May 1, 2015

2016: The Year of VR

Get ready for a whole new experience

If you had asked me last year what I thought 2015 was going to be known for, I would have, without hesitation, said VR. Yet here we are almost half way through the year, and VR has yet to surface save for jam packed demonstrations at shows such as PAX East. It was there, back in March, that I experienced the Oculus Rift for the very first time and came away even more excited for this technology than I went there with. VR is going to change the way we game forever.

Recent announcements from both Sony and Facebook have given us a launch window of Q1 2016 for both the Oculus Rift and Sony’s Project Morpheus. VR will introduce gamers to a new way to experience games and, for the first time, give players the illusion that they are truly in the game world.

That may seem like an easy thing to say and before experiencing it myself I would have been skeptical. With traditional console or PC gaming, players are focused on a flat monitor to view the game world. Their peripheral vision can still see the real world around them and so they aren’t truly immersed in the game. Virtual Reality takes away that real world peripheral vision and puts it, too, into the game. Everything you see, in any direction you turn your head, is the game. You have never been so much a part of a game as you will be with VR.

My time at PAX East this year showcased a few exceptional examples of VR games that I am eager to jump into. Literally and virtually.

Adr1ft from 505 Games


You regain consciousness and find yourself floating amongst the debris of a space station in a damaged space suit and desperately low on oxygen. Who are you and what has happened?  That is how Adr1ft starts and if that sounds both terrifying and exciting all at the same time, you’re right. You have only one goal in this game: to find a way home. Before you can do that, of course, you will need to make your way through the debris and floating sections of a space station, finding clues to piece together what happened. Your damaged suit, however, will also require you to carefully monitor oxygen levels and find refill capsules along the way.

If you ever wanted to experience the feeling of weightlessness in space, Adr1ft is being built with Oculus Rift support right from the get go so you will get that opportunity without leaving the comfort of your home. Although the game doesn’t require the use of VR to play it, I’m convinced that it will truly come to life once that contraption is securely strapped to my head.  While I didn’t get the opportunity to actually try Adr1ft in VR, my other PAX East VR experiences convince me that this game will be nothing short of exhilarating. I can only imagine what it will be like to soar out into open space with nothing below me but the big blue ball that is Earth.

Elite Dangerous from Frontier Developments

Elite Dangerous

Elite Dangerous is a fully open universe space sim ready for you to take on whatever endeavour you can imagine. Available now but with Oculus Rift support built in, players can decide to become anything they want, from mercenaries to bounty hunters to smugglers. It is a huge game and will take many hours to learn and an eternity to master. Elite Dangerous invites players to create a world of space faring people who take on tasks that actually help build the universe. As incredibly detailed as that may sound, it wasn’t until I strapped on the Oculus Rift at PAX East that this game truly came to life for me.

Along with the Oculus Rift, Mad Catz had supplied a set of flight control sticks for this demonstration and this controller combination convinced me that I need these for my own set up. Elite Dangerous is absolutely stunning in VR. The entire cockpit of your ship has been rendered allowing players to look anywhere they want and in any direction. Look down and you will see the floor of the ship; behind you will see the seat you’re sitting in; looking to the left and right automatically bring up the virtual menu controls without having to press any keys. While in a dog fight, VR allowed me to more naturally keep visuals on the enemy ship even as it flew above or beside me. While my hands controlled the ship itself, it was this ability to independently follow the ship with my eyes that proved to me that VR will be a game changer when it finally becomes available to the public.

VR Time Machine by Minority Media

VR Time Machine

While VR Time Machine wasn’t the best VR game I played, it was most certainly the one that convinced me that VR will deliver a gaming experience you just can’t get playing conventional games. In this game, the player is tasked with travelling back in time to the age of the dinosaurs to scan the life forms for analysis in the future. All these scans must be done, however, without affecting the time line and, of course, without getting eaten alive. Most the the game takes place under water in a glass enclosed vessel. The player has the ability to slow down time in order to scan the creatures or to evade them. VR Time Machine will be an intense ride once it releases.

What gave me the most intense feeling in this game, however, wasn’t the underwater sequences. It was right at the beginning of the game when I first entered the vessel and piloted it out of a hanger into a wide open field. At the PAX East demo, the development team member who was giving me the tour told me to pilot the pod straight up and then look down. Since the pod was made entirely of glass, I was able to look straight down to see the ground travelling away from me and that’s when it happened. I actually felt like my feet physically lifted off the ground! It was something that no game before it has ever succeeded in doing. Making me, the player, feel like I was actually inside this pod and flying high above the ground.  It was at that moment that the realities and potential of VR became real to me.

2016 is going to give us both the Oculus Rift and Sony’s Project Morpheus. Virtual Reality is going to change how we play games and how we interact with these environments. It is going to immerse us in worlds like we’ve never been immersed before. With our natural world peripheral vision replaced with the world inside the game, we will not only be in the game, we can actually feel like we’re in the game.

This isn’t a repeat of Microsoft Kinect, Sony Move, or Nintendo’s motion controlled gaming. This is a way for developers to take us into these imaginary worlds and become part of the game. Games and developers are already supporting Oculus Rift with many games available today just waiting for it to come to market. Oculus Rift isn’t new hardware waiting for the games to come. Instead, there is a library of games available now or coming soon waiting for the hardware to become available.

Are you ready for VR? I couldn’t be more excited for it. In 2016 we won’t just play our games, we will live them.

About the Author

Sean is an avid gamer and lover of all thing tech. He is a dedicated husband and the father to three beautiful daughters. In addition to taking his love of gaming to a new level with this site, Sean is also host of our podcasts: The OMG! Hour, Lost Treasures of Gaming, and Primetime as well as the bi-weekly podcast mashup show, Gamers Unscripted. Follow Sean on Twitter as @Xiantayne and this blog as @OMGnexus.



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