Arguably the games industry’s most important annual event, the Electronic Entertainment Expo 2015 begins in LA next week. As the final E3 before the retail release of three major virtual reality headsets from Oculus, Sony, and Valve/HTC, we take the opportunity to look back at the last three years of consumer VR.
E3 2015 is here again and begins officially on the 16th of June at the Los Angeles Convention Center. As ever, Road to VR will be there to bring you the latest news direct from the show. Do drop us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have something VR related you’d like to share with us at the show and we’ll try to line up a meeting.
This year’s event marks something of a milestone in virtual reality’s recent explosive renaissance—specifically the final E3 before the arrival of the first major consumer virtual reality systems in this new era.
So, before we’re swept away by the inevitable tsunami of E3 (and pre-E3) revelations, here’s a brief up-to-date summary of this most recent virtual reality renaissance period, using E3 itself as a convenient way-point.
John Carmack, founder of id Software, co-creator of Doom, and all-round programming demi-god turns up at E3 with a gaffer-taped ski mask and a hacked-up version of Doom 3 and promptly steals the show, all the while proclaiming that virtual reality is back! The ski mask was of course an early version of the Oculus Rift, sent to Carmack by one Palmer Luckey, before the headset ever took to Kickstarter. The showing catapulted VR back into the gaming industry’s consciousness whilst awakening the VR dreams of a generation of industry professionals and enthusiasts all at once.
For the first time since the 90s, the gaming and tech media begin talking and writing about VR in positive, non-derisory terms and at Quakecon that same year, we see one of the first discussions on VR’s future. Featuring Oculus’ Palmer Luckey, Valve’s Michael Abrash and of course John Carmack, the event foreshadowed how important these three figures were to become in later years, with Carmack and Abrash eventually leaving id Software and Valve respectively to join Oculus.
Oculus as a company has now been formed on the back of a wildly successful Kickstarter campaign to bring the so-called Rift DK1—the first widely available developer kit for a consumer virtual reality headset—to life. By now the DK1, despite production delays, is already in the hands of Kickstarter backers across the world. The VR community is swelling with an influx of enthusiasts feeding from an explosion of early developer tech demos for the device. Oculus don’t rest on their laurels however; during E3 2013 the company reveal their latest VR headset, simply called the ‘HD Prototype’, formed from the guts of a DK1 and added a new HD LCD Panel, upgrading the DK1’s resolution from 800p to 1080p.
Demo’s of the new headset included the latest previews of Unreal Engine E3 2013 and the combination of increased display fidelity and cutting-edge rendering techniques left quite an impression. At the same time, the first glimpse of triple-A software using VR was provided in the form of EVE Online developer CCP Games’ EVE-VR, a space combat shooter which used head tracking as a core gameplay mechanic.