Impressive mixed-reality VR trailers are dropping, and they're helping to show what VR is like for those who have had the pleasure of donning a VR HMD. Those of us who’ve tried high-end VR like the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift know it can be a life-changing experience. However, one of the challenges VR enthusiasts, and journalists like us, have is communicating in words how transformative VR can be. It’s hard, like describing a sunset to someone who's never seen one. That’s why you’ll often hear the comment that you have to try VR before you’ll fully understand it. Of course, that is easier said than done, especially with the limited availability and high cost of current VR hardware.
The next best thing, then, is to use video. Unfortunately, even with moving images, it's hard to really capture what VR is actually like. Videos of it usually consist of in-game footage shown through the eyes of the player as they jerkily move their head around, combined with real-world footage of someone flailing around in a VR headset. Not exactly tantalizing.
Now, though, some developers like Sarah and Colin Northway of Northway Games, maker of HTC Vive launch title Fantastic Contraption (which is also included with the system when you buy it). What they came up with is ingenious, and you can see the end results below.
By using a green screen and a moving camera (tracking by a third Vive controller), Northway Games has been able to create fantastic mixed-reality videos that truly show (as best a traditional video can) what it’s like use VR. Its initial experiments with mixed-reality videos were not as polished as the above, so Northway teamed up with veteran game trailer producer Kert Gartner to produce something more polished -- professionally shot in a studio and perfected with many hours of post-production.
You’d think that Northway Games would want to keep this tech to themselves, but thanks for the open and collaborative nature of the VR community, the Northways were quite happy to share the secrets of making mixed-reality VR videos with everyone (you can read how to make them yourselves here). The first fruits of that openness is the launch trailer for Owlchemy Lab’s Job Simulator, another game that comes included with a Vive purchase.
When I first tried the Vive way back in February of last year, Job Simulator was one of the first demos I tried, and it was my favorite of the demos I saw. Every time since that I’ve tried the Vive, I’ve used more and more complete builds of the game, and it’s still one of the best VR experiences I’ve had so far. Not only is the game fun, it’s also funny and full of pop-culture references, something we talked to Owlchemy Lab’s about when we interviewed them at CES.
But wait, there’s more! Yes, now that the HTC Vive has been released, it’s not only Fantastic Contraption and Job Simulator that have been given the mixed-reality trailer treatment. On Valve’s SteamVR page, you can now see seven other Vive VR titles in mixed-reality game trailers, including Budget Cuts, Irrational Exuberance, The Blu, Arizona Sunshine, Space Pirate Trainer, and Everest.
Then, to sum up the entire SteamVR and HTC Vive experience, Valve has put together a supercut of all the trailers mentioned above and included even more games, such as Valve’s The Lab VR mini-games, Cloudlands: VR Minigolf, Hover Junkers and more.
So although last week’s release of the Oculus Rift (read our review here) was the public debut of PC-based VR that average consumers can buy, it does seem like today’s Vive launch is the real coming out for VR. Moreso than Oculus, Valve has gotten the VR party started with a huge list of Vive launch titles from almost every genre. Check out the videos in this post, watch the other mixed-reality videos on the SteamVR page, then read our HTC Vive review and see why our own Kevin Carbotte said: “HTC's Vive provides an experience you can't get with any other product.”
Alex Davies is an Associate Contributing Writer for Tom's Hardware and Tom's IT Pro, covering Smartphones, Tablets, and Virtual Reality. You can follow him on Twitter. Follow Tom's Hardware on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+.