Despite being initially blown away by my Oculus Rift devkit 1, as with many people that splashed out the $300 odd for it, I quickly came up against the biggest roadblock the hardware has. No, not the screen door effect or low res screen, no not the multiple cables it uses, or even that it can sometimes be a pain in the balls to get working, it's the fact that there just aren't many supporting games yet.
There's a lot of experiences, shorts one to two minute visuals or audio set pieces, sometimes with a bit of gameplay or exploration and they're fun and all, but we aren't gaming noobies here. We need a bit more meat from our games, so my time with the Rift is sporadic. I tend to dip in and out, see what new games and experiences are being made for it and then come back a month later and do it all again.
And there's some great stuff being made. Some really, truly talented developers are starting to make some wonderful stuff for it that makes me all the more excited for not only the final versions of these games, but also the full consumer edition of the Rift.
So without further-ado, here are my top five newly experienced Rift demos.
Solar System Explorer
Inspired by one of my previous favourites, Titans of Space, Solar System Explorer takes you off the rails and gives you command of a warp speed spacecraft that can zoom about looking at planets, the rest of your fleet and the sun itself, a giant, glowing ball that can't help to draw your eye in the murky black.
While this lacks the educational information that Titans of Space easily conveys, it still offers a great look at some of our solar bodies, as well as giving you an idea of the scale of it all, even if the distances between everything are to 1:50,000 scale.
This might seem like an odd choice for the Rift, since it's not hyper realistic and neither is it first person, it's a side scrolling beat'em up with 8bit graphics, at least on the surface. But once you boot it up and activate Rift mode (and spend a minute adjusting the 3D settings and FOV) you have the Virtua Boy experience of your dreams. It's a 2.5D set up that lets you move closer and further from the screen, and you're punching ninjas and street toughs the whole time.
There's shops to go into, upgrades to buy and you can even bribe some local law enforcement to help you take back the streets. While you start off with your fists, as you level up and progress through the alpha demo's three streets, you'll defeat bosses, unlock weapons and new characters and just beat wholesale ass in a very pretty and unique looking environment.
Desperate Gods VR
This is another demo that you wouldn't initially think of as a Rift must-have, but it is, or at least, it will be when they slow the zoom down.
Desperate Gods is a board game created by Wolfire (the guys behind Overgrowth) that operates in a similar manner to the Talisman games from Games Workshop. However in this instance, it's in true 3D and you're really looking at the board. While there are some issues with reading text and the zoom function is nauseatingly quick at the moment, the whole thing feels like the future of online board and card games. Why not make it so I can play Hearthstone and look up to see Jaina mocking me?
This is something still in its very early stages, but I'm perfectly happy to say that I took one for the team and gave it a try, just so you guys know what's going on. No other reason. Obviously.
While there isn't much in the way of real, 3D, VR porn that you control at the moment (I feel like we'd need much more sensors than just the Rift for that) you can download 360 degree movies and watch those using VR player. And they work surprisingly well.
In the scenario I watched, the camera is attached to a man's head, so looking down, you see his body and because it's 360 degrees, you can look anywhere (apart from at his face) so it's almost more fun to look at something other than the sexual act being performed, just because you can.
I've seen better 3D in non-360 degree camera ones and editing needs to be improved, as going from one angle to another can really screw with your sense of placement, but it's still pretty immersive, especially in some specific scenes. Just from a voyeuristic point of view, it's certainly tittilating.
Fading to suddenly having the camera attached to one of the women in the video was quite interesting as well, as it offered up a wholly new perspective. So much so, that i'd be quite interested to see someone explore gender reversal with the Rift.
Find the download yourself.
Anyone that's consumed some form of mind altering substance and played Audiosurf, knows that it can open up whole new perceptions to your music. Fireworks Visualiser is a bit like that, as it lets you watch a stunning fireworks display, all synced up in time with your own music.
There's a default track for you to use, but it works really well – often better than whatever you load in – but sometimes you get the song just right and it's almost a religious experience. The best part is that you have to lie back to look at them, like you're really staring at the sky. Trying this outdoors would probably be mind blowing, but I'm not doing that while it's cold.
Hands down, THE best looking Oculus Rift demo available at the moment. It's a mixture of exploration, visual showcase and a hidden item game and it's so, so well done. The modelling is excellent (save perhaps the toilet) the dust motes in the air, the easter eggs, the controllable radio, it's all fantastic.
You play a hacker in a world where 3D printing is king, but the government is the only one that has the schematics. A hacker friend of yours sends you a schematic and your job is to print it. It's a short game, depending on how easy you find it, but it's so well put together you can easily find yourself spending time just looking around and taking it all in. The armchair in particular is very, very well made.
The file size is huge on this one, almost a GB, but that's partly because there's a full movie hidden in there as an Easter egg. Perhaps a tad unnecessary, but it was a fun one to find.
Technolust is a planned full game development, but we'll have to just keep an eye out for now as until a Kickstarter appears or Oculus decides to help out, development will be agonisingly slow.
(No videos exist for this at the moment, so check the gallery for a quick image preview.
So what do you guys think of these new demos? They're exciting for sure and have got me really looking forward to the next year of Rift development again. We're in a bit of a chicken and egg scenario at the moment, but if developers like this can produce such new and impressive experiences, I have no concerns about the Rift's future.