The Oculus Rift has been on my radar since the original kickstarter, which I did not donate too because of the laughable success rate for hardware funded through that site. As the months went on, however, it became more and more clear that the people behind it knew what they were doing, and my passive interest turned into excitement. The list of supported games grew ever greater, and people in the gaming and technology press had almost universally good things to say about it. I was not yet convinced, as it seems to me that allowing oneself to get excited about an expensive and unfinished product without trying it yourself is foolish. Still, I was itching to give one a try, so imagine my surprise when, while flipping through the Sundance brochure, I came across a page saying that it would be there to try for free.
For those who do not know, the Oculus Rift is a virtual reality visor that contains two screens that are viewed through two curved lenses that trick the eye into perceiving the image as 3-D. There are also a series of sensors that detect the movement of of the wearer, which can then be interpreted to allow the user to look around a virtual environment. Similar devices have existed in the past, but because of recent advancements in technology coupled with the wide range of games that are working to support it makes this device possibly the biggest leap in the field of personal virtual reality that has ever happened.
The day I got there, I went to the vibrantly red New Frontier lounge, and got in line for the demos. After experiencing what the device has to offer, I have to say I am very impressed. The first I saw was Clouds, which was a smaller version of another instillation in the lounge. As far as an introduction to the device, it works well but is unimpressive overall. It is essentially a series of interviews about various technological advancements set to abstract landscapes that the viewer can look around in. There were also some demos using a Beck concert and a clip from The Girl From Nagasaki that were interesting. The real show stealer, however, was Eve: Valkyrie. made using assets from the MMO RPG Eve Online, Valkyrie is a spaceship combat simulator that is set to be a launch title for the device. Although the demo is fairly simple, the ability to look around the cockpit while flying in real time feels absolutely incredible. It is sometimes hard to keep track of everything that is going on, but the feeling of craning your neck to find enemy spaceships is honestly unprecedented.
I was lucky enough to have gotten an interview with a representative from CCP games, developers of Eve Online. There was also a representative from Oculus present, but unfortunately he was unable to comment.