So we don’t have jetpacks, hoverboards, flying cars or moon cities, but at least one aspect of the future we all wanted is slowly becoming a reality, and that’s VR. Until now, all the buzz has been about the Oculus Rift, but developers at Steam Dev Days have found something new to fall in love with: Valve’s own VR, which is apparently impressing even more than Crystal Cove, the latest Oculus Rift Prototype.
Posting on Reddit, Harabek, a dev in attendance at Steam Dev Days, regales us with tales of his experience with Valve’s VR demo, and he walked away impressed. “Each eye had its own display. I didn’t catch the resolution, but they said they pulled them off high end phones. Having tried the dk1 and gotten sick, I was worried about simulator sickness. The demo lasted a full half hour but I felt fine. The motion tracking seemed damn near perfect, but I haven’t tried crystal cove so I can’t compare there. The Valve rep claimed the motion tracking was a bit better than cc though.”
It’s still a prototype and isn’t ready for consumers, but Valve already has a few demos to show off. “They had a bunch of demos showing off various ways to use VR. One had me on a small platform over a pit. It actually felt a bit scary looking down. Another showed massive block structure that made me feel like I was peering up in a cyberpunk mega city. A few actually startled me. There was that was a room full of pipes and I was ducking to look around them, I looked down to see that I was at the edge of a hole. I actually jumped back. Then there was the one that showed portal turrets being assembled and I was trying to dodge the mechanical arms. One had a giant Atlas from portal 2 and if it had been animated to walk, it would have been pretty crazy.”
Continuing, Harabek notes that he was extremely immersed in the demos and that he felt a real sense of space. “I actually felt like my body was movin [sic],” he says.
David Hensley from Tripwire Interactive also got to test the VR demo, and was equally blown away.
Valve’s VR demo at #SteamDevDays felt like being in a lucid dream state and very much like a holo deck #mindblown #vr
— David Hensley (@TheDavidHensley) January 15, 2014
Holodeck. Be still my beating heart.
Dovetail Games’ Paul Jackson took to Facebook to gush about his experience, once again bringing up Star Trek’s greatest creation.
“Just done the private Valve VR demo. It’s absolutely world changing. 25 years in Videogames and I dreamed of this and just never thought I would actually see it.
I kept thinking this was Star Treks holodeck, and baring the fact you can’t touch stuff, It pretty well is.
30 minutes under, lot of different demos, all faultless and not a wiff of motion sickness.”
It’s worth mentioning, of course, that a lot of the motion sickness complaints coming from users of the Oculus Rift might have been due to several factors that won’t exist in the consumer version. Low resolutions, games not designed for use with the device (thus creating a dissonance between what the user sees and what their brain expects to see) and other problems with the dev kit will hopefully be ironed out by the time it gets into everyone’s hands.
However, that Valve’s own VR device is not causing these problems, or at least not yet for the small number of people to actually use it, is very good news. It seems to be the positional tracking which has alleviated the motion sickness, with Valve’s device employing trackers situated throughout the room instead of the Rift’s LED setup, suggesting that it might require a bit more work to actually set it up in one’s gaming space than simply sliding on the headset.
It’s not clear what Valve’s plan for the device is, what manufacturers they are partnering up with or if it’s going to be in direct competition with the Oculus Rift or actually another version of the device which will be sold in conjunction. Certainly, however, it’s a fascinating time for how we interact with game worlds.