Kingdom Hearts VR Experience is coming to PSVR later this year

Kingdom Hearts 3 Worlds Promo

Open the door! Lead me into everlasting darkness!

It’s no secret I am keen on the upcoming Kingdom Hearts 3 next year.  I have been enjoying the series ever since the first game came out on PlayStation 2 and PSP, with only the DS titles being missed (as was a latecomer to that party).

Slated for late Feb 2019, I am seriously considering taking time off work to devote a week to the third instalment.  To get ready, I have the Kingdom Hearts 1.5 + 2.5 Remix on PS4, that I will be starting up closer to November.

And with that, I thought I would be ready.  Probably not Platinum trophy runs, but 2 months per game would be enough to get through these gems.

Apparently, Square Enix disagreed.  What else could I have to get me excited and back in the swing?  The VR Experience of course!

It’s not a VR game per se, but I will be able to swing a Keyblade.  Really, enough said – I’m in.

Arriving ‘this holiday season’, I am expecting this to be a late December release – which means I can play it between Kingdom Hearts 1 and 2!

Until tomorrow,

JohnHQLD

Beat Saber VR Early Access Review

Beat Saber Feature
Beat Saber Feature
Released Early Access Release 2018
Developer Hyperbolic Magnetism
Publisher Hyperbolic Magnetism (Website)
Category VR Rhythm Game
Homepage beatsaber.com

Feel the beat, let it flow through you…

So I have been having a ball in Virtual Reality.  There are still a heap of games to be played, and a heap of games that I wish weren’t quite the ‘tech demo’ quickies they are.

That said, Virtual Reality is now closer to consumer-friendly than ever before.  PlayStation VR or PSVR is something you can get into for $1,200.  It wasn’t long ago that was the asking price for most of a headset.

VR still has problems.  PSVR tracking is good enough most of the time.  Oculus has had some interesting legal issues.  Oculus and Vive both have high entry points (although this is getting better).

On the whole, I have seemed to do OK introducing people to VR.  For younger people or those I think will suffer from motion sickness, I have VR movies like Invasion!.  For those that don’t mind a horror theme, Rush of Blood on the PSVR is a blast I still occasionally boot up.

But I think I found a game that I can show everyone as an entry to VR.  You stand fairly still, with targets coming towards you.  You cut those targets with lightsabers.  Everyone instinctively knows how to hit the thing, right?

That game is Beat Saber.

There are a number of people that will look at Beat Saber and just think ‘another gimmick game’.  And to a degree, they are right. Guitar Hero and Rock Band were gimmick games though, and look how much they sold.  Just saying.

The idea is so simple you really have nothing to teach.  Cubes come towards you in time to the music.  They have an arrow on them.  Slice them in half in the direction of the arrow.  If they have a circle on them, just hit it in direction.

Rules done.  And that satisfying vibration feedback and sparkles when you hit a cube is instantly a feeling you want again.

Beat Saber Hitting the Cubes
You can watch people playing, but nothing compares to the feel of cutting cubes yourself

You have to avoid cutting mines.  This catches people the first time.  It’s amazing how naturally ducking and sidestep walls is as well.  But even people that swing at a mine with gusto have that ‘Oh.  Makes sense’ look on their face when you add that rule.

But you don’t have to drag it out.  When someone cuts a mine and usually yells “What?!?!?!” all you respond with is “Yeah that was a mine.”  Not hitting them is instantly understood.  Someone doesn’t get out of the way of a wall?  Just say the red glowing thing is a wall.  Natural instincts just take over.

Beat Saber Wouldn't you just duck
In a situation like this, you may hear "What's that?" Just reply wall and watch them duck.

You can just kinda swing your arms and get through, and when practising is not a bad idea just to get the feel of a level.  Another reason why a lot of people kind of overlook Beat Saber.

I am hoping the scoring algorithm they posted disproves this though.  Yes, you can get through the game just waggling your wrists, but you won’t get a high score or rank.

Instead, for optimal scoring, you want to swing your saber at least 90 degrees to hit the target.  This gives you 70 points.  Then follow through the cut with an additional 30 degrees movement.  This gives you another 30 points max.  Finally, if you cut the cube close to perfectly in half, you can earn an additional 10 points.

