Road to VR https://www.roadtovr.com Virtual Reality News Tue, 12 Nov 2019 16:59:22 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.12 https://www.roadtovr.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/cropped-road-to-vr-logo-for-social-media-54aabc8av1_site_icon-32x32.png Road to VR https://www.roadtovr.com 32 32 ‘Stormland’ Behind-the-scenes – Insights & Artwork from Insomniac Games https://www.roadtovr.com/stormland-behind-the-scenes-insomniac-games/ https://www.roadtovr.com/stormland-behind-the-scenes-insomniac-games/#comments Tue, 12 Nov 2019 16:59:22 +0000 https://www.roadtovr.com/?p=91957
Insomniac Games is no stranger to VR game development. Since 2016 the studio has created three Oculus exclusive VR titles—Feral Rites, Edge of Nowhere, and The Unspoken—but its next (and possibly last Oculus exclusive), Stormland, is unequivocally its most ambitious VR production yet. Stormland rewrites the rules about what a VR game can be by synthesizing & […]

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Insomniac Games is no stranger to VR game development. Since 2016 the studio has created three Oculus exclusive VR titles—Feral Rites, Edge of Nowhere, and The Unspoken—but its next (and possibly last Oculus exclusive), Stormland, is unequivocally its most ambitious VR production yet. Stormland rewrites the rules about what a VR game can be by synthesizing & expanding many of the important lessons that Insomniac (and the industry at large) has learned about making compelling VR experiences in the years since first-gen consumer headsets hit the market. We spoke to the Lead & Principal Designers of Stormland, Mike Daly and Duncan Moore, to learn how they pulled it all together to create one of VR’s first truly native open-world games.

Editor’s Note: The exclusive artwork peppered throughout this article is best viewed on a desktop browser with a large screen or in landscape orientation on your phone. All images courtesy Insomniac Games; special thanks to artist Darren Quach.

Built to Move

While it was entirely normal and useful, in non-VR games, to grab the camera and swing it about the game environment as needed, in VR the camera is the player’s head, and moving it around jarringly is a recipe for discomfort and nausea. Even moving virtually with a joystick from A to B can be uncomfortable in VR if special care isn’t taken.

In the early days of VR, the common refrain was to simply never move players virtually to ensure comfort. This led to VR’s (mostly derided) ‘wave shooter era’. These games, even if they were otherwise compelling, lacked something core to most non-VR games—the ability to seamlessly traverse large and varied environments.

Since then, VR developers have discovered a handful of methods to comfortably move players. But locomotion is so intricately interwoven with game design that the best VR games tend to be those which think of locomotion as a piece of the gameplay itself, not just a necessary conceit. Stormland, as you may have gathered by now, is one of those games in which locomotion is clearly part of the gameplay. And this is by no accident, says Stormland’s Principal Designer, Duncan Moore.

“Locomotion has always been in the core DNA of Stormland. Primarily because fun traversal mechanics are close to our heart at Insomniac. From the grind rails of Ratchet & Clank, to the wild city-hopping acrobatics of Sunset Overdrive, we at Insomniac know how powerful traversal mechanics can be. If done right, they create a great foundation of sticky gameplay that’s all about feel and feedback. Everybody understands the thrill of moving through space—it’s simple, relatable fun that connects to the kid in all of us,” said Moore. “From the very inception of Stormland, we knew we wanted players to slipstream across the clouds, jump, and glide in an open world setting. It’s one of the very first things we proved to ourselves and [Oculus Studios, Stormland’s publisher] when we started exploring the game. The big question from the very start was; can we pull off locomotion that is thrilling and free but also comfortable enough for VR?”

SEE ALSO
'Asgard's Wrath' Behind-the-scenes – Insights & Artwork from Sanzaru Games and Oculus Studios

Moore said that the studio knew from its experience on prior VR titles that players were are more comfortable in VR if movement is tied to broad and relatable body motions, like hand and arm movements, rather than buttons or sticks.

“This is where we started with our first prototype of slipstreaming [zooming across the clouds] and gliding [flying through the air]. We found that mapping speed and strafing to hand position worked pretty well and was relatable. We kind of mashed up the ideas of superhero flight with surfing. While gliding across the clouds, you can reach your hands forward to speed up and pull them into your body to slow down. To change direction, you simply drift your hand input left and right to steer where you want to go. It ended up working well from the very start—we knew very early on that this was the direction for us.”

And though slipstreaming and gliding worked well enough to become a significant component of the game, it was climbing that really broadened the possibilities Moore explained.

“Everyone at the office loved VR climbing games and we knew this would be a great fit for open-world exploration. We didn’t know how big of a feature this would be at first, but once we got it in it changed everything! At first we planned to restrict climbing to certain surfaces, but after some experimentation we realized that free climbing on any surface suited our game vision perfectly,” he said. “Grabbing and climbing anything was a big revelation. That is, to be able to grasp any surface and grapple up it or grab it and fling yourself any direction. You are connecting your real hand to this virtual environment and moving yourself around in a very analogue, playful way. This is what VR can do that [no other medium] can! It immediately felt special.”

Moore recalled how central these mechanics became to the rest of the gameplay in a way that simply wouldn’t have worked if locomotion hadn’t been carefully considered from the outset.

“Committing to these mechanics early on set the direction for the rest of the game—it was the kind of bold decision that we needed to put traversal mechanics front and center. Our whole game is built from the notion that you can slipstream, climb, and glide almost everywhere in the open world. It affected every aspect of the game design and presented a mountain of challenges for us to solve, but it was totally worth it. It’s at the very heart of what makes Stormland so thrilling to experience.”

Continued on Page 2: Ease Not Accuracy »

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Unity Plugin Aims to Streamline Haptics for VR Developers https://www.roadtovr.com/rgb-haptics-vr-unity-plugin/ https://www.roadtovr.com/rgb-haptics-vr-unity-plugin/#comments Tue, 12 Nov 2019 00:59:18 +0000 https://www.roadtovr.com/?p=91946
RGB Haptics is a new Unity-based tool that aims to make it easier for developers to create and implement haptic effects in VR games. Haptics are important in games in general, but especially in VR—because the medium gives players significantly more agency than non-VR, haptics are critical for helping the player understand what’s happening to […]

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RGB Haptics is a new Unity-based tool that aims to make it easier for developers to create and implement haptic effects in VR games.

