Samsung officially showed off 13 Gear VR titles at SDC 2014 last week. The titles, which varied from games to 360 video experiences, were being showcased on the second floor in the Game Zone area of the event. Eight Gear VR units were available, each housing a unique set of demos. After circling through the lines a few times, here are our first impressions.
Titles We Tried
Titans of Space
This space experience started its life on the Oculus Rift DK1 and followed to the DK2, now it’s found a home on Gear VR. Titans of Space takes you on a guided trip through our solar system. The journey begins by the sun and moves out towards the edge of the planetary orbits. Looking around the environment shows the vast amount of space found between the planets. Details pop up as each planet passes by. Specifics about the diameter, volume, and additional facts appear on a screen before you.
The demo is a great educational flight through our solar system that would be a fantastic experience for astronomy classes in school. Students could learn about each of the planets as they fly through space checking out what makes each of them unique.
In theBlu, the viewer dives into the depths of the ocean to encounter fanciful creatures and learn about them. There are sharks, whales, colorful fish, and even manta rays that swim in the vibrant ecosystem that the developers at Wemo Lab have created. The stunning graphics provide a mesmerizing glimpse into the lives of a variety of sea creatures designed by their artists and animators. As the creatures surface, narration tells the story of marine life while at the same time helping to raise awareness of ocean conservation.
It’s exciting to be so close to these animals that would rarely be encountered in real-life. TheBlu transports individuals into a gorgeous submersed VR world in an effort to teach people about the creatures in the ocean as they would normally be found in their own habitat, untouched by human interaction. Orcas, dolphins, and enormous whales all float by.
Being next to large creatures of the deep is both exciting and a little bit frightful at the same time. The animations and designs of the animals make them look so real that it is easy to forget that you’re sitting in a dry chair somewhere else.
Dreamworks Movie Demo
Dreamworks developers produced a quick virtual cinema sample experience seen at SDC 2014. A loading screen gave the options to watch a ‘20 Years of Dreams and Laughter’ celebration video. This put the theater viewing experience in the middle of rippling water with a large silver screen that projected up out of the ocean. Obviously this is not something that is physically possible in the real world, but it can be done with dazzling effects in VR.
The other trailer on display was for the upcoming Penguins of Madagascar movie. This time the scene was on a sandy yellow beach with an inflatable, bubbly-looking screen in front. Four penguins are seen nearby who are viewing the movie as well. When peering at the black and white cuddly animals, they turn around and sometimes wave. The rotational head tracking of the Gear VR allowed for this interaction.
The trailers here show that it’s possible to watch movies in just about any computer generated world. That can include the beach, in a body of water, or even in space. It was nice to see that Dreamworks is stepping into virtual reality with this demo, but it would be good to see more types of interaction.
This adventure title is a 3rd person game that uses a Samsung bluetooth controller to move the blocky character known as James around a small planet. The animated world is very Lego-like and your view of it rotates as you move James around the planet. Moving the headset changes the view and produces menus if specific items are looked at long enough. The gameplay is a bit slow, and at times confusing, but it’s an experience that seems to suit Gear VR well. It’s something to try out when the headset launches, though people probably won’t spend tons of time in this experience since there are other more exciting titles that will be available for Gear VR.
The idea of strapping on a jetpack and flying away has been a fantasy for many at one point or another. However, the chances of trying one in real life is slim to none. That is at least until a person puts on a VR headset and simulates a virtual jetpack, which is exactly what the developers at Fireproof Games have done.
This fun game helps achieve those dreams of flying through a city unhindered by gravity. With a controller in hand, instinct sets in. A person can shoot off into the air and perch on building above to look down. The feeling accompanied with this experience is so natural that immersion quickly kicks in. Gamers can fly around the city which is filled with enemies to blast and missions to complete.
This was one of the most exhilarating experiences at SDC 2014. There was just something special about zooming from building to building with a virtual jetpack. It was so much fun that it was difficult to pull the headset off and give someone else a go.
Another title on display was dogfighting space battle simulation called Anshar Wars that was created by OZWE games. Spaceships are controlled by tracking one’s head, with the ship viewed in third-person. Players must defend their mothership from attacking forces. Using a Samsung gamepad gives the option for quick trigger action like shooting rapid fire missiles at incoming targets. Sudden movements allow for fast changes in directions. The experience is a blast and anyone could easily log many hours playing this game, as long as the Note 4 doesn’t overheat or the battery gives out.
Anshar Wars was probably my favorite out of all the titles seen at SDC 2014. The controls were fluid enough that the spaceship that I was in would change directions really quickly. It’s a blast and definitely recommended.