I only learnt this algorithm this week, but it did confirm what I was experiencing playing.  Do a ‘proper’ cut and get high points.  The downside of this knowledge though is it made the number of cheats apparent.

So the scoring from the creators shows that the maximum score per cube or note is 110.  As you continue combos, you also get a multiplier.  As you consistently hit notes, this multiplies increases to 2x, 4x, then maxes at 8x.

So the first song $100 Bills has 264 notes.  Let’s be generous and add up the maximum score of 880 per note – maximum score possible is 232,320.

There is a problem though.  This score still isn’t possible.  It assumes you start on an 8x multiplier, which doesn’t happen.  So how is the leaderboard top 10 filled with scores higher than this?

Beat Saber The Maths Doesn't Work
$100 Bills on hard. 264 notes. 880 x 264 = 232,320. Hmmmm.

For the leaderboard, cheating seems to be a problem.  Now Beat Saber is still early access and anti-cheat maybe something that is coming, but here today now it isn’t happening.

Because it’s early access, I am OK with this.  I can continue to play and try to reach the coveted SS rank – the highest rank in the game.  But it did take the shine from my highest achievement to date.

A few days ago a secret song was unlocked – Angel Voices.  It is three times as long as any other song, and only has Hard and Expert modes.  I thought I was doing REALLY well, then I found out about the cheating.

I haven’t hit an S rank (yet) but looking at the player ranks I had cracked the top 500!  I did a little dance and felt immensely proud.  My scores in Angel Voices are playing all the other songs on Hard one after another.  I felt a push to do better – not by starting the song fresh, but by beating my score after playing through everything again.

Beat Saber Angel Voices
Angel Voices - the most difficult song in the game. Not even an S rank and in the top 500 players!

But now I know someone can essentially cheat an unobtainable score.  I am still going to go for SS and try to beat my previous scores, but it does put a damper on things.

Seriously, Beat Saber is a game that anyone can play, but people can work themselves to an elite level of play with.  This could easily become an eSport.  It’s amazing watching people in the mixed VR filming seeing just how much they put into getting the perfect form for the song.

And that’s what Beat Saber instantly reminds me of – kendo and kenjutsu kata.  Anyone can pick it up, but practice and master the song and the top scores are yours.

There is also another benefit to this – you really pushing your upper body for maximum movement.  You work up a real sweat when you throw yourself into this game.  There is even evidence to suggest that Beat Saber burns almost as many calories per minute as tennis.  Now Beat Saber wouldn’t be able to replace your entire workout regimen, but it is a workout if you treat it the right way.

You can extend the side steps or even begin marching to the beat to increase the whole body workout side and get the heart beating faster.

But this one game aside, it does show the potential for VR fitness.

Beat Saber Fitbit
The Fitbit registers Beat Saber as an Aerobic Workout - if you didn't believe you worked before, here's how I went this morning

At the moment Beat Saber is available for HTC Vive, Oculus Rift and Microsoft Mixed Reality.  The easiest place to get Beat Saber on PC is Steam, but your VR store should also have it.

And it was announced just prior to E3 that Beat Saber is coming to PSVR!  I can guarantee I will be buying it again just to have more people playing it at the same time.  I just hope Hyperbolic Magnetism can nail the tracking with the move controllers, and I will miss the haptic feedback.  Maybe some peripheral upgrades Sony?

Until next time,

JohnHQLD

The Persistence is coming to PSVR this week

The Persistence Feature

They try to describe The Persistence as an Action, Adventure, Survival, Stealth, Roguelike, Horror game.  With co-op elements.

Virtual Reality is dead is a sentence I hear a lot.  Still in its infancy in many ways, VR has a long way to go to fully establish itself it’s true.  But dead?  I don’t think so.  Beat Saber is a heap of fun and it’s not even ‘finished’ yet.  Resident Evil 7 was amazing, even on the ‘underpowered’ PSVR.  Moss is just gorgeous, and I am resisting buying it again so I can play it on the Vive.

Most of the ‘best’ VR games have something in common though – they are all short experiences.  Dedicate an afternoon, and you will see the end credits.  Keep getting zapped by the alien around the third corner?  Enough retries, you will get him.  I know that’s how I got through a lot of Resident Evil 7 early on.