Haptics are important in games in general, but especially in VR—because the medium gives players significantly more agency than non-VR, haptics are critical for helping the player understand what’s happening to them and how they can interact with the world. Used correctly, haptics make VR games more playable and immersive. Unfortunately, haptics often go underutilized beyond the most basic rumble because creating, testing, and refining ‘haptic effects’ (unique haptic sensations) is a tedious process.

Understanding the importance of haptics in VR, studio RGB Schemes has developed a tool called RGB Haptics which aims to simplify the creation and implementation of haptic effects in VR games. Available now on the Unity Asset Store, the plugin eschews manual programming of frequency and amplitude in favor of a waveform-based approach which provides developers with a familiar pipeline when it comes to creating, implementing, and triggering haptic events.

Image courtesy RGB Schemes

Here’s a rundown of the features, according to RGB Schemes:

  • Raw waveform and audio file support across all types of haptics.
  • Custom waveform editor window, allowing you to design waveforms without ever leaving Unity.
  • Looping haptic playback support, as well as granular controls for the haptics. This includes playing, pausing, and stopping of haptics.
  • Automatically slices sampled data to target the controllers refresh rate, providing smooth haptics on supported platforms.
  • Supports Oculus Rift, Oculus Rift S, Oculus Quest, HTC Vive, Valve Index, Windows Mixed Reality headsets, and more. Anything supported by the Unity XR platform should be supported by this.
  • Supports both Android based VR devices as well as PC based VR devices.
  • Collision-based haptics scripts included, allowing for users to feel ice cubes in a glass.

The developer has also released a free PC VR and Oculus Quest demo to feel what kind of haptic sensations can be created with the tool.

SEE ALSO
Hands-on: HaptX's VR Glove is the Closest I've Come to Touching the Virtual World

RGB Schemes says the haptics plugin grew out of an internal tool which the studio created to streamline the use of haptics in its own VR projects.

“We were very surprised that other developers were not making better use of this technology, and after deep diving into the software support, we realized that doing so was incredibly difficult,” the studio said. “So we began building an internal tool for more easily building better haptics solutions, and decided to allow others to purchase this technology to use in their projects!”

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The Top 20 Best Rated and Most Rated Quest Games & Apps https://www.roadtovr.com/top-20-oculus-quest-games-best-rated-most/ https://www.roadtovr.com/top-20-oculus-quest-games-best-rated-most/#comments Sat, 09 Nov 2019 09:39:19 +0000 https://www.roadtovr.com/?p=91922
While Oculus doesn’t offer much publicly in the way of understanding how well individual apps are performing across its VR storefronts, it’s possible to glean some insight by looking at apps relative to each other. Here’s a snapshot of the top 20 Oculus Quest games and apps. Some quick qualifications before we get to the […]

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While Oculus doesn’t offer much publicly in the way of understanding how well individual apps are performing across its VR storefronts, it’s possible to glean some insight by looking at apps relative to each other. Here’s a snapshot of the top 20 Oculus Quest games and apps.

Some quick qualifications before we get to the data dump:

  • Paid and free apps are separated
  • Only apps with more than 100 reviews are represented
  • Rounded ratings may appear to show ‘ties’ in ratings for some applications, but the ranked order remains correct
  • This is a snapshot as of today, expect positions to shift over time
SEE ALSO
The Top 20 Best Rated and Most Rated Rift Games & Apps

Best Rated Paid Oculus Quest Apps

The rating of each application is an aggregate of user reviews and a useful way to understand the general reception of each title by customers.

Name Rating (# of ratings) Price
The Thrill of the Fight 4.91 (789) $10
Moss 4.86 (907) $30
Kingspray Graffiti 4.84 (321) $15
I Expect You To Die 4.79 (546) $25
Racket: Nx 4.79 (585) $20
SculptrVR 4.79 (132) $10
SUPERHOT VR 4.77 (2,390) $25
Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes 4.77 (108) $15
Space Pirate Trainer 4.77 (767) $15
Pistol Whip 4.76 (438) $25
Gadgeteer 4.73 (155) $15
Red Matter 4.71 (760) $25
Real VR Fishing 4.70 (310) $20
Job Simulator 4.67 (839) $20
Shadow Point 4.67 (312) $20
Virtual Virtual Reality 4.66 (295) $15
Journey of the Gods 4.62 (346) $30
Fujii 4.59 (100) $15
Dreadhalls 4.58 (203) $10
Sairento VR : Untethered 4.56 (707) $20
  • Among the 20 best rated paid games & apps on Quest
    • Average rating (mean): 4.7 out of 5
    • Average price (mean): $19
    • Most common price (mode): $15
  • Among all paid games & apps on Quest
    • Average rating (mean): 4.4 out of 5
    • Average price (mean): $19
    • Most common price (mode): $20

Most Rated Paid Oculus Quest Apps

The number of ratings often gives a ballpark idea of the relative sales of each title; a title with more ratings is likely to have sold better than a title with less, though there’s certainly an unknown margin of error.

Name Number of Ratings (rating) Price
Beat Saber 7,925 (4.54) $30
Vader Immortal: Episode I 3,103 (4.43) $10
SUPERHOT VR 2,390 (4.77) $25
Vader Immortal: Episode II 1,343 (3.89) $10
Robo Recall: Unplugged 1,315 (4.50) $30
Drop Dead: Dual Strike Edition 964 (4.45) $15
Moss 907 (4.86) $30
Job Simulator 839 (4.67) $20
Gun Club VR 800 (4.50) $20
The Thrill of the Fight 789 (4.91) $10
Space Pirate Trainer 767 (4.77) $15
Red Matter 760 (4.71) $25
Sairento VR : Untethered 707 (4.56) $20
Racket Fury: Table Tennis VR 604 (4.22) $20
Racket: Nx 585 (4.79) $20
I Expect You To Die 546 (4.79) $25
BOXVR 509 (4.18) $30
Richie’s Plank Experience 449 (4.16) $15
Pistol Whip 438 (4.76) $25
Virtual Desktop 411 (4.35) $20
  • Among the 20 most rated paid games & apps on Quest
    • Median number of ratings : 778
    • Average price (mean): $21
    • Most common price (mode): $20
  • Among all paid games & apps on Quest
    • Median number of ratings: 293
    • Average price (mean): $19
    • Most common price (mode): $20

