Checkpoint: HTC Vive Edition

Checkpoint: HTC Vive Edition

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I tried virtual reality for approximately 40 minutes today by way of a friend’s HTC Vive headset. It was pretty much as I expected it to be – I wasn’t disappointed but at the same time, I wasn’t amazed either.

I played a bit of Space Pirate Trainer, Valve’s The Lab, NVIDIA’s Carnival freebie, Onward and SUPERHOT VR. SUPERHOT VR was the only game I really wanted to dig in and play, all the others were fun experiences that I was happy to try once.

I’ve watched GiantBomb’s VR coverage for quite some time and thus had a pretty good idea of what to expect when donning on the headset for the first time.

The Hardware

The headset felt lighter in my hands than I expected but after it was affixed to my head, I felt it was a tiny bit heavier than I anticipated. It wasn’t perfectly configured for my head but I was able to turn and move about comfortably. If I had a bit more time, I would have had my friend loosen it a bit so more air could circulate through the headset. It did get a bit warm after all that arm waggling.

I expected to see the screen door effect and relatively lower resolution so I wasn’t taken aback by it. For certain titles like, Onward, those shortcomings stood out. In titles like Space Pirate Trainer and SUPERHOT VR, it was a non-issue.

The controllers are bulky and heavier than I would like but they do work as expected. I was very impressed with the tracking. Buttons and triggers felt responsive as well.

The bulk of the controller and the protruding headset resulted in me accidentally bopping myself when I tried to bring an object to my face.

I wasn’t bothered by the cable as much as I thought I would be. I always knew where it was and was able to navigate it without issue.

The Software

SUPERHOT VR was the star of the short VR demonstration. I didn’t pass the first set of levels but it was the only game I wanted to just buckle down and seriously play. It highlighted a brand new gaming paradigm where designers can place things anywhere and everywhere and I have to get used to glancing left and right quickly. It’s not just about what’s directly in front of me or just to the left of me.

Space Pirate Trainer was a fun romp but there’s really nothing much else to it that makes me want to try it again. I can see it being a fun leaderboard hot seat game but I don’t know how hot the seat will be since it takes a bit of time to configure the headset between people.

I don’t like how I have to swap hands and controllers between games. It’s an odd quirk but one worth noting. It may be related to which controller I use to launch the title but I think it should be a Steam VR level calibration at the beginning of each session and that’s it. These are the quality of life things that remind me that it’s a first generation product.

Promising But Not Quite There Yet

I was glad to have tried the HTC Vive and I look forward to additional sessions with it but I came away feeling the exact same as I went in: it’s neat but not quite there yet. I will jump into VR when the headsets are more comfortable, wireless and come equipped with a higher quality screen. I want the controllers to be lighter and feel more natural. And, of course, I want it to be cheaper.

None of my demands are out of reach though. The Oculus Touch and Valve’s upcoming Knuckles controller appear to be the refinements I am looking for on the controller front, for example.

I see the potential of virtual reality but I don’t think it’s ready for prime time just yet.

Checkpoint: Virtual Reality Reality Check Edition

Checkpoint: Virtual Reality Reality Check Edition

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So we now know the price tags of both virtual reality PC options. The Oculus Rift will cost $599 USD and the HTC Vive will cost $799 USD. Both bundles come with free games and controller options. The Vive includes base stations to enable ‘room experiences’.

I keep tabs on virtual reality but I’m not very keen on the idea of it; I enjoy shifting from screen (PC or HDTV) to screen (mobile) to people while I’m gaming. I’m more fascinated by the idea of augmented reality. I’m sure I would be amazed by VR and find it compelling for certain games but I don’t see myself shelling out the money for such a limited selection of software.

With such a high price tag (excluding the cost of a capable PC), I don’t see why developers would spend the effort to develop something for such a niche audience. It’s why I hope the manufacturers behind these VR headsets will play the long game and continue to fund or publish games for these headsets because I don’t see any established third party publisher putting any significant effort into this.

I’m not writing virtual reality off but I don’t see this catching fire any time soon.

Street Fighter V arrived on Friday. I managed to squeeze in over a dozen matches with my brother but that’s about it. I also received Fire Emblem Fates Birthright on the same day and I’m starting to get my Fire Emblem legs back.

Far Cry 4 continues to be a therapeutic game for me. It doesn’t register excitement or disappointment; it’s just there for me to fiddle with. I didn’t expect that to be the case at all.

 

Checkpoint: Post-E3 2015 Edition

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E3 2015 is over which means it’s time for some random impressions and thoughts.

Star Fox Zero

I had Star Fox Zero in my list of pre-orders before seeing it in action on Nintendo’s E3 Digital Event. After seeing the footage and the announcement of PlatinumGames’ participation, I decided it wasn’t worth the $69.99 asking price. It looked stale and sterile; certainly not like the wonderful Super Mario 3D World or any number of Nintendo’s other first party titles.

People claimed it’s taking cues from Star Fox 64 and I can see it but I don’t have nostalgia for that game and thus adhering to its legacy doesn’t appeal to me.