But what if the bad guy wasn’t always around the third corner?  This is part of the appeal of Roguelike games.  You always have the same goals, but the layout and enemies are always different.  Thinking of playing Resident Evil where the house layout was different every time I died – now there is a challenge!

Firesprite not only thought this challenge would be a good idea but added a bunch of twists and packaged it as The Persistence.  One of the most anticipated titles for PSVR this year, The Persistence is available this week.

Story elements at the moment are pretty light.  You are on a colony ship where the crew is dead, and mutants have overrun the ship.  If that wasn’t bad enough, your ship is also damaged and near a black hole.  So, basically that feeling you get Monday morning.

Armed with a clone printer and the electronic recordings of the Security Office and Engineer, you set out to somehow repair the ship and survive whatever has happened.

This is not a game for a light casual pick up and put down session.

The Persistence Black Hole
Oh what a lovely view oh wait I know what that is...

Stealth will be a major part of The Persistence, and Firesprite has bumped up a mechanic from Alien: Isolation.  In Alien, you could play with the camera and physically move your head to peek around boxes.  The microphone also picked up on sounds in the room.  This meant the Alien could ‘hear’ you – nothing terrifying about that when you were hiding.

But this was playing on a flat screen with a feature you could switch off.  In The Persistence, you will have to actually duck down and hide behind boxes from mutant enemies.  There is also a mechanic where you will need to sneak up on them and incapacitate them to harvest material.  Immersive gameplay seems to be on the cards.

There is also a second screen mode to play with a friend.  This took a couple of minutes for me to get my head around – a second screen in VR?

What it means is a friend can log in and join your game on a phone or tablet.  They won’t be fighting with you but would have hacked into the ship’s computer.  This way, they can help you out with enemy locations or opening doors and lockers.

Or they can help kill you by luring enemies and getting advantages in their own game.  Maybe be careful getting your best frenemy to help you up front 🙂

The Persistence Second Screen
How much do you trust the person playing with you? You can't see their screen after all!

My PSVR hasn’t been neglected, but the Vive has definitely taken the lead in most playtime recently.  Beat Saber on PSVR will probably lead to two players in my house playing on two different systems at the same time.

Everything is looking good for The Persistence to pull me into a new world, and I can’t wait to give it a good run and a formal review.

Until next time,

JohnHQLD

Sony Honorable Mentions – Ghost of Tsushima, Déraciné, Spiderman

Déraciné Feature

Ghost of Tsushima puts you front and center in an epic Japanese adventure

There has been talk about Sucker Punch’s latest game Ghost of Tsushima since it was first announced last year during the Paris Games Week.  There has been a lot of talk and conjecture, and I am not going to add to it here.

You play as Jin, a lone Samurai, during the Mongol invasion of Tsushima in 1274.  That is pretty much all we know at this point.  Sucker Punch Productions has shown it’s open world abilities with the Infamous series, but compared to what was shown at E3, Ghost of Tsushima is clearly leaps forward in anything they have done.

It doesn’t matter what I say – if the below gameplay trailer doesn’t make you want to play this game, nothing I say can change your mind.

FromSoftware is moving from Souls to PSVR Spirits

There is very little knowledge of the upcoming Déraciné.  It’s being made by FromSoftware, famous for the Souls games and Bloodborne.  It’s on PSVR.  From the small information given in the Sony E3 presentation, you play a spirit summoned to a boarding school, and use your powers to alter the fates of the students.

It almost sounds like a paranormal Moss, but the video below shows a gorgeous world that I need to know more about.

Marvel’s Spiderman goes Arkham

The new Spiderman game is honestly one I haven’t been paying any attention to.  And then I saw this.  Insomniac games are definitely borrowing heavily from Rocksteady’s Arkham formula, and it looks amazing.

Do I really need to say more?

I know I haven’t spoken much on these titles, but honestly – what can I say other than “Look at the videos?”

Hopefully, these caught your eye as well.  If not, there will be more tomorrow!

Until next time,

JohnHQLD

Sony begins it’s Days of Play with the announcement of Tetris Effect

Tetris Effect Feature

The tetromino’s are coming – and in VR!?!

Sony will be making an announcement a day in the lead up to E3 next week.

Wow.  This E3 will either be full of even more amazing announcements or devoid of surprises.  If it’s the latter, I hope a lot of lucky people attending will get some hands-on with some of these titles.

