What puts the ‘E’ in E-sports? VR may have something to say about the notion that ‘electronic’ sports can’t be physical, and could even further legitimize the growing field.

Anyone remember Sports Champions (2010)? Essentially Wii Sports (2006) for PS3 using PlayStation Move, it featured a table tennis mode that remains, to my eyes, the greatest motion-control game ever published. It was the closest anyone had come to the dream of a ‘1-to-1’ sports game. In reality of course, you were just seeing the paddle on your TV, and there was plenty of assistance with each hit, even on the hardest difficulty. VR motion control changes all that. With a VR headset and controllers like Oculus Touch, your hands aren’t abstracted on a TV in front of you, they’re in your vision, placed exactly where you expect them to be. Sports Champions seems archaic in comparison.

Project Arena, a work in progress title from CCP Games, is built for VR and motion controls from the ground up. The game pits two players opposing each other in a Tron-like environment. Each player has a disc in one hand and a shield in the other; the goal is to throw the disc and get it to strike the opponent without being blocked. I first went hands-on with Project Arena back in April.

As you bring your body into the game, input becomes more human. If you want to swing a bat, you don’t do it with the press of the button, you simply swing your arms in the same way that you would swing a bat in real life! This opens the door not only to factoring our real-world skills into the game, but also our physical ability.

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Speaking with Project Arena Architect Programmer Adam Kraver, I learned how CCP is incorporating elements of spectatorship and physicality into the game, and how physical ability can be a major factor in match outcomes, much like we see in the world of traditional sports.

This is only starting to become practical through improved consumer tracking technology. A prototype of Project Arena shown last year was a very different beast. At the time the prototype used a VR headset combined with a Microsoft Kinect for tracking.

“[Improved input] has changed the concept in some ways,” Kraver explained. “Specifically, with the tracked controllers, we have a lot more fidelity in motion for the hands. With the Kinect experience, you couldn’t turn your hand over, or accurately show that you were holding something; it was just this ghostly image. But with the controllers, you really get the sense of precision where you think ‘I can really get good at throwing this disc or hitting this specific spot’.”

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Improving form and skill through practice is essential to any sport, and after a few rounds of Project Arena, I came away confident of its depth. It was clear how much more proficient I had become in a short space of time, and yet there was much more nuance in the technique left to master.

“We actually have a Pro mode for [Brawl mode] too,” Kraver revealed. “This takes the buckler [small shield] away entirely, so when you throw your disc, you have zero defense, and the game becomes a lot more strategic and you really have to concentrate on your timing and how your opponent is moving.”

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Much like a traditional sport, high-level can be physically demanding.

“…it’s got the rules and the structure of a good sports game. And the way you get better at it is by getting better physically,” Kraver told me. “I had this amazing moment last year when I was playing with Callum [Underwood] from Oculus. He loved the original [Project Arena prototype] and played the hell out of it. He said ‘right I’m gonna kick your ass’ and as I built the original prototype I was like ‘whatever!’ So we get in there and we’re going at it, four or five discs at a time, and then I started getting exhausted. I ended up losing because he had more physical endurance than me, and that was a profound moment. I had actually lost because of my low energy reserves; I wasn’t thinking as fast and my game just crumbled! It makes you think ‘I’ve got to keep playing this’—I get up in the morning and wish this thing was out there because I would make this part of my morning routine. Get in, play 5 rounds of top-tier Brawl mode, come out with heavy breathing and a sweat, ready to get on with my day! So that’s why we view it as this true E-sport where physical proficiency makes a difference.”

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The trial version of Microsoft’s Monster Truck Madness probably had something to do with it. And certainly the original Super Mario Kart and Gran Turismo. A car nut from an early age, Dominic was always drawn to racing games above all other genres. Now a seasoned driving simulation enthusiast, and former editor of Sim Racer magazine, Dominic has followed virtual reality developments with keen interest, as cockpit-based simulation is a perfect match for the technology. Conditions could hardly be more ideal, a scientist once said. Writing about simulators lead him to Road to VR, whose broad coverage of the industry revealed the bigger picture and limitless potential of the medium. Passionate about technology and a lifelong PC gamer, Dominic suffers from the ‘tweak for days’ PC gaming condition, where he plays the same section over and over at every possible combination of visual settings to find the right balance between fidelity and performance. Based within The Fens of Lincolnshire (it’s very flat), Dominic can sometimes be found marvelling at the real world’s ‘draw distance’, wishing virtual technologies would catch up.
  • Graham J ⭐️

    Of course you need room scale tracking too; can’t wait to try this with the Vive!

