Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The Steamworks: The Oculus Revolution!

Hey Gang,

So you might recall Chazz's somewhat recent post about the OUYA Revolution. Well, while I was trolling the interwebs a few days ago, I found a strange Kickstarter for something called the "Oculus Rift". Naturally, being a frequent gamer and technology philanthropist (ok, so I'm more of an enthusiast than a philanthropist, but let me have my fun), I decided to do some research on the new Oculus Rift:

Because I didn't watch E3 (it kinda happened at the same time I was taking my break from technology), I missed the Oculus Rift actually being talked about, and apparently this was a minor highlight to most of my friends. Out of all of my friends that watched E3, none of them told me about this, so it kind of leads me to believe it wasn't really on the main air for TVs and such? Whatever the matter, my point is this VR device has been around for a decent chunk of time and I've been surprised to see that no one's really been talking about it. Lemme run down what exactly the Oculus Rift is:

The Oculus Rift is a headset used for gaming that is worn to experience a game as virtual reality. For people who have never heard of said term, virtual reality is defined as: a realistic simulation of an environment, including three-dimensional graphics, by a computer system using interactive software and hardware; so in lay-man's terms gaming made to seem basically realistic, as if you're right there in the game's environment. This type of gaming was actually proposed/introduced in the 1990s, but it was widely rejected simply because the technology at the time could not deliver the graphics needed for such gaming. Nowadays, virtual reality software does exists, but it is mostly limited for military and scientific research, and even if you managed to get your hands on one it'd cost roughly $5,000 to $20,000! The goal of the makers of the Oculus is to deliver an affordable virtual reality headset without sacrificing quality or customer satisfaction. It looks like (currently) the Oculus Rift will only be read by PCs, but the developers of the headset said they certainly wouldn't be against teaming up with companies like Microsoft or Sony to bring it to the Xbox and Playstation (I definitely see a potential path in this for both the Xbox 720 and the PS4).

So you probably have all sorts of questions about this awesome piece of new gaming technology like "Well how much will it empty my wallet?", or "When can I buy one?", or maybe even "Well how does it work?" You can find all of this information on the Oculus Rift Kickstarter page (which, by the way, has already over-passed it's money goal by a decent sum of money). There's a very informative video on the front of the page that shows you pretty much everything and anything you need to know, PLUS all that information in solid text, and just in case they didn't answer your questions in the video OR in the description of the item (hey, it happens), then they have a plethora of FAQs that you can check out. If you STILL haven't found the answer to your question, you can send them a question and they'll answer it for you (I've actually had to resort to asking them a question, which I'll get to in practically the next sentence)!

So what are my personal thoughts on the Oculus Rift?

In case you couldn't figure it out already, I fully support the idea of an affordable yet high quality virtual gaming device (it should be noted here that the Oculus Rift is NOT a gaming console, but gaming hardware, much like a game controller). However, this is kind of a slippery slope they're riding on as far as my opinion is concerned. There are millions of ways the Oculus team could mess this up and make this a miserable experience for everyone. Need I explain them to you? Bad video quality, uncomfortable headset, nauseating efftects, overly-pricing the device... the list goes on. BUT, if they do it right (which I have a feeling they are because a lot of well know game developers have been talking it up), then this could completely revolutionize the industry of gaming. However, it could also turn into a Kinnect or Playstation Move; something every system has but yet not something people enjoy using all the time. The Oculus team, in my humble opinion, has to make this a device that gamers WANT to use when they game; like a gamer couldn't think of not using it when they play a game (similar to a controller or a mouse).

They'll also have to port some classic PC games (and eventually Xbox and Playstation games) to support the Oculus Rift as well. I mean, not that that's their job anyway, but they'll definitely have to talk companies like Valve or Gearbox or [Insert Game Developer of Good Classic Game Here] to go back and code their game to work on the Unreal Engine, which for some games is nearly impossible. Personally, I'd love to see Half Life 2 and Bioshock on the Oculus Rift, but I doubt it will never happen (at least, I know Half Life wouldn't because it runs on the Source Engine). I'm pretty sure Borderlands runs on the Unreal Engine though, so somehow making the Oculus Rift compatible with Borderlands would be just as awesome.

Another feature I'd like to see implemented somehow would be game design. Maybe I'm totally over-estimating the powers of the Oculus Rift and the technology that's currently available to make the device an affordable price, but if it's something that can be done that won't launch the price of the device through the roof, I'd love to see it made into a feature. I know the OUYA will be hosting a feature that allows owners of any OUYA to make and publish a game on their digital market, but then again that's an actual console, which makes me sort of second guess the actual possibility that my wish could even be granted. I know, however, that Oculus is giving out Developer kits via their Kickstarter for around a $250 backing, but I'm almost certain the game developing isn't through the Oculus Rift. If it's impossible to do I'd settle for all its current features (not that I'd have a choice to or anything), but it would make the Oculus Rift even that much better.

Anyway, I hope you enjoyed my little tidbit on the Oculus Rift! Go check out some more posts on the blog!

Peter, the Steamworks

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