For 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.
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.
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.
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
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