What Can (And Can't) You Do With The Rift
Available VR Games
The Oculus Rift is launching with a catalog 30 titles deep, encompassing a wide range of VR experiences. Fortunately, the games we're aware of don't conform to a typical console pricing model. Only 11 of the initial 30 titles set you back $20 or more, and only four cost $50 or more. The majority are short indie games priced at $15 or less.
The cost is reflective of the types of games we're dealing with here. Oculus doesn’t have many offerings we'd conventionally consider AAA. There are a few, including Project Cars and Elite: Dangerous, but neither game is exclusively VR-based. Virtual reality is simply an enhancement, albeit an impressive one.
EVE: Valkyrie is perhaps the one VR-only title you might consider AAA. For those who pre-ordered their Rift, you get a copy for free. For everyone else, EVE: Valkyrie commands a $59 price tag.
Chronos comes close to AAA status as well. Palmer Luckey tweeted about the game in early March, stating that Chronos offers more depth than any other VR game currently available. Its campaign lasts a solid 13 hours, so you probably won't (shouldn't) finish it in one sitting.
Other games that land at the higher end of the price scale include AirMech: Command, a fast-paced, third-person, real-time strategy game; Defense Grid 2, a virtual reality tower defense game; and Radial-G, a high-speed racing game that could be called Wipeout for VR. Each offers a completely different type of VR experience.
There are plenty of casual games to choose from as well. The launch line-up includes an Adventure Time game, which can be had for $5 (the cheapest launch title) and Dreadhalls, a creepy horror game that was first conceived of for the DK2 and later became a Gear VR game. CCP Games also ported its successful EVE: Gunjack gallery shooter, which debuted in November on the Gear VR, over to the Rift.
|ADR1FT||Three One Zero||Intense||$19.99|
|Adventure Time: Magic Man's Head Games||Turbo Button||Moderate||$4.99|
|AirMech: Command||Carbon Games||Comfortable||$39.99|
|Albino Lullaby||Ape Law||Intense||$9.99|
|Audio Arena||Skydone Studios||Comfortable||$9.99|
|Dead Secret||Robot Invader||Comfortable||$14.99|
|Defense Grid 2||Hidden Path Entertainment||Comfortable||$29.99|
|Dreadhalls||White Door Games||Intense||$9.99|
|Elite: Dangerous||Frontier Developments||Intense||$59.99|
|EVE Gunjack||CCP Games||Moderate||$9.99|
|EVE Valkyrei Founder's Pack||CCP Games||Intense||$59.99|
|Fly to KUMA||COLOPL||Comfortable||$14.99|
|Herobound SC||Gunfire Games||Comfortable||$9.99|
|Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes||Steel Crate Games||Comfortable||$14.99|
|Omega Agent||Fireproof Games||Intense||$14.99|
|Pinball FX2 VR||Zen Studios||Comfortable||$14.99|
|Project Cars||Slight Mad Studios||intense||$49.99|
|Radial G||Tammeka Games||Intense||$24.99|
|Shufflepuck Cantina Deluxe VR||Agharta Studio||Comfortable||$9.99|
|Smashing the Battle||One-Man Studios||Moderate||$19.99|
|Vanishing of Ethan Carter||The Atronauts||Intense||N/A|
|Vektron Revenge||Ludovic Texier||Moderate||$9.99|
|VR Tennis Online||COLOPL||Moderate||$24.99|
|Windlands||Psytec Games Ltd||Intense||$19.99|
Many of the games are short experiences. While there’s not a lot of depth to most of them, Oculus claims there are more than 100 additional titles on the way this year, and many more than that in development for next year and beyond.
In the table above, you'll notice a column titled Comfort Level. This rating is Oculus' way of telling you what kind of experience to expect. The company has a similar system for Gear VR titles, which are labeled "comfortable for most," "comfortable for some" and "comfortable for few," which is vague, but you get the picture. The Rift's ratings are "Comfortable," "Moderate" and "Intense". Really, they're even more vague, and Oculus doesn't get more specific anywhere on its site. Documentation we received for our review helps a bit, but the criteria for each category is fairly broad.
A Comfortable rating means the game doesn't involve movement; most are completely stationary. These shouldn't induce motion sickness, but you may be affected in other ways. The Moderate rating indicates that there's some movement tied to the experience. Of course, this could cause varying levels of discomfort. Intense is reserved for games with complex movements, such as running, racing or flying.
The Rift HMD is designed to provide a fully immersive experience. Games must have support for VR to run properly on the Rift, and in many cases they're written with virtual reality in mind. But there are ways to play games not yet optimized for VR.
Oculus doesn’t really support playing standard PC games in a VR setting, but through its partnership with Microsoft, you’ll be able to play Xbox One games through the Rift HMD. They won't be rendered in VR; rather, you'll play them on a large format screen inside of a virtual room. The Rift will be able to stream Xbox games using the same process that you would use to stream games to your PC today.
If you want to play standard PC games in virtual reality, there are third-party tools you can use; they're just not supported by Oculus. VR Desktop is one app that promises access to your PC in a VR environment, including playing your existing game library on large format displays. VR Desktop will let you have multiple displays, and it has a feature for curved screens.
Even fancier, Vireio Perception, created by the open source community over at MTBS3D, is a free driver that lets you play a number of games in full stereoscopic 3D. DX11 titles are still a work in progress, though. You could alternatively buy the vorpX driver for getting more DX10 and DX11 games working, but it's still limited to a specific list of 174 titles. Not just any game will work.
Oculus also embraces the idea of using its Rift for tasks other than gaming, from entertainment to education to tourist attractions and medical therapies. For the time being, though, you’ll mostly experience different forms of entertainment with the Rift.
One of the most prominent content types is immersive video. Oculus partnered with Jaunt, a leading 360-degree video production company, to provide a hub where you can find immersive live-action video filmed with Jaunt's high-end equipment. You'll find content covering extreme sports, tourist attractions and music in the Jaunt app.
Immersive animated content will also find a home on Oculus' platform. The company created its own 3D animated film company (think Pixar and Dreamworks) called Oculus Story Studio, which will be creating its own virtual reality animated stories. Henry is the first of those experiences, but you can expect more from Oculus Story Studios in the future.
Things You Can’t Do
One of the first things you'll want to try in VR is first-person combat. It seems like a great idea. But shooters don't translate well to virtual reality, unfortunately. Running around in a VR environment when your body isn't actually moving tends to be unsettling. First-person shooters have to be designed around the limitations of this generation's VR hardware. Instead, you’ll find more gallery shooters than games like Call Of Duty for virtual reality.
There are, of course, exceptions. Omnidirectional treadmills like Virtuix's Omni, which we tried at CES and loved, will give you the ability to run around in a virtual environment while moving in the real world, too. You can order an Omni today, but Virtuix acknowledges that beyond its own in-house demos, most experiences for Omni are still a year or more away.
How about getting rid of your monitors altogether? This may become possible in the future, but we're not there yet. Without the ability to see outside of your HMD (the Rift lacks a pass-through camera,) it is difficult to interact with devices like keyboards and mice. We have seen some nifty demonstrations for specific use cases, like the VR scene editors from Epic and Unity. But these are really tools for game designers, though.
Additionally, given the way that graphics drivers treat VR headsets, the Rift is not capable of displaying your Windows desktop natively. The Virtual Desktop software will let you interact with the Windows environment from within VR (you can even set up multiple virtual displays), but you still need a desktop monitor to launch the app in the first place.
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