We are through the looking glass here people…
I’ve seen a lot come and go in the games industry. Every conceivable peripheral you can imagine, from useless plastic boards (that provide a so-called “power field”), to controllers that end up just giving you carpel tunnel rather than help you win. However, as we have taken the first real steps in the evolution of VR tech (with both the Oculus Rift and Sony’s Morpheus project) I can now feel a palpable electricity in the air. This is certainly an exciting time of innovation; one that history may look back on as the start of a huge revolution in how we interact with our entertainment.
It’s certainly fun to sit back and speculate where these new advancements could take us. I’m sure when we first made the jump from the Atari 2600 days to the 8-Bit sprites of the Nintendo; minds were blown and new heights were conceived. Will 2014 mark the point we threw out our traditional thumb sticks for a more immersive experience (involving headsets and motion tracking)? Well…probably not. According to PlayStation Worldwide Studios President Shuhei Yoshida, we’ve got a long row to hoe. Even though the Oculus Rift’s $2 billion dollar buyout by Facebook has been monopolizing headlines as of late, Sony still has a dog in this fight. However, Yoshida feels that their Morpheus technology will follow the same rocky path that the early days of 3D did on the first PlayStation. His timeline is far less optimistic, as he predicts almost two decades of growing pains ahead. “People weren't sure how 3D graphics could be used for games…But after 20 years, things have really progressed…When we launch Project Morpheus, or when Oculus VR launch Oculus as a consumer product, I can see another 20 years of progress for all kinds of things. I feel like what Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg is saying--he's looking more at a future vision of what this can be, rather than the initial or second year.” He says.
But whether it’s two years or twenty; where does the VR path ultimately lead for gamers?
While Yoshida is correct in assuming the VR of 20 years from now will no doubt put todays to shame, there are many fun milestones to enjoy in the meantime. After all, most who owned a PlayStation in 1995 didn’t notice the blocky, pixelated polygons. As far as they were concerned, they owned the most sophisticated piece of machinery ever devised. For me, I’m intrigued with VR for a completely different reason than just graphics. While providing high-fidelity images is obviously the key to making this technology work, immersion is the name of the game for this fella!
Allow me to give you a perfect example.
Last night I sat at my computer, browsing several YouTube videos of a project entitled Titanic: Lost in Darkness. It was something that I just happened upon, but was instantly impressed with. It is built with CryEngine 3 and provides a photorealistic (and 100% accurate) recreation of both the interiors and exteriors of the legendary RMS Titanic. One video--which I highly recommend you take a look at right here--gives you a work-in-progress look at the inside of the ship. The graphics and attention to detail are stellar, the lighting is spot on and the motion is so fluid, I almost thought I was watching a pre-rendered cut scene. Unfortunately, there have been no updates on the official site since 2012, so it appears the project is dead in the water (no pun intended). While sad to see, that’s not really the point here. The point is, I instantly tied the potential of a mod like this to how VR could enhance it. I took one look at this video and thought to myself, “Man! Those graphics, combined with the Oculus Rift or Morpheus, could literally make you feel like you were on that ship!”
I know this is a weird little glimpse into the mind of Messer (and how I spend my free time), but I find it to be incredibly exciting! The possibility of virtually stepping onto the deck of a ship that sank a century ago would have never occurred to me this time last year. Now, with the advancements we’re making in VR, I’m starting to look at gaming in an entirely different way! Instead of contemplating how nice a title’s graphics will look on my HDTV, I instead often wonder how the game will look from the inside!
This is the change in thinking that just one year’s worth of development in the field of augment reality has brought us. To Yoshida’s earlier point, imagine what VR of 20 years in the future will look like! Screw hoverboards!