version I had my hands on, (well face actually) was the dev kit, which runs at 720p and even though it was fairly pixelated, this didn’t stop it from blowing me away. The full 1080p is expected to come out at the end of this year (2013), although this has yet to be confirmed.

The Oculus Rift is still in the developing stages at the moment; however it has received a heck of a lot of attention as things are being pushed forward. It started off with one guy and his vision for the future of gaming; to see it through different eyes but also perceived as affordable. After wanting to see this idea blossom, he created a kick starter campaign, and this is where you can tell there truly is a market for it. The Kickstarter campaign requested $250,000 dollars for funding, within 4 hours it had reached this. By 3 days, it had amassed nearly $2.5 million, now that’s an impressive fanbase already.

Even though I only got round to experiencing the Dev Kit, I can tell you, this is something that will have such a big impact for the future – it will be phenomenal. Gaming developers such as Epic, Valve and id Software have all shown interest and encouragement for such a device on the market. Having put some efforts on creating games for it, and some really do show off what it’s capable of. With Valve’s ‘Team Fortress’ being a good showcase of what to expect.

One of the games that I got to try out was the Museum of the Microstar, which was merely designed as a showcase of what is to come. It isn’t a game that includes shooting or puzzles, you merely walk around this huge chasm with narrations of elements as you approach them, taking in the full 3D VR experience. The next was of a free falling game, where you are hurtling towards the ground having to avoid hitting into barriers, a simple game but one that, with the headset, actually gave the sense of falling. I found myself swaying, and could swear that I felt the wind rushing past my face. Last on the list was a shoot-em-up. This one required using the nunchucks, which are calibrated for movement, aiming and shooting. If you leant in a direction you can peek round a corner. Stick a nunchuck over your head and you’re able to pull off some blind firing. It was all so incredibly sensitive too!

However it wasn’t just gaming, it’s also designed for multiple purposes, such as a function allowing you to sit in a digital cinema, pick what seat you want and have a TV show or film play on the big screen. The quality here was impressive and could open up a whole new perspective on the home cinema.

The downside is that you do need a bit of a hefty spec’d rig to play it. The processing power it requires is not something your ordinary computer will be able to churn out if you want to whack everything up to full for smooth FPS and a latency free experience. And when the 1080P version comes out, expect that to be even higher. So if you are interested, I would definitely suggest checking those online forums first, and best not be disappointed.

Is it the future of gaming, though? I certainly think it will play a big part of it. It opens up the opportunity to breach into not only an entirely new world of gaming, but media use as well. It may rule out playing with your friends round a house, but when you’re on your own and want to get in the ‘zone’, then I think the Rift will be perfect. It places you in the game where you can actually feel like you’re the main character. It may not be everyone’s cup of tea, having to sit there with goggles on their faces. But heck, I could see myself doing it!