Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Virtual Reality - Interacting within the game world

I've just been watching a video on the BBC tech news site which features a skateboard device used for simulating movement based on the angle of the tilt of the board and a roller mill type setup for pushing yourself along.  You can view the video here.

Which got me to thinking - how many devices are there going to be when it comes to interacting with virtual environments?  We've already seen a large number of companies vying for the interaction space without any being a clear winner...

The thing about it is that it's a wholly unknown interaction method - we all know that we need to have a VR headset to look around in the game worlds, but how do you feel and touch the items, walk around (without dizzying motion sickness) etc?

Some items I'm looking forward to are:

The Omni Virtuix

A full on omni-directional treadmill which will allow people to walk in any direction in a game.. literally by walking.

This is done with slippery shoes within a bowl that you run and walk inside.  There are a number of videos showing how it works... with a number of games.

Interestingly they have some gun controllers for the FPS examples.

STEM System by Sixsense

There are a number of hands-on devices that are being developed, but one I really like the look of is the STEM System by Sixsense.


It enables both hands to be used independently and accurately within an environment using wireless controllers.  Who doesn't want to be a Jedi in Starwars and able to use light sabres for the first time like Luke in A New Hope?

Both of the above are only allowing the player/gamer/user to interact within the world and, albeit with some feedback (running on the spot, holding something in your hand) don't really actually place the person in the game... but do go some way towards it.

Within Elite Dangerous I use a HOTUS type joystick / thrust system which really does bring me into the game world.  That is augmented by the fact the joystick and thrust controls within the game move at the same time I move them outside (very neat really) to really get you to immerse yourself in the game world.  Interestingly some users have been a little freaked out by the hands in the game moving by themselves once they've been in the game for a while.

I suppose the real "Holodeck" experience will mean being able to feel what is happening in the game world, from being shot... to feeling the wind in your face as you ride a dragon around... and more dubious interactions that I'm sure are coming (no pun intended there).

Interestingly an XBOX Controller is going to be included in the final Oculus Rift consumer version for use interacting within games .. I find that interesting as a mechanism as a controller doesn't feel very good for game control at the best of times, but at least it will enable everyone to be able to control games from the outset!

I'm hoping to try both the Omni Virtuix and the STEM System by Sixsense in the near future and will provide feedback on both once I have!

 community - how do you think people are going to interact in  worlds?  What devices are you most looking forward to?

Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Interstellar Marines - a Great Game in the making

As the title of this blog may suggest - I'm a gamer at heart from Strategy games to board games... but I have a particular fondness of First Person Shooters (FPSs).

Going back a few years now I used to play them a lot - specifically a great free game made by the US Government called Americas Army which introduced tactical team-based gameplay to the FPS scene.  In that game those who really worked as a team would often beat those who were "running and gunning".

Interstellar Marines has brought that old feeling of tactical gameplay back to the FPS scene... but with a few added extras.

The game is set in the future modelling the reason for the fighting on an unknown (or, in actual fact, sort of known, but I won't spoil the COOP game) alien threat.  The multiplayer environment is based around training scenarios to try to build up the soldiers experience of fighting in different environments (under different pressures).

A great feature of the multiplayer game is that the training scenario maps change... not change as in load new levels every x rounds, but literally change mid game.  Sometimes the buildings will raise and lower creating new routes through the maps, sometimes it'll start raining or snowing... and sometimes all of the lights will just go out and it'll be (almost) pitch black.

The lighting, weather effects and sound effects in game are great - they really add to the overall feel of the marine being in a "training" environment.

They have a unique respawn system in that you're "down and out" unless another member of your team achieves an objective (i.e. taking an objective location) or, in the case of being the last member of the team, just killing someone will respawn a team mate.

The game isn't yet finished, but is available on steam in an Alpha mode (to be honest, as a multiplayer experience goes, it's worth the £14 it costs) and I'm looking forward to the future full release of the game in June!