Harvey Norman in Carrickmines set up a demo unit of the HTC Vive on Friday for customers to try out yesterday and today. We popped by to try the virtual reality system from HTC and Valve for ourselves and to see if it really will change how we play videogames.
There was an assistant on hand to pop on headphones and the headset itself before they handed us the Touch controllers. However, it doesn't seem like it would be that challenging to do it all solo. One incredibly useful feature of the Vive setup is that once you put on the VR headset, you can see the Touch controllers, so if someone hands them to you or they're on the ground, it's really easy and intuitive to reach out and take them.
Once equipped with the various bits and pieces, I was dropped into the virtual world. Initially, I was in a room that acts as a menu of sorts. Screens all around the room let you boot up a program, but I was there to get used to the controllers and the idea of moving around in VR. Holding down on the Touch controller's trigger inflated a balloon that we could then bat around the place, while the touchpad let us change the colour of balloons.
And, of course, the mere act of walking around moved our digital avatar too. I was concerned at first about straying too far and ending up in the middle of the shop or crashing into the surroundings, but a subtle grid appears in game when you get too close to the boundaries of your play area.
For the most part, this works perfectly, though I did get a little too into one action game and stepped backwards into an advertising boarding. While the grid may have appeared, I wasn't looking behind myself at the time.
There were a few different demos as part of the overall experience. To start, I was placed on an underwater shipwreck and allowed to just wander around and look at all the creatures swimming by. Looking out over the edge of the wreck was a surreal experience, though it was outdone by the appearance of a Blue Whale. The demo looked incredible and demonstrated how immersive the experience can be.
Then it was off to Job Simulator, a game that I've been sceptical about given the recent trend of tacking Simulator onto any game with varying results. My demo seemed to get cut short, but I did get to see how natural the controllers make grabbing, moving, throwing, and interacting with objects. And I fell victim to the trap that catches everyone who tries out VR; I opened my mouth when "eating" a doughnut.
Tilt Brush, from Google, was the next game up, allowing us to unleash our inner Banksy. Well, that would be doing Banksy a disservice, but I'm looking forward to seeing what those with artistic talent can produce. Instead, I focused on drawing shapes and lines, and playing around with the various "brushes," which include tools like oil brushes, light painting, and taffy, as well as effects like fire, smoke, and stars. Some would call the end result a mess or imagine that it belonged to a (tall) five-year-old, but I prefer to call it abstract.
Finally, we tried a space shooting game, the closest to resemble a traditional game. Dual wielding pistols, players are tasked with taking out a variety of armed and dangerous robots. As you progress, the number of enemies grow, they become nippier, and they're quicker to open fire. Even at lower levels, the game gets you to move around a fair but and shooting feels great. While you can't see your own hands, the in-game representation gives you an accurate idea of where you're aiming and, again, the whole experience feels intuitive.
It was a whirlwind tour through VR, but it gave us a glimpse at how it'll work for a variety of games and tools. The combination of the virtual space and what it can do and the capabilities of the Touch controllers has us excited about what's to come. Now we just need a new Fight Night in which we'll be able to level up our in-game character as we get fitter, faster, and better as a boxer ourselves!
You can play around with the HTC Vive for yourself if you pop into Harvey Norman in Carrickmines today.