At GDC, I met with Crytek and tried its VR tech demo called Back to Dinosaur Island, which placed you in the middle of a dinosaur's nest. Aside from looking around at the scenery, you also had to dodge incoming insects, face a terrifying T-Rex, and (my personal favorite) butt your head against a few dinosaur eggs.
The entire thing was just to showcase the possibility of using the CryEngine in VR, and at E3 the company showed off the sequel to the original demo and announced its future plans in VR.
Don't Look Down
The demo I tried at E3, appropriately named Back to Dinosaur Island 2, placed us halfway up a cliff face, so depending on your definition of fear, this could be more terrifying than standing in the middle of a dinosaur nest.
In the original demo, I was standing up, but for this presentation, I was told to sit down in a chair. This actually helped out with the demo in two ways: I could easily swivel around to get an easy 360-degree view of my in-game surroundings, and it also gave me the feeling that I was delicately hanging on the cliffside only by the ropes attached to the rocks. The chair reclined back quite a ways, so if you actually leaned back while playing, it would give you a falling sensation.
Slow And Steady
The objective was simple: use the provided handles, which pulled you up via a machine pulley system, to ascend the cliff and take in the scenery. I was handed an Xbox controller for the demo and used the left and right trigger buttons as my hands. The handles required you to use both hands to start the machine that would pull you up.
At first, the experience was bliss. You could hear the distant sounds of the river below, along with the wind howling around you and the sound of local wildlife.
Then the pterodactyls came.
I didn't notice them at first, hanging from small gaps in the cliff, but then they came diving in droves. I had to dodge a few of them coming at me, while keeping my fingers on the trigger buttons so I didn't fall from the cliff.
The climb featured a series of pulleys, so I constantly had to switch to another handle when I reached a certain point. Sometimes, the next handle would be slightly out of reach, so I would have to stretch my head forward for my digital hand to reach the next handle. That took some getting used to, because my instincts told me to use my hand to reach -- which I couldn't do because my hands were busy clutching the controller. Obviously, this feature will change in the future thanks to Oculus Touch controllers.
Before I reached the top of the cliff, another pterodactyl greeted me at the top, and by flapping its wings, various debris, and what I could only assume were pterodactyl droppings, were hurtling in my direction. This added a little more challenge to the climb, as I had to dodge them to continue the ride.
Eventually, I reached the top and was greeted by a beautiful sight: A large herbivore dinosaur was eating some plants in front of me, and a large man-made structure was off in the distance. There were a few key areas highlighted, and I had to look at them to get a scan of the area. I looked behind me past the cliff and saw a ship that crashed onto another plateau. After scanning all the highlighted areas, the demo ended.
Initially, the two demos were just supposed to give players and developers the idea that Crytek wants to bring its powerful graphics engine into VR, and based off of these two demos, it's a sound idea. The rocks and foliage in the environment are very detailed, and the pterodactyls have a menacing look. The water in the river and the surrounding waterfalls looks beautiful, especially when placed against the sunlight.
This type of graphical quality is what put Crytek on the map, especially with its Crysis series (remember the old chestnut, "Can it run Crysis?"), so it only makes sense that the company also announced the development of a new game for VR called Robinson: The Journey. Players will take on the role of a small boy, presumably the same character in the two demos, as he crashes onto a strange planet still inhabited by these dinosaurs.
At the same time, Crytek just announced that its latest version of the CryEngine will also support VR development, which opens up the field for more titles using the high-quality software.
Although the Oculus Rift headset is launching early next year, there's still no release date set for the Crytek's new title nor any news as to which developers are jumping on the Crytek train to use the software. E3 was a great place for potential developers to see what CryEngine is capable of, so we should be hearing about more developers using it with VR games in the upcoming months before Rift hits the market.