Nvidia announced VR Funhouse, which was designed to highlight the capabilities of Nvidia’s Gameworks technologies running on Pascal GPUs, during the Pascal reveal in early May. Now you can try it too if your PC is powerful enough.
VR Funhouse is a collection of carnival style mini-games. Each one demonstrates a different aspect of the Gameworks VR suite of technologies. The first mini-game, Clown Painter, leverages Nvidia FLEX, which is a particle-based simulation system that mimics how fluids react to surfaces. In the Clown Painter level, you get two squirt guns filled with green goo that you must spray into the mouths of several clown busts. The fluid splatters around naturally and collects on surfaces.
In the Balloon Knight level, you’ll find yourself surrounded by colorful balloons and holding two swords. You must destroy as many balloons as you can in 30 seconds. As the balloons pop, they blow confetti into the air. Nvidia FLOW is used to simulate the confetti fluttering about. Nvidia also uses FLOW in a later level called Fire Archer, in which you set arrows ablaze before firing them at several wooden targets. FLOW simulates the spread of the flames to other flammable materials. In this case, the fire spreads to burn the wooden targets.
Nvidia Hairworks was implemented into Whack-A-Mole and Mole Boxing to realistically simulate the way hair reacts when you punch or hit a mole with a mallet. There are also two shooting mini-games that leverage Nvidia PhysX Destruction. Shooting Gallery has you destroy as much stationary pottery as you can. The Cannon Skeet makes you work a little harder. You have to shoot the pottery out of the air before it crashes down on the ground.
VR Funhouse also sends haptic feedback to the controllers. You’ll feel the controllers rumble when your swords touch each other or a solid surface, such as the floor. You’ll feel a little bit of a kickback when you shoot the pistols (not enough to really kick the controller like a gun, though). When you pull an arrow back, you’ll feel a bit of rumble, which simulates the tension on the bow. And when you swing the mallet, the controllers rumble on contact.
VR Funhouse was designed to showcase what Pascal can do. The game leverages Multi-Res Shading, which is only available with the 10-series cards. Nvidia said this feature could increase performance by up to 34 percent by breaking the rendered image of each eye into nine sections. Each part can have an independent resolution, so you only have to render what’s directly in front of your eyes in high fidelity.
All of this fancy technology comes at a high price, though. First of all, Nvidia Gameworks technologies are only available on Nvidia GPUs. If you have an AMD graphics card, you’re not even going to be able to launch the game. And even if you have a Nvidia card, there’s a good chance that it’s not powerful enough for VR Funhouse. You should also be using an i7 processor to keep up with the workload.
To run VR Funhouse at the lowest quality settings, Nvidia recommends a PC with at least a Core i7-4790, and you’ll need a GTX 980Ti, Titan X, GTX 1060 or GTX 1070. We managed to get the game running on a system with a GTX 970 and an i5-4670K, but it definitely wasn’t powerful enough to keep the frame rates steady. We experienced significant frame drops with this configuration.
For medium quality settings, Nvidia said you'd need a GTX 1080 and 6-core i7-5930k. We were able to get the game running at this setting with our overclocked 980TI sample and with the i5-4670k, but Nvidia is probably right to suggest more power. The game ran, but it was still dipping below the 90 FPS threshold. Our tests were performed on the i5 because we wanted our test bed to represent a more common configuration. Nvidia didn’t tell us about the recommended specifications until we had already completed our tests.
There’s yet another quality setting that will push your system even further. For High settings, you’ll need a GTX 1080 plus a GTX 980 Ti at the very least. Nvidia leverages so many PhysX calculations in the High preset that you need a GTX 980 Ti as a dedicated PhysX processor. If you don’t have a 1080, you’re going to need three GPUs to pull off High settings. GTX 1070s, Titan Xs or 980 Tis in SLI plus a 980 Ti for PhysX will get the job done. VR Funhouse is the first title to support VR SLI, which dedicates one GPU per eye.
We didn’t test the high quality preset because Nvidia didn’t tell us that you could run the game with a 1080 + 980 Ti until we completed our tests. Inside the game options, the High preset states that it is for dual GTX 1080s. We only have one GTX 1080 in this lab.
Not What It’s Cracked Up To Be
I couldn’t wait to get my hands on VR Funhouse when Nvidia first announced it, but after playing around with it, I’m a little disappointed. The mini games do a fine job demonstrating what Nvidia’s Gameworks technologies can do in VR, but that’s about all the VR Funhouse is good for. The game doesn’t offer a whole lot of replay value. By my second pass through the games, I already felt like I had mastered them all. These mini games don’t push your ability very hard.
VR Funhouse is a good reference example for developers interested in implementing these features, but if you were looking for a VR game with hours of fun baked into it, you’ll likely want to keep looking. It’s worth checking out if you have a rig that will play the game, if only for the glimpse of what we may see in future games.
VR Funhouse is a free download that is available now on Steam.