Virtual Reality

The buzz around virtual reality coming out of E3 2015 has been positive but I’m still not sold that it’s something that I want to partake in yet. It all seems very early and nothing has come out to convince me that I need to get this for myself. I’ll wait for HTC Vive, the Oculus Rift or Sony’s Morpheus headset to release a second revision before I will seriously consider it. That or one of these headsets can be had for less than $150.

The Division

I have The Division pre-ordered but every time I see it, I cannot help but think back to my initial gut reaction and cancel it. The player vs player betrayals sounds cool but everybody knows that the internet is full of assholes and I cannot foresee any other outcome outside of constant betrayals.

The beta will be the ultimate decider though and I’m glad it has one. I don’t have an Xbox Live! Gold membership so I’ll be giving the PlayStation 4 beta in early 2016.

Super Mario Maker

I’m impressed with Super Mario Maker and felt the need to partake in it. I don’t know if I’ll be developing levels but I’m so happy to see Nintendo get the idea right. The game specific physics, the easy level editing and easy sharing were pillars that we were all expecting but worried about when they first announced the title.

The horizontal limits may prevent players from recreating every Mario level but I’d love to see people try.

Hitman

The Hitman trailer was my favorite CG trailer coming out of E3 2015; it screamed Hitman. The gameplay trailer showed off classic Hitman ideas but blown out for modern technology. I’m very tempted to get into it on the first day and see this crazy “World of” Hitman idea unfold.

Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End

That E3 2015 press conference demonstration featured the most impressive car chase sequence of any game. But before that impressive chase, the fire fight in the market was also dazzling. There’s just so much activity on screen with items exploding, falling off carts and cover disintegrating.

It certainly looks like more Uncharted but fans of the series will notice many tiny refinements to animation and transitions to elevate it above the notion of it being a 1080p30 version of Uncharted 3.

Street Fighter V

I don’t blame anyone who thinks Street Fighter V looks like Street Fighter IV but all I ask is that you remind yourself what the game really looked like. The mind’s eye likes to embellish things.

Street Fighter V looks fun and appears to be promoting offence with normal attacks causing chip damage. Normal punches and kicks causes damage? Sounds crazy but a welcome change. At least you can’t be chipped out which will hopefully force me to become a better defender.

Fallout 4

I really want to believe in Fallout 4 but after Skyrim and their promises of a new engine filled with refinements, I’m left very skeptical. Especially coming from The Witcher 3 and its quality quests.

I have it pre-ordered but I don’t believe it’ll stay.

Xenoblade Chronicles X

Speaking of bad side quests. This game looks awesome in trailers. Giant mechs and dinosaurs in a large open world are fine ingredients to brew a quality game but if you have nothing to populate the world with, that’s a big problem. And one that I don’t want to futz with so I’m going to pass on this.

That’s it

That’s everything that I had on the top of my head. Many of it may have been negative but I was focusing on those that had 2015 and early 2016 release dates. I felt it was a great E3 and one that makes me very optimistic about future trade shows.

It’s Virtually a $75 Reality

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“I shall call him Stitch Face”

Charlie Nash is back and I’m not sure if he’s better than ever with that face. The game does does look superb though. I may pre-order for the beta code but I don’t know if I’ll keep my pre-order. Especially not for $74.99.

Upcoming new releases listed at $74.99

It seemed like it was just yesterday that we saw Canadian video game prices rise from $59.99 to $69.99.

It was actually just little over a year ago.

I’m still not used to seeing $69.99 MSRP and retailers and/or publishers have already raised prices by another $5. It matches the exchange rate but it’s still an unattractive proposition and will undoubtedly affect the buying habits of most consumers. I am very curious how these price hikes have affected the new generation console adoption rates. Imagine having to pay $74.99 for The Order: 1886? Imagine paying $499.99 for a PlayStation 4?

I wouldn’t be surprised to see Sony raise the MSRP of the PlayStation 4. They did it once already.

For myself? It’ll just mean longer waiting times for games to get to my price point. On the plus side, it gives us all more reasons to delve into our backlogs.

Virtual Reality

These are the questions that I ask myself before I buy anything:

  • What are the additional costs?
  • Does it integrate well with my current flow?
  • If not, Is it worth the hassle?
  • If it’s expensive, will I be able to enjoy it for years to come?
  • How quickly will it be dated?

Most of these are giant question marks and I don’t see myself finding convincing answers for them any time soon. I hope the upcoming VR extravaganza at next week’s GDC will yield more concrete information but I’m not getting my hopes up whatsoever.

It’s difficult for me to get excited for virtual reality because it goes against the way I play games. I’m not against the idea of total immersive view of a virtual world but to me, it’s like a racing wheel, a DDR pad or a fighting stick; it’s appealing for only certain genres. I can see myself wanting to use this in a game like MechWarrior: Online but how often do I play that these days?

For now, I’m treating it like an arcade machine. I’m sure it’s amazing and fun but I don’t want to actually own one just yet.

Random Thought of the Week

If you’ve ever wondered how player ratings are calculated in sports titles, read this excellent piece by FiveThirtyEight Sports

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