Casino VR Poker, the online free-to-play casino hosting live Texas hold’em, has today launched on Oculus Home, now allowing users to play in a cross-platform space with either Gear VR or Oculus Rift. The Steam version with Rift support is ‘coming soon’.
The first time we saw Casino VR was back in late 2015 on the Oculus Rift DK2, months before the release of the consumer Oculus Rift. While the UI has since changed for the better, stability has improved, and in-app purchases have been added so you can top up on chips when/if you’ve run dry, the game is essentially the same. After all, it’s just Texas hold’em, right?
It turns out these things, including the app’s now steady number of concurrent users, make for a different experience than what we saw before. More than 20 people were on when I popped into the app at around 11 AM and 4PM ET during the weekday.
Full Disclosure: I was gifted 100,000 chips ($19.99 in-app purchase price) by Casino VR on top of the free 5,000 starting chips so I could get a feel for every table in the app during my hands-on with the game. These chips hold no monetary value after purchase, and I also promptly lost them all – but more on that in a minute.
There’s a certain thrill in calling a bluff in real live poker. Not only is there money on the line (even if it’s not real money), but you have to face down your opponent, read his/her reactions and try to hide your own in the process. And even though VR systems aren’t nearly articulated enough to provide substantial poker tells yet, or the visible change in a player’s physical behavior that some people try to interpret to get the upper hand, you can still notice the furtive glances people give when double checking cards in Casino VR, and try to infer something from how people react as the game’s five community cards come out on the table.
While the Rift version of the platform uses inverse kinematics (IK) to imbue you and the other Rift players with a body that can slump forward and lean from side to side, this feature only works when sitting down, and only when in the Rift. Considering there isn’t any locomotion to speak of (select a table and you’re teleported automatically), this isn’t that big of an issue. But because it’s a cross-platform space, Gear VR players appear exactly the same as Rift players (they have a body just like you), except their bodies remain perfectly stationary—making body language less reliable of a poker tell as soon as you figure out the suave salaryman sitting across from you is stiff as a board because he’s using a Gear VR.
Either way, the feeling of winning or losing that big pot and experiencing the barb of defeat or the rush of winning is an undeniably heady feeling; even more so when people can see and hear you.
After doing well in a few hands in some low buy-in tables, I headed to the high roller table in the middle of the room, a table with a minimum 60,000 chip buy-in. Taking my entire stack, somewhere around 120,000, I quickly found out I was clearly playing with people well above my skill level. I only spent about 10 minutes on the high roller table sitting across the top two players—each with around 6 million chips to their names—and was cleaned out quicker than a Las Vegas tourist.
To unpack some of my experiences in Casino VR, I spoke with co-CEO Hamza Siddiqui to learn more about what the social VR game will have in store for players, including input methods and future supported headsets.
Casino VR is now officially cross-platform with Rift and Gear VR – any plans for a Vive version? If not, any specific reason why you aren’t supporting Vive at this time?
Yes, [we have plans] but we would be only comfortable with launching a Vive version when we have good hand presence (relative to the rest of the body). This is quite an interesting challenge but unfortunately a time consuming one.
You mentioned that your studio has a Touch dev kit. Are you currently working on Touch support?
Yes, [as] part of our Touch/Vive support pipeline. We have gotten to love the Touch controllers specifically because of the ability to pinch. Imagine stacking chips precisely! We have been having a lot of fun with the Daydream controllers as well, they are surprisingly more versatile than people think.
Casino VR seems to have a steady number of concurrent users, more than some well established ‘social VR’ spaces. Why is that?
People really like to play poker in VR! VR badly needs active and engaging form of content driving social experiences. We see that our community is all about friendly competitiveness. You make new friends in VR and next thing you know you have a competition going on over who is better at poker.
People want to know: Since chips don’t have any real monetary value, are we going to be able to buy things in-game using the chips?
We believe the most important aspect in Social VR is personal identity. Personal identity is not just how you look but how you are perceived, your social, competitive and community status. We can’t wait to share later what that entails!
If you’re still scratching your head as to why Casino VR doesn’t allow for real-money gambling, you’re not likely to see it through Oculus Home or Steam, as both platforms disallow real-money gambling, pornography, and excessively violent or sexual content.