Oculus Game Days 2017

Oculus invited me down to London to take a look at some of the awesome new games they have to showcase for their platform. The big standout for me was Lone Echo by Ready at Dawn studios – the company behind The Order:1866, God of War and my personal favourite and childhood hero, Daxter. The developer said they were one of the first game studios to have access to Oculus Touch Controllers, meaning their game is heavily adapter for the new style of control. The game, Lone Echo, is set in zero gravity (in space, obviously), and features interesting controls including the ability to tilt your wrists to control the characters’ boosters to maneuver yourself around while not holding onto something more… solid. You frequently use the touch controllers’ grip features to do tasks such as laser cut through locked panels in the spacecraft, replace blown fuses, and as aforementioned hold onto the craft. This looks to be a very story driven game, although the developer mentioned up to 10 player co-op/multiplayer is supported too – the first using the Rift.

The game pictured above is a WIP called ‘Brass Tactics’. It’s an interesting semi-RTS type game, where you select miniature figures to play with, then you use the touch controllers to throw them out onto the battlefield. The objective is to destroy the opponent’s mini-towers, then deplete their base health. It’s quite fun, although I don’t know it’s a real ‘leading title’ as such. It feels a lot like a mobile game than a VR game and especially with the ‘gold coins’ you use to upgrade your miniatures, I can see this transitioning to use micropayments at some point in the future.

 

Next up is ‘From Other Suns’. This is a rather interesting game from Gun Fire Studios – which features a fire person shooter style and again similar to Lone Echo feels like it could be a very full and genuine game, versus a lot of the more ‘demo’ style games we have currently.  The game uses the touch controllers pretty well, with a dual gun holster system that you can make use of while exploring your space craft – or an enemy one too. There are different mission types – the one I got to play was assisting a stranded ship crew member in destroying, the re-flashing the firmware of all the robots on board his ship.

One of the strangest bits about the game was it’s use of the joysticks on the left touch controller. In the ‘training mode’, you used the joystick to move your character where when you moved them their model became visible while you stayed stationary until you stopped moving the character at which point you are teleported back into first person view from where you moved to. Once you exit ‘training mode’, you begin moving your character directly in first person view – this is to say you are actively walking without moving in the real world. While I like the dynamic of this, especially being able to peer round walls and such using the headset tracking, it lead to pretty severe motion sickness despite that being something I’ve never experienced before – I don’t get sick from VR but this made it happen.
Killing Floor Incursion was incredibly amusing to watch, watching both the women and (especially) the men scream like children when a creature appeared right next to them. I didn’t have a chance to play this too much, so can’t give you too much detail, but considering horror movies are pretty popular, I wouldn’t be surprised if we see a lot of development in horror VR games in the not-too-distant-future.

Jonathan Ross

One of the rather interesting moments of the event, besides the games of course, was the appearance of UK TV-Host Jonathan Ross – he stuck around for quite a while and played a few of the games on offer, seeming pretty into a few of the FPS style games.

Thoughts on the Rift itself

This was my first time properly trying out the Oculus Rift and Touch controllers together, so I think it’d be a good idea to throw in some thoughts of the Rift while I’m here. I was pleasantly surprised by the tracking of the headset with the two-camera setup. There was never a point where it felt like it dropped at all, which is nice. For some reason, the resolution (or lack thereof) was less noticeable with the Rift than it is with the HTC VIVE – perhaps the design of the lens in the VIVE makes it a little more obvious.

The controllers were pretty impressive – tracked well too – and for me are designed in a nice enough way that they don’t get in the way, but more enable different experiences not previously possible. They fit comfortably in the hand, and feel pretty good overall. The joystick on each one is in a good place, but I think it takes some getting used to where the touch button is on the top, along with the location of the grab and A/B/X/Y buttons – since you can’t see them at all while gaming with the Rift on.

I’m still not quite convinced the Rift’s tracking system is as good as the VIVE’s for room-scale style games, but I think developers know this too and are pushing their games towards the Rift’s strengths in the touch controllers and the more static-motion/light movement areas.

Overall, I was impressed. The games showcased didn’t seem like the usual tech-demo style games we’ve seen in the past, and leads me to believe there is a promising future for VR after all. Oculus certainly