SteamVR was announced earlier this month at GDC. Over the past few days, hands-on reviews have started to appear online from all across the gaming community.
So what’s the verdict? Let’s find out.
SteamVR is the Most Freeing Virtual Reality Platform
One of the most noticeable things about SteamVR is the freedom users have to move around. With the Oculus, you can look around an alternate world and control your movement with a gamepad. With SteamVR, you can actually walk around that virtual world.
Basically, SteamVR demarcates the area you can walk through with a couple of light-emitting base stations. According to early users, this “completely transforms” the VR experience: “your physical, sensory and emotional connection to the software is on another level altogether.”
The Blue is an Amazing Underwater Demo
Valve is currently showing off a virtual reality demo called The Blue. In that demo, you stand on the deck of a sunken ship. You can raise your hand to wave schools of fish away from your face. A manta ray swims close by you, and you can step back to move away from it – something one reviewer claims he did as a natural reaction.
Eventually, a large whale swims by you in The Blue. One reviewer had to crane his neck to get a full look at that whale and claims the “size was breathtaking.”
So is Skyworld
Skyworld is a virtual reality demo created by Vertigo Games. In that demo, there’s a table in the center of the room. On that table, you’ll find a virtual world teeming with life. You can lean into the world to get a closer view and use a spell book and wand to interact with the world.
Sounds okay, right? Now think of how this mechanic would work in god-style games, where you can reach in and manipulate your little tiny minions. Or what about train simulator games?
Manual Task Simulator Demoes are Cooler than They Sound
Many of the SteamVR demoes revolve around the idea of using your hands to complete cool tasks in a virtual space.
In one demo created by Dovetail Games, you play a fishing simulator. You can cast a rod, reel it in, and land the big one.
In another one – Job Simulator – you’re living in the world in 2050, where robots have taken over most of our manual jobs. Human beings have to step into virtual reality machines to see just how crappy manual jobs were back in the day.
One reviewer made an interesting observation about the lack of physical response in a virtual space:
“These interactions still have a little way to go before they feel consistent and accurate, although your projection into virtual space is so convincing that the lack of physical feedback isn’t as big an issue as you might think. They also prove that a heavily stylised cartoon world is no barrier at all to immersion – indeed, it’s great fun in a VR context.”
Early reviews for the SteamVR are hugely positive. Even so-called virtual reality “skeptics” appear to be impressed with the technology.
SteamVR is the platform, and HTC Vive is the hardware on which that platform will be launching. The HTC Vive Developer Edition is currently available – so if you ever wanted to develop a virtual reality game, there’s no better time than now.
Still no word on when the HTC Vive will be released – although Valve claims they’ll release it before the end of 2015. The Facebook-owned Oculus Rift, on the other hand, just got pushed back to 2016, which opens a big opportunity for Valve.