Today’s title is Tetris Effect.  I could describe Tetris, but I think everyone knows you like up blocks to make lines until you can’t.  Really, that’s Tetris.  It’s almost zen-like when you play, and I bought Puyo Puyo Tetris for the Switch just to play Tetris on the Switch.

But Tetris Effect will likely be something even more unique.   From Enhance Games and headed by Tetsuya Mizuguchi, Tetris is essentially going to get the Rez treatment.

I can try to explain this, but watch the reveal trailer to see and more importantly hear what I mean.

I will be getting this on PS4.  How could I not?  Even an old semi tone-deaf Jazz and Blues fan like myself can’t help but be impressed with the gorgeous soundtrack and visuals.

PSVR though?  On one hand, I am glad to see Sony continuing to commit to the platform, as there will be more VR announcements in the lead up to E3.  I just can’t see how VR would improve the experience.  That said, the few people I know that have played Rez Infinite in VR said it’s an amazing experience, so maybe I just need to try it?

I won’t have to wait too long – Tetris Effect has a release window of Fall 2018.  Hopefully, it comes out before Beat Saber on PSVR though.  That way I can jump around with Beat Saber, and relax with Tetris Effect afterwards!

Until next time,

JohnHQLD

Time Carnage Review

Time Carnage Feature

What could be more fun than shooting waves of zombies?  Shooting waves of Dinosaurs of course!

So PSVR is almost eighteen months old. The store is filling up with games, and ‘actual games’ rather than glorified tech demos. There have been some real gems, and some real disappointments as well. So far, about 16 hours in, Time Carnage is proving to be one of my most fun to play games in PSVR to date. Now, the definition of ‘actual game’ differs from person to person and genre to genre. Time Carnage actually manages to illustrate this point rather well.

Time Carnage is basically a wave shooter. By this I mean you stand fixed in one spot and use a variety of different weapons to defeat wave after wave of enemies. It’s a game style that has been done before and will be done again. And again. This is because these are fairly simple arcade-style games, and are fun to tune out with and just let yourself go. There is no epic story attached, no role play mechanics to let you build yourself up. Grab bigger weapons and shoot bigger foes – that’s really it. And Time Carnage does this pretty well.

Gameplay

You begin each mission picking four weapons. These weapons are placed two on the left, and two on the right of your platform. The idea is you reach out and grab the weapon(s) you wish to use during the game. Once their ammunition is used, drop them to return them to their starting location where they reload themselves. It’s quite a clever mechanic in use.

There are a variety of weapons to use, but the feeling of firing them is fairly similar. I have unlocked about 80{dfca638b9dbdbc1caf156b9b6679a983a965572ca56a786c9cf360ad3783820c} of the weapons so far, but in the game there is a sense of each weapon being part of a general catefory. But even from the outset where you only have some basic pistols, each weapon I have played with has been fun, and that is my point more than anything with this game. While there are a lot of games with better graphics and story elements, Time Carnage does what it does well.

Time Carnage Weapon Selection
I haven't unlocked them all yet, but some of the choices at your disposal

Campaign Mode – the core of the game?

So you are a person that jumps through time on a platform to different periods, and shoots lots of things. There is no getting around it – there is no real story, you start in the 4th Millenium. For some reason, the fallout of World War 3 created Zombies, the first enemy type. Once you have completed the four stages, you unlock the Mesozoic Era and face Dinosaurs. Gameplay continues like this until the end of the 4th Century BC, which honestly I am not sure what happens as I haven’t gotten this far. The only Story elements are little blurbs for each era, so really there is no sense of progression other than unlocking the next stage.

Each stage has four areas to clear, and each area has 10 waves that must be defeated. It’s a very set type of play, and if you wanted to play for extended periods is very samey. This is a real pity, because you have to beat the story stages to unlock the real fun areas of the game – the Arcade mode and Challenges.

Time Carnage 05
Shooting waves of incoming dinosaurs is more fun than it should be!
Time Carnage 09
Or facing this version of Skynet's troops

Arcade Mode – A heap of fun

So Arcade Mode is essentially the same as Campaign Mode, but you can tweak each level with different abilities as well as mixing together all of the enemy types unlocked in Campaign Mode. It is somehow wrong and a great deal of fun to be shooting at a group of zombies while reacting to the flying drone shooting you from on high, and hear the heavy steps of the incoming T-Rex.

