»Video Game Review
By Michael WORKMAN
Every year game companies tout better graphics and more realism for some of the game industries biggest releases. Better textures, higher resolutions or smoother shading are enough to grab the attention of many gamers on titles they are excited about. Heavy weights like “Skyrim” and “Portal 2” boast impressive visuals that made them critically acclaimed landmarks that raised the bar in technical achievement. But no matter how nice they look, these games are still just images on a TV or monitor, a window that peers into some of the most beautiful and fantastical worlds imaginations have ever created. What if you were able to step through that window and see these worlds firsthand and interact with them as if you were really there? This seemingly science fiction notion will soon be entirely possible. Introducing the next giant leap in gaming immersion, the Oculus Rift.
The Oculus Rift is a virtual reality (VR) head-mounted display that is shaping up to add a level of realism to the gaming world. It displays a 3D image that is magnified so that viewers believe they are in the environment on display. The Oculus Rift also uses motion tracking so that when a person turns their head, the image follows and mimics the movement in the game. This has led to a few problems including some people experiencing motion sickness when they’re viewing something moving but their bodies remain still. The motion tracker cannot track all types of movements, which can send the wrong signals to the body and cause an unpleasant feeling.
VR has always been that tantalizing (or frightening) final step in the video game experience as depicted in movies such as “Tron” or “The Matrix.” The 1990s made several attempts at VR gaming; one of the most notable was the Nintendo Virtual Boy; though a commercial flop, it didn’t stop companies from continuing to develop VR technology. A more recent examples of VR devices are the Nintendo 3DS and the Google Glass. Developers at Oculus Inc. admit that only recently was it possible to create the Oculus Rift.
“It’s not even just five years ago,” Oculus VR founder Palmer Luckey explained. “Maybe even three or two years ago it wasn’t possible. VR has been done a bunch of times in the past. What’s happened now is we have high resolution displays, we have motion tracking technology, and graphical horse power, we have GPUs that can push games in stereo 3D at high frame rates. That wasn’t possible five years ago.”
The latest prototype of the Oculus Rift, dubbed “crystal cove,” was recently shown at the 2014 Consumer Electronic Show (CES) and is gearing up to be on sale in the third quarter of 2014. The crystal cove Oculus Rift is said to be much better than the original dev kit version. It can display 1080p resolution that gives HD quality to the video, which eliminates the blurry effect on distant objects that the older model had. The motion tracking has been vastly improved so that players will be able to view 360 degrees around them. Also the motion tracking can detect leaning and crouching and other movements that developers say will eliminate motion sickness. So far, the Oculus Rift seems to be a PC only device with no plans to be integrated with consoles. However, Oculus Inc. has been working closely with Valve, possibly to make all games on its digital distribution program Steam Oculus compatible.
Palmer Luckey is confident that the Oculus Rift is the next great thing. “If you look at the rate of how fast mobile phone technology has been advancing, I would be willing to bet that by the end of this console generation there are going to be mobile processors that far outpower them,” Luckey said. “They upgrade every single year. So when you have VR hardware that’s getting better every year and mobile processing power that’s getting better every year, it won’t be too many years before you can get a much better experience than a console in a headset that has everything built into it and is still cheaper than a console.”
The Oculus Rift clams to be the flagship that will lead gamers into a completely new and mostly unexplored territory. We will eagerly wait to see if this device truly will take players into the worlds we love and mess around in some time late this year.