By Greg Newbegin
Oculus Rift was fairly widely available on the PAX AUS show floor, with about 4 booths including them as part of their display. We got some time at the VR Insanity booth to conduct an interview and spend some time with the Oculus Rift itself.
While at the booth, I played two "games," the first of which wasn't quite a game as much as it was a tech demo. Essentially, it was a helicopter simulator with basic flight controls mapped to an Xbox 360 controller; the developer is working on making it some kind of military shooter, but at the moment you simply fly around a relatively small island and look around. There's a floating balloon and a missile, as well as a warship in the ocean, but as hard as I tried, I couldn't actually come into contact with anything.
The game is quite detailed; you can fly down to the beach (I don't think you can land... at least, I couldn't figure out how) and as you get closer it will create a dust/sand storm much like it would in reality. Using the rift headset to look around, I was able to see various parts of the helicopter while maintaining my flight path, including what was above and below. Everything out the window was well detailed, but everything within the chopper was pretty low res and low detail by comparison. Still, for a demo, it demonstrated the capabilities of the Oculus Rift quite well.
The second game I played was a "real" game, albeit one that is relatively old by today's standards: Team Fortress 2. Still hugely popular, it was one of the first games to be ported to the Oculus Rift, and I was most keen to see how an FPS played out in it. I seemed to be in a multiplayer environment, but as the other units on display were disconnected, I was likely playing bots, but that wasn't a major concern. I was advised that later in the day the four units on display were connected and a multiplayer environment was sustained for the rest of the time at PAX AUS.
The Oculus Rift controlled head movements, with WASD used for forward/back and strafe, as per usual FPS controls. The mouse only aimed the crosshairs, which was interesting, as the Oculus Rift performed the look task. Admittedly, this took a little while to get used to, but once I did, I found I preferred this method of control far more than standard mouse and keyboard, and could pull off some impressive moves. It was an enjoyable experience from start to finish, and I was disappointed when my time came to an end.
However, all was not as it seems. My experience with the Oculus Rift was less than ideal, and our own Leo Stevenson, who may or may not have been nursing a hangover at the time (he was -Editor), seemed to enjoy his time even less than I did. For one, the visuals were not perfectly clear, and this was disorienting. I think this was due to the fact that we didn't have the liberty of being able to calibrate the system to our eyes perfectly (the system apparently comes packed with 3 lenses for this very purpose).
However, as a direct result, I started to feel extremely nauseous after only a few minutes with the device. In fact, not only did I feel nauseous, but I felt dizzy and even started to get the sweats. It was a seriously bad experience, and not something I was expecting (and this comes from someone that has spent considerable time playing Nintendo's Virtual Boy with no real repercussions).
The Oculus Rift itself was fun, but I just couldn't play for more than a few minutes, and that was a huge shame. My wife, on the other hand, also got some time with Team Fortress 2, and she had a very different experience, so I do harbour some hope that when I do try it again in future, I will have the opportunity to calibrate it. It's quite disappointing, really - I didn't want to be THAT guy, but I had no choice in the matter. There is clear potential, but if I feel this way every time, it's just not feasible. In fact, as I wrote my notes on the day, one and a half hours after my time with the Oculus Rift, I was STILL dizzy. That can't be good...
Did you have a better experience with the device? Let us know in the comments, below.