Imagine the situation; you get home from a long day at work, take a seat on your sofa and place on your headset to play a game. But instead of pressing the start button, now you put on what looks like a scuba mask. Suddenly an image appears on screen and the calm ambience of a shuttle bay is projected in your ears. You’re no longer in you’re room, you’re now in a fighter jet; docked in the loading bay and awaiting take off. You look down to see your body and go to move your hand, but it doesn’t move, because this isn’t your body – you’re in a video game.
This, in a sense, is what the Oculus Rift feels like. As soon as you put on the headset and plug your ears in, you’re immediately drawn into another world. Never before have I found my jaw open the entire duration of a play through. During E3 I experienced two titles in the Oculus Rift roster, both of which were radically different with their approach and user experience. So let’s start with something that aims to bring meaning to your thoughts, shall we?
Less of a game and more of an experience, SoundSelf places you within the entrancing world of thought and feelings. Along with the use of my headset, I could project my voice by whichever means possible – whether that was humming, singing or talking – in order to change the landscape and patterns that lay in front of my eyes. Through the manipulation of sound, I could express my own emotion through the harmony of my sound. Though my experience with the game was entirely within the Oculus – the best platform to experience the game on according to its creator – anyone will be able to play with a mic and display.
Shortly after my peaceful introduction to the Oculus, I had a quick chat with the lead developer of SoundSelf, Robin Arnott. Described by Robin as a ‘Trance-like experience’ he was passionate and positive about his creation, as he emphasized the use of noise and creating that into something tangible, as well as something completely immersive.
“A couple of years ago I made a game called Deep Sea, where the player wore a gas mask and was immersed within this terrifying world. It really scared people and got underneath their skin. That was a great starting point for me on SoundSelf in terms of affecting the body and working with tricks of the mind to create a different sense of self-awareness and perception. With this new game, we’re trying to create an alternate perception of self, using certain loopholes in the way you perceive, enabling you to break the boundaries in what we take for granted, which is self. We were kick-started three months ago and so this is the result of a couple months of work since the kick-starter.”
“I think we’re doing something with this game, which I don’t think has been done in video games before. It’s definitely a challenge, because we can’t take anything for granted. So the result is experiment after experiment, helping us to create a deeper and more powerful experience. The Oculus Rift helps with that a lot, but we’ve still got a long way to go.”
Once questioned about the involvement of the Rift, Arnott elaborated on how the platform elevates SoundSelf even further.
“Because we’re working with perception and loopholes in your mind, we have the chance to cut out everything else around you and place morefocus on the player with the audio and visual experience of SoundSelf. This definitely seems like a long road to a full body experience.”
Next to having the game on PC, Linux and Mac, could the title end up making the transition to console? If so, given Sony’s great relationship with indie developers, could Playstation be the platform?
“You know, I hadn’t really thought about it much. I was actually catching the Sony conference on my way into Los Angeles for E3 and it sounds like they’re doing some pretty awesome things. But at the moment I haven’t started thinking about those prospects, but I would love to because they really seem like a forward thinking company with this kind of stuff. I think it could work well on their platform and I think it would lend itself well to a console experience, but personally that’s far in the future for me. The most important thing right now is creating a very powerful and deep experience for the player.”
I’m personally very intrigued by SoundSelf’s progression and can’t wait to try to put an image to my thoughts in the future. Plus with the addition of a highly immersive virtual headset in the mix, I hope this title reaches an audience set apart from your hardcore gamers, allowing for more soothing experiences.
SoundSelf is currently scheduled for release in 2014 for PC, Mac and Linux. In the meantime you can head over to their main website and Facebook page, and show them your support for the upcoming virtual revolution –
Have you ever dreamt of being out in a fighter jet in space, while you track down enemy aircraft and home in on them with a flurry of missiles at your disposal? Well, as you will have read from my opening to this article, my second experience of the Oculus was a jaw dropping moment. Based in the universe of Eve Online (the insanely deep MMO) EVR is an air combat game, placing you (quite literally) into the shoes of a fighter pilot, awaiting lift off to combat from a shuttle bay.
Both my colleague Ben and I got to play a small versus match with some other players, as we were pit in a dogfight against each other in a fight for supremacy. As we sat down and got geared up, this time we were given an Xbox 360 controller to control movement – the left trigger moved your craft and the back right trigger would fire missiles. Happily we came out of the other side relatively unscathed and winning the round. At the end I managed to speak with two of its development staff, Robert Clark (One of the Lead programmers) and Andrew Robinson (Lead Artist), who told me that the reaction they observed with players, were almost exactly the same every time.
Robert spoke of his observations through the demos they’ve shown, thus far.
“It’s all about getting people immersed in the world. As long as that person can’t hear anything outside and they have their vision completely taken up by the screen, then people start to believe they’re in the game.”
Clark continued by explaining people’s initial reactions to the setting.
“At the beginning you have your hands out and you look down and see your torso and your body, and people would actively be looking around their environment. Some people would go to lift their hand up and then realise that their hand wasn’t being lifted in the game, which amazed some people, because they felt as though the in-game character was their own. It’s really interesting to see how people react differently to EVR.”
EVR was unlike anything I had ever experienced as a gamer, and I believe that the Oculus Rift’s potential is limitless. The only problem is trying to describe it, as you’ll never truly understand the potential until you have the chance to try it yourself. What I tried was only a prototype, but it was built as more of a bit of fun and a showcase that the Rift truly is the future of gaming. Sure, it’d be hard to see it implemented within your frantic online first person shooting games, but not far fetched.
As we approach Gamescom we’re eager to get our heads on Oculus Rift some more, especially with so many great titles supporting the hardware. As far as the future is concerned, I hope Sony and Microsoft support it once it reaches a consumer level. But question is, who would jump at it first? Given Sony’s love for all things ‘indie’ I suspect they would love to take the chance.
Look out for more in-depth previews of Oculus Rift titles in the next few weeks.
What are your thoughts towards a virtual reality headset, such as the Rift? Do you hope that it will reach either the PS4 or Xbox One in the future? Sound off in the comments box below.