Survios, formerly Project Holodeck, continues to work to create a fully immersive virtual reality environment. I got my hands on their latest prototype hardware, dubbed the Prime 3, to slay Zombies on the Holodeck once again.

The last time I was in Survios’ hardware was more than a year ago, before Zombies on the Holodeck even existed. Survios told me the system I used back then was Holodeck 0. Since that time, Survios has progress through Holodeck 1, Holodeck 2, Prime 1, Prime 2, and now the current prototype, Prime 3. Quite a while ago they released the Zombies on the Holodeck demo for Oculus Rift + Razer Hydra, but I hadn’t played it using Survios’ full untethered system, nor the latest build, until now.

survios-virtual-realityThe Prime 3 prototype uses an Oculus Rift HD prototype, Razer Hydra, and PlayStation Move. Housed in a backpack is a tiny computer which powers the entire experience. I was completely surprised to find that there is no dedicated GPU in the backpack—everything I saw with Prime 3 ran directly on an Intel GPU with integrated Iris 5200 graphics, and did so with no performance issues.

The Prime 3 prototype provides an untethered VR experience with an 8ft. x 8ft. playing area. If you start to near the edge of your real-world gameplay area, you see a faint virtual fence fade in to let you know that you shouldn’t walk any further.

Survios has been working on hard to find out what kind of user experience works best in VR. Before jumping into the latest build of Zombies on the Holodeck, I found myself in a holodeck loading area with a floating carousel of game covers surrounding me. I could reach out to grab the carousel and give it a spin to see all the available games. To play a game, there’s a big Play button that you reach out to press to load the selected title.

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Before killing zombies I visited the virtual shooting range where I was versed in using dual pistols, tommy guns, rifles, shotguns, grenades, and even a bow and arrow. Once I demonstrated my prowess with each, the Survios team loaded me into Zombies on the Holodeck, which has been hugely improved since the experience released for the Oculus Rift and Razer Hydra.

In Zombies on the Holodeck, your only goal is to survive the incoming horde of zombies. There’s a table of weapons before you. Holstered on your sides are two pistols; on your chest is a grenade; on your back, an axe. Physically interacting with the weapons is one of my favorite parts of this experience. You feel like a total badass as you whip out your pistols to fire on a zombie, then quickly spinning and grabbing your axe in one fluid motion to hack apart another as it approaches from behind.

Natural motion interactions add to VR immersion greatly. Instead of learning new button combinations for every game, such motion input allows you to be immediately familiar with how to interact in a game world because its based on what we already know about interacting with the real world. Want to pick something up? Just grab it. Want to throw a grenade? Just throw it.

At one point while playing, I was wielding the shotgun with two hands, with the table of weapons was on my right side. Several zombies were approaching and I needed a bit more fire power. I dropped the shotgun, reached over with my right hand to grab the tommy gun off the table, then virtually tossed it from my right hand to my left hand (because I’m a lefty), then pulled my pistol out of the holster with my right hand and continued to shoot both weapons. I didn’t even know if the game supported a complex interaction like that, but I just did it anyway because that’s what felt natural to do in the given situation—and it worked. No button combos, no abstract dual wielding control scheme. This is the promise of natural VR input.

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survios-vrOn that theme, I’ve been bugging the Survios team to take things even further with their weapon interactions. Pumping the shotgun is universally fun. Realistic reloading, where you have to drop out your clip and insert a new one, add to immersion and gameplay.

In fact, an older build of Zombies on the Holodeck included that feature and it was a blast. Instead of scripted moments, where your character might fumble with a clip as they get caught off guard by a zombie, real interactions like this allow for real moments where a zombie might sneak up behind you while you’re desperately fumbling to reload. These moments are visceral and spontaneous because they’re actually happening, as opposed to being artificially created. Survios tells me they’re trying to strike a balance between usability and realism in this sense, but it’s definitely something they’re aware of.

By the end of my time killing zombies, I really just wanted to keep playing. There’s certainly room for improvement in latency, tracking accuracy, gameplay, etc, but Survios is onto something very special. The bottom line is that I had an absolute blast killing zombies, and I can’t wait to do it again.

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Ben is the world's most senior professional analyst solely dedicated to the XR industry, having founded Road to VR in 2011—a year before the Oculus Kickstarter sparked a resurgence that led to the modern XR landscape. He has authored more than 3,000 articles chronicling the evolution of the XR industry over more than a decade. With that unique perspective, Ben has been consistently recognized as one of the most influential voices in XR, giving keynotes and joining panel and podcast discussions at key industry events. He is a self-described "journalist and analyst, not evangelist."
  • Alkapwn

    I really like the notion of dynamic real world/real-time reloads. I could see it working like this:

    Ammo clips on your waist or chest or wherever. If using a handgun you press a button on the gun controller that drops the clip, while at the same time reaching to your waist, pressing a button on the free hand to pick up the clip and then bring it up to the gun just as the other clip is falling out, like this:

    This would really make gameplay in FPS games all about skill and timing. Same would work for an assault rifle too. Non-shooting hand reaches up for clip, presses a button to grab it, pull it out, drop it, and then reach to waist to grab another clip and slam it in. The panic of doing this real-time while being attacked by zombies would be insanely cool!

    • Alkapwn

      Just thought of something else that would be an amazing gameplay mechanic.

      One handed handgun shooting having a lot of recoil and not being completely accurate. But if you hold your other hand under your wrist and it senses that the two controllers are now close together and are then moving in close unison it would make the gun more accurate and reduce the recoil greatly. This would be really cool with something like Tactical Haptics too, where it would adjust the level of feedback to signify that you’re bracing the weapon properly and reducing recoil.

  • deadering

    Man I was worried the Zombies on the Holodeck bit was shelved when the new demo never came out. Glad to not only it “alive” and well but looking so far beyond what it was!

    Is there any news on a new public demo anytime soon? Really hope to try it with Omni, STEM, and DK2 when they arrive!

  • ElectroPulse

    I SO want this demo released! Literally 20 minutes ago I finished an hour-long session of the older, released version of Zombies on the Holodeck. So freakin awesome! I’m wanting to set up a system like theirs (all I would need is the PS Move and Eye, as far as I know), but I don’t know that content is really available for that kind of setup unless you DIY.