After playing two rounds of Survios‘ Raw Data virtual reality shooter on the HTC Vive, I was sweating. The two-player cooperative demo is one of the first to show that VR can be a multiplayer experience, which could be a critical component in helping this take off as a social experience.
VR is expected to be a $30 billion industry by 2020, according to Digi-Capital, and you can bet we’re going to see a ton of demos unveiled next week at the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco. Survios will show Raw Data at the Epic Games and SteamVR booths on the show floor.
I played this game at a Survios pad in San Francisco recently with a HTC Vive Pre headset, which is not yet the final VR hardware which launches in the first week of April. It is an experience where you can roam around on a “safe area” on the floor and shoot in a 360-degree arena.
It is a visceral experience, like stepping into another world. The sci-fi arena is relatively simple. Humanoid robots wake up in their pods. They emerge and start attacking you from every direction. You have to spin around and hold them at bay. You have one other human partner to cover an area, and so you can fight back to back. I was able to move around in a 15-by-15-foot space, while my partner did a same with a separate Vive Pre system on a different PC.
Survios has created a game with a tactile feel. You have two untethered controllers, one in each hand. You use them as if you were holding real objects, like a couple of handguns. I picked up the guns and fired in different directions at the same time, shooting multiple robots. I had to move my hands toward a belt in order to reload the guns. It didn’t happen automatically with just a button push.
I also fired a compound bow by putting one hand in the air, holding the bow, and pulling on the string with the other. I reached behind my bag to fetch another arrow. These motions are the essence of “active VR,” said James Iliff, cofounder and chief creative officer at Survios, who played alongside me.
All of that enables you to feel like your body is inside the virtual world. And while these controls may seem different to the console game player, they are much more intuitive for someone who has never played a video game.For instance, when the robots got really close to me, I pulled out my katana and sliced them by swinging my arm. (Yes, anybody standing near me would have gotten sliced too).
It was pretty satisfying to chop the limbs and heads off of the robots. I threw grenades, too, by going through a tossing motion. And I fired a pump-action shotgun by moving my hands in pumping gestures and then firing with a trigger.
That was just one part of the game. The basic plot is that an evil corporation is stealing human brains and using them in robots, selling them for a profit. Your job is to extract the raw data at the company and expose it to the world.
During the course of the game, you can also do things like unlock terminals to access special weapons, abilities, upgrades, and deployable defenses. I benefited from the fact that I had a skilled partner, and we played through multiple waves of robots, which included flying drones.
Once in a while, the Vive seemed to lose sight of my arm or weapon. The gun or sword would point in a direction that was slightly off from where I thought I was aiming. But all in all, it was a great experience, even if it was not completely precise.
The good thing is that the Survios team has been working together five years and it is getting better with each demo. I liked the fact that this one was a more stationary experience, without too much motion. The previous demo, where there was a lot of movement, got me a little seasick.
And this demo was much better at accurately portraying close-range combat than the earliest zombie-shooting demo, Zombies on the Holodeck, that Survios showed me a couple of years ago. The team studied game design at the University of Southern California’s Mixed Reality Lab alongside Oculus VR founder Palmer Luckey.
Back then, Survios had to jury rig different systems together, like an Oculus Rift headset and Sony PlayStation Move controllers. The Vive experience is much more advanced than that.
I like the progress that Survios is making. The fact that I could move around a lot and get sweaty at the same time I was immersed in a game is quite an accomplishment, and it is one of the things that will make VR game experiences different from other kinds of couch-based games.
To date, Survios has raised $4.2 million in a round led by Shasta Ventures. It has about 35 people, and they’re all quite excited about the pending launches of the Vive Pre and the Oculus Rift (which goes on sale on March 28).