Last night, at around 19:00 local SA time, Oculus hosted an Oculus Rift Special Event. This was the company’s pre-E3 press event, and there are promises to have numerous VR titles on the show floor next week; expect a bevy of virtual reality hands-on articles as E3 trundles along.
Sadly, the two things everyone wanted to know the most, the price and date for pre-orders, were not discussed. In fact, Oculus didn’t even tease the issue; they acted as if the retail price was something that their audience wasn’t really concerned about. So that was a little disappointing.
A lack of price reveal and concrete release date aside, there were plenty of surprises and lots to get excited about.
The Final Consumer Version
The final build of the Oculus Rift was revealed. The entire unit is now exceptionally light and easy to put on. The company said it’ll be like putting on a baseball cap, and we guess it’ll feel like one too considering the entire headset is wrapped in a tight-fitting cloth fabric.
Specifics on resolutions and whether the “screen door effect” has been solved were not discussed. The final unit will, however, use two OLED screens in order to attain the clearest possible image. Lenses will be adjustable horizontally to accommodate varying distances between people’s eyes, and the entire fit has been modified to be more accommodating to those with glasses.
The consumer version is still covered in “constellation sensors” to enable the low-latency head tracking, but these sensors are now invisible. Instead of a camera perched on top of your monitor you’ll now have a sensor unit that you can put anywhere on your desk. The sensor unit itself is rather understated so that’s a good thing. It’ll also allow you some degree of movement and Oculus VR stated you’ll be able to have seated and standing VR experiences that allow you to move around “a little bit”.
Finally, the 3D spatial audio headphones that have been included in the final version are completely removable. That’s really nice news for those users with expensive, surround sound headsets that they’d rather use.
The Microsoft Partnership
For a start, Oculus and Microsoft have partnered, and every single Oculus Rift headset will ship with a wireless Xbox One controller. Furthermore, the Rift will work natively with Windows 10. If that wasn’t enough, Xbox head Phil Spencer was on the stage to announce that you’ll be able to stream your Xbox One games to the Rift. This will make use of the native Xbox One streaming that’s built into Windows 10. However, don’t expect to suddenly have Rift support in a Forza car cockpit or native head-tracking in Halo 5. How it works is that you’ll essentially be plopped into a virtual living room with a virtual, large screen TV on which your Xbox One games will play out as the ordinarily do. If that sounds a little lame, don’t forget that one of the most popular apps available for current Rift devkits is the virtual movie cinema that places you in your own massive movie theatre. The presence attained through that app turns all of your (totally not pirated) TV series and movies into cinema experiences, so perhaps this Xbox One streaming app will hit something similar?
Games, Games, Games
A number of developers were on-hand to discuss their upcoming games that have been specifically designed for use with the Oculus Rift. Front and centre was EVE Online developer CCP, who showed off a three-minute gameplay trailer for VR space-sim EVE: Valkyrie. You can check that out below:
Then Insomniac Games hopped on stage to reveal their new Rift game called Edge of Nowhere – a third-person action adventure game in which you’re tasked with finding a lost arctic exploration team. During your mission to find the missing team, things go pretty pear-shaped for you as well. You can check out the trailer below:
Another surprise was Gunfire Games – the development team that is pretty much entirely made up of former Vigil Games (Darksiders) employees. They’re developing a Rift game called Chronos. The third-person RPG sees you having to free your kingdom from a nasty dragon by navigating a maze. The only catch: the maze opens once a year, so if you fail to navigate it, then your character comes back to try again, only they’re a year older. As such, your character will age as you tackle the maze, which will mean that as he gets older, your tactics will likely change. It sounds rather intriguing and you can check out the reveal trailer below:
In addition to those three highlighted titles, Oculus VR showed off a number of other titles, all of which can be seen in the Oculus Rift sizzle reel below further down. What’s more, many publishers and developers were revealed to be working on Oculus Rift titles, including Square Enix, Ready at Dawn, and Harmonix.
It’s not all big name games though, as Oculus VR revealed that they’ve set aside $10 million to fund indie teams wanting to develop games for the Oculus rift. That’s a sure-fire way of ensuring the collection of playable titles is varied once the Rift launches in Q1 2016.
With all these games for the system, you’re going to need some way of cataloguing them, and making future purchases. The Rift will have its own digital distribution and library platform call Oculus Home. Think Steam, but in VR. You’ll be able to browse for new VR games, visit store sections to learn about titles before buying them, and even see a friends list. The distribution platform will also feature a jump-in multiplayer offering: you’ll be able to see what your friends are playing, and if the game allows it, you can join them directly through the UI.
Oculus Home will also have a 2D, desktop version if you don’t feel like ogling your library and buying stuff in VR.
Introducing Oculus Touch
Finally, company founder Palmer Lucky bounded onto the stage, high-fiving his colleagues on the way, to introduce Oculus Touch: a new VR input device that will allow you to interact with virtual objects in virtual worlds. The two handheld controllers feature the same tracking elements that are in the Rift headset so as to capture the same low-latency input. Each controller features a thumbstick, two face buttons, and a trigger button. Lucky stated that throughout all his thousands of Oculus demos with the public, the vast majority of first-time users instinctively reach out to grasp objects that appear in front of them in virtual worlds. This was Oculus VR’s cue to look into a VR input controller, so that people really can reach out and grasp virtual objects. It’s similar to what Valve’s Vive will have, and it’s going to be interesting to see how the two controllers compare.
The one issue we can see with these Touch controllers is that they’re going to be sold separately and a few months after the Rift has launched. With the Oculus Touch controllers not being mandatory, Oculus VR has fragmented their user base, and we all know how well that works out.
You can expect more Oculus Rift news next week during E3. Whether or not we’ll hear of a final price tag is debatable, but with the Q1 2016 release date less than a year away, you can bet we’ll find out soon.