Oculus Rift: LUNAR FLIGHT – experience the moon

Logo Lunar FlightFor some days now I am a proud own­er of an Ocu­lus Rift devel­op­er kit. Since I attend­ed a press demo of EVE VALKYRIE at the Gamescom this sum­mer, the device just would not let me go. The expe­ri­ence was so inten­sive and the feel­ing of the game so inno­v­a­tive, that I think the OR will be THE most sig­nif­i­cant rev­o­lu­tion in the gam­ing sec­tor of recent years. So I reg­u­lar­i­ly checked ebay for a device, very well know­ing that I can only get a devel­op­er ver­sion at the moment – and that it suf­fers by see­ing a grid pat­tern due to the low res­o­lu­tion of the dis­play at just 1280 by 800 pix­els. But for tests and prob­a­bly exper­i­ments with the var­i­ous devel­op­er IDEs I did not care. And real­ly: with lots of the avail­able techdemos you just for­get the low res­o­lu­tion imme­di­ate­ly, being entranced by the unbe­liev­able immer­sion.

You should not dis­re­gard, how­ev­er, the prob­lems with »sim­u­la­tor sick­ness«. What hap­pens in the game does not fit to what the organ respon­si­ble for sense of bal­ance in the mid­dle of your ear tells the brain – so even per­sons not sus­cep­ti­ble to sea- or trav­el sick­ness that have no prob­lems what­so­ev­er with mod­ern 3D-com­put­er games can get affect­ed. Believe me, I know what I’m talk­ing about. :o) The devel­op­ers of the device is try­ing to min­i­mize these sim­u­la­tor sick­ness effecs by improv­ing the head track­ers, but I think this prob­lem will per­sist. Because of the organ in your mid­dle ear.

Besides the tech demos there are already the first ful­ly playable games that sup­port the ocu­lus Rift. One of those is LUNAR FLIGHT.

LUNAR FLIGHT basi­cal­ly draws from one of the old­est – and prob­a­bly »clas­si­cal« game prin­ci­ples: LUNAR LANDER or prob­a­bly SPACE TAXI. You had to nav­i­gate a small pix­el-ship in a 2D side­view by skill­full use of thrusters to land on the moon (or some­place else).

In LUNAR FLIGHT you are seat­ed in the cock­pit of a moon lan­der that reminds clear­ly of the ear­ly NASA orig­i­nals. You steer the flight of the ship by a series of thrusters that are posi­tioned strate­gi­cal­ly around the ves­sel. What will appeals to fans of real­ism is also the cause that this kind of con­trol will not become eas­i­ly acces­si­ble to the play­er – even if there are mech­a­nisms in place to help steer­ing the lan­der.
Some hints for the start: at first just play with ver­ti­cal thrust and just get a feel­ing for what hap­pens. Lift off some times and land again. After that try to lift off and just test the yaw by fir­ing the cor­re­spong­ing thrusters, but stay obe the land­ing pad so you can still do a con­trolled land­ing. If you’ve got a han­dle on that you can try to fly to anoth­er land­ing pad (nav­point). You prob­a­bly will want to deac­ti­vate the auto align­ment of the ship, espe­cial­ly when land­ing it can be more of a nui­sance than help.

lunar_flight_01

The game´s immer­sion is amaz­ing. That is most­ly because of the ves­sels cock­pit. You are real­ly sit­ting in the con­ning bridge an by just look­ing around with the rift you see mul­ti­ple dis­plays with var­i­ous infor­ma­tions about the sta­tus of your ship. Addi­tion­al­ly you are able to acti­vate but­tons by look­ing at them. Or, to be more pre­cise, you select the but­ton by look­ing and acti­vate it by press­ing a but­ton on the gamepad. Amaz­ing.

If you have not seen this yet you can­not imag­ine, how real this feels due to the OR and how much you are IN the game despite the low res­o­lu­tion of the devices dis­play. It´s ter­rif­ic!

The starter mis­sions are rel­a­tive­ly sim­ple, just start at moon base one, fly over to moon base two and land on the des­ti­na­tion pad. But rest assured, as a new­bie astro­naut you will have all your hands full by famil­iar­iz­ing your­self with the con­trols and what thrusters to fire. By learn­ing this you will crash one or the oth­er lan­der on the moons sur­face. Trust me, i know what I´m talk­ing about, I added some new craters to the moon. ;o) But, the game is in no sense unfair, it just does not com­ply with the opin­ion of big devel­op­ers that seem to think, game con­trols have to be ridicu­lous­ly easy and you have to get it imme­di­ate­ly. Exper­i­ment­ing with this kind of xon­trol can be lost of fun.
If you mas­tered the fly­ing you can advance to more chal­leng­ing mis­sion, where you have to gath­er mate­ri­als from the sur­face (you can leave the cap­sule) or that take place even on Mars in the high­er lev­els. If you are very adven­tur­ous and have got a stom­ach made of con­crete you can try the mul­ti­play­er mode where you can try to shoot oppo­nent play­ers from the lunar sky. Regard­less what mis­sions you take, you are able to vary the dif­fi­cul­ty in a wide range by select­ing or des­e­lect­ing var­i­ous options in the set­ting menu. You prob­a­bly want to give your ship unlim­it­ed fuel for the first few tries.

LUNAR FLIGHT shows in an impres­sive way where we are going when it comes to vir­tu­al real­i­ty in games. Even if the game itself actu­al­ly is rather sim­ple and would not be over­ly spec­tac­u­lar with­out the device (I did not test that yet, but oth­er reviews say that it is still very good when played on a mon­i­tor, espe­cial­ly praised were the aes­thet­ics of the lunar sur­face), but with the Rift it gains tremen­dous in terms of fun and fas­ci­na­tion. If you already got your hands onto one of the devel­op­er ver­sions of the Ocu­lus Rift, stop think­ing and just buy the game.

Bril­liant!

If you want to help the devel­op­er do not buy it on Steam, but in the new Hum­ble store. You will get a Steam-key there, too, but the devel­op­er gets more mon­ey that way than by buy­ing via Valves shop. Plus you are help­ing char­i­ty.

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p.s.: I did not cap­ture a video show­ing the game­play in Ocu­lus Rift´s dou­ble-eye-graph­ics, because most of the read­ers do not own such a device yet.
p.p.s: com­ing up next: KAIRO

Logo and screen­shots copy­right shov­soft

AutorIn: Stefan Holzhauer

Meist harm­los­er Nerd mit natür­lich­er Affinität zu Pix­eln, Bytes, Buch­staben und Zah­n­rädern. Kon­sum­iert zuviel SF und Fan­ta­sy und schreibt seit 1999 online darüber.

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