There were few booths at Gamescom this year more hotly contended than Oculus VR’s. This year, they had multiple 1080p HD prototype units available for the gaming public to experience. Here’s a video compilation of reactions from those leaving the stand.
Apologies for the audio quality in some of this video, not only am I extremely new to this but the recording environment was challenging to say the least.
You couldn’t miss it. At the entrance to one of the larger public halls at the Kolnmesse convention centre, teeming with all manner of grungy gaming life (and a fair selection of grungy people), the Oculus stand gleamed like a beacon. All shiny white and blue neon it brought to mind some of the cleaner rooms found in Aperture Science’s laboratories.
The stand was, this year, designed for one purpose only, getting the Rift onto as many faces as possible in the short 4 day Window Gamescom afforded. Open plan, it housed 6 cleverly constructed demo ‘alters’ allowing a total of 16 simultaneous players to sample the delights on offer. It’s just as well too as, even on the first day which is primarily for press and trade visitors, people flocked to the booth and queues formed. By the second day (the first open to the general public) the queues filled the gap between the booth and the entrance twice.
Those who were willing to wait were rewarded with a shiny, new (when I say new, I mean constructed within the last 10 days) Oculus Rift HD Prototypes each containing a 5.5″ 1080p panel. The units were an amalgam of old Dev Kit optics, retractable assembly and head band plus the new panel – powered by USB. The new units felt lighter looked slicker, hand-crafted as they were by dedicated Oculus employees over the previous 2 weeks.
Joe Chen and Matt Ford (plus helpers) were on hand to oversee the ordered chaos and were buzzing with enthusiasm (and I suspect no small amount of Red Bull) – the entire booth felt like an exciting and fresh place to be.
People’s Reactions ..
This is Germany of course, and despite the number of English speakers putting my German to shame, it wasn’t always easy to get someone to express clearly what they felt about their experience with the Rift. The select of people that did share their feelings though were interesting on a couple of counts. 1) Not one of them experienced Nausea / Sickness after using the Oculus Rift, even after multiple turns. 2) Resolution and FOV was pinpointed as an area of concern despite the new panel’s comparative pixel prowess – even from ‘VR Newbies’ such as these. 3) Not one of them mentioned motion blur as an issue with this new prototype.
The above factors can of course be attributed to a few things. Oculus have clearly honed their demo experience to minimise the onset of nausea, picking demos that use seated avatars and a single point of reference (cockpit of a car or mech) will ease the uninitiated a little more smoothly than throwing them into the corridors of Half Life 2 for example. Also, the software is now further into development (albeit iRacing’s support is still in beta) but supporting middleware / APIs such as the Unreal Engine and of course the Oculus SDK have come a long way since the days of GDC in 2012, when Ben Lang performed a similar exercise.
Whatever the reasons, opinion was generally positive and in some cases ecstatic. Also, it seems that Oculus’ dogged target price for the consumer model of ‘around $300’ meets with people’s expectations and desire for the devices.
It’s been great watching Oculus grow in both renown and expertise over the last 12 months – their booth this year reflects a company that’s confident and bullish about it’s technology. Furthermore, it’s employees believe absolutely in the company’s aim to produce the best possible Virtual Reality headset possible. I look forward to Gamescom 2014 to see what they can do in the next 12 months.