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Oculus Rift is going to change gaming, forever – the hype hasn’t just fizzled it, it’s been sustained for the past year and only growing. The age of VR is now upon us; immersive experiences are where the cool kids are heading. My illustrious gaming editor Dave disagrees with me (you can hear our argumentative banter every week on Technophilia, Wednesdays at 4pm UK time) – but he’s wrong, and spends most of his time playing 20 year old games anyway. Here for your consideration are 5 rock-solid reasons we already know the Rift is going to change computing, forever. I’ll sum it up for you first: Carmack, porn, hardware, drivers, and community. These 5 things almost guarantee success when the consumer units finally roll in next year.
John Carmack joined the team
Carmack is the daddy of first person shooters and 3D graphics. Seriously. The genre that now dominates most of the video games market was created almost by this individual and his team at iD Software, in their legendary game – Quake. There were pseudo 3D engines before it that gave a hint of the coming FPS revolution, but Quake made it all viscerally real. Quake put 3D first person shooters onto the map and changed gaming forever.
John has been contributing to the Rift since the beginning now, but in an unofficial sense. Arguably, the Rift’s rapid rise to fame was in part due to his involvement, lending credibility to Palmer Luckey, the VR hobbyist from the MTBS forums who spent his days seeking the holy grail of VR immersion. As of August, John Carmack joined the Oculus Rift team officially as Chief Technical Officer.
Some products are just cool in and of themselves, but the mark of true hardware success is when other manufacturers start developing new devices and accessories for it, unofficially.
The Virtuix Omni is one example; a VR platform designed to work with the Rift, and set to launch next year without it’s current reliance on Kinect for motion sensing.
Sixense – makers of the Razer Hydra – have found renewed success for their ailing PC motion controllers in light of the Oculus Rift release. The Hydra is now the de-facto controller to use when gaming with the Rift, with a wireless version due to launch next year too, with full positional trackers that clip onto your body.
3rd Party Drivers
The slow pace of official support by various games is frustrating, but when people love a product so much, you can bet they will hack support together somehow. With a beta-release of Rift-mode from the industry standard TriDef 3D drivers, there are now no less than three third-party driver systems you can use to Rift-enable games; Vireio Perception and VorpX being the other two.
The upshot of all this is that using a variety of mods and HUD adjustments, you can now play Skyrim rather well with an Oculus Rift. Yep – goodbye real life, it was fun while it lasted.
More than anything, there is a huge community around the Rift. A map of Rift owners allows those awaiting shipment to contact existing owners and hopefully score a demo to whet their appetite.
This month, the first VRJam Rift hackathon is going on, so expect lots of great content from there. r/Oculus is thriving; and RiftEnabled has a rapidly growing list of demos and games to try out.
So yeah – I can pretty confidently say that the Oculus Rift is going to to take the world by storm when consumer units hit next year. I’m not saying that every game from now on will be released with Rift support – not every game is appropriate, obviously. But for exploration games and shooters – anything first person – staring at a flat screen just isn’t the same as the feeling of being immersed in a world. The Rift is not only going to enhance existing genres, but create whole new ones based solely on the idea of experiencing something foreign – virtual travel, just as Total Recall predicted, perhaps? We have a revolution around the corner, and it’s clearly visible.
It’s got porn
Like any good geek, the adult industry has always been ahead of the curve when it comes to new technology – and it’s believed that whichever technology the adult industry backs is a good indicator of success in the long run. In the great videotape wars of the 80s, some say VHS won out over the technically superior BetaMax (I should know, I had one) for the simple reason that VHS had porn and Betamax didn’t. The same happened with HD-DVDs and BluRay back in 2007. For a long time, Sony took an anti-adult stance with BluRay technology, refusing to help adult companies distribute their products onto the discs; the battle fought on with neither side showing a clear winner, despite BluRay being technically superior. By late 2007, Sony caved, and the first adult BluRays were made. The next year, BluRay had won and HD-DVD was officially killed off. Were adult movies the tipping point?
Want to know more? VR Sex Blog will keep you updated (very NSFW).
Of course, if Futurama is to be believed, VR dating will probably bring about the end of civilization as we know. Oh well.
Have you managed to get your hands on a dev kit yet, or had a chance to demo it somewhere? What’s been your favourite Rift experience so far, or are you just unimpressed?