Oculus Rift Review: Overview of Features and Games

oculusriftreviewThe Oculus Rift is a head-mounted virtual reality display that’s been in development for the past year and a half, after its inventors ran a successful crowdfunding campaign in 2012 worth $2.4 million dollars. While the developer version of the Oculus Rift prototype has been out for a little under a year, available to Kickstarter backers who pledged over $300 and through pre-orders, the consumer version has yet to be released. With the Oculus Rift dev kit, game designers can integrate the device into their projects early, before the product hits the mainstream market. With the consumer version, set for release late 2014 or early 2015, gamers will be able to use the Oculus Rift virtual reality feature while playing compatible games, an opportunity not currently afforded to many outside of video game industry events and conventions. Is the Oculus Rift something you should consider for your own game? Will it be worth buying when it’s available to the public? In this Oculus Rift review, we’ll go over some of the device’s key features and functionalities, and go over some of the awesome games already compatible with it.

Oculus Rift Review:

Features

Some of today’s most commonly used technologies started out as mere science fiction fantasies. Microwaves. Cell phones. The imagination of the past becomes a commonplace technology of the present, and virtual reality is a prime example of that happening, right now. Of course, the Oculus Rift is the first consumer-facing virtual reality product to really have any sort of merit, and because it’s still very new, there are plenty of kinks the developers need to work out. Even so, it’s made significant progress during its short development. Here are a couple key features the Oculus Rift has, has improved, and will have in the future.

Head Tracking

Sometimes, the key to good game design is in the little things. It’s often the smallest details that make the biggest difference. Head tracking on the Oculus Rift used to just track its user’s movements on the X, Y, and Z axis. The new Crystal Cove prototype involves an external camera and a series of tracking studs on the face of the headset, allowing for much more complex tracking. The camera uses these studs to detect subtle movements in your upper body, meaning leaning forward and backward to examine objects in the game world at different proximities is totally possible. This opens up a lot of doors for immersive game design ideas. Developers can use the lean detection to allow players to dodge in-game projectiles, or manually peek around corners, instead of having to rely on button prompts. The more reliance on movement, the better. Some would argue the point of virtual reality is to create a full, visually immersive experience for the user, and this feature takes the Oculus Rift one step closer to achieving that.

Low Persistence

The new Crystal Cove prototype is fit with HD 1080p OLED displays, instead of its original LCD displays, boasting zero latency and a significant decrease in the motion blurring and ghosting of in-game objects. This is partially what had caused motion sickness and nausea in some early Oculus Rift testers, so the fact that it’s being addressed and measures have been taken to smooth the images out is a good thing. The technology behind it is pretty cool too. When you move your head quickly, instead of trying to fill in all the frames in between, the Rift creates a shutter effect that inserts blank, black frames. It’s a bit like an illusion, where your brain is what fills in those blank spaces and maintains a much smoother image, with minimal motion blur.

Oculus Rift Review: Games

You can find an extensive database of games compatible with Oculus Rift at RiftEnabled.com. Below is a list of popular ones.

Title: Among the Sleep

Framework: Unity

Genre: Horror

Developers: Krillbite

Summary: A horror game where you play as a small child stuck in a nightmare world. The early prototype shown at conventions features the game’s introduction, where you move the child through her home in the middle of the night. It’s extremely trippy to play, since you’re taking on the perspective of someone so small. Regular objects like tables and chairs become towering, imposing structures. With you literally in the first person, every shadow lurking in your peripheral vision feels like a real danger. Among the Sleep is an example of a perfect Oculus Rift game, one that every horror fan should experience with the virtual reality headset.

Title: EVE: Valkyrie

Framework: Unity

Genre: Space Shooter

Developers: CCP Games

Summary: A multiplayer spaceship simulator and shooter set in the first-person (of course), another perfect example of the Oculus Rift’s immersive capabilities. EVE: Valkyrie also has the added benefit of being developed specifically for Oculus Rift capabilities, meaning everything from the framerate and the user interface was designed specifically for the first-person headset. Not only does this mean the technology is on track, but the game’s premise is perfectly suited for the headset as well. It’s like you’re operating a real spaceship in the middle of an interstellar dogfight. Those who have tried the demo have come with their expectations exceeded.

Oculus Rift Review: Overview

While the Oculus Rift is still a young technology that has a long way to go, the Oculus Rift Crystal Cove prototype is a definite improvement over previous builds of the device. The fact that it’s made such quick leaps forward, and has always had something new to offer to interested developers and consumers at game industry and technology events is a major plus. Game developers can safely consider adding Oculus Rift capabilities to their game, without the fear of the device falling out of style. It is definitely not just a tech trend – the Oculus Rift is here to stay, at least for a very long time. Gamers will also have a great selection of games to choose from, everything from horror games to space simulators, to therapeutic virtual reality spaces to help with anxiety. The Oculus Rift’s possibilities seem boundless right now, and that’s a definite good sign.

Looking to get into game development and design? Check out some of the courses below: