Saturday, May 25, 2013

Half Life 2

May 25th, 2013

I'm playing Half Life 2 tonight until I'm crawling on my VR knees. I expect this to be one of the greatest gaming experiences ever. Hats off to Valve for dedicating resources to making this official.

As I play each chapter of the game I will provide updates here on my observations. I will be taking my time with it like a fine wine. No hurry here.

Setting up the game
This was amazingly easy. You just need to:
1. right click on Half Life 2 in steam, go to properties. 
2. Add -vr to the command line parameters
3. Opt into the beta stream
See here for more information.

Chapter One: Point Insertion

Session 1 : May 25th, 2013 11pm

Initial Observations
The initial monologue by the G-Man is hard to watch. He is too close to the view and I had to just look through him. The background graphics were stationary but were in 3D.
Once I got into the train I found the game very convincing. The initial credits are interesting. They float in space off to the left side but stay in the same position as your head moves. I'm not sure that works but it wasn't annoyingly in your face.
The initial guard is very intimidating. I really didn't want that dude to attack me. I let him chase me a bit and I felt the need to run away.
Looking around the train station I really felt like I was there. The ceiling, the light and general atmosphere are amazing.

Valve's work pays off as well. Typing this, I must admit I feel a bit lightheaded but their interface has 2 things going for it that Tuscany didn't have:
1. I can hear myself walk. I couldn't get Tuscany's sound to work and that definitely reduced the immersion. Now that I can hear myself walk, the dizziness feels a bit less.
2. I have a cross hair in front of me that I can anchor onto. That sounds counter intuitive but when you pan left and right. It only spins your perspective as the cross hair gets close to the edge. This really helped reduce disorientation.

Sense of height
When you crouch you really feel shorter than everyone. It is an amazing feeling. It makes believe you can create a game where your main character is a child and you'd be convinced.

Its the little things that make things feel real and the lights in the hallway leading up to the interrogation room are really cool. You can see the aura/cone of light coming from each bulb and as you look into it, your vision is dazed. The overall effect is very convincing.

Loading screens
Woa, my first loading screen about made me ill. It was leaving the interrogation area and suddenly everything stopped sync'ing with my head movement. Very nasty. That will take some getting used to.

I thought I could last hours, but about 20 minutes was about all I could stand. Definitely need to take a break or I'm gonna be sick.

City 17
Walking into City 17 for the first time was amazing. That was the most immersive experience of any of the demos I've had. Looking up at the Citadel was incredible. I just walked around in this area for 10-15 minutes exploring it. The posters on the walls have an unusual clarity that I never experienced before. I can walk up close and really study their detail.

Session 2 : May 26th, 2013 8:30am

Emotional Responses from People
People feel real in the Oculus. There is a scene in the apartment where a man is comforting a woman and you can hear her crying. Very powerful stuff. I wanted to reach out and help her too.

Views from windows
In the apartment there are 2 guys looking out the window at security running towards the building. I'm not sure I had even noticed that before but I felt like they might be coming for me.

Overall, I believe the Half Life 2 world is real. Every detail is perfect. You look out a window down at the street and you forget you are in a game.

I didn't last 10 minutes this morning. I'm not sure why. I didn't take a ginger pill but I think it was more that I was in tight spaces constantly turning my head. Anytime the camera moves and my head isn't, it adds to the dizziness. I imagine if I tried to push through the dizziness it would turn into nausea. This is not something you can ignore.

Session 3 : May 26th, 2013 12pm

Rooftop Sequence
Running along the rooftop was great. It does feel a bit scary. I can't see my health meter so I'm not sure how low my health is. I need to see if that is configurable. It would be nice if I could pull it up to check it and then put it away.

Fast Paced Action
Being forced to move quickly for a noob is hard. I just lasted about 5 minutes. I need to get outside and do some yard work to take a break from the Oculus.

Chapter Two: "A Red Letter Day"

Session 4: May 26th, 2013 11:30pm

The Lab
I never had a true appreciation for the details of the model until I could see them with the Oculus. The suit and the suit power generator are great models. That headcrab pet looks a lot bigger than I remembered them.
I was also amazed at the size of the teleporter equiptment.

The crowbar
The body is missing and you only have an arm when weilding weapons. I wonder if they plan on adding a body in the future. I also noticed that the crowbar can go through certain objects.

Chapter Three: Route Kanal

Session 5: May 27th, 2013 4:00pm

Zombie models
The model for the crawling headcb zombie is quite nasty. The guts stretch if you push it around. I had no idea!

Speed Sequences

Areas where I am forced to run make me feel a bit dizzy. I try to take it slow but sometimes you don't have a choice.

Weapon Zoom
Whenever I zoom the detail of the game appears to improve drastically. This is a trick of the mind but zooming feels like you've went from 480p to 1080p. Shooting distant targets in the low resolution of the Oculus can be challenging. I tend to zoom a lot to improve my aim.

Chapter Four: Water Hazard

Session 6:  May 27th, 2013 11:30pm

The Water Craft
I must admit I was a bit nervous to ride the water craft with all the dizziness I first experienced. My concern was for naught... It was a pleasure to ride it. I found I did better with the Oculus than I have any other time playing it.

The G-Man
There is a moment where you can see the G-Man in the distance at the building with the hanging crate. When I tried to zoom it to look the game blew up. When I restarted the game and tried it again it blew up. First bug I've experienced where I was repeatedly unable to do something.

Session 7:  May 28th, 2013 11:45pm

The more I play other simutions the more I am impressed with Half Life 2. Other simulations can't seem to match the crispness and realism of the Half Life 2 environment. It really feels as if Half Life 2 was designed with VR in mind. There are no short cuts anywhere. As far as the eye can see you are in the world and every object is wonderfully modeled.

The UDK Citadel can't hold a candle to the look of the source engine. In the Citadel you can see it redrawing elements and sharpening stuff in the foreground. Nothing looks as crisp either. It is enough to pull you out of the world because you can see it isn't real.

Chapter Five: Black Mesa East
Chapter Six: "We Don't Go to Ravenholm..."
Chapter Seven: Highway 17
Chapter Eight: Sandtraps
Chapter Nine: Nova Prospekt
Chapter Ten: Entanglement
Chapter Eleven: Anticitizen One
Chapter Twelve: "Follow Freeman!"
Chapter Thirteen: Our Benefactors
Chapter Fourteen: Dark Energy
Chapter Fifteen: Credits 

1 comment:

  1. Just to let you know that I'm pretty sure there is no sound in the Tuscany demo. I heartily recommend First Law, and play the demo ideally in a darkened room to ensure no ambient light comes through. Put on headphones and the sense of immersion is incredible...also because I felt as though I was flying a spacecraft and was looking out from a fixed perspective I had no sense of motion sickness. Look forward to reading more.