  • Rick

    It amazes me how few people know that the Oculus has whole room tracking as well. Even with one sensor. It just doesn’t have the chaperon system.

    • Brad

      It also has a shorter cable, so you can’t move as far, and there’s no breakout box, so if you move too far too fast, you could break your Rift or your computer. Or both. Not ideal.

      • Rick

        14 foot cable is long enough for me? and people have had good luck extending it if you need longer. As I said it doesn’t have the Chaperon system, but that can easily be added with software when the touch launches.

        • NoZart

          or one just uses a floormat. some problems don’t even need high tech solutions ;)

          • Rick

            Haha very true! That’s what I’m going to do, I’ve just been to procrastinating

          • gemiinii

            Trust me, when you’re being surrounded by and shooting zombies, you will lose track of your floormat.

      • NoZart

        extension cables work. plus they actually introduce a “security” feature, when you rip on it, it just disconnects.

      • Starman3482

        I can see after owning both that the Oculus is really not set up for room scale, with the 5×11 foot limit and the obvious fact your not seeing too much talk or development on the Touch controllers I think it’s safe to bet that it’s going to be more of a standing and dodging type of experience and not walking around your room.

        After playing both systems for a week they really are two different beasts with totally different offerings.

        Playing the Oculus is amazing, playing the Vive is like tasting the future or actually being in Ready Player One.

        I also want to note that the Oculus has slim skinny padding that I don’t for the life of me understand how one could sweat in it, for you Oculus guys we work up quite a sweat in our Vives but it has much healthier face padding.

      • Roger Anthony Essig

        75 cm shorter than vive pre. It has a lighter cable than vives solution, so its preferable to walk around without the cable pulling on the hmd

    • PianoMan

      True. However, it’s not as accurate or as developed as the HTC Vive. Plus it’s not designed to be used that way. Touch will only make for a lesser experience in room scale compared to what Vive has now.

      • Rick

        You know this how? I’m not trying to be rude, I’m honestly curious. With my rift I can walk all around my room and be tracked, there’s only a slight drift in tracking (15 cm maybe) when you’re at about 13 ft, but that’s only with one camera sitting on my desk. With multiple I don’t see this being a problem

        • PianoMan

          I have both. Prefer the Vive. The OR is good for seated – driving games, Elite and watching movies. As experiences in terms of VR, I would say the Vive is more involving and you get a real sense of space and scale.

          • Rick

            I just don’t see your point if they both track accurately, I’m not hating on the vive, it’s awesome, but the OR capabilities can match the tracking, and the rest is up to software (which vive currently has over the rift because of the current focus). The remainder is your preference in controller and comfort for you. I liked the rifts touch controllers so that’s why I went with it.

          • PianoMan

            I’ve not tried the touch controllers. OR doesn’t have as good as tracking as the Vive, no where near as accurate. That may improve with more hardware. For me, right now, the Vive is more what I hoped VR would be. The OR, is great for seated and for me far more comfortable.

          • Rick

            Oh I agree with you, my point is that in its current state its focused on seated and it still tracks about 70% as well as the vive with only 1 camera, with the additional camera the touch brings I think that will easily bring the tracking up to par with the vive, or aleast close enough that only people with > 16×16 rooms will notice :-)

          • FRIdSUN

            Unfortunately the tracking precision doesn’t simply add up. It is unclear how the OR sensors work in principle, but the Vive sensors are smart engineering for room scale tracking and scaling up with numbers, and it would be impressive to beat that.

          • NoZart

            so the tracking on the Rift is worse than on a DK2? because within it’s designated space, tracking is spotless on the dk2 for me. I had some problems setting up the vive though, because of a glass table and some picture frames….

          • Rick

            No CV1 tracks much better than the dk2, I have one as well. I’m talking about your whole room and when you’re 10+ feet back . But no the cameras are much better, they’re fov for tracking feels like > 170 degrees

          • Starman3482

            If you look at the games confirmed for the Touch launch you will notice they are all games where you don’t move around the whole room, Job Simulator, Surgeon Sim, Final Approach even dead and buried you don’t move around too much, yeah you duck and weave but it’s no Hover Junkers.

            Not trying to be a jerk but if you read between the lines you can see their not going to be the same or you would notice titles like The Blu coming to Oculus but no nothing like that at all. Compare Hover Junkers to Dead and Buried and you will see what I mean.

            In one game your free to move around various sized hover crafts and in Dead your stuck where you are it’s like Hover Junkers but without the mobility.

            Serious take some time and see what’s actually coming out for the Touch and you will see no one is making or bringing room scale games to it.

