The past few years has seen the way we play video games evolve in ways we never thought possible. Light guns and wireless controllers were once the absolute pinnacle of technology for gamers but now we have advanced levels of motion gaming with the Wii and PS Move, while Kinect uses motion capture and 3D imaging so that your entire body becomes a controller. Now, storytelling is deep enough for games to be considered epics but becoming wholly immersed in the environment can still be tough, even with HD graphics and a 3D TV, the Oculus Rift is set to change that.
So what is Rift?
Rift headsets are designed with environmental immersion at the very heart and soul of Oculus’ plan, to allow a player to put on a headset and feel as though they truly are inside the game. Boasting a large HD screen inside which sits as close to the eyes as possible and uses head tracking to provide a great level of control as well as bringing a new level to the way you can explore a games environment.
How will this be the future?
Rather than sitting down and turning on the TV you will instead be able to put on the headset and see everything right before your eyes. No more looking at your game and DVD collection off to the one side, Rift will feature built in stereo sound allowing for total immersion in the game with zero distraction from the outside world.
Awesome! What kind of games are going to be available?
Right now, the Oculus technology is in development stage, meaning the key to it’s success rests on the shoulders of the game developers themselves. But by the time the game is ready to launch, it is perfectly safe to assume that there will be a whole host of games that will be Rift compatible, with the project already having backing from the like of Gabe Newell of Valve, Cliffy B from Epic, Unity CEO David Helgason and id Software liked the idea so much that DOOM 3 BFG is set to be the first title with full Rift compatibility.
So is this technology purely aimed at the bigger developers? What about the Indie developers?
Oculus are planning to roll out their technology right across the gaming spectrum, from indie to the big names. The Kickstarter project means that with a relatively small pledge of $300 developers can secure a headset for development with their games by December if everything goes to plan.
It isn’t just the hardware that is essential to the development, the coding that will need to be added to the game has two main priorities. First up would be integrating the headsets motion tracking control through gyroscope and accelerometer and secondly would be working on the stereo sound effects, so as not to shatter the illusion of being within the game itself.
To make these processes easier, Oculus have developed an easy to use SDK to go with the developer models and make the changes that a game will need as painless as possible for the huge development teams of id right the way through to the humble, bedroom indie developer.
Does it look the part?
Of course it does! Here’s a delectable gallery showing off this snazzy bit of kit.
Ok, it looks great, is easy to develop for but what about the consumer?
The product is only going to be a big seller if the developers get behind it and make there games work with it so Oculus are currently being tentative with a full release date confirmation or even hinting at when and how much this thing will cost. But we know they have the technology and are able to build these devices, so it really is just a matter of having the games library to make it worth releasing.
Price wise, the headset doesn’t have a pricing scheme but Oculus are promising to provide the best experiencve possible at an affordable price, so while it wont be quite as low as some of the $100 glasses currently on the market, it certainly won’t be running into the tens of thousands that similar technology for the military and scientific community costs.
What kind of systems can we expect to see supported?
Being in the early stages, consoles are currently not supported for the device, but it will work with Mac, PC, Linux, Android and iOS as well as having support for both Unity and Unreal.
As it stands the project is definitely in the middle ground and gathering support fast. This is affordable, incredible technology that truly could change the face of gaming. While this stage is currently aimed at the developers, it would be safe to assume that we could see Rift headsets available before the next big console releases from Sony and Microsoft, so if it gets the attention of the right people and the support it deserves. Be ready to play Halo 5 in the most realistic way possible.