As part of continuing GDC 2014 coverage, Cymatic Bruce and myself had our first opportunity to experience Sony’s new Project Morpheus, the PS4 VR dev kit, earlier today.

How Does it Feel to Wear?

Brian: I found it a little awkward to figure out how it fits on your head. The design of it looks very well polished, but it’s a little less intuitive to place onto your head than the Oculus Rift, and it’s less obvious how to make adjustments for fit. The Sony rep giving the demo worked with me to achieve a comfortable fit. Since the Sony Morpheus sort of sits on top of your head instead of being strapped on, I did have the impression a few times that it might fall off, but that was unfounded as it stayed securely in place once I started whipping my head around.

Bruce: Comfortable in some ways, uncomfortable in others. Overall the unit was less stifling than the Rift, with more airflow around the face. The sweet spot seemed to be quite loose (which is a good thing), however after several minutes of play, near the end of the second demo (Eve: Valkyrie), it was definitely bearing down on my glasses, causing pain on the bridge of my nose. I’m not sure if it was a design issue or an adjustment issue.

What Were the Demos?


Brian: Two demo experiences were shown today. The first, called The Deep, puts you underwater in a shark cage, which is similar to the Game of Thrones experience put on recently at SXSW in Austin in that they both take place in confined spaces, so they don’t have to account for player movement. As an experience, it was ok. The game itself was well done, and the shark looked amazing, but I think I was just looking for a different kind of experience… which I definitely got in the second demo, the unreleased-but-already-famous Eve: Valkyrie. I won’t review the game here, but it’s a terrific game in its own right right, and a great showcase of Morpheus’ strengths. Eve offers the same advantage as The Deep in that you’re sitting in a cockpit, a confined space.

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Bruce: Both demos were solid. The first demo, The Deep, was definitely playing to the strengths of the hardware. It was passive; not much to do but experience it. I can understand their choice of demo given the type of consumer they’re targeting. Eve was great as always but seemed to be missing some graphics components that were in the Oculus Rift version. The targeting reticle was simplified and there were some panels missing from the cockpit.

How is the Hardware?

Brian: Positional tracking didn’t work at the beginning of my demo of The Deep, but the rep made some adjustments and it started. After that, I was able to look down and see my knees, and when I bent down in real life, I could see my avatar’s knees bend and I crouched closer to the bottom of the cage. I was also able to pitch forward and my torso would move closer to the edge of the cage. In Eve, I was able to lean forward to look more closely at the cockpit, and, hilariously, was able to detach my head from my torso from leaning way back.

The image quality was, frankly, stunning. As mentioned, the games themselves are very well done, and I had to concentrate hard to break the illusion and try to see individual pixels, and this is with me whipping my head around like a crazy person trying to make the image skip or blur.

I did experience slight disorientation in Eve, and it was only in certain cases where a ship was passing very close to me at a high rate of speed. Even now I’m not able to put my finger on what the issue was, but I felt ‘unsettled’ somehow by something I couldn’t consciously perceive. It would be interesting to record that at a high frame rate and play it back to see if there’s something going on.

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Morpheus line

Bruce: The positional tracking was solid for the most part. I did encounter occasional hiccups and jumps in my position, but when it worked, it worked very well. I would say the DK2 still has more precise positioning. The controller tracking was also very good in the The Deep demo. The controller only rotated the hand; the arm’s position wasn’t tracked. It was kind of cool that the crouching made the avatar crouch.

The screen was very clear, with the screen door effect hardly noticeable. There was still quite a bit of motion blur with rapid head movement, especially with the neon lettering in Eve Valkyrie.

Road to VR has been invited back tomorrow for two new experiences. Please respond with what else you’d like to know in the comments, and we’ll try to address them in tomorrow’s demo.

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  • seanlumly

    It sounds like Sony has done a very good job up to this point, which is great: they will be ambassadors to VR for many consumers currently out-of-reach for the other VR players given their size, household brand, and marketing muscle. The hands-on experience seems solid with a few scuffs around the corners that likely can be improved with continued tweaking and testing. But I have yet to read anything actually negative about the hands-on experience. Most people (even vocal sceptics) have been really pleased with it, which says a lot.

