IndieCade is an annual gaming festival in Culver City, California which attracts hundreds of game enthusiasts from all over the world. This year, Oculus VR strolled in with a custom chromed-out virtual reality filled trailer that dazzled the attendees throughout the event.
It was organized with the help of Freddie Georges Production Group who created the VR booth that was seen at the E3 conference a few months back.
The outside ground was laid with artificial turf, picket white fences, lawn chairs, tables, magazines, and plastic flamingos which gave the booth a nice household-type feel to it. There was even a tiny little garden gnome near the entrance of the trailer.
The wagon itself was powered by heavy-duty gas generators that fed electricity through the wires into the four DK2’s headsets and optical tracking cameras inside.After everything was set up, the gamers of IndieCade began lining up ready to try out the virtual reality experiences inside.
As people proceeded to the front of the line, they were given a “health & safety” form to sign. Those who were below 18 years of age needed a parent’s signature of approval and all individuals 13 year-olds or younger were not allowed to try the demos due to safety concerns. Personal ID’s were even checked to make sure that all the people there were exactly who they said they were.
Once the forms were given back, the attendees were led inside by the friendly Oculus team. Groups of four cycled through the trailer throughout the four days of IndieCade. Those who sat inside played Vanguard V, a 3rd person arcade action game.
While people tested out the virtual reality experiences within the airstream trailer, others were waiting anxiously outside to give the Samsung Gear VR a go. The headset was powered by Samsung’s Galaxy Note 4, and the game demoed during the weekend was an in-house experience developed by Oculus called VR Quest. This ‘Zelda esque’ dungeon crawler was played with a handheld gaming controller made by Samsung.
VR Quest is a simple game where the player runs around slashing boxes and fighting enemies looking for power-ups and hidden gems. Players can change weapons, jump around, and change perspectives through a combination of the head-tracking Gear VR headset and the buttons/joysticks of the Samsung controller. A navigator map is placed within view so that the gamer can always see which directions they can travel. Different levels can be explored, and there is lots of fire to avoid.
Reactions coming out of the Oculus trailer were mixed. An Unreal developer named Waqas Hussain stated that the experience boiled down to two areas. One was the content and the other was the hardware.
“Hardware-wise, the Samsung one was a lot more comfortable to wear,” he said. As far the games though, he felt that Vanguard V “was a better use of the technology with VR being able to control the experience with head movements.” To him, this felt more natural than using the handheld Samsung controller that was being paired with the Gear VR headset.
On the flip side, Don Thacker, a filmmaker and game developer, thought that the Oculus demos were sub par. He started out by saying that he thought that “Oculus is amazing,” but was curious to know why they chose these specific demos. When asked about the trailer, he mentioned that he “walked in expecting to see something to justify the awesome outside” and was disappointed with the plain, stripped away environment inside. “Overall it was kind of shoddy and the game experience was too abstract to introduce somebody new to VR to,” he said.
Another developer named Aaron Daly expressed a different opinion and said that he “liked the game choice they did. It was a very ‘non-controller’ game, and you could see how Oculus could substitute as a controller.” He went on further to say that the booth “had a lot of candy!” which was a nice addition to the experience. However, Aaron depicted that “the people there weren’t too knowledgeable.” This statement lined up with something that Don mentioned earlier where he said that the person that sat him down “didn’t know what the hell she was talking about. She kind of jump dropped the headset on my face and didn’t say anything and just walked away.”
Despite the mixed reviews on the experience, the Oculus team was tasked with delivering pleasurable experiences to the hundreds of gamers who ventured through their trailer which is perhaps one of the smallest ‘booth’ spaces they’ve yet worked with. However, not only did they provide people with fun VR games, but they created a fantastic setting that stood out from the rest of the booths at IndieCade.
It was clear that the team was trying their best to make virtual reality seem ‘hip’ and interesting, and they did a good job at it (for the most part). Now we’re left wondering if they’ll be taking their shiny new trailer on a VR road trip.