Also unlocked through the campaign are perks, such as laser sights and extra damage. Then there are the crazier ones, such as Zero-G. Shoot your enemies, and they float off into the distance. I used this more than I should have, especially when coupled with the grenade launcher. I was already having a heap of fun shooting just before the feet making enemies fly high into the air, and then to have them hanging there was hilarious – until the blocked the view of the flying enemies. Ah well, it is push your luck I suppose!

Time Carnage Arcade Enemy Selection
You can mix and match the enemies you unlock in campaign mode
Time Carnage Perks Selection
You can choose one perk from the three levels once unlocked

Arcade mode is a great time to just sit back and shoot things. While essentially just the campaign mode with a bit of customisation via the perks, I can see this being the main mode I will be coming back to once the campaign is complete.

Challenges – they live up to their name

I haven’t done many of these, but the ones I have played have been enjoyable. The very first one is shooting hordes of zombie dogs with laser-sighted crossbows. Next, and my favourite challenge so far, is shooting 40 zombies with a single revolver and 10 rounds. This is achieved by a perk that allows you an extra round for every headshot, so you can miss 9 times. Now that may sound pretty simple to do, and honestly it kind of is, but with the slight position detection issues of PSVR and the zombies waving their arms in front of their faces, it’s not a challenge you can get the first time.

It’s this that I enjoy about the challenges – they are all possible, and you know you can do them. When you don’t quite get there, you aren’t left with a feeling of frustration but of the challenge. All you have to do is learn the secret, and you can do it. And I don’t mean a secret as in ‘fire here to win’, but the secret of how the weapons work.

Time Carnage Cluster Duck Challenge
The challenges do indeed live up to their name
Time Carnage Cluster Duck Explosions
But Cluster Duck is just too much fun. Exploding Rubber Duckies!

When playing the campaign or arcade modes, the weapons feel like they fall into three or four main groups. But it’s here in the challenges, where you are forced to play with very specific weapons, that you get to truly appreciate the little differences. One pistol with laser sights for example means you need to aim a little higher than where the dot goes, while another is slightly to the left. Some sniper scopes line up easier than others and have different zoom levels.

In the heat of arcade or campaign, it’s easy to just shoot again and write off a miss. But in the challenges, this can stop you from getting gold, or even a medal at all.

So it’s a lot of fun, but there are a couple of problems

So you may have noticed a few differences in the screenshots through this article.  Some are definitely better than others.

Now, the resolution comparison between PlayStation VR and the PC based units is a technical fact.  I will never argue that HTC and Oculus don’t look or track better than PlayStation VR.  The nicer and brighter screens are from the press kit downloadable from Wales Interactive’s website.  The slightly squarer and much darker screens are captures from my games.

And this is one of the things you will hear most people complain about – it can be hard to see distant enemies.  In the future missions with the robot enemies, for example, it can be very hard to distinguish the robots from the girders.

I am not going to try and skirt around this – it is a bit of a problem.  It’s hard to make the VR screens lighter without washing out everything, and pixelated distant enemies remain hard to be seen.  But these are not game stopping issues in my opinion, just ones that could have been avoided.  But once you have lost to an enemy once or twice, you learn the pattern and can work around the technical issues.

As with every wave shooter, pattern recognition is a major key to getting through the higher levels.  If this was a full price game, I would be a lot more upset about a couple of cheap deaths because I couldn’t spot an enemy.

Controls wise though the movement is smooth and feels great.  Aiming feels good in Time Carnage, something some other shooters have had trouble with.  I haven’t had any real issues with tracking being lost or centering drifting, so that is a bonus and deserves to be commended – it’s just a visually dark game.

Time Carnage 02
From the PC version
Time Carnage PSVR
Can you spot the enemy in this photo easily?

Until next time,

JohnHQLD

Playstation VR Price Cut Coming April 2nd

PSVR Camera Bundle

When you lean on the table in VR, you will fall over.  We all do.

I recently wrote about the upcoming release of HTC Vive Pro, and the subsequent price drop of the HTC Vive.  Apparently, Sony doesn’t want anyone still on the fence to think that’s too good a deal, and have announced a price drop of the PlayStation VR with Camera Bundle.