Best Rated Free Oculus Quest Apps

Name Rating (# of ratings)
First Steps 4.89 (562)
Oculus First Contact 4.73 (491)
Anne Frank House VR 4.66 (405)
SKYBOX VR Video Player 4.63 (302)
Adam Savage’s Tested VR 4.41 (164)
Rec Room 4.41 (1,705)
Bogo 4.41 (334)
NOTES ON BLINDNESS 4.38 (240)
Mission: ISS 4.37 (313)
NextVR 4.28 (121)
Bigscreen Beta 4.27 (705)
YouTube VR 4.21 (324)
AltspaceVR 4.20 (158)
Bait! 4.10 (331)
VRChat 4.10 (633)
Firefox Reality 3.99 (115)
PokerStars VR 3.83 (820)
Prime Video VR 3.81 (138)
Traveling While Black 3.73 (225)
Netflix 3.68 (280)
  • Among the 20 best rated free games & apps on Quest
    • Average rating (mean): 4.3 out of 5
  • Among all free games & apps on Quest
    • Average rating (mean): 4.1 out of 5

Most Rated Free Oculus Quest Apps

Name Number of Ratings (rating)
Rec Room 1,705 (4.41)
PokerStars VR 820 (3.83)
Bigscreen Beta 705 (4.27)
VRChat 633 (4.10)
First Steps 562 (4.89)
Epic Roller Coasters 553 (2.98)
Oculus First Contact 491 (4.73)
Anne Frank House VR 405 (4.66)
Bogo 334 (4.41)
Bait! 331 (4.10)
Oculus Venues 325 (2.21)
YouTube VR 324 (4.21)
Mission: ISS 313 (4.37)
SKYBOX VR Video Player 302 (4.63)
Netflix 280 (3.68)
NOTES ON BLINDNESS 240 (4.38)
Traveling While Black 225 (3.73)
Poker VR 177 (3.42)
Adam Savage’s Tested VR 164 (4.41)
AltspaceVR 158 (4.20)
  • Among the 20 most rated paid games & apps on Quest
    • Median number of ratings : 328
  • Among all paid games & apps on Quest
    • Median number of ratings: 319

– – — – –

Bonus Stats

  • There are approximately 128 games & apps in the Oculus Quest store
  • 63% of games & apps are paid while 37% are free
  • 42% of Quest games & apps have earned more than 100 ratings (compared to only 17.5% on the Rift store)
  • The most common price on the Quest store is $20 (compared to $10 on the Rift store)
  • Two games are currently tied as the most expensive in the Quest library at $40: OrbusVR: Reborn and TOKYO CHRONOS (the most expensive games on the Rift store are $60)

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Stress Level Zero’s ‘Boneworks’ to Launch in December, New Gameplay Video Here https://www.roadtovr.com/boneworks-launch-date-gameplay/ https://www.roadtovr.com/boneworks-launch-date-gameplay/#comments Fri, 08 Nov 2019 18:00:39 +0000 https://www.roadtovr.com/?p=91909
Boneworks, Stress Level Zero’s upcoming physics-based shooter, now has an official release date, which was revealed in a brand new gameplay video that shows off more of its creepy, but oddly familiar atmosphere. The game is slated to launch on December 10th, arriving via Steam with support for Vive, Rift, Index and Windows VR headsets. In […]

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Boneworks, Stress Level Zero’s upcoming physics-based shooter, now has an official release date, which was revealed in a brand new gameplay video that shows off more of its creepy, but oddly familiar atmosphere.

The game is slated to launch on December 10th, arriving via Steam with support for Vive, Rift, Index and Windows VR headsets.

In the new gameplay video, we get a good look at the sort of resourceful looting you’ll have to do in order to gather weapons and ammo, forcing you to not only keep your eyes open, but to experiment with gadgets such as industrial pallet lifters.

Almost as a love letter to the Half-Life franchise, the game’s last gameplay video in April revealed some very headcrab-like robots, and while agile and deadly, they didn’t really hit on the true creep-factor that the newly revealed zombie-esque creatures do in the new video.

Image courtesy Stress Level Zero

Are they experiments gone wrong? Whatever they are, their vector-style skin (armor?) and glowing red spots that appear when you damage them makes for an interesting diversion from standard zombie fare—especially because you can go full melee and break improvised weapons over their heads, eg. an old CRT monitor.

In the previous gameplay video, Stress Level Zero’s Brandon Laatsch mentioned that Boneworks is essentially based on a static set of physics-based rules which gives players the freedom to tackle both puzzles and combat in their own way—the polar opposite of scripted, and therefore pre-ordained actions.

Here’s how the studio describes it:

Boneworks is an experimental VR physics action adventure game coming to you on December 10th! Witness the events that unravel after Monogon’s MythOS locks down after an unexpected Void breach. Then, play for endless hours with a physics sandbox mode, battle arena, and story replays for additional powerful items.

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‘I Expect You to Die’ to Blast Off in Final DLC Mission ‘Operation: Death Engine’ https://www.roadtovr.com/i-expect-you-die-operation-death-engine-dlc/ https://www.roadtovr.com/i-expect-you-die-operation-death-engine-dlc/#comments Fri, 08 Nov 2019 12:12:41 +0000 https://www.roadtovr.com/?p=91905
The hit spy-themed VR puzzle game I Expect You to Die (2016) is getting a DLC mission soon, this time tossing you into a deadly encounter in space – the final frontier, and consequently the game’s final mission. Called Operation: Death Engine, the free DLC throws players into a tense space mission, where you’ll again match wits with […]

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The hit spy-themed VR puzzle game I Expect You to Die (2016) is getting a DLC mission soon, this time tossing you into a deadly encounter in space – the final frontier, and consequently the game’s final mission.

Called Operation: Death Engine, the free DLC throws players into a tense space mission, where you’ll again match wits with Dr. Zor and his deadly contraptions. It’s slated to arrive on all supported platforms on November 19th.

If you haven’t played since the game’s launch, there’s been a number of free DLC drops since it initially went live on PSVR and Rift in 2016 (later adding support for other PC VR headsets and Quest). The penultimate DLC—Seat of Power—introduced the ‘Death Engine’, which is now precariously floating in earth’s orbit.

