Many of you have heard — and seen — the buzz centered on Oculus VR’s head-mounted display, the Rift. The upcoming wonder goggles enable players to enjoy PC gaming with unprecedented immersion. And even though the technology is still nascent, developers have openly embraced it, constantly finding new ways to harness the VR rig — and redefining how people play.
Along these ever-more-dimensional lines, intrepid designers have already released creative bits of code for those who have access to Rift dev kits. For you lucky few, here are four ways to get the most out of your magic machine.
Oculus Rift CEO Brendan Iribe is a headliner at GamesBeat 2013 — and you can watch his fireside chat here on Twitch, which is streaming the conference.
Scare yourself out of that cushy office chair
In Alone, you actually play a game within the game. Eerie events happen in a polygonal living room around you while you control a character on the TV in front. This wouldn’t be possible without something like the Rift that turns your head movements and peripheral sight into tools for developers — and instruments for your terror.
Games like Alone — along with other shriek-inducing demos such as Don’t Let Go and Dreadhalls (find them here) — take advantage of having total access to everything you can see, locking you into their creepy environments. Jump scares shock harder and linger longer.
Skip to about 3:23 of this video to see what I mean.
I can only shudder at the thought of what an especially sadistic studio will do with this tech as it matures.
Live out your starfighter fantasies
CCP’s EVE: Valkyrie, which takes place in the universe of stellar sandbox EVE Online, puts you in the cockpit of a spacecraft as you blast into the darkness before a dogfight. Unlike when wearing existing PC head-tracking rigs, you don’t have to fix your eyes on a point while you move around. You have the freedom to survey your surroundings like an actual pilot.
This newfound range of motion is as effective as a powerful laser cannon. Engagements will become fiercer, and kills will become more satisfying.
Additionally, talented fans of the upcoming Star Citizen have introduced a mod that incorporates Rift support. This clip shows how VR accentuates the massive scale of the title’s ships.
Watch a movie with your distant buddies
Oculus VR wants the Rift to transcend gaming. At the 2013 Electronic Entertainment Expo in June, I played through a demo with the company’s CEO Brendan Iribe. He showed me a fan-made virtual-cinema concept that placed me in a theater as a trailer played on the big screen. Iribe mentioned the possibility of filling that space with other people, leading to a new type of online social hub.
That software became VirtuaView, which now includes a conferencing mode as well, allowing people to meet face to face through simple avatars. You can see the cinema sequence at the 1:15 mark of this video from the project’s Indiegogo campaign.
VR adds an intriguing layer to our online interactions, which explains why virtual-world services like Cloud Party are launching Rift support for their clients.
Go on a spacewalk, and then land on the moon
The Rift could also enable breathtaking armchair-travel opportunities. A few adventurous coders have bypassed the obvious beach simulators in favor of something even more adventurous: going to space. Demos like Spacewalk have you float in orbit — giving you a whole new perspective on our exploration of the cosmos.
These types of releases (Titans of Space is another good example) could redefine the way we learn, capturing our imaginations and inspiring the next generation of great thinkers.
And once you’re done orbiting our planet, you can set your sights on the moon. Lunar Flight gives you the chance to delicately drop down on the gray chunk of rock, putting a twist on old thrust-based landing games.
Looking ahead … in stereoscopic 3D
Amazingly, the final Rift unit isn’t even ready. People have been experimenting with something that is still very much an experiment.
What’s more exciting, however, is that this VR renaissance has already propelled gaming — and computing — to new frontiers. Rift experiences will only intensify as the tech evolves.
Developers have already started to shape the future of this fertile ecosystem, and megacorps are very much interested in joining the fray. After all, rumors indicate that Sony is working on its own headset.
Maybe VR will be the killer feature that makes the next generation of systems truly next-gen.
Regardless, devices like the Rift will continue to challenge software makers, giving them a new canvas to showcase their creativity. And this will all push us closer to a future that only science fiction has foretold.
The eye is the limit.