Starting April 2nd, the kit drops from AUD$549 to $420.  This essentially gives you the camera for free with a little extra to spend on your first VR game.  Depending on what you want to play though, you will still need to buy the move controllers.

PSVR Camera Bundle

This makes a great value proposition even better, especially if you were thinking about taking the plunge.  Another nice but quiet bonus is this bundle seems to include the PSVR 2.0 headset.  While technically almost the same headset, a couple of things were improved.

First, 4K and HDR passthrough is implemented, meaning you get the full benefits if you have a compatible TV instead of unplugging your PS4 from the VR and into the TV direct all the time.

Second, the wiring was simplified and the headset now has inbuilt headphones, and cables are all connected to the back of the head strap.  It seems a small change, but the cabling can get in the way more than it needs to, so it’s a welcome change.

PSVR Comparison
The cable and headphone position may be slight, but it is a marked improvement
PSVR 2

Again, there is no competition with PSVR toe to toe with VR on the PC, but for less than half the total price of entry, PlayStation VR is a lot of fun.

Oh and for those saying VR is dead – play Moss.  The ‘tech demo’ phase is basically over, and this is a great example of what can be done with the tech.  Resident Evil 7 also holds up a year later as a good example of immersive gameplay.  It even helped pioneer ways to overcome issues with the tech, but Resident Evil is nowhere near as family friendly.

I just wish the price drop was before the Easter public holidays.  I don’t think this drop will cause a huge spike in adoption, but it would have been a great window for those that this tips over the fence to try it VR.

Side Note – PSVR Controllers

I am still undecided on the Aim controller.  If you can grab the Farpoint bundle at a good price it’s worth it, but there still isn’t really any other games that take advantage of it.  Dual wielding with the Move controllers have been more fun with more games so far, and are much more a must have must-have purchase.

Until next time,

JohnHQLD

HTC Vive Pro Preorders and Vive Price Drops

HTC Vive Featured

Do you think of VR as Lawnmower Man or more Ready Player One?

In the early 90’s, I remember being massively excited because Timezone in Melbourne City got the Virtuality VR arcade machines and the FPS shooter Dactyl Nightmare.

It was blocky, choppy, expensive – but it was AMAZING.  You got to stand in this massive contraption and wear a helmet that should have come with a health warning due to the weight, but everyone that went in came out grinning like a fool.

Just to prove it, below is a video from Piku’s Junk YouTube channel showing the machine at Retro Revival 2013:

There were a few other attempts at VR, but on the whole, it kinda quietly died as soon as is came to be.  The idea was amazing, but the tech wasn’t quite there yet.

Then in 2012, something amazing happened.  A dedicated group took to Kickstarter to look for funding to bring Virtual Reality to everyone.  Even people that didn’t know what a Kickstarter was soon learned that Oculus meant Virtual Reality.  Oculus managed to raise almost USD$2.5 Million dollars largely from gamers with the desire to see VR in their homes.

This massive success made many other companies suddenly jump up and take notice.  Over the following couple of years, many companies started to announce their own versions of VR and more commonly Augmented Reality (AR) looking to join in the success of Oculus themselves.  A lot of these companies pretty much based their work on the first Oculus Development Kit (DK1) and interest reached such a pitch that in 2014 Facebook acquired Oculus for USD$2 BILLION dollars.  Not only was this a staggering amount of money, you also have to remember at this time Oculus had only produced Developer Kits – no ‘product’ as such had been achieved yet.

Oculus DK1

Cut to 2015 and VR Gamers had a great year of announcements to look forward to.  HTC made an announcement that had many gamers frothing to hand over their money.  Known as the HTC Vive, this was a VR headset with great specs on paper and even more importantly a release window!  Just this little ray of hope was enough to turn people watching the Oculus from the wings looking squarely at the Vive as a solid and almost preferred alternative.

There was one other fact that bought many others not currently following the VR world on board though.  The Vive was being developed with Valve, the company behind Steam and many great games.  This gave the Vive something that the Oculus was currently lacking – an inbuilt ecosystem of games and support.

