Publicly released in November 2015, Valve's Steam Controller gave PC gamers the gamepad that they've always wanted. It shared the ergonomics of the XBox 360 controller, which many gamers consider it one of the best gamepads of all time, but more importantly it brought with it the software that allowed for users to customize what every button did (which is what PC gaming is all about). Since the Vive was released, we haven't seen much customization offered by developers as to how players interact with their VR games. Now Valve has released SteamVR Input in beta and we have a level of control similar to that of the Steam Controller.
Google recently held it's 2018 I/O and during the keynote it unveiled a slew of new software and services as well as updates to many of their current offerings, but the one that caught my eye the most was the announcement of Google Duplex. I am very interested to see what Duplex brings to the table as for what it actually is, a much more "intelligent" version of the Google Assistant that we currently have on our phones and Google Homes, but it also got me thinking of what the future of games and VR games can be with this level of tech.
Typically a term used for consoles, a "Killer App" is the game released on that respective console that is just so good that gamers just have to cave in and buy that console in order to play that game. Nintendo has always had Zelda and Mario games as their killer apps, Microsoft has had Halo and Gears of War, and Sony has had Ratchet & Clank, Uncharted, and The Last of Us. Over the last few years, people have been wondering if VR would get a killer app. There have been a lot of standout VR games over the last couple of years like Rec Room, Lone Echo, Arizona Sunshine, and GORN among others like the recently released Skyrim VR, none have quite assumed the mantle of VR's killer app. Maybe we have that game now with the release of Beat Saber.
A YouTube video was recently uploaded by Crowbat titled "How different Counter Strike VR can be" and it really helps to put things into perspective. I touched on this in a March blog post how people often post in announcement trailers or Reddit comments asking developers to not make a game be exclusive to VR and they make a claim that there's barely any difference between VR games and non-VR games other than the 3D. One of the most popular and competitive shooters of all time is Counter Strike, so it's great that the video from Crowbat has used it for his comparison.
I went and saw Ready Player One in theaters for the second time, this time with my brother who had not seen it yet. I got a chance to look for more of of the references and such, but I still got into the story. It got me into a VR mood so I got onto my Vive when I got back to the house. Funny enough, when I got home I saw that RPO: Oasis Beta had finally been released on Steam. It's a free game, no micro-transactions, just free.
As hyped as I was for Skyrim VR, I was very worried that it wasn't going to be all that great. First releasing on the PS4 and also being a nearly eight year old game, I just figured Bethesda would have put a small team on the VR project to make a quick port. Thankfully, the game is a great VR version, but not perfect.
To say that I was hyped for the movie adaptation of Ready Player One is a massive understatement. I had read the book early last year (well, I listened to it on Audible while I would jog) and really enjoyed it, so I was just excited to see a Spielberg directed film version of it. I am also a massive fan of so many of the references and my family as a whole are huge into films and video games from the 70s and 80s, so just seeing all of these in a single film was obviously going to be a treat for my eyes. And of course, as someone who has now jumped into the VR industry, I have a lot of hype (and hope) for what it will do for bringing VR to the mainstream.
I recently saw some gameplay of an upcoming VR game for the PSVR called Bravo Team and it shares a common issue that a lot of moderate budget games have as well as games releasing on more mainstream VR platforms like the PSVR. They have some decent polish to them and look like they will offer a lot of content/play time to the player but when it comes to their gameplay mechanics they are dull and take no chances. When I saw the gameplay video linked below, I couldn’t help but think to myself the whole time that I was looking at some gameplay of a mobile game for phones and tablets, and that sucks.
We did it! We had our first mobile VR event and it was a success. No one hit each other while in VR, no one got motion sick, no one broke any of the VR gear or the PCs, and most importantly everyone had a lot of fun.
This sentence, or a form similar to it, fills the comments sections on YouTube trailers, Reddit posts, Facebook videos, etc… for so many VR game announcements. Just recently, I saw it happen for the YouTube teaser trailer for Cyan, the company that made classic Myst games and more recently Obduction, which is called Firmament.
I came across a post on /r/vive recently that talked about mixed reality (not the Windows platform) and seeing the same player in the gameplay recording and it got me thinking about player avatars from the player's perspective in VR games. Should we have a standard/shared player avatar with our stats linked to our profiles (SteamVR, Oculus, etc...)?
CNBC recently released THIS article titled "Most teens can't afford a virtual reality headset, so they're going to VR arcades instead" and, for anyone paying even the slightest attention to the VR scene, it is very well known that VR is expensive, and in most cases prohibitively so. Many kids and younger gamers around 13-18 years old are typically gaming on a console due to the larger up front cost for PC gaming. If PC gaming is expensive, then VR PC gaming is much more so. While the PSVR has provided a decent VR experience, it still falls short in the quality of tracking and lack of room-scale VR, which is where PC VR is excelling.
I guess Phase one is coming to a close, which has been a lot of the prep work and getting Digital Worlds legally set up as a business. Phase two is starting the mobile, direct-to-consumer VR. I'm going to start out with two PCs for doing birthdays and corporate events. This way, we can do some simple multiplayer co-op and/or competitive stuff. Maybe if things take off, then I can buy the gear for two more mobile stations and we can allow groups of four people playing at a time for the mobile stuff.
Towards the end of 2017 I, like pretty much every one else, posted my favorite stuff from the year. In this case, it was my favorite VR stuff that year. It was a list I put together pretty late and quick. I've been very busy working one job and then in October deciding to open Digital Worlds took up most of my spare time. I sought to make a list that included some categories that not everyone would think of. Maybe this year I'll have more time to get even more creative. Like with any of these "Top" lists, there's some controversy, so I figured I would put together this post explaining my logic. I made the list to help people find those quality VR experiences, so this list gives the logic there.
After a little over a month of waiting, the lawyers and the state of Tennessee are done reviewing my forms and Digital Worlds LLC is now officially and legally a business!
2017 was a great year for VR. We saw traditional AAA developers/publishers get more invested in VR and we saw a lot of quality VR games made by new developers. There was a lot of cool new hardware this year, like the Deluxe Audio Strap and the TPCast. Sadly for me, towards the end of the year I really didn't have a lot of time to spend in VR as I was so busy planning and building Digital Worlds LLC, so there will be a lot of things missing on here that maybe should have made some lists, so I'll include a section at the bottom for those games that I never got to try. Also, for keep an eye out for my "Reasons For My 2017 Picks" blog post that will explain all of these. Anyhow, on to the awards.