Does anyone else think it's weird that the Internet has recently become crammed with conversions about Virtual Reality gaming? I mean, technology has obviously come a long way since the Virtual Boy was released in 1995, but there's something terribly familiar about the current generation of VR products, so I'm still a little surprised by all of the enthusiasm.
The Oculus Rift headset is obviously the most viable VR device in recent history, and it comes with an impressive set of capabilities. Historically, virtual reality hardware needed to be paired with proprietary titles, but Oculus Rift developers have already ported mainstream games like Team Fortress 2 and Mirror’s Edge. The potential benefit of this kind of flexibility should be pretty obvious. In the past, developers had to take a risk on VR hardware, because they probably wouldn't make their money back. But if headsets like the Oculus Rift will allow people to play existing titles, developers don't need to go out on a limb for the tiny VR community.
But CCP Games, the company behind Eve Online has taken the Oculus Rift a step further. In just seven weeks they created a tech demo for a game called EVR, which is a wing-commander-style fighter that’s set in the EVE universe. It's obviously not a full-realized concept at this point, but it does illustrate just how immersive VR technology can actually be.
The Oculus Rift might be what VR technology has needed all a long.
But I'm still a little skeptical about the whole thing. One of the biggest complaints that people had about the Virtual Boy was that it was uncomfortable and often caused nausea. Both of these complaints have been repeated about the Oculus Rift along with one other major hurdle: latency.
In a recent blog post, John Carmack, Technical Director at Id Software, discussed the problems that come with such a data-heavy visual interface, and summarized his solutions to the problems. It'll be a while before this problem is sufficiently put to bed, but Carmack certainly has a plan, and if anyone can do it…
The big question here is whether or not VR technology will catch on with mainstream audiences. The video game industry is already pushing the limits of it's financial viability, and as the market continues to fragment, everyone becomes less profitable. So, if the Oculus Rift wants to become something more than a novelty, it will need to be adopted by a large number of people.
And, unfortunately, I just don't see that happening any time soon.
Though, there's a rumor that Valve is working on its own piece of virtual reality hardware. So, perhaps I'm being a little hasty. Either way, it'll be interesting to see what stumbles into the market over the next few years, but lets hope that we don't have another Virtual Boy situation on our hands.
Date: April 30, 2013