    All in all, the VR community should be excited that things have turned out this well! More excitement in-and-around VR means more money being spent, which means more development! This includes more multi-million dollar projects. This will have large repercussions for VR game development on PC. The larger the target-able market, the more cross-platform titles we will see specifically for VR.

    These are exciting times indeed!

    I have a feeling that MS is going to try to buy Oculus. Given its current performance, XBox One can’t afford to miss this trend and unless they’ve been doing their own development, it may take them some time to produce a viable product. In any case, unless MS has been doing development (not just research) in secret, they may be late to the party as they get their software/hardware ready for a real consumer device.

    But it would be great for the larger industry to have another significant player (MS) join the fray. More VR headsets means more games!

  • seanlumly

    Here are some questions that I am curious about:
    1) Will the headset be able to replace the need for a TV for non-VR entertainment (ie. current games/movies)?
    2) What technology is being used for the 3D binaural (!!) sound?
    3) Will a mic be included in the final version for multi-player audio, or will it primarily use the mic in the PS4 Camera?
    4) Does it include distortion free optics, or (like Oculus) does the rendered image have to be distorted to counteract the lens distortion?
    5) Is there any plan to increase the FoV, or even fake it with peripheral lighting to match the scene?
    6) Will the headset work with the PC ala the Dualshock 4 controller?
    7) Does Sony already have a dev-kit program for launch-title developers?
    8) What ways is Sony planning to improve the existing hardware?
    9) Is their plans to integrate mounted, user-replaceable headphones? What about pack-in earbuds?
    10) What has the general reaction been to the headset?
    11) Since it requires a lot of parts (camera, headset, PS4, move, etc), how are you planning on making this convenient for purchase?
    12) Are you planning to re-release VR versions of old titles? Journey would be spellbinding.

    Ok, I think that’s it! I hope I gave you all some ideas. Have fun guys!

  • Don Gateley

    Image being the single most important thing to me, I’d like to see a direct apples to apples review comparison of the Rift DK2’s image with that of the Morpheus and with several opinions about it. I realize neither company is about to give the opportunity for a side by side so visual memory will have to do.

  • Andrés

    I’d love to know: is Sony using a diffusion filter to get rid of the screen door? If so, given that people are liking the results, what’s keeping Oculus from doing the same?

    Everyone who talks about the Rift prototypes ends up saying there’s a screen door, while several people have already praised Morpheus for lacking it.

    • WirlWind

      Basically, the reason why Oculus havn’t gone with a diffusion technique is that it loses image sharpness. They want a sharp image, not a blurred one, for the best possible graphical display.

      The upside is that there are many many websites out there showing how to do a cheap and easy filter for the DK1/2 if you are ok with taking a hit to the image quality.

      I’m thinking that, eventually, they will just end up with a 4k screen (maybe in the CV1, though watercooler talk says it will be 1440p) and run at a lower resolution.

      Who knows, they may come up with another solution in that time. But given that so many people are talking about the SDE being fixed on Sony’s kit, I’d imagine that they have either got their hands on some 4k screens and are running at a lower res OR they’re using the diffusion method. Personally, I’d prefer the 4k screen / lower resolution option.

  • Gabriel

    Its talk to much about the demo games of those prototypes and to much about the form, weight and tracking… but nothing about something realy important, how is quality and improvment of the image, of sceen, of what you see when you look in this prototypes? :)

  • Alkapwn

    I’d also like to know what Morpheus is exactly. Is it a fancy looking Dev Kit? Or is it a shippable consumer product? And either answer, are they planning on upgrading any components for the final consumer release. Things like resolution, screen size, FOV, wireless, tracking, etc.

  • Curtrock

    Hey, don’t forget about Apple. Microsoft will jump into the VR game 4 shure, but don’t you think there will be an iHUD, or iHMD, iRIFT, etc…