Gaming is so incredibly awesome. It’s always fun to play the latest games and experience new adventures through story and enhancing visuals. It’s even more fun to get the latest video game console and experience all the changes that arrive with a next generation system. It’s even much more fun to get the latest graphics card and see how amazing games look in glorious 4K resolutions. Gaming is so incredibly awesome.
So what about Virtual Reality?
Three years ago I put on a VR headset for the first time and was given a demo that allowed me to simply look around and begin to dream about what all could be done with virtual reality gaming. I wasn’t able to play, but simply being in the world through the VR headset was a great new experience.
Three years later I finally got my hands on HTC’s new virtual reality headset, the HTC Vive. And now I’m about to experience the dreams I imagined three years ago for VR gaming.
Starting from the beginning, from the moment the doorbell rang began the exciting process of getting the unit and setting it up. I’m pretty sure I said wow about a million times since the Vive arrived.
Wow, the Vive is here. Wow, the box is big. Wow, it’s so pretty! Wow, there’s a lot of components. Wow, it takes about 30 minutes to set up. Wow, 30 minutes flew by. Wow, I’m experiencing virtual reality at home. Wow!
When I opened up the box for the first time I felt a little overwhelmed by all the components and cords that came with the Vive. It’s really not a lot, it just feels like a lot when first setting eyes on it. It’s probably more of an impatience issue where you just want to begin playing immediately and not have to set anything up at all.
It’s very easy to get ready though. It does take about 30 minutes, but it flies on by so fast thanks to the excitement of being one step closer to entering a whole new world. If there is anything that could be considered hard at all with setting up the Vive it would probably be the need to use a drill to place the two base stations on the wall. These stations are what track the player’s movement in their room. And speaking of an easy setup, these two stations sync wirelessly without having to do a thing to connect them. The rest of the setup is as simple as plugging it in.
HTC and Valve worked together to ensure the Vive is ready to rock and roll as quickly as possible, and SteamVR is a fantastic tool to get VR goers ready for their new experience. Once users have gone through the quick setup that requires them to outline their available room space, along with a few other actions, that’s when they are truly ready to begin their journey.
By the way, when users trace an outline in their room, they will see the edges while in-game so that they don’t ever go flying into a wall or anything else. I didn’t know this is how the room tracing worked, but I very much appreciate this feature. I’d like to avoid running into my desk or punching a lamp while playing in VR. Although, I actually still caught a lamp – oops.
Putting the HTC Vive headset on for the first time is a total giggling-with-excitement experience. And once players enter the ‘launch’ room for SteamVR before accessing the main Steam interface is when they’ll take a minute to look up at earth, the moon, and the stars and simply smile. SteamVR has multiple “backgrounds” for the user to choose from when first entering the platform, but I love looking up at the planet too much to change it away from that.
The interface for SteamVR works wonderfully well as it’s so easy to use and navigate to the game the user wishes to play. It’s also nice being able to see the entire Vive controllers while the headset is on. This makes locating the buttons extremely easy and user-friendly to new players.
The HTC Vive is very comfortable to wear and has multiple straps to easily adjust the fit to the size of any user’s head. I’ve encountered a few instances where I needed to readjust the straps multiple times after long periods of looking straight down. This occurred mostly when playing Final Approach. It wasn’t a big issue, I just had to adjust it more appropriately for looking down often.
Even when tightening the Vive against the face it remains comfortable, but it will get a little hot after longer gaming sessions. This doesn’t affect me much at all though as I often take breaks after a while anyway.
The entire usability of the HTC Vive is very friendly. Players just need a good organizational system set in front of them before they put on their headset and then they’ll be good to go. The headset has an audio jack on the back where the rest of the cords are located, and as long as players connect their headphones and place them down in front of them before putting on the Vive headset they won’t have an issue locating it and placing it on after. Same for when users want to play a game with their gamepad controller. Just have a good system in front of you and you’ll be golden.
The hardest part to get used to with the Vive is the cords coming out the back that connect with the PC. Once users get their Vive they might want to stretch the cords out so they don’t curl back up to the state they were in when the unit arrived. I’ve had to adjust the cords a few times when playing so I wouldn’t trip over them. This is mostly only noticeable when playing games that have the player more actively moving around. Obviously games where the user is mostly standing still or sitting won’t have an issue with this.
One of the other adjustments I had to make with the headset was with the three toggles that control the range of the lenses. I had to adjust them in order to better read text while in-game. This is another simple process to do while wearing the headset.
But let’s get into the experience that the Vive offers to the gamer. I’ve only played a few games so far, but will be covering many over the next few weeks. Still, what I’ve played so far has been an amazing experience.
I actually began my VR gaming journey by playing NVIDIA VR Funhouse, which is just simple and basic carnival games. I had my wife with me to experience VR for the first time so I wanted to go with something I knew would be pretty straight forward. That’s exactly what NVIDIA VR Funhouse offers. It was great jumping into the game and seeing the large ferris wheel and attempting to play each one of the carnival games. We basically decided that the archery target game was the most enjoyable and stuck with that for a few rounds.
However, we could only spend so much time at the carnival before it was old and boring. Again, it’s fine for a first-timer or non-gamer, but I was ready to give one of the other games a try. That’s when I immediately fell in love with Space Pirate Trainer. This is when my VR experience truly began.
I had such a great time shooting bots and dodging bullets while attempting to gain a higher score in Space Pirate Trainer. Seriously, when bullets come flying at you, it’s so much fun to jump out of the way and watch as they pass by. It feels like playing a classic high-score shooter, yet on an entire new level because of VR. My wife even loves this game a lot too. I also learned at that moment that VR is going to be a great exercise tool as I got tired very quickly. Check out my full thoughts on Space Pirate Trainer here.
After that I moved on to Final Approach and got to see what it’s like to control an airport and its traffic from above. This is another enjoyable experience even though it can get a little overwhelming at first as the player must quickly navigate all the air traffic and maintain ground operations as well. It provides a good time at the airfield, and my full thoughts on it can be read here.
Project CARS was next on my list of games to try as I love racing and like having the driver seat perspective through VR. While playing I didn’t think one of the actions I would take in the game would
be imitating a common dog behavior while riding in a car. However, I did it, I stuck my head out the window and it was totally awesome! Although, shortly after, I had to remove the headset and take a break from VR as that’s when I first encountered a little bit of motion sickness – oops again!
I even took a minute to check out DOTA 2, a game I know nothing about, and yet had so much fun just watching from the battlefield as others played. In DOTA 2 players can view the game from above or while standing on the ground so they can see the battle take place right in front of them. The controls and navigation for getting around the levels is easy, so any fan who enjoys watching a game of DOTA 2 will absolutely love experiencing it from the ground level.
VR is amazing.
It’s wonderful having the driver’s seat view in VR and being able to look out the side windows to see other vehicles around you. It’s even more awesome dodging bullets and watching them pass by. There’s so much enjoyment to be had with VR, and there are so many games to help you discover the full potential and excitement of VR. Thankfully, the HTC Vive allows this to happen fully.
Even with being a little sore the next day from the epic workout that Space Pirate Trainer gave me and having a few nauseous moments from Project CARS, the HTC Vive leads its users to an amazing new gaming experience. It’s a great way to go for those who are ready to enter the world of virtual reality, and because of the Vive, gaming has become even more incredibly awesome!
Keep an eye out as I’ll be adding plenty of VR content to our new Virtual Reality section here at FanBolt. I’ll continue my journey with the Vive and enter many new worlds that I will talk about here in the coming days and weeks. So come join the adventures!