Exactly ten years and three months ago, I went to Disney World. I remember the exact date so well because I was nine years old at the time, and Disney, to a nine year old, is probably the closest one gets to a true religious experience at that age. There’s not a whole lot you can get through in Disney World in just three days at the height of theme park season, but I remember being adamant about doing two things in particular: waiting for three hours in line to see Princess Ariel, and going to DisneyQuest.
For anybody unfamiliar, DisneyQuest was this place on the Disney World campus that was all about video games with a special focus on whatever virtual reality technologies were available at the time. This generally meant a dingy stuck on a motion simulator in front of a projected screen or one of those motorcycle arcade games connected so a bulky set of goggles that really did not want to play along with my glasses. Regardless, it was awesome.
Since then, my opinion of virtual reality has generally been hopeful, but not enthralled. I thought that what existed was cool and all, but that it wasn’t yet ‘the future of gaming’. So when the Oculus Rift was first becoming a thing I just… didn’t really care all that much. To me, virtual reality had so far only been one of those gimmicks that would only ever work specifically for games entirely based around them, like the PS2’s EyeToy or the majority of current applications of motion controls.
But my god. Over the course of this past weekend I got to try out the Oculus Rift at Bitcamp and it was amazing. I was trying out the Oculus Rift Gear, the version that you snap a Samsung Note into the front to create a portable virtual reality console. I got to play two games during the demo, one was a simple game of brick breaker which I played with my face as the paddle. The other was a pretty generic-yet-fun dungeon crawler, played with a wireless controller made specifically for the Oculus/Note combo.
First thing about my experience with the Rift, there was a lot to look at. I could turn my head almost 180° and look directly behind, above or below me. Probably not the best camera control scheme in a third person adventure game, considering how my dude kept dying because I kept getting distracted by something insignificant happening somewhere else. Ranged attacks were aimed by looking directly at my target and pressing the fire button, which allowed for a nice bit of immersion, but made me feel like I was forced to tunnel vision quite a bit.
The Oculus device itself had a little knob along the top of it that was used to focus, not unlike a microscope. Unfortunately, no amount of adjustment could make up for my nearsightedness and wearing my glasses underneath the headset turned out to be incredibly uncomfortable. I could see a bright future in any company that chooses to produce a kind of prescription lens insert for the Oculus Rift, but barring that, this kind of thing becoming mainstream might be what pushes me over the edge into getting contacts.
My demo session was cut short when the phone overheated inside the headset and crashed, which was apparently a common problem when playing the dungeon-crawler. I don’t have much personal experience with the Samsung Note, but my iPhone tends to get incredibly warm when playing just about anything, and if playing intensive games with with Rift support is an issue with the Note, it makes me kind of doubt whether or not mobile gaming is a right direction for the Oculus Rift at this moment.
But we are talking about a pretty new technology, as well as one that blow’s any and all of its predecessors completely out of the water, so I hesitate to be too tough. I really enjoyed my experience playing with the Oculus Rift, and I spent the next two days gushing about it to anybody who would listen. I’m going to be paying close attention to the Note version of the Oculus Rift in the next year or so, because it honestly might influence my decision when it comes time for me to choose my phone upgrade.