Virtual reality has always fascinated science fiction and gamer fans alike, but it has never managed to break that mystical wall of consumer popularity and make its way into the home en masse. In the early 1990s there were a number of startup companies that had created virtual reality first-person shooter simulators and scattered them throughout malls across the country. A ten minute session could cost upwards of $30 in 1991. For a fresh out of high-school young punk like me, that was a lot of cash.
I can tell you from personal experience VR simulators were clunky and disorienting. You couldnt turn your head too fast or the system would temporarily freeze up or crash completely. The helmet was massive and the orientation never seemed to quite line-up with exactly where you were looking. It was a very cool novelty, but never progressed any further than that. Simply put, there was never enough demand to make it worth a companys investment to improve the technology of the time.
With each generation of new gaming hardware, there are always one or two titles that make new platforms a must buy. For the Xbox 360, it was Halo 3 shortly after launch. For the PS3 it was Uncharted (or arguably God of War III). EVE-VR may very well be the catalyst that makes the Oculus Rift a mainstream success. The craziest part about all of this is that EVE-VR isnt even an official game right now; its just a side project for some very dedicated developers within CCP, working in their spare time, which is quickly gathering attention.
Tucked away in a private meeting room at E3 this year, CCP was giving presentations and demos of both EVE Online and DUST 514. What I didnt realize when I first walked in was that they were also showing off their very little known project, entitled EVE-VR. Early Kickstarter backers of the Oculus Rift, the team decided to create their own demo for the device after deciding that while they liked the demo that came with the device, they could make a better one themselves. What better way to do so than to create a game that takes place in the EVE universe in the form of 3 vs. 3 first-person fighter combat?
After a very brief overview of the controls and how things would work within the confines of the Oculus Rift screen, we were quickly sat down and assisted with the gear, ensuring everything was positioned properly. When I first put the headset on, everything was slightly blurry, but a quick and minor adjustment to the orientation of the Oculus and everything was crystal clear. Between the headset and the incredibly immersive sound coming from the headphones, I was completely transported to the EVE universe, about to be shot out of a launch tube at staggering speeds.
Armed with the expertise granted to us from our control and tactics overview minutes earlier, I was ready to cry havoc and let slip the dogs of war! Using a standard Xbox 360 controller, I was all set when my ship launched. The left gamepad joystick was for direction, the right trigger for lasers, the left trigger encompassed the missile system, and the A button would provide short periodic bursts of speed to assist in avoiding the barrage of incoming missiles.
As you may expect the lasers used simple point and shoot mechanics. Rather than using them at short range, they were much more useful as long-range weapons due to the speed of our fighters. The missile system the missile system was the icing on the cake that brought EVE-VR from the status of pretty cool to OMFG, that was awesome! To use the missiles, you needed to pull the left trigger to bring up a secondary reticle, turn your head and look at your target for a few seconds to get a lock with that circle, and then release the trigger to unleash a battery of missiles at your opponent. The simple and intuitive system of looking at your target and essentially just willing your systems to lock on and fire was incredibly addictive and disturbingly satisfying.
With so much head turning, eye movement, and sense of speed while remaining still, the concerns for motion sickness were very real. Theres a very necessary reason why you can look down and see a set of virtual legs and arms within the confines of a cockpit and it was not done this way by accident by giving the brain a stationary platform to center itself in, it alleviates the motion sickness often associated with the sensation of going very fast while remaining in one spot, such as when having a front seat view of a rollercoaster barreling down a track or flying over a city seen within numerous IMAX presentations. By giving the brain a place to feel confined and secure, its no more disorienting than driving a car down the highway, even when making high speed passes by your opponents. As a quick side-note, Im also that person that cant go to 3D versions of movies. Ive tried numerous times and without fail, I get a splitting headache within seconds of the movie starting. I had absolutely zero problems with the Oculus Rift.
I cant stress how incredibly fun and exciting EVE-VR is. The thing that really blows my mind is that what we played is just the tip of the iceberg for the teams plans. On top of that, those plans still arent anything official. If they continue making improvements, bring the game to market, and pimp themselves out to spread word about the Oculus Rift, this may finally be the generation that gets to reap the rewards of virtual reality gaming. As for myself, I have only one statement for CCP Release this and take my money now! If you get a chance to try it for yourself anywhere, you owe it to the gamer in your soul to do so. You will not be disappointed.