Earlier this week we were treated to news of Microsoft’s next generation multimedia hardware-the Xbox One. In a few weeks, Sony will treat us to more news about their new machine, the PS4, as well. For general gaming and streaming entertainment this news is great!
In ancient times, the dream was not of being connected 24/7 to a network so much, but instead there was desire for a truly intense gaming experience. Fret not, pure gamers, for there is news on that front as well.
About a year ago, several very bright and technical lads began bringing to market their version of a consumer priced, low-latency, head mounted Virtual Reality display. It is called the Oculus Rift and it has many World Class game developers’ support. So much support, in fact, that back catalogs are being updated with Oculus Rift features.
The fantastic time that was and is Half-Life 2 is getting “Rifted”. Also, Valve’s uber popular free-to-play TeamFortress 2 is completely compatible with the Rift right now. In fact, most any game that uses standard 3D libraries (OpenGL or DirectX) by nature should be readily compatible with Rift– it may be up to developers to tune the experience to the Rift’s specifics.
There have been devices similar to this in the past, that for one reason or another just did not cut it in the eyes of the consumer (pun intended, thank you very much). In large part, a key failing with previous efforts at on-the-eyes 3D devices (as opposed to 3D glasses used with a 3D display) was the relatively low-resolution available. Players had to sacrifice significant resolution to get the on-the-eyes 3D effect. Devices that were otherwise similar to the Oculus Rift were demonstrated at shows like E3 in the mid- to late-90’s! The Oculus Rift however seems to have major developer support growth every day and may just be the device that hits the sweet spot that previous attempts have missed. While it’s clear that the public in general has not been so keen to gobble up 3D passive media, immersive 3D gameplay seems to be a prime “missing” for gamers.
Among the faithful so far: John Carmack (Doom, Quake, id Software ), Gabe Newell (Valve Software), Michael Abrash (Quake, author of Zen of Graphics Programming), Tim Sweeney (Epic Games, Unreal engine). This list of heavy hitter support could bring the Oculus Rift closer to mainstream usage than any other similar device from the past few years. Part of the failure of adoption of previous devices has been a lack of integrated developer support and thorough testing. A lack of standardization in the implementation of 3D left users often on their own to tune the 3D settings for each individual game so that they didn’t get a headache or nausea, or left users finding they could get a particular game to mostly work, but certain key features (like the HUD or crosshairs) didn’t work properly in 3D. So many key influencers backing one form of technology seems like it should push this particular implementation into the hands of more gamers, creating more developer focus on targeting the device.
Soon, in order to “get away from it all” you won’t need to drive, fly, or kayak anywhere. Pull this on your face, put your headphones over your ears, and be immersed in the environment of your choice right at your gaming desk. Or, at least that’s the promise.