PAX Prime 2015
The Gallery: Call of the Starseed Preview - Nausea-Free Virtual Reality Gaming

Liz Finnegan | 1 Sep 2015 15:50
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The Gallery: Call of the Starseed promises 100% nausea-free virtual reality gaming.

At PAX I had my very first experience with Virtual Reality gaming, and it was with HTC's Vive VR headset and the game The Gallery: Call of the Starseed by Cloudhead Games. Call of the Starseed is the first episode of four for The Gallery and is the first commercially announced "made for VR" title. Writing this summary is going to be difficult, as I'm not only trying to convey facts but also an experience. I find the experience difficult to adequately capture in words, but am hopeful I can do it some sort of justice.

In Call of the Starseed, the player assumes the role of a character searching for his missing twin sister, who always seems to be one step ahead of him in an environment largely reminiscent of Myst and The Goonies. The PAX demo stayed in an area that has been shown before in an effort not to spoil too much, but the quest will eventually lead players through a variety of both realistic and fantastical environments through the course of gameplay.

In the demo, I navigated a dark beach and a darker cave, solving puzzles and interacting with a variety of objects, from popping popcorn over a fire to shooting a flare gun at distant bells. Hands that represent your own are present on the screen, and you can use them to reach out to grab, move, hit, and interact with a variety of objects. These objects are all usable, whether for fun and exploration or for actual assistance in the progression of the story. For example, at one point I reached down and picked up a seashell, and when I held it up to my ear the headphones responded with the sound of the ocean. The game and experience was so realistic that at one point I actually attempted to clap my hands, realizing just a bit too late that the hands I saw were not mine - I was still in the real world holding controllers. At another point I had reached out and grabbed and threw a glass bottle, leaving shards of glass all over the ground. More than once, I caught myself attempting to step over these shards while navigating the in-game world, even though I logically knew no harm would come to me by walking across them.

The most interesting aspect to The Gallery is how the studio guarantees a 100% nausea-free virtual reality experience with their Blink VR locomotion mechanic. You can move completely around the game, 360 degrees, and there are non-intrusive markers showing you the safe box area that you can move freely within - an area that is customizable to the available space you have wherever you are playing. When you want to move through the environment outside of the box, you click a button, use head movements in order to indicate where in the distance you wish to move, and "blink" across that space, the safe box moving with you. Blink offers a safe, scalable play environment that you can physically walk around. You are not using controls to move through the game, rather you are quite literally moving around and interacting.

It was surprisingly easy to learn and adjust to the environment and the ways in which you can both move around it and interact with it. I've seen plenty of demos promising what VR can do, but this is my first time directly experiencing what it will do, and what it has done. The Gallery: Call of the Starseed will launch alongside the HTC Vive in Holiday 2015.

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