Schell Games says players must infiltrate Zoraxis Space Corporation to stop the deadly device before it fires on “some unknown target.” Sounds pretty ominous.

“When I Expect You To Die launched three years ago, none of us could have imagined the incredible level of support we would receive from fans. We are proud to have made a game that has stood the test of time for so many players,” said Schell Games CEO Jesse Schell. “Without the ingenuity and skill of our development team, I Expect You To Die would not be the success that it is today. For the sake of fans everywhere, the team hopes to be able to continue this franchise into the future.”

You’ll find I Expect You to Die on Steam (Vive, Rift, Index), Viveport (Vive, Rift, Index), the Oculus Store (Rift, Quest), and the PlayStation Store (PSVR).

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Microsoft Launches HoloLens 2 for Enterprise Customers https://www.roadtovr.com/microsoft-hololens-2-launch-release-date/ https://www.roadtovr.com/microsoft-hololens-2-launch-release-date/#comments Fri, 08 Nov 2019 09:44:38 +0000 https://www.roadtovr.com/?p=91894
Microsoft today announced that its latest AR headset, HoloLens 2, is finally shipping. The headset can be purchased directly for $3,500 or rented for $125 per month. Microsoft announced HoloLens 2 back in February and has started selling the headset today. Though pricey at $3,500, HoloLens 2 is actually cheaper than its predecessor which launched […]

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Microsoft today announced that its latest AR headset, HoloLens 2, is finally shipping. The headset can be purchased directly for $3,500 or rented for $125 per month.

Microsoft announced HoloLens 2 back in February and has started selling the headset today. Though pricey at $3,500, HoloLens 2 is actually cheaper than its predecessor which launched at $5,000. In addition to the outright purchase price, Microsoft is also renting headset to businesses for $125 per month, and will later launch a developer edition priced at $100 per month.

Image courtesy Microsoft

Like the original, HoloLens 2 is positioned as an enterprise-focused device. Microsoft envisions companies using the headset for design, remote assistance, training, visualization, collaboration, architecture, construction, and much more.

HoloLens 2 Specs

The official specs confirm the headset’s weight at 566 grams and ‘active use’ battery life at 2–3 hours. Here’s the full spec sheet:

Display

Optics See-through holographic lenses (waveguides)
Resolution 2k 3:2 light engines
Holographic density >2.5k radiants (light points per radian)
Eye-based rendering Display optimization for 3D eye position

Sensors

Head tracking 4 visible light cameras
Eye tracking 2 IR cameras
Depth 1-MP time-of-flight (ToF) depth sensor
IMU Accelerometer, gyroscope, magnetometer
Camera 8-MP stills, 1080p30 video

Audio and speech

Microphone array 5 channels
Speakers Built-in spatial sound

Human understanding

Hand tracking Two-handed fully articulated model, direct manipulation
Eye tracking Real-time tracking
Voice Command and control on-device; natural language with internet connectivity
Windows Hello Enterprise-grade security with iris recognition

Environment understanding

6DoF tracking World-scale positional tracking
Spatial Mapping Real-time environment mesh
Mixed Reality Capture Mixed hologram and physical environment photos and videos

Compute and connectivity

SoC Qualcomm Snapdragon 850 Compute Platform
HPU Second-generation custom-built holographic processing unit
Memory 4-GB LPDDR4x system DRAM
Storage 64-GB UFS 2.1
Wi-Fi Wi-Fi: Wi-Fi 5 (802.11ac 2×2)
Bluetooth 5
USB USB Type-C

Fit

Single size
Fits over glasses
Weight 566g
Image courtesy WalkingCat

Aside from field of view and resolution improvements, HoloLens 2 also launches out of the gate with full hand-tracking. This is a huge improvement over the ‘air tap’ gesture that was relied upon with the original headset. With hand-tracking users will be able to more naturally and directly interact with augmented reality content.

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‘Pistol Whip’ Review – Shooting for the Flow State https://www.roadtovr.com/pistol-whip-review-oculus-quest-steam-pc/ https://www.roadtovr.com/pistol-whip-review-oculus-quest-steam-pc/#comments Thu, 07 Nov 2019 19:59:05 +0000 https://www.roadtovr.com/?p=91871
Formerly known for its linear, story-driven VR adventure series The Gallery, Pistol Whip is a surprising shift for Cloudhead Games into VR’s rhythm and shooting genres. Surprising as it may be, the studio makes a strong case for fusing the two, with a ‘rhythm shooter’ that engages your body in a very unique and compelling way. Pistol […]

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Formerly known for its linear, story-driven VR adventure series The GalleryPistol Whip is a surprising shift for Cloudhead Games into VR’s rhythm and shooting genres. Surprising as it may be, the studio makes a strong case for fusing the two, with a ‘rhythm shooter’ that engages your body in a very unique and compelling way.

Pistol Whip Details:

Official Site

Developer: Cloudhead Games
Available On: Oculus (Rift, Quest), Steam (Index, Vive, Rift, WMR), Viveport (Vive, Index, Rift, WMR)
Reviewed On: Index, Quest
Release Date: November 7th, 2019
Price: $25

Gameplay

Pistol Whip is a creative and generally successful fusion of rhythm and shooting. The game has you constantly moving forward through a ‘level’ (set to a specific song) where enemies appear and shoot at you. Your job is to not only return fire, but dodge incoming bullets. The game has heavy auto-aim by default (which you can disable for a challenge), which allows you to focus less on laser-precise aiming, and more on finding the flow state where dodging and shooting becoming one.

Enemy bullets fly at you slowly enough to give you time to dodge your head out of the way as they approach. As you get used to the timing, you start to proactively move and dodge rather than simply react. As a result you start to ‘flow’ your upper body around as you dodge and shoot your way through each level. The movement feels a lot like being an Agent from The Matrix (1999):

Though the game doesn’t explicitly say this (oddly), you’ll get more points for firing on time with the beat. The game is at its best when you start to find the perfect combination of movements to stay clear of bullets while taking down baddies to beat of the song.

