e3 2014
Project Morpheus Offers a Smooth VR-to-Reality Transition

Joshua Vanderwall | 15 Jun 2014 17:45
e3 2014 - RSS 2.0

Having had two dizzying experiences with older-model Oculus titles, I wasn't expecting such a smooth transition with Project Morpheus.

Until last week, I somehow managed to avoid ever trying VR in my life. I don't do 3D movies, and I rather expected VR to be basically that, only two inches from your eyeballs. My first two demos at E3 2014 basically reinforced those fears. While the immersion was uncanny, the experience was dizzying, sometimes to the point of nausea. I noticed the effects particularly after I took the headset off. Both times, I was mostly fine in game, but as soon as the demo was over, and I removed the headset, the transition back to reality was really tough.

Suffice to say, I went nervously to my Project Morpheus appointment - where I met up with Andrea Rene - expecting the worst. I made a point not to eat as I'd learned that lesson the previous day, but came away from it rather excited for the prospect of VR. The experience was exhilarating and, most of all, completely free of motion sickness.

We started on a very simple tech demo, Castle. You're holding two PlayStation move controllers, which you see as your gauntlets. Squeezing the trigger grips, and you can grab the target dummy at first - I made it dance - and eventually pick up weapons from racks to either side. I felt foolish after my demo when Andrea Rene immediately went to dual wield. It didn't even occur to me to pick up a second weapon. Even so, it was a grand time hacking the limbs off the target dummy, until it reset and my sword was replaced by a ball and chain. Repeat the bludgeoning process, and move on to the crossbow. Loose a few bolts and I suddenly see a very large shadow. A giant dragon lands in front of me, looks at me for a moment, then proceeds to eat me. I took off the headset expecting the worst, but nothing happened. Miraculously, I felt stable on my feet, my stomach didn't turn, and I was ready for more. After Andrea had her go at Castle, we moved onto the Luge demo.

The second demo had us sitting comfortably on a beanbag chair, geared up with headset and headphones, and sent downhill racing on basically a skateboard. The visuals were rudimentary, but so wholly immersive, the only sounds I really remember were the wheels on the street and the smack of leaves and debris as it connected with me. Steering was accomplished by slight head motions; turning or tilting left or right. I thought I did well navigating traffic, and slid into a 2:08 finish. Then Andrea sat down and showed me up, besting my time by a full seven seconds. The team awed at Andrea's time - apparently fairly impressive even by the standards of someone that plays every day - and we inquired about EVE: Valkyrie.

I've heard amazing things about Valkyrie, so I was excited to finally get to take it out for a spin. I sat down and took off, immediately scanning for enemy fighters. I utilized the look-tracking extensively. You can steer your ship independent of your head, so your missiles lock on based on where you're looking, rather than where you steer your ship. I was tracking ships as they went by and sending out volleys constantly. My machine guns were a tad less helpful. It didn't occur to me until most of the way through the demo that I should be leading my targets. I'm not sure I hit a single ship with the guns, so I'm glad I focused on the missile locks throughout. Being a much more acrobatic experience, I was fully prepared for the world to spin when I removed the headset after Valkyrie, but much to my surprise, there was nothing of the sort.

From what I understand, the early model Oculus lacked some component of the head tracking that the newest Oculus and, of course, Project Morpheus, both have. This is my best guess as to the disparity between my experiences. Where I was reluctant to even put on the Morpheus after my previous demos, now I'm clamoring for more. If you've got reservations about VR because of motion sickness or similar concerns, I strongly encourage you to avoid the older models, but, based on what I've seen, the latest headsets may well have solved those problems. It's obviously going to affect everybody differently, but I was incredibly impressed with the immersive experiences and the smooth transitions I saw with Project Morpheus.

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