GDC attendees wait in line to try the latest Oculus dev kit.
GDC attendees wait in line to try the latest Oculus dev kit.

While VR enthusiasts scramble to get their orders in for the DK2, Oculus has been hard at work setting up and manning a booth at GDC. It was not a surprise that the booth was larger than last year, nor was it a surprise that it is once again packed with a line the entire day. However, it was surprising to see no less than 16 stations with DK2s ready to go.

Two of the many stations at the Oculus booth.
Two of the many stations at the Oculus booth.

Every station had a DK2 unit, headphones, and a wireless Xbox 360 controller. An IR camera was positioned on a stand in front of each seat. There was also a TV facing each pair of stations, but interestingly most of the TVs did not display gameplay. Most either had a static image that referenced the demo at those stations, or a looping title graphic. I asked Product Lead Joe Chen about this change, and he responded that most are not able to get a real feel of the experience from watching the stereoscopic gameplay.

The newest Oculus demo, Couch Knights.
The newest Oculus demo, Couch Knights.
The Oculus IR camera in front of each station.
The Oculus IR camera in front of each station.

The newest demo to join the Oculus stable is Couch Knights, an interesting action title made in collaboration with the Unreal Engine team. Couch Knights is a 2-player experience, in which your avatar is a standard looking guy in a standard looking living room sitting on a couch. A TV in the room looks as if it will keep score for the game. Looking down reveals that your avatar is holding a controller – it invokes a similar feeling to Lunar Flight. Positional tracking was fully functional, and I could not help leaning every which-way in the chair to test the limits. In this particular demo, it seems as if the positional tracking is 1:1. Everything felt very natural. The real kicker is that when you look across the room, you see your opponent’s avatar, complete with tracking! As the demo began, I looked at the guy across from me and gave him the standard head nod as a greeting. Non verbal communication in VR never gets old.
So the couch part is established. What about the Knights? Once the game starts, two mini female warriors spawn on top of the coffee table in the middle of the room, complete with shields and swords. Using the controller, you can make your small warrior run and jump any where around the room, even in your opponent’s lap. The round ends once you get 3-4 clean hits on your opponent’s warrior, producing a fantastic particle effect and starting another round. All together, the experience was tremendously fun. I hope to see these “trade show collaborations” find their way to the public someday!

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One of the Eve: Valkyrie 4-player stations.
One of the Eve: Valkyrie 4-player stations.

The other demo being shown was EVE: Valkyrie.
Two 4-player sessions of Valkyrie were setup. Each section had some fierce multiplayer spaceship dogfighting action! Most of the people in line were waiting to get a demo of Valkyrie, which has consistently impressed everywhere it has been demoed. The experience here was as expected: excellent. Even though it was my third or fourth time experiencing the demo, I still had a blast doing barrel rolls and blasting opponents out of the sky. As I have mentioned before, the positional tracking in Valkyrie seems exaggerated, allowing me to lean far forward into the cockpit to read all of the details on the neon displays.
Reactions from attendees varied from pleased to blown away, depending on the previous experience with the tech. I witnessed a few people go back to line up once again.

The Oculus booth is teeming with activity.
The Oculus booth is teeming with activity – and a hefty line.

Overall, the experience in the DK2 was phenomenal – essentially a sleeker and slightly more comfortable version of Crystal Cove. The housing is wider than the DK1, making it easy to play with my glasses on. The unit was just as light if not lighter than the DK1. The FOV of the unit is essentially the same as the DK1 – encouraging news, as the FOV in the preceding HD unit was lower.  The positional tracking is excellent, allowing me about 230 degrees of rotation before reverting to the neck model. When turning around, the transition between optical positional tracking and the neck model is nearly seamless. The accuracy and precision of the positional tracking also does wonders for the comfort level within the VR space. The system picks up on all micro head motions and position changes, tapping into the oft mentioned subconscious feeling of “presence.” The additional clarity provided by HD screen and Low Persistence feature profoundly add to this sense of presence. The screen door effect is not gone entirely, but is very easy to ignore – its practically invisible in dark titles like Eve: Valkyrie.
The Oculus team was in great spirits, and the general impression from attendees was positive. A great kickoff to a groundbreaking year in VR!

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  • Alkapwn

    I’m hoping they do release the demos to the public, or at least to developers. Would be a fantastic tool to compare to while you’re trying to build your own game and tweak the integration and features.

  • Ryan

    Thanks for the booth tour Bruce. Makes me feel like I’m there!