HTC Vive Headset

Like many others, the Vive had me excited but I knew the cost would be high.  Like AUD$1,500+ high, and that was just for the headset and controllers.  The fact you also needed a high-end PC was also a factor.  Now I have always had beefy rigs, but my equipment wasn’t built with VR in mind, so while I could run things another $1,000 or so was going to be needed to bring my graphics card up to scratch.

Then an answer came from an unexpected place – Sony.  Project Morpheus was announced as the Playstation Virtual Reality solution, and even more people turned in interest to what might be possible.

Later in 2016, Sony stunned everyone with a single announcement at E3.

PSVR E3 Price Announcment

The price was key to Sony essentially ‘winning’ the VR battle at the moment.  For about the cost of a competitors headset, you could get a Playstation 4, PS VR, Camera and Move controllers giving you everything you needed.  This is a large part of the reason I decided to back the PSVR.  Back in 2015, developers were still trying to decide which headset to back – Oculus or Vive.  Vive was starting to come out ahead, but developing for the new tech was still considered a gamble.

By buying the ‘mass market’ option in the PSVR, the gamble was developers would work on the headset with the most sales, even with some technical drawbacks to it.  And to a large degree, I was right.  In 2017, over 2.5 million PSVR headsets sold – far and above more than any other unit, and the headset I purchased for myself in 2016.  This is more than Oculus and Vive combined.

PSVR has a low price of entry, it’s simple to install and use, and a growing games library that continues to excel.  Like any games library, there are some decidedly below average games, but some amazing ones as well.  Resident Evil 7 blew me away playing it in VR, and the new Moss shows what people can do with the unit.  Initially, there were the more ‘tech demo’ experiences just like the Vive and Oculus, but overall the library is getting stronger all the time.

It does have it’s drawbacks as well.  With the reduced price and console power, there are compromises made in the experience.  The Move controllers, while overall fine, do not have fine control and tracking is easily lost.  The game forgets which way you are facing at times, and restarts for longer sessions is pretty much guaranteed.  A lot of these things have improved, but after using the Vives controllers the difference in experience is real.

It’s like driving your Hyundai which is great and gets you around reliably and comfortably.  Then you get in a Tesla and drive for a day, then get back in your Hyundai.  Your car is still great and costs a fifth of the Tesla, but you know what you would rather be driving 🙂

The Vive, Oculus and PSVR all share one annoying feature – cabling.  When you are playing something that has you seated, this isn’t really a problem.  You can arrange the cable like an oversized headphone cable.  But if your playing a more active game (say Superhot VR), the cable can get wrapped around you pretty easy leading to some interesting positions and damage to persons and/or equipment.

HTC Vive Manual Setup

And that is where this little tale comes to the point.  Yesterday, the HTC Vive Pro was made available for preorder, for the little sum of AUD$1,200.  This is just for the headset, all of the other units like the base and controllers need to be purchased on top of this, as well as your high-end computer system to run it.  But this is the Virtual Reality System I have been waiting for, even if I still have to wait for it a little while longer.

HTC Vive Pro Headset

The Vive Pro is the first unit to officially support a wireless setup.  I say officially as there have been third-party adaptors around for a while, and some have varying degrees of success, but updates don’t keep this hardware in mind so improvements to the headset with firmware updates can kill these adaptors.

This wireless support won’t come until later this year, and will be another purchase, but it’s this wireless functionality that will give users the freedom in VR that is required for true immersion without fear of damaging some very expensive equipment.

Other features are the integrated headphones, increase in screen resolution, and a few other bits of hardware geekery.  The main feature that has me intrigued though is the front-facing cameras built into the headset.  This could allow an Augmented Reality experience similar to Microsoft’s Hololens, which has applications wider than simple gaming.

So I think it’s pretty clear I will be getting a Vive Pro eventually as my VR setup of choice.  I will wait until I can get it with the wireless adaptor and equipment all at once though, so I won’t be preordering the system soon.  But for people that have been on the fence with the Vive and hesitant with the costs, there is some great news.  You can purchase the complete VR set (minus the PC of course) for AUD$879 from the Vive store.  This is an amazing price, and if I didn’t have the PSVR I would be seriously considering purchasing this now.  If you already have a PC with a Nvidia 1070+ or equivalent, this is a great investment at an amazing price for a whole new experience.

Until next time,

JohnHQLD