Amidst the raucous pantomime of the big-ticket Next Generation console releases from Sony and Microsoft, a quieter glimpse of the future of gaming was being enjoyed. We take a look at the reaction to what many have dubbed this year’s real next gen experience.
A Little Perspective
I’m a gamer who’s now, shall we say, the wrong side of 30. I’ve been into gaming for most of my life and in that time I’ve read about or watched with fascination the reveals of just about every gaming system there’s ever been. Gaming and its associated technology has had me on the hook ever since my (super hip and trendy) Granddad showed me his Tie-Fighter simulator, coded in BASIC on the BBC Model B, back in the dim distant early 80’s. I’ve since watched in awe (and occasional horror) as each successive computer and console generation has leapt beyond its predecessor in technical prowess and (with any luck) new gaming experiences.
I therefore had some perspective to draw upon whilst I consumed videos and articles about this years new generation of console hardware. After having deliberated quite a bit, I’ve decided that the Next Generation starts when Oculus say it does! After enduring days of squabbling and whining over DRM and ‘Always on requirements’ I decided that the industry and its commentators were actually largely happy bickering amongst themselves and their content partners. They’ll push the latest iteration of your favourite franchise at you, packing more pixels and more frames per second and hope you don’t notice that what you’re receiving is a warmed up slice of the same.
“After enduring days of squabbling and whining over DRM and ‘Always on requirements’ I decided that the industry and its commentators were actually largely happy bickering amongst themselves and their content partners.”
There was no sparkle, no revelation no jaw-dropping reveals and nothing to re-assure me that my chosen pastime hasn’t completely lost touch with what makes gaming great. There was no pixel-perfect version of Street Fighter 2, no Mode 7, no online revolution and if I’m honest , nothing that really and truly did anything new … except that there was.
In a small booth somewhere away from the E3 show floor, there was a device wowing industry veterans and hobbyist gamers alike. A new version of the Oculus Rift had appeared and those that had a chance to experience it were eager to share what they’d seen. The reactions encapsulated for me the essence of those revelatory reveals from E3 history and was the only time, depite owning an SD Dev Kit myself, that pang of longing to be there to share in a genuinely new gaming experience. Oculus had their new 1080p prototype to show off their recently announced Unreal Engine 4 integration.
The Oculus Rift at E3: Press and Industry Reaction
If you’d managed to filter out the noise generated by Microsoft’s and Sony’s hype machine, you’d have heard a very vocal group of journalists and gamers shouting about the Oculus Rift. More than that, what they seemed to be saying was that their short time with the device had eclipsed anything they’d been served via the Sony PS4 or the Microsoft XBox One. Collected below are a sample set of quotes, tweets and videos illustrating the impact Oculus had on this years show.
Peter Molyneux, Games Industry veteran, was unimpressed with the new consoles, but had nothing but praise for the Oculus Rift whilst speaking to Engadget [Skip to 10m 00s]:
EGMNow dubbed their time with the Rift and CCP games EVR “The True Future of Gaming”:
As I left the room of CCP Games my arms were covered entirely with goosebumps. In that room I had finally bore witness to something that most of us have been dreaming of since childhood, and someone was able to take that dream and perfect it in real life. That dream was pure virtual reality gaming, and the real-life creation to finally make it happen was the Oculus Rift.
The Verge, already familiar with the wonder the Rift is capable of remarked on the new HD prototype’s HR panel:
We played a game rendered in the newly integrated Unreal Engine 4, and from the snowflakes outside to the large, horned monster inside, details just pop in a way they never did before. It makes the world feel more immersive, more immediate.
The Examiner got its hands on the new HD prototype and was suitably amazed:
The controller allowed us to shoot bolts of light around the world. It was truly amazing how when you had the headset on and whenever you would move your head, whether it was up, down, behind you or side-to-side, the exact world was incredibly all around you, making you feel as if you were truly inside of it.
That was quite an experience, but once we put the new HD headset on, you could see the amazing difference. The world was much more detailed and whenever you would shoot a bolt of light, it would reveal how incredible it felt to have the headset on.
And finally, PC Gamer named CCP’s Oculus rift enabled space dogfighting demo ‘E3 Game of the Year‘ :
Logan: The next generation of gaming hardware was indeed present at E3 this year, but it wasn’t a console manufacturer that delivered it. Instead, it was Oculus VR, which not only brought a high-definition version of its Oculus Rift HMD (head-mounted display) to the show, but also sent me trotting over to the CCP booth to check out EVR. Seriously, I could have played this five minute demo on a loop for six hours. In fact, after just a couple minutes I was so dazzled watching the stars streak behind me over the canopy of my fighter that I turned to look back ahead of me just in time to catch a flash of grey before I slammed into a carrier. (At least it didn’t hurt.)
Reactions from the TwitterSphere
CCP’s demo of EVR, the space dogfighting tech demo built from the ground up with Oculus Rift support, was quietly blowing gamers away too, here’s a collection of Twitter reactions, courtesy of NeoGaf user YuShtink:
Jeff Rubenstein @jeffrubenstein
Oculus Rift+Eve Online is one of the most incredible gaming experiences I’ve ever had. A must try if you ever get the opportunity.
Just saw EVR on the Oculus Rift. Amazeballs. I felt like I was actually in a spaceship dogfight. Now THAT’s the future.
Carolyn Rauber @itsacarolyn
Holy cow. Oculus Rift is awesome. And I feel like the spatial processing part of my brain just went through a blender. #gls2013
Ben Silverman @ben_silverman
Just had my first Oculus Rift OH SHIT moment. I literally yelled out OH SHIT in the middle of a demo. #ohshit
Sean Cargle @CargleS
Just played @CCPGames EvR with the Oculus Rift. Hot damn. No space sim will ever be the same. @Beefjack
Lucy James @lucyjamesgames
Oh man, just tried out the Oculus Rift at the CCP stand. It was incredible! Can’t wait to see more from it
Ryan McCaffrey @DMC_Ryan
Oculus Rift? More like Oculus Holy Shiiiiiiit! The Eve Online VR tech demo was seriously next-level. I looked down & had a pilot’s body! #e3
Eve VR is the coolest game at #E32013. Oculus Rift+Rogue Squadron. Holy shit.
Josh Daws @JoshDaws
I’ve seen the future of gaming and it is called Oculus Rift. The promise of virtual reality finally delivered. So swag as the kids say. #e3
Rob Keyes @rob_keyes
Oculus Rift changed my life. Thank you, @CCPGames.
Nick Capozzoli @NickCapozzoli
CCP’s dogfighting Oculus Rift demo is absolutely sublime.
Ripper X @Ripper__X
Just sat down with the Oculus VR headset and played a custom EVE game called EVR…OMG!! This is the future of gaming. @Oculus3D
Josh Augustine @jaugustine
The Oculus Rift is incredible. And so is the flight sim death match game CCP built for it :) pic.twitter.com/rOUfoBlPQl
Dan Hindes @dhindes
Just went hands-on with a 1080p Oculus Rift and CCP’s EVE VR space dogfighting game. I have seen the future
Dave Crooks @dave_crooks
Finally got my hands on the oculus with ccps dog fighter game. I was skeptical, now I’m not. That shit was awesome.
Kenneth Price @pricefilms
So far an oculus rift demo by the EVE online team may be the most impressive thing I’ve seen. Never would have thought… #E32013
Scott Craft @iDTScottC
Just played some #EVR with Ben Heck, and to say that I’m officially sold on the Oculus Rift now is an understatement. #E3
Maxwell Roahrig @mroahrig
Holy. Fuck. Oculus. #E3
David Ellis @DavidEllis
Most jaw dropping I played all week was EVR, the Oculus Rift dogfighting demo. Most fun game was Titanfall. Destiny looked great as well.
Checked out EVR at CCP, holy crap is it amazing on Oculus Rift amazing
Colin Moriarty @notaxation
By the way, the best thing I saw at the show was EVE’s Oculus Rift space shooter. Thing is fucking nuts. That’s the future. Kudos,
Quinn Sullivan @Soulibon
@CCPGames never ceases to amaze me. Their protoype for their EvEVR Oculus Rift game was a true next generation experience.
R. Bryant Francis @RBryant2012
Just tried CCP’s Oculus Rift Dogfighting demo. AAAAAHHHHHH
shaun prescott @shaun_prescott
Played Eve Online with Oculus Rift today. I want to live in virtual reality space. I am changed.
Peer Schneider @PeerIGN
E3 is done. Immediate regret: wanted one more game of EVE VR using Oculus Rift! What a cool glimpse at the future.
Dan Ryckert @DanRyckert
Tried the Unreal demo and EVR with Oculus Rift. The Rift is genuinely one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen the industry produce.
Blake Rochkind @BlakeRochkind
I will forever remember that at the end of the last day of E3 @rocket2guns and I went TO THE FUTURE and experienced Oculus EVE for 1st time.
Michael Grimm @Pseudobread
I was a Oculus Rift doubter, but @ccpgames’ EVR flight combat game has made me a believer. Legitimately wowed. #E3
Nick Chester @nickchester
I did, however, play CCP’s Eve Oculus Rift tech demo and that was a rad experience, for sure.
@CCPGames quietly had the sickest demo at #E3. That Oculus Rift EveVR thing was freakin legit!
Next Gen consoles with Oculus Rift support?
Perhaps somewhat ironically, the biggest endorsement of the Oculus Rift came from Sony. Speaking to Engadget at E3, Shuhei Yoshida (SCE head of Worldwide Studios) said:
We’ve got a couple of the development kits, and I tried it out and I love it!
..as to whether that enthusiastic endorsement would ever materialise as actual support from the new Playstation 4 console he was somewhat more tight-lipped:
..said with a big smile on his face.
Future support for the Oculus Rift may well be a logical shoe-in for Sony. But I suspect it’ll be quite some time before we actually see HMDs shipping with PS4s. Console manufacturers can’t afford the luxury of throwing out technology as raw and untested as the Rift currently is. Even in its new 1080p guise, the unit is far from being ready for your ‘average joe’. Potential long-term health effects (including nausea, dizziness) must be assessed and the simple potential safety hazards of wearing the things whilst flailing around in a game must be huge concerns for the larger manufacturers. Not to mention the fact that, as elegant as the Oculus Rift Dev Kits are, their support for those with less than perfect vision isn’t ideal.
So, for me, Oculus were the saviour of E3. Not only did they provide that ‘something new’ conspicuously absent elsewhere at the show this year, they continue to inspire those that try it. 2 years after John Carmack first demoed the technology for the first time, surely no one can have any doubts as to the potential impact OculusVR and their products will have on the industry. Whilst the big established brands hold on tight to the status quo, Palmer and his crew are bravely pioneering what they and many others perceive as the future of gaming. Here’s to E3 2014 and the real next-gen – Virtual Reality!