Virtual reality as a means of gaming is something that has been tried a few times, and by quite a few big companies and one of the most notable of these was the Nintendo Virtual Boy. This may have had some potential but ended up being one of the biggest disasters that Nintendo ever attempted. Since those years little has really been seen of it, other than in old episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation with the Holodeck.
Back in the days when virtual reality was looked at, the graphics were pretty basic but the idea and the gameplay did prove that if the technology was there and people wanted to actually have a big headset on their heads? It was something that may actually happen. Now with processing power being able to create stunning graphics and the technology for flat screens improving all the time it looks like Virtual Reality may be back in the form of Oculus Rift, yet another creation funded through a Kickstarter campaign.
The examples that people have been shown shows (in this early phase) that the headset is still there, but not as bulky and definitely looking better. The actual gameplay comes through a small seven inch high resolution screens, combined with high-powered GPUs to power them. One thing to note of course is that it’s based on PC only compatibility at this time.
The most important thing for concepts like this is to get developers behind it, if there is nothing to play on the hardware then this is where the Oculus Rift will fail. The good news on this side of things is that not only developers but hardware specialists like Razer are helping, providing support from Hydra motion controllers, Leap Motion device (a portable hand sensor) and even an all-directional treadmill from Virtuix to make the experience immersive for the player (if they use all that hardware of course).
What good would a virtual reality system be without games? Not much, and this is why even at this early stage demonstrations are being shown with fairly well known games. Doom 3, Unreal 3 and Hawken have been used to show how the technologies potential with first-person shooters though reports say that the games can be quite hard to control, though this will probably change when people get used to the technology. The number of games ready for the time Rift is released will no doubt be quite high, especially if games already on the market are updated to work with the new headset. Valve as an example of a big name in the gaming industry have already updated Team Fortress 2 to use the headset which means a potentially huge fan base could be caught just out of that sort of industry support.
It’s hard to say how Virtual Reality as an interface will take off, especially when we don’t know the price. If there is a market out there though for this, then this is a step in the right direction for the technology. The future of gaming will be to make it a truly immersive experience for the player, and with the technology that is being incorporated to do this, it looks like the Oculus Rift is on the right track. In the initial stages motion sickness is still said to be an issue, but this is something that is to be expected at times. With a small headset though and excellent graphical quality, it does look like virtual reality has a future.