Ben Lang goes hands-on and shares his impressions of Oculus’ new tech demo were using to to showcase their new VR Headset, the Development Kit 2 – Couch Knights.

Comfortable VR

Oculus has moved away from the types of experience they were showing at GDC one year ago, namely experiences that had players drifting around in cars or stomping around in mechs. While those experiences we good for a visceral ‘wow I’m in VR!’ reaction, over the last year, Oculus has come to find that they don’t make for good experiences in the long term with regards to nausea.

At GDC 2014 they’ve been talking to devs about how nailing the Rift integration is extremely important to creating great VR experiences and they have been constantly pointing people to their Best Practices document for guidance on creating comfortable VR experiences.

Couch Knights, a demo made by Epic in conjunction with Oculus, is an incredibly comfortable experience and shows exactly the kind of game that Oculus things is best suited for VR. The game, which is played with two players, has each person sitting on a virtual couch in a virtual room. If you look to your left, you can see the opposing player’s avatar. As that player looks around the scene, you can see their avatar turn and move, mirroring what they are doing in real life.

The actual game part of the demo is that each player is controlling little cartoonist knights that run and jump around the environment. The knights can attack one another with their sword, or shoot fireballs. Having the knights battle is the name of the game, but going and attacking the other player’s avatar is equally fun. You can have your knight jump right into their lap and watch as the opposing player glances down at them (and probably bring their knight over for the kill!).

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The demo seems to have been generally well received, with many who played commenting on the feeling of presence being intruded on by the conflicting position of their counterpart’s position in the game and in the real world. Leaning in and peering into your avatar’s slightly dead eyes also provided a slightly eerie edge to the experience.

It’ll be interesting to see which creative direction Oculus head next with the inevitable E3 demo. It could be however that once the expo rolls around in June, Oculus VR‘s hard work re-animating and building the VR games development community, that we’ll begin to see ‘proper’ games able to showcase VR sufficiently to be used in place of these tech demos. In either case, we’ll be there to find out.

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Based in the UK, Paul has been immersed in interactive entertainment for the best part of 27 years and has followed advances in gaming with a passionate fervour. His obsession with graphical fidelity over the years has had him branded a ‘graphics whore’ (which he views as the highest compliment) more than once and he holds a particular candle for the dream of the ultimate immersive gaming experience. Having followed and been disappointed by the original VR explosion of the 90s, he then founded to follow the new and exciting prospect of the rebirth of VR in products like the Oculus Rift. Paul joined forces with Ben to help build the new Road to VR in preparation for what he sees as VR’s coming of age over the next few years.
  • stormy3000

    I just signed up for the Unreal Engine 4 monthly subscription and have seen you can get Couch Knights the code and models for free to look at how they built it… I’ll take a look at it once I’m a LOT more up to speed on how to use the engine.