This ‘flowy’ movement can be really engaging, especially considering the health system. You have armor which can take one bullet, but if you take one more hit, then you die and fail the level. That is to say that you have a strong incentive to be aware of incoming bullets and ensure that you dodge them. Luckily, after your armor breaks, you can restore it by shooting a certain number of enemies, or by going for a risky melee kill. The tension of the game is seriously amped up when your armor is down and you’re just desperately hoping to get it back before catching a stray bullet.

All enemies function effectively the same, though there’s one-shot, two-shot, and four-shot variants, which you can identify based on what their armor looks like. As their armor increases, so does their threat, and you’ll find yourself wanting to prioritize the armored enemies for a swift kill or a melee takedown.

Speaking of stray bullets—Pistol Whip’s least obvious but actually quite significant contribution to VR game design is its ‘off-screen’ indicator system that alerts you to enemies and bullets outside of your field of view. This is common (and incredibly useful) in non-VR games, and while it’s been attempted in VR elsewhere, the system in Pistol Whip is incredibly effective at drawing your attention where it needs to be.

That said, the game still has moments of frustration where it feels like you died in an unfair way, either from a bullet you couldn’t make out against all the action and visual noise, or from enemies spawning within feet of you and shooting before you can react.

Unfortunately, killing enemies will a melee attack—the game’s very namesake—is its most awkward interaction. Although the sound and motion of smashing an enemy is very satisfying, the approach always manages to feel awkward because you’re subjecting yourself to point-blank fire. Without a good feeling for when enemies are about it shoot, you wind up doing a rather awkward dance in the hopes of making it close enough to hit the enemy with your gun. Fortunately, melee is optional, and you can always shoot enemies in front of you, even if it won’t get you as many points or restore your armor right away.

While Pistol Whip’s fundamentals are really strong, and the game sometimes lets you enter a very unique flow state which combines dodging and shooting to the beat, it feels like the ‘maps’ (the positions and timing of each enemy) are not yet honed enough for the game to reach its ultimate potential. There are some particularly fun moments in some levels which are akin to ‘patterns’ in other rhythm games; combinations of enemy positions and timing which make for intuitive, fun, and repeatable movements. But generally speaking, those moments feel few and far between.

It’s an outright shame that the game is launching without a level editor, and a lesson that should had been resoundingly clear after Beat Saber; allowing the population of a game to effectively crowdsource new and fun patterns and maps is a win-win for developers and players. Cloudhead says they have plans for some sort of editor in the future, but this should have been a day one feature.

That leaves the game launching with just 10 songs—though I was glad to see a surprising range of gameplay and feeling between songs (for instance, some have you shooting at a distance in wide open spaces while others have you in claustrophobic hallways). More levels, both free and paid, are planned for the future, and hopefully we’ll see a post-launch evolution in level mapping that will make the game feel like it’s truly reaching its potential.

Image courtesy Cloudhead Games

While a level editor may not be available, a generous set of options allows you to tweak elements of the game to taste. In addition to being able to customize the look, sound, and color of your weapon, a ‘Modifiers’ menu allows you to change the game in some fundamental ways. The first one I would suggest looking at is the ‘Dual Wield’ mode; I’ve found that having two guns better facilitates the fun ‘flow’ moments of the game, and brings more engaging moments of beat matching.

You can also enable Unlimited Ammo (no reloading), No Ammo (dodging and melee only), Deadeye (no auto-aim… good luck!), Hardcore (on-hit death), and No Fail.

But wait, there’s more! Pistol Whip also allows you to adjust things like the strength of different haptic effects, the pitch of your gun, and even the trigger threshold to define when, exactly, your gun should shoot as you pull the trigger.

Pistol Whip on Quest

In our testing of Pistol Whip on Quest, we found no significant differences in gameplay compared to the PC version. The song selection, customization options, and settings are the same, and the game runs smoothly. Quest’s built-in audio also handles the songs well enough that it doesn’t feel essential to use external headphones, though if you’re really looking to get into the zone you might prefer them.

Immersion

Image courtesy Cloudhead Games

While Pistol Whip doesn’t have that sensation of a ‘concrete’ world around you (owed to the continuous movement), it does create a very compelling feeling of ’embodiment’ thanks to the threat of bullets constantly encroaching into your personal space. Dodging bullets requires understanding their position and trajectory, and then moving yourself accordingly. Combined with the need to also coordinate your own counterattacks with dodging, the feeling of ‘flow’ is at times very real and engaging.

The pulsating environment and impressionistic look can sometimes feel like excess visual noise which can make it harder to spot bullets. This is also annoying when you’re trying to dodge your head around pillars and suddenly they expand/pulsate (the whole of the environment does this at times), making it harder to visualize the hitbox that you’re trying to avoid.

Image courtesy Cloudhead Games

While the game’s song selection and settings menus are perfectly functional, they aren’t particularly intuitive out of the gate. While the effort to spatialize the interface is appreciated, the hierarchy, organization, and design language needs a more thoughtful approach. Luckily, once you know what you’re looking for, the menus don’t have any impact on the core gameplay.

Comfort

Image courtesy Cloudhead Games

Although you’re constantly moving forward, I’ve found Pistol Whip to be perfectly comfortable when it comes to virtual movement. Even in tight corridors (where the near-field geometry in your periphery would be more likely to trigger vection), I’ve never felt an ounce of motion sickness from in the game even after more than an hour of continuous play.

Pistol Whip is a physical game, especially when played at higher difficulties. Everyone has their own style, but my particular way of playing made significant use of my thighs and knees more so than my arms. At times when playing I would often find myself nearly squatting and learning all the way to the ground (and at least once or twice actually going down on one knee to dodge). It’s very cool that the game is compelling enough to encourage these motions, though if you have especially bad knees or limited physical mobility, Pistol Whip might not be for you.

Though you can make adjustments to your playspace positioning in the game’s settings, the game would be difficult to play seated because of the range or motion required.

The post ‘Pistol Whip’ Review – Shooting for the Flow State appeared first on Road to VR.

