The Oculus Community
One of the best things going for Oculus' Rift VR headset is its community. The forums are bursting with people who are developing games and software for the Rift, in all different shapes and sizes. I spent hours downloading a bunch of different games and software.
At PAX AU, Nate from Oculus showed me VR Cinema on the Oculus Rift HD Prototype, which blew my mind. I e-mailed him as I received my Rift and asked him what it was called again, and he warned me that it wasn't as impressive as the HD Prototype.
He was right, it wasn't. But, the immersion factor is still there. The Development Kit isn't here to impress with high-end graphics, and I came to understand this a few minutes into using the device.
The Oculus VR forums are filled with countless demos and samples made specifically for the Rift Development Kit, which gives a simple taste of what is to come. Most of the demos are very simple, that might last anywhere from 5-30 minutes, but it's enough to give you the impression that virtual reality is here, and it's here to change the entire technology industry.
Gaming on the Rift
The Development Kit only runs at 720p, with a massive screen door effect, but gaming is still so immersive. I took my Oculus Rift kit to my brother's house, to let him and my parents all use it. My brother really enjoyed the Rift, but was sided with me when it came to the screen door effect.
My parents on the other hand were blown away. Both my mum and dad never play video games, so they're not used to the fast-paced action of a first-person shooter, so what about virtual reality? Both my parents were standing upright when I started the Oculus World demo, and within seconds, they were transported to a totally different world.
They loved the immersion, with my mum saying she feels like she could "reach out and touch the books or chairs" in the game. As I walked up the stairs, she was disorientated somewhat, and needed to hold onto something, and after a while she needed to sit down.
The immersion for my parents was amazing to witness in person, they were completely blown away at what I had shown them. This is where I think the Oculus Rift will do quite well in the future, where it will open completely new markets that we haven't even thought of yet.
Moving onto Team Fortress 2, I loved it, but it wasn't all lollipops and rainbows. The screen door effect is distracting enough that you can make out 75% or more of the in-game text, which makes playing the game hard. The immersion though, wow, just... wow. I was able to shoot at a door as the Heavy, while looking behind my back for spies - something you simply cannot do with any other control method on the market right now.
I also downloaded "Quakespasm", which is the first opening level from the original Quake, from 1996. This is just a quick demo that you can walk around in, giving you yet another great sense of immersion. We'll cover more of the titles in our final piece, coming in a few days' time.
I played 10 minutes of Half-Life 2 and found it quite amazing... it changed the game completely and felt truly epic, even for a 2004 title. I'm going to write more about this in a follow-up piece soon.