Codemasters are adding Oculus Rift support to their Micro Machines-style racer Toybox Turbos. Rather than a cockpit camera you’ll float above the track with a bird’s eye view of the action.
The out of body experience has caused Codemasters a fair bit of trouble to implement but the results look spectacular.
Toybox Turbos has you race cars around tracks about the house – over the kitchen table, the living room floor, and out in the garden. The action’s all viewed from a bird’s eye perspective, it’s not directly top-down, there’s a slight slant to it. It works well when viewed on a monitor and television but Codemasters were convinced it would also work on a virtual reality headset, like the Oculus Rift.
“Virtual reality is something we’ve been getting quietly giddy about at Codemasters for a while now,” writes chief game designer Gavin Cooper. “As a company, GRID Autosport saw our first steps into VR with a patch that added some experimental Oculus Rift support.” Since the success of that they’ve wanted to get Toybox Turbos running with the Oculus, too.
It was easy enough getting the thing running in the headset, Cooper says, but “getting it to be a fun, engaging experience was a whole other problem.” They ran into problems with “motion sickness and some people feeling a bit queasy.” It was because their default camera “swings around, changing the direction it’s looking in to give players good visibility of the track ahead of them.”
The problem was the game turning the camera for you, “your inner ear isn’t detecting any movement on your part, the disparity can start to make you feel ill.”
Codemasters redesigned the camera, stripping out any fancy tricks they’d thrown in to make it more exciting to play on the PC, leaving a camera that gently panned left/right/forwards/back, but left all the orientation to the player.
Cooper describes what’s left as “something a little bit special… The layout of the world, the player’s perspective of it, looking down upon all the toys laid out beneath them… it genuinely felt like being a kid again, playing with these toy cars on your bedroom floor, feeling them come alive. The VR perspective wasn’t just working within the game, it was actively complementing it – it was a great natural fit.
“We’ve had people using the headset stop racing partway through and just look around, losing themselves in it. The view you have in VR is unlike what you’ve seen in Toybox Turbos up to this point. Being able to look out across the entire track and seeing, for instance, toy trains circling around their tracks in the distance… it’s a real wow moment.”
It’s fantastic seeing developers experimenting with and finding they can use a multitude of perspectives with virtual reality – not just the obvious first-person camera. Tim played Lucky’s game, a platformer built specifically for the Oculus and was blown away with how well it works.
When the Oculus Rift finally comes out we’ve got some real treats of games to expect.