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‘Wolves in the Walls’ is Immersive, Emotional, & Strangely Fulfilling – Final Chapter Now Available https://www.roadtovr.com/hands-on-wolves-in-the-walls/ https://www.roadtovr.com/hands-on-wolves-in-the-walls/#comments Thu, 07 Nov 2019 19:20:11 +0000 https://www.roadtovr.com/?p=91868
You might have had a chance to try the first two chapters of Wolves in the Walls when it came to Rift last year, which left users of the interactive VR experience on a pretty intense cliffhanger to say the least. Today, Fable Studio, a team made up of veterans from Oculus’ now defunct Story Studio, […]

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You might have had a chance to try the first two chapters of Wolves in the Walls when it came to Rift last year, which left users of the interactive VR experience on a pretty intense cliffhanger to say the least. Today, Fable Studio, a team made up of veterans from Oculus’ now defunct Story Studio, released the third and final chapter of the story. And it’s nothing short of masterful.

“Masterful” isn’t a word I use lightly.

I had a chance to experience all the way up to the second chapter last year, and was already impressed with what I’d seen then. But the ending answers some pretty big questions, and it does it in a not-so-on-the-nose way that you’re still allowed to come to your own conclusions and inevitably think about your own ‘wolves in the walls’.

While I won’t spoil the experience for you (especially not the ending), the first two acts give you a sense of the emotional metaphors at hand. The wolves are real insofar they terrorize our protagonist, the wide-eyed, eight-year-old Lucy, and leave her truly frustrated, alienated, and incapable of thinking about anything else but the beasts causing mischief in her home.

It’s not until I sunk my teeth into the third act that it really comes together, and the wolves become three-dimensional creatures, both literally and figuratively speaking.

Image courtesy Fable Studio

One of the biggest takeaways was my absolute inability to not disappoint Lucy, as she asks you whether you believe her, or if you’re really a sincere friend. I like to break games, if only to see how they react, but this is one I couldn’t bring myself to contort. I couldn’t hurt Lucy, and it’s because she, in some sense, is as close to a real person as I’ve ever seen in virtual reality. Not in a purely visual sense, but in the confines of the world, she wasn’t a thin mannequin. She is a person, or at least enough of a person to get those millennia-old parts of my non-rational brain firing.

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Outside of her Pixar-esque character design and infectious personality, I would say she’s also a pretty big achievement in VR immersion; if only all VR games and experiences had her ‘closeness’ of character—close in the sense that some part of you feels they exist, even when you accidentally clip through their bulbous head and see the back of their eyes by mistake.

Image courtesy Fable Studio

Not to delve into my own pseudo-understanding of philosophy, but Wolves in the Walls seems like a great starting point for an open-ended discussion on how our sense of reality is shaped by our individual perceptions, and how spaces and situations can be perceived differently in our minds depending on emotional context.

In a way, broaching the very subject as I sit in a quiet room on my own (prepared to write a hands-on article no less), I feel a little more at ease with my ‘wolves’, and also strangely a bit more fulfilled too. Granted, you may draw more or less the same conclusions by reading the original children’s book by Neil Gaiman and Dave McKean, but for a 30-something guy with no kids (and consequently no interest in owning or buying children’s books), Wolves in the Walls easily fits into one of the best VR experiences I’ve had to date. Wading past the artifice that’s inherent in the current generation of VR devices, there’s definitely a kernel of something here that I won’t soon forget.

You can download all three chapters of Wolves in the Walls for free on the Rift platform here.

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‘Beat Saber’ Gets New ‘Rocket League’ Monstercat Music Pack DLC https://www.roadtovr.com/beat-saber-rocket-league-monstercat-music-pack/ https://www.roadtovr.com/beat-saber-rocket-league-monstercat-music-pack/#comments Thu, 07 Nov 2019 15:59:44 +0000 https://www.roadtovr.com/?p=91863
Beat Games, the Czech Republic-based studio behind Beat Saber (2018), is again making good on their promise to keep the fresh music flowing to their block-slashing VR rhythm game. Starting today, you’ll be able to download the newest paid DLC pack featuring some of the catchiest tunes to find their way into Rocket League (2015). […]

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Beat Games, the Czech Republic-based studio behind Beat Saber (2018), is again making good on their promise to keep the fresh music flowing to their block-slashing VR rhythm game. Starting today, you’ll be able to download the newest paid DLC pack featuring some of the catchiest tunes to find their way into Rocket League (2015).

The game’s newest music pack contains six songs you may recognize from the popular vehicular soccer game, provided by Monstercat, long-time music partners of both Rocket League and Beat Saber.

To go along with the tracks, the music pack is also adding a new beat-slashing environment inspired by Rocket League, which features goalposts flanked by a pair of rocket-powered cars.

Here’s the track list below:

Selling for $9, you’ll find the Rocket League x Monstercat music pack on Steam (Vive, Rift, Index, Windows VR), the Oculus Store (Rift, Quest), and the PlayStation Store (PSVR).

In a bit of a weird crossover, Rocket League also now features two new Beat Saber-themed customization items—a beat-block Topper and Boost animation—letting you show off your love for the VR game.

This brings the game’s paid DLC music packs to a total of four, including music packs from Panic at the Disco!Imagine Dragons, and Monstercat Music Pack Vol. 1.

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Puzzle Adventure ‘Last Labyrinth’ to Launch on All Major VR Headsets Next Week https://www.roadtovr.com/last-labyrinth-launch-date-psvr-rift-steam-quest/ https://www.roadtovr.com/last-labyrinth-launch-date-psvr-rift-steam-quest/#comments Thu, 07 Nov 2019 10:38:29 +0000 https://www.roadtovr.com/?p=91853
Last Labyrinth, an escape room-style adventure game from Japan-based studio Amata K.K., is making its debut across a variety of VR platforms soon, arriving on PC VR headsets, PSVR, and Quest next week. Last Labyrinth is slated to release on November 13th, coming to Steam (Vive, Rift, Index, Windows VR), the Oculus Store (Quest, Rift), and the PlayStation Store (PSVR), […]

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Last Labyrinth, an escape room-style adventure game from Japan-based studio Amata K.K., is making its debut across a variety of VR platforms soon, arriving on PC VR headsets, PSVR, and Quest next week.

Last Labyrinth is slated to release on November 13th, coming to Steam (Vive, Rift, Index, Windows VR), the Oculus Store (Quest, Rift), and the PlayStation Store (PSVR), priced at $40. A release is also planned for PC VR headsets via the Microsoft Store, however its launch has been delayed due to unspecified reasons.

Set in a mysterious mansion, the single-player game tasks you with solving increasingly difficult puzzles to hopefully make your way out. Sound pretty standard, right? Not quite.

