Monday, August 18, 2014

Switching to Enthusiast

VR development was taking up a large portion of my non-work time.

I produced a game in June (The Stacks) and it was taxing for myself and my family. Having to switch from UDK3 to UE4 was a huge relearning process and almost nothing I did carried over into the new engine. To rebuild the stacks, or any variant of it, would require tons of time and from what I've seen, IE4 is noticeably slower than UDK3. I just don't have the energy for it right now

I am going to switch to being an enthusiast for a while. I have set up the DK2 downstairs by the couch to see how well it works as a true consumer device.

As it stands, the DK2 has several issues:

1. Requiring a camera for the DK2's kinda sucks
I never thought about it until I set it up in the living room where my consoles are. Then it became obvious that it is worse to set up than the wii sensor bar or the kinect.

My consoles are to my right when I am sitting on the couch which is the best spot, but for most people, their consoles are probably across the room. This means you need to drag the camera and the Oculus cable across the living room to where you sit. Maybe the camera has a long range but I'm guessing it needs to be closer to you than your tv/screen.

The camera currently has 2 wires coming into it. This made for 3 wires coming from the computer. I tried to streamline the wires for the camera by twisty-tying them together but it is still a bit of a mess.

I think most consumers have had their fill of kinect and wii sensor peripherals and the DK2 camera falls into that category. At some point VR headsets will need to dispense with external head tracking.

2. Lack of major game developers porting games for VR is a big problem
In the beginning they had Valve. Team Fortress 2