The Next Big Leap For Gaming

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

It's been a while since I've posted. I got to fixated on this being a portal for my Z-Net I project and lost sight of it being more of a generalized content blog. Now I'm going to take another step towards that goal and talk about a new piece of hardware being developed that I think most of you would find interesting.

A lot of us probably grew up thinking the future of gaming was going to be about immerse 3D experiences, either through a Holodeck like seen in Star Trek or through a Virtual Reality headset (HMD) like seen in countless movies and T.V. shows. More so the latter as growing up in the 80's - 90's with all this teasing shown, I expected that to be anytime now. When the Virtual Boy was released, well, it was disappointing. But it was still at least a step forward. It still made me feel like the next step was right around the corner. Sadly, I had to wait many years for the VR blip to appear on my radar. And that was the Nintendo On. If you don't remember this piece of gaming controversy history, it was a well put together demo/teaser video about the next Nintendo console after the GameCube. The console was featured to finally be the first true attempt at a real HMD that we all were waiting for. The way this video was released made it seem shady, and while my expectations weren't up, my hopes defiantly were. It obviously proved fake as the next console turned out to be the Wii and was nothing like it.

Since then the HMD tech world has been silent with nothing new and significant coming forward. For years now there has been HMD's, but most are priced into the obscene and no where near affordable to the average gamer. And of course the cheaper and closer they are to being affordable, the worse they are. And sadly, it seemed like no one was even trying to bring this tech to us.

The major limitation preventing progress in this market was the display units themselves. Developing a couple small screens to sit in front of your eyes with a resolution you could find remotely enjoyable with anything close to modern games, was hard. And at a affordable cost was essentially impossible. While that was the single biggest issue preventing any development at all, there was another. To get a true immersive experience the head movement of the character in game needed to be synced with your own. Since the Wii, the tech needed for this existed in the form of motion sensors. Such sensors for a headset need to have extremely low latency in order to properly fool the brain enough for you to have a quality experience. If your not convinced at the need for such motion sensors, I suggest you look into an experiment by a guy named Johnny Chung Lee. When the Wii first came out he started using the WiiMote in other ways, one of which reversed the positions of the remote and the led sensor bar to a degree. You make a set of sensor bar glasses or just put the normal one on your forehead and put the remote on top of your monitor, load his program, and start moving your head around. The 3D effect is quiet cool even though its so fixed to a screen. If you have a WiiMote, a bluetooth adapter and a little time I suggest you try it out. Or at least check out this video.

Anyway, the tech for such VR devices evolved little over the years. And despite the recent advances with smart phone displays, no one has truly married the screen tech with HMD's, until now. Yes, now there is a a new HMD in development! And whats better it is being made with the backing of some of the biggest names in "First Person" game development. This one has the cred to succeed! It's field of view is good, it's latency is low, and its resolution is currently around 720p for the development model, with 1080p expected for the consumer version. All with a final price in the consumer range. The dev models currently cost around $275-$300, and hopefully the consumer versions will as well. I think that's the perfect price, as anything more would just be to much for a display, and would just limit it to a smaller pool of the gamer population.

This HMD is called Oculus Rift. And right now it in a phase putting kickstarter to use. As you will see, the demand for such tech is huge. It's currently sitting at almost 6 times the funds of its original goal. Now I urge you to understand what your getting if you were to put forward the $275-$300 for one of these units right now. These are dev units, not consumer models. If you were to buy one, you would effectively be buying one for a single game (Doom 3 BFG). And the dev models will likely have less capabilities then the consumer ones, like less resolution, no sound, no wireless, etc. While I'm certainly eager to get my hands on one, even if I had the money to idly throw at getting one, I most likely wouldn't and instead save it for the better/consumer model.

Oculus Rift KickStarter

Also you can watch a keynote with the devs backing this here. It's an hour long, but it helps convey the legitimacy on this project, and helps build confidence that it will come to completion.

Anything can happen. But I'm excited to finally see this step being taken for gaming. Since the step away from the 16-bit era, I personally have felt that 3D has mostly been crap. It was ugly on the PS1 which is a huge part of why I never bought it. It was done well enough on a few N64 Classics, but poorly on many others. Since those eras the marriage between graphics and gameplay has gone askew, with to much of a focus on graphics that just don't deliver anything to me. With consoles since then, I've just been buying Nintendo consoles for continuing to play my favorite franchises that always deliver on gameplay, and staying away from the over-rated graphics focused ones that just output generic FPS after generic FPS.

With this new leap coming, hopefully I can start enjoying modern games again, as the 3D should now be living up to its capabilities more. This still isn't everything to make a good all around enjoyable 3D experience, but there are other advancements being taken out there that I will post about later.

I hope you enjoy the excitement as much as I am!


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