Unlike other escape room-style VR games, you’ve been physically chained to a wheel chair, which only allows you to look around and move your fingers to hit a single switch resting in your hand.

Image courtesy Amata K.K.

Strangely enough, whatever malevolent force bound you to the old-timey wheel chair has also attached a laser pointer to your head. When you press the switch, the laser pointer turns on, letting you direct Katia, the young girl in the trailer, so she can do the legwork (so to speak).

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What hasn’t been explained thus far is why Katia is helping you to escape, and why the masked phantom character is terrorizing you both.

As the result of a successful Kickstarter earlier this year, Last Labyrinth has been created by industry veterans whose previous works include titles such as ICO, The Last Guardian, Shadow of the Colossus, Puppeteer, and the Doko Demo Issyo series.

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“Massive Update” Coming to ‘Until You Fall’ Next Week With New Enemies, Weapons, & Environments https://www.roadtovr.com/massive-update-fall-set-november-14th/ https://www.roadtovr.com/massive-update-fall-set-november-14th/#comments Thu, 07 Nov 2019 09:35:39 +0000 https://www.roadtovr.com/?p=91849
Until You Fall, the hack-and-slash VR rogue-lite from Schell Games, is soon to get a “massive” update which will expand the game into a new environment, bringing new enemies, encounters, and weapons. Until You Fall launched in early access at the end of August. In our early access review we gave the game high praise for […]

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Until You Fall, the hack-and-slash VR rogue-lite from Schell Games, is soon to get a “massive” update which will expand the game into a new environment, bringing new enemies, encounters, and weapons.

Until You Fall launched in early access at the end of August. In our early access review we gave the game high praise for its deep combat which weaves sword fighting fitness and strategy in a uniquely compelling way.

The game has seen a few updates since launch, but what is likely the largest update yet the early access phase is set to release on November 14th. Schell Games announced on its blog this week that the upcoming update will add the final segment of the ‘Shattered Woods’ campaign which will see players battle their way through a new Industrial Outskirts environment and ultimately reach the final encounter with the Aether Horror boss.

Along the way players will find two new enemies, the Empowered Captain and Empowered Spellweaver, enhanced versions of the lesser enemies of the same type which are seen earlier in the campaign.

Until You Fall concept art | Image courtesy Schell Games

In Until You Fall you have just one life to make it to the end and defeat the Aether Horror, lest you get defeated only to rise and try again from the start. Those who beat the final boss are promised to be rewarded with ‘Twin Katars’, a pair of “unique punching daggers” which can be used together or mixed with the game’s other weapons.

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The update will also bring a handful of gameplay tweaks including “dodging improvements, stabbing improve­ments, dash damage balance updates, as well as seated mode range adjust­ments to make the game more comfort­able to play. Quality of life improve­ments will also be added, including better Augment rewards when defeating bosses.”

The update will of course be free, and hit all platforms on November 14th. Until You Fall is now available on Steam (Index, Vive, Rift) and Oculus (Rift).

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‘Echo Arena’ Quest Release Delayed to 2020 https://www.roadtovr.com/echo-vr-quest-update-echo-arena/ https://www.roadtovr.com/echo-vr-quest-update-echo-arena/#comments Thu, 07 Nov 2019 04:19:03 +0000 https://www.roadtovr.com/?p=91054
‘Echo Arena’, the popular zero-G arena mini-game that’s part of Echo VR, was set to launch on Quest this year but has been delayed into 2020. Update (November 6th, 2019): In a short announcement on the official Echo VR blog today, developer Ready at Dawn announced that ‘Echo Arena’ won’t launch on Quest until 2020: To release […]

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‘Echo Arena’, the popular zero-G arena mini-game that’s part of Echo VR, was set to launch on Quest this year but has been delayed into 2020.

Update (November 6th, 2019): In a short announcement on the official Echo VR blog today, developer Ready at Dawn announced that ‘Echo Arena’ won’t launch on Quest until 2020:

To release the highest quality game possible, we’ve decided to delay Echo Arena’s launch on Quest until 2020. We’re excited to bring Echo Arena, and all of its zero-g glory, to Quest soon! Thank you all for your patience and continued support.

This follows Lone Echo II which was also delayed from 2019 to Q1 2020.

The original article continues below, updated with the delayed release date.

Original Article (October 4th, 2019): The latest version of Echo VR, patch 25.0, launched this week and brought with it a number of enhancements ahead of the game’s Quest release. Perhaps the biggest is that ‘Echo Arena’, the zero-G ultimate frisbee game, is getting AI opponents so that for the first time players can play against (or with) computer-controlled players. Users will be able to queue up AI matches at the matchmaking podium. You’ll be able to join with friends to play against AI too, and choose between three levels of difficulty. Players will earn the usual experience and rewards from AI matches though at a slightly reduced rate.

In addition to AI opponents, the update also adds an enhanced ‘New Player Experience’ which tutorializes the game (especially useful for upcoming Quest players who won’t have the benefit of learning how everything works from Echo VR’s sibling single player title Lone Echo). The new player experience will show players the basics like how to use the arm-computer and how to queue up for a match. It’ll also run them through a practice ‘Echo Arena’ match that must be completed before they can dive into public matches.

The update also brings a host of optimizations to the game. Developer Ready at Dawn says that while these optimizations were intended to help the game run on Quest, some have also carried into the Rift version for improved performance.

Echo VR Cross-platform Multiplayer Confirmed

This was expected, but now it has been explicitly confirmed: Quest and Rift players of Echo VR will share the same lobby space and be able to queue for ‘Echo Arena’ matches together. Unfortunately it seems like ‘Echo Combat’ will remain Rift-only.

It’s great to know that players will share the same lobby no matter if they are on Quest or Rift because floating around and playing with the various toys and activities in the lobby is half the fun.

Echo VR Quest Release Date and Price

The Echo VR release date for Quest is delayed to 2020, but a specific release date hasn’t been specified. However, Oculus has confirmed the game will be free on Quest just like on Rift.

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‘Angry Birds VR: Isle of Pigs’ to Get ‘Super Mario Maker’ Style Level Builder Soon https://www.roadtovr.com/angry-birds-vr-level-builder/ https://www.roadtovr.com/angry-birds-vr-level-builder/#comments Wed, 06 Nov 2019 16:28:04 +0000 https://www.roadtovr.com/?p=91837
Resolution Games released Angry Birds VR: Isle of Pigs (2019) earlier this year on every major VR platform, bringing the iconic mobile puzzler into the third dimension to pretty awesome effect. Now, the studio announced that there’s a custom level builder in the works that should arrive soon. Resolution Games says the level builder for Angry […]

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Resolution Games released Angry Birds VR: Isle of Pigs (2019) earlier this year on every major VR platform, bringing the iconic mobile puzzler into the third dimension to pretty awesome effect. Now, the studio announced that there’s a custom level builder in the works that should arrive soon.

Resolution Games says the level builder for Angry Birds VR: Isle of Pigs is slated to arrive soon, targeting release during Holiday Season 2019.

By the looks of the trailer (linked below), you’ll have access to a number of basic pieces as well as the full cast of baddies to knock over, and a custom lineup of bird-pals to fling out of your trusty sling shot.

The level builder is said to launch as a local-only sandbox, however the studio is slated to release online functionality in 2020 which will let you share your levels with the community and compete for most difficult, highest scoring, most creative and “any number of variations,” the studio says in a Steam news update.

We were pretty impressed with Angry Birds VR when it initially launched on PC VR headsets back in February, giving it a commendable [8.5/10] in our review for its intuitive shooting mechanic, awesome graphics, and well-crafted 3D puzzles.

It’s since come to PSVR and Quest too. You’ll find Angry Birds VR: Isle of Pigs on Steam (Vive, Rift, Windows VR), Viveport (Vive, Rift, Windows VR), the Oculus Store (Rift, Quest), and the PlayStation Store (PSVR).

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Black Friday Sale Brings PlayStation VR + 5 Game Bundle to $200 https://www.roadtovr.com/psvr-black-friday-2019-cyber-monday-sale/ https://www.roadtovr.com/psvr-black-friday-2019-cyber-monday-sale/#comments Wed, 06 Nov 2019 15:13:07 +0000 https://www.roadtovr.com/?p=91829
Still haven’t pulled the plug on getting that PSVR headset for your PlayStation 4? So far this may be the best deal for PlayStation VR we’ve seen yet. We first saw the deal for a PSVR bundle + five games for $200 at Target as a part of their Black Friday ‘Door Buster’ sale. The sale […]

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Still haven’t pulled the plug on getting that PSVR headset for your PlayStation 4? So far this may be the best deal for PlayStation VR we’ve seen yet.

We first saw the deal for a PSVR bundle + five games for $200 at Target as a part of their Black Friday ‘Door Buster’ sale. The sale will most likely find its way to other big box stores and online stores too in due time, as Sony tends to keep its Black Friday pricing pretty even across the board.

Here’s what’s in the box:

  • PSVR headset – includes all necessary cables
  • PlayStation Camera – required for PSVR headset tracking
  • Five VR games: Astrobot Rescue Mission, Resident Evil 7 biohazard, Skyrim VR, PlayStation Worlds, Everybody’s Golf VR

Notably missing in the bundle is the PS Move controllers, which although not required to play the games above, is compatible in all except Resident Evil 7 biohazard. 

Of course, you’ll also need some flavor of PS4 to play, which includes all PS4 models such as the original PS4, PS4 Slim, and PS4 Pro.

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The ad is also advertising $100 off all PSVR bundles in its sale, which includes a PSVR hardware pack featuring PSVR + PS Move & Camera + Blood & Truth (2019) and Everybody’s Golf VR (2019) for a regular MSRP of $350, and another pack with PSVR + PS Camera (no Move) + Five Nights and Freddy’s VR (2019) and Trover Saves the Universe (2019) for a regular MSRP of $300.

We’ll be gathering more links for the best in PSVR deals this Black Friday and Cyber Monday as they roll out, so make sure to check this page soon.

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HTC is Now Selling Certified Pre-owned Vive Systems for $400 https://www.roadtovr.com/htc-now-selling-certified-pre-owned-vive-systems-400/ https://www.roadtovr.com/htc-now-selling-certified-pre-owned-vive-systems-400/#comments Wed, 06 Nov 2019 14:12:40 +0000 https://www.roadtovr.com/?p=91826
HTC has been widely out of stock of the 2016-era Vive basically since the entrance of Vive Cosmos last month, the $700 successor to its consumer-focused PC VR product segment. If you still have your heart set on getting a whole Vive system though, replete with SteamVR 1.0 basestations and Vive wand controllers, HTC is now […]

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HTC has been widely out of stock of the 2016-era Vive basically since the entrance of Vive Cosmos last month, the $700 successor to its consumer-focused PC VR product segment. If you still have your heart set on getting a whole Vive system though, replete with SteamVR 1.0 basestations and Vive wand controllers, HTC is now ready to sell you a reconditioned system for $400.

The company says its certified pre-owned Vive systems have been “carefully tested by HTC to ensure all features and functions work properly. They have been inspected to ensure they have little to no cosmetic damage and may contain used components and refurbished parts.”

The company is also selling some of the certified pre-owned accessories on their own now too, including single wand controllers for $112 ($130 new) and single SteamVR 1.0 basestations for $115 ($135 new).

Image courtesy HTC

With prices like that, you’d be better off buying the whole $400 package, which includes the Vive headset, two SteamVR 1.0 wand controllers, two SteamVR 1.0 basestations, and all of the necessary cabling to get you up and running to play games and experiences sourced from Steam or Viveport, HTC’s own digital distribution platform.

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The original Vive was last selling for $500 new, now bringing the used option to the same price-point as a new $400 Rift S, which admittedly comes with a higher resolution display, inside-out tracking, better controllers, built-in audio, and more advanced headset ergonomics. And that’s without the Black Friday deal Lenovo is advertising, bringing Rift S to an even cheaper $350. Although if you’re looking for the lowest barrier of entry into the SteamVR tracking ecosystem, $400 is thus far the lowest we’ve ever seen it go.

On the whole, it’s a wonder HTC isn’t practically giving away the now dated controllers and tracking basestations, however considering Vive Cosmos is soon to include its own modular SteamVR-compatible tracking faceplate which swaps its inside-out tracking for the more precise (albeit more finicky to setup) SteamVR tracking standard, they may be saving their stock-flushing package deals for a later date.

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