Saturday, January 25, 2014

Oculus Rift: More Than Just Fun and Flirty Eyewear

Yesterday was pretty cool. I made some oven pizza, got frivolous on Amazon, and, thanks to a friend of a friend, was able to try out the new Oculus Rift. For those of you who don't know, the Oculus is basically our biggest step toward virtual reality. And dang, it'

Check out those curves. So streamlined.
You strap it on, put on headphones and grab a controller - simple (?) as that. At the moment, the Oculus is in the development stage, so there aren't many games or uses for it yet; but I assume they're coming, just like a few aesthetic and functional improvements to the device. The few demos I tried and others I watched my friends play were impressive enough to get us acquainted with the device.

The Oculus is like Six Flags, in that roller coasters are a good way to get acclimated. While my friends rode through some very simple demos, I partook in a rather complicated Mayan temple, Indiana Jones-esque ride. It was a great demonstration of how the Oculus worked: Bend over the railing to look down into the abyss, look behind you at one point to find the boulder from Raiders chasing after you, stuff like that.

Next was not only a good use of the Rift, but a solid idea for an indie game. It was a first-person four-player shooter that by yourself. Walk into the arena (a very massive box with a Mirror's Edge feel), shoot floating cubes to get points, and then do it all again. But each time after, you take the perspective of a different version of your first character, and then you play the arena while your first "self" goes through a recording of your first go. It's a nice idea, and it's one that's more fun than a usual tech demo.

Speaking of absolute tech demos, I watched a friend play through a game with one objective: sit in an office and keep both control keys pressed down on your virtual laptop. It sounds simple until the Oculus throws up the illusion of flies buzzing around your head, knives falling just next to your "arms," a spider crawling up your arm and into your head, and, uh, a raptor. It's all very sound-heavy, showing the vital importance of having a decent headset.

I saw both a horror demo and a skydiving demo, but neither was as impressive as the last demo I played: a detailed re-creation of the "DK Mountain" track from Mario Kart: Double Dash!!. I was completely taken aback when I jumped "inside" the Mushroom Kingdom. The other Oculus games were interesting, but nothing else popped like the familiar music and the distinctive designs of the track. I was happy to find there wasn't a time limit or other racers, because I had an amazing time just taking in everything around me. And listening to the music. Dancing took place.

Unfortunately, despite how fun some of the demos were, the Oculus Rift feels less like a complete console and more like the first step toward a complete experience. To reach that comprehensive idea, a few things need to happen first. First off is the screen inside the Oculus headset. The one I used was of a considerably low resolution and was easily smudged, which take the focus off the game and can even be headache inducing. Speaking of focus, the headset can be difficult to position so it's actually in focus. Again, headaches. Lastly, I think the Rift would strongly benefit from getting rid of the wires. When you're constantly turning around and moving, stuff gets tangled.

My roommate asked me if the Oculus was the future of gaming. It's not. It's a future of gaming. There's huge potential here for experimental gaming, and I'm really excited to see what happens.

But for real though, Nintendo. Let's see some Oculus Mario Kart. Get on that.


  1. So what would be your dream use of the Oculus system? Besides Mario Kart that is.

    1. A Star Wars lightsaber simulator with a Wiimote or a PS Move. It's the same thing I've wanted since motion control was an idea, but the OR would make it extra awesome.