          • Starman3482

            If you look at the launch titles for the Touch you can see their all experiences where you won’t move more than a few feet here or there. If people would pay attention to the obvious and the 5×11 foot restraint they would see they have no intentions of bringing room scale to the Oculus or you would see The Blu as a launch title. I just put my Oculus up on Ebay you just can’t play it after playing the amazing stuff on the Vive.

          • Rick

            I’m not talking about right now or the focus of the games, I’m talking about the capability of the hardware. For the majority of people the tracking is easily their whole room

          • Starman3482

            I just gave it a go, while I could get to the back of my room it’s not prefect maybe with another sensor it would track better but no it’s not covering the whole room without hiccups

          • Rick

            Oh, of coarse, I experience hiccups too because of occlusion(my body blocking the sensor when I turn around and crouch down) but imagine if the vive only had one camera, you would get the same effect, especially if you blocked the controllers with your body. All I’m saying is that there’s easily the potential when touch launches to walk and crawl around like you do in the vive. The tracking is already much greater than they advertised. There was just no point for oculus to include two sensors until touch came out because the launch was designed around just seated and standing, and didn’t have to track controllers that could be behind your body.

        • Eric Pipedream Leisy

          Interesting- I have both the Oculus and the Vive, and I would definitely say that Vive does Room Scale hands down much better than the oculus. I found the oculus isn’t able to track anywhere near what the Vive is capaable of- just due to the different setups. How do you get your oculus to track a whole room?

    • Starman3482

      It does not have whole room tracking.

      Vive – 15×15
      Oculus – 5×11

      Oculus also does not think room scale is going to be very popular.
      “We don’t believe that the consumer has the space in general,” Rubin said. “Has the commercial viable space of the 15-by-15 foot square.”

      I’m using about a 8×8 square in my room it’s amazing. Oculus got put up on Ebay because I was just having the time of my life with the Vive. I got my Oculus second and the whole time I’m playing it I’m just wishing I was playing a Vive game, that and I got up out of my seat more than once to explore the space and was jerked back to reality with the cord.

      The one sensor get’s really iffy once you get about 4 feet away. At first I was an Oculus guy but since having a Vive no way I will go back to anything smaller, and in the future I will defiantly have a space for 15×15 amazingness.

      Also want to mention I played all of the major Oculus games and none of them brought me back like HordeZ or Holopoint which are basically small tech demos but are far cooler than even the best Oculus offering.

    • Weston Mitchell

      yo my deepest condolences for getting an Oculus by accident.
      You still have time to order a vive. lmao

    • Roger Anthony Essig

      It does if you use steamvr, ive set up chaparone grid in my room using leap motion, full roomscale.

      • Rick

        That’s awesome, I had no idea you could do that!

    • Michal Gloc

      Perhaps, but until the tracked controllers come out, it’s not really the same thing.

  • DiGiCT Ltd

    Vive works more accurate as rift, its simply an other tracking system.
    OR could improve indeed with more camera’s but its all an hassle as each camera also needs to connect to a pc, USB on long distances cable will cause issues,
    If you look clear to those long wired wifi antenna’s they have actually the usb dongle inside the antenna box and not the dongle in the pc and not an extension cable to the antenna for the same reasons.
    Vive just solved it in a better way.
    OR was made for standing and seated with a small area for roomscale and thats simply what it is.
    They better release a newer version later on with room scale as it’s simply not designed for it as the Vive is.
    If you cant accept it, then we also could add the upcoming daydream devices to the list.

    A car is a car but also a car differs in their own pros and cons, same for VR devices, dont blind your eyes and tune a device to something it was not meant to be, but accept it for what it is, it is the only way you can feel satisfied about your purpose.

    Roomscale has only one issue no matter what device it is, and that’s simply that most people dont have enough room to full potential play roomscale games.
    Standing games are just fine with a play area of 2x2m as most people can afford that kinda space.
    In that way OR can also work just fine.

    • Ombra Alberto

      Boredom. Boredom. Boredom. Boredom. Boredom. Boredom.

    • Sam Illingworth

      “Roomscale has only one issue no matter what device it is, and that’s
      simply that most people dont have enough room to full potential play
      roomscale games.”

      That’s not quite true – it has a second problem: cables.

      • DiGiCT Ltd

        You can get used to it at least on a desend level of acceptance, but hitting walls because not enough room hurts.

        • Yakinabe

          HTC Vive’s chaperone feature works perfectly. I have yet to walk into a wall or furniture. On the other hand, I constantly step on the cable, it gets twisted up after a while, and I’ve even pulled it out of the socket a couple of times.

          • DiGiCT Ltd

            Yes, the wire is for sure an issue, i have it in hover junkers lol

  • momobit