It seemed like I saw post after post over at Joystiq mentioning the Oculus Rift (Though, to be fair, it was apparently only four or five posts) which constantly brought the question "What the hell is that?" to my mind. At first glance, it is basically what it seems to be - a virtual reality headset. It is not the first, nor will it be the last venture into this, the Next Next Big Thing™, and that is because it is an entirely commendable venture. Everybody, on some level, wants Virtual Reality, something that works, that is fully immersive, and anyone who says they don't is a goddamn liar. If not even for what boils down to 'video game use' (which, if VR was super wide-spread would be a much broader field than currently), then for the practical uses it can be applied to the field of which I can't think of a goddamn instance. Like...virtual meetings, I guess? Sort of like Skype conferences for people who can't be at an office except even more unnecessarily technologically advanced. Maybe like a virtual repository for ideas or something too? I don't know, fuck that, we just care about the games and stuff, right? I think we can all agree on that.
Of course this...uh....this is where I get a bit lost, since it's fairly technical in that aspect and I am not very good at that. It lists some technical specs on the Kickstarter Page for the thing, and I'm sure they mean something to somebody, but said person is certainly not I. And, of course, it's just the Dev Kit and not the final product since there....-is- no final product at the moment, really. Still, I'd be remiss if I didn't list the specs here, just to show them off so that I may point out just how useless I am with things such as it.
Technical specs of the Dev Kit (subject to change)So, yeah. I.....I get the weight and the platforms (PC-only at the start, but they've stated they want to adapt it to everything...we'll see on that front, however), and more or less the Inputs, but the rest is....well, it's not complex, I'm certain, but I just look at it and see numbers and words instead of something that means anything. The Field of View, from the video on the Kickstarter Page, basically just seems to me like it's trying to mimic the entire (or most of) field of view of normal vision, thus meaning you slide the goggles on and -see-, instead of simply seeing what is being filtered into the screens. By keeping the latency low (lost, so very lost), they said it makes it easier for 1:1 movement (my words) in that you can move your head and the 'camera' moves that way instantly, without a delay to enhance the immersion. Resolution, basically, is just where I throw my hands up and back off swiftly because shit I don't -know-. I'm seeing a lot of comments saying that that only takes it up to 720p resolution which I don't get how they come up with that, but that is apparently a 'bad' thing since EVERYTHING MUST BE 1080p FOR THE FUTURE or something. Entitlement, etc.
Head tracking: 6 degrees of freedom (DOF) ultra low latency
Field of view: 110 degrees diagonal / 90 degrees horizontal
Resolution: 1280x800 (640x800 per eye)
Inputs: DVI/HDMI and USB
Platforms: PC and mobile
Weight: ~0.22 kilograms
There's been no real lack of support for this thing, of course, as the whole Kickstarter project for it was ridiculously over-funded in a single day, even though it was meant mostly for Developers (at least the higher tiers, where the lower ones could be anyone) to get in early, get a Dev Kit, and get stuff working on it. As a proof of concept, every Dev Kit that goes out there comes with a copy of the up-coming Doom 3: BFG Edition which has been made to support the device since John Carmack is pretty much just all over this friggin' thing. I get the idea from the Kickstarter video that he might have approached the Oculus Rift guys early on and worked with them most steps along the way. I gotta say, if you want something that depends on first-person Field-of-View, there aren't many people higher than iD Software that you want behind you, despite the lengthy amount of time between games they seem to have. Of course, he's not the only one who has voiced their support for the thing as the ranks have filled out since with Cliffy B, Gabe Newell and recently Notch who wants his new game to support it, and would love if Jeb would agree to have Minecraft support it. (Since Jeb is the lead on Minecraft now and basically knows how to actually -make- it, so we're lead to believe.)
Now while I am excited for it, it is a very very measured level of excitement that I have because of....well, a few things. Chief among them is the simple fact that I am just not a PC gamer, which is what this thing is going to be built for, plain and simple. It can be adapted for consoles, perhaps and this and that, but at the end of the day, it's made for PC Games and that is a market that I have not, and am not too keen on tapping into because of the myriad of issues that it raises simply by existing. The other issue is, of course, that if they're working on this, chances are that Microsoft and Sony at least have been working on it as well, and are likely to bring out something similar, specifically made for their consoles if just to shut out the competition to try and corner their market. Which is why I'm very wary on thinking that the Oculus will be anything beyond a PC device. So I suppose I'm getting more attached to the concept and the end-product rather than the branding and such it'll carry.
However, my biggest problem that I have, which might be a matter purely mired in my lack of technical know-how is that I have no idea how you're actually expected to control games with it. Yes, you move your head to control the 'camera', which basically negates the right control stick/mouse (minus mouse buttons) entirely, but even without that, you still have an entire rest of the controller and/or keyboard to contend with. With PC gaming especially, it sort of helps to be able to see the keys on the keyboard if you're expected to use them, so if this basically just cuts out using the mouse to look around, and you still need WASD to move...well...what's really the point here? I haven't -seen- anything that tells me there is something beyond this, which I am assured that there is, which indicates a failure on the selling point itself. Teach me how I, the potential consumer, am going to use this, and why it will be useful. I understand that it is totally fucking cool, and it certainly is, and I can see -some- uses, in that it'll just make it easier to...well, see things and pay attention to things in game, but I can't entirely divorce that from the experience itself. Hopefully as more information comes out on this we'll get a clearer picture, but for now, all I see is a pair of goggles with screens in them. And for as awesome as that is (and it is very awesome), I need to know what it will be used in conjunction with for me to really get excited.