Facebook buys Oculus VR and I’m pretty down about it but anyway…
Starters Orders 6 ‘unannounced feature’ details:
Six months ago I bought an Oculus Rift prototype. The official line was that it was for Starters Orders R&D but to be honest I really wanted to play with the thing.
VR contraptions and 3D headsets/glasses have been around for years but the technology have never been up to the job. From the early 3D Nvidia cards (red and green lensed glasses that I could never get to work at all) and the VR Gameboy to the underwhelming modern 3D cinema experience it’s always been disappointing.
Putting the Oculus Rift on for the first time was once of those rare moments where you know you have just experienced something special. Something that with time is going to be very, very big. You genuinely feel that your INSIDE the game. Don’t get me wrong it has problems right now. Big problems. Motion sickness is one. A quick go on RIFT COASTER and 2 mins on HALF LIFE 2 was enough to have me feeling like chucking up my tea. It takes a bit of configuring and calibrating to get working and the changeable lenses are a pain. Also the Rift uses split screen. It has a screen resolution of 1280 x 800. This means an effective resolution of 640 x 800. Combine that with the required distortion effect and you end up with a very pixelated, low res look especially around the center of the view (think playing those old PC games in 320 by 240). From what I hear a lot of this has been fixed though.
Anyway. The good news was that the rift would be great for a horse racing game. The head tracking means that you would simply glance left as you past the on-course big screen and the in game view would follow. Again you could look around freely to view the rest of the field and all this would be in true 3D. There is obvious potential for motion tracking and controllers but that is all for the future. Right now it’s 3D and head tracking.
A mockup of a ‘punter’ approaching the chair today:
VR isn’t just about games. It will put you right inside Movies, sports events, news items and transport you to places you could never get to or don’t even exist. The possibilities really are endless and fascinating.
Here is a link to a random Oculus Rift video.
Also a new prototype/developers kit is about to be released that is much improved on the previous version including a significantly higher resolution and improvements in all areas.
So I have been talking to Mike about getting experimental rift support into SO6. Experimental because:
1. The Rift will not work with all the detailed text heavy menus so it would mean taking it off and putting it back on for a race.
2. The headset is not available yet and may be costly when it does arrive and is likely to have a very small take up for a while.
3. Getting the Rift working with a game is not so hard but getting a game working well probably means a lot more work.
In short it is probably a feature more for SO7 and beyond but the plan is to at least get it working in a basic way for SO6.
Yesterday Facebook bought Oculus VR and I’m a lot less excited by the Rift than I was before. I look at the Rift on my shelf now and see a big ‘F’acebook icon plastered on the front and image 3D adverts popping up everywhere. There was a very good, dedicated and talented team behind the Rift development (including John Carmack) and now with Facebook holding the reins I just get the feeling that the momentum may be lost and the direction will change for the worse. Facebook are about numbers. Getting as many people as possible to use their software and then using personal information to target them with adverts. They are not gamers and for me it will be less about creating a great VR experience and more about working out how to exploit it to increase advertising revenues.
I have always had a bad vibe with these massive corporations like Facebook, Google and Apple to name the prime suspects. No matter what the intent of the creators when a company get’s so big it takes on a life of it’s own. It almost becomes a higher form of evolution and it’s only aim is to get bigger and eat everything. No one is really at the helm it and it can’t be shut off. It will suck up wealth and trample or assimilate promising start-ups before they can flourish until it get’s eaten by a newer, leaner machine that will grow even bigger. Look at what Google are doing. If they get their way everything you do, see and hear will end up stored at one of their ‘data centers’. Sometimes it seems like we are sleepwalking right into 1984 by a corporate back door with a nice logo on it. Are smartphones that know what you want to do before you do and websites full of strangers holiday snaps worth the price?
Ok. I’ll be fine tomorrow and probably be back to ‘liking’ the Rift again and anyway I have a game page on Facebook so the ‘unannounced feature’ is experimental Oculus Rift support which may or may not work at some point! This is maybe a downbeat way of announcing it but it is potentially a very big feature (for the future anyway).
PS. I do not recommend anyone goes out and buy’s a dev kit to play games or buys the game specifically for Rift support. It’s not there yet (and may not end up in the game anyway). The new kit (available soon) does sounds like it’s very close but right now it’s an option for developers or tech heads with more money than sense. If we do go ahead with this there is a possibility of us rolling up somewhere (a small computer show is possible or maybe a racecourse) to demo it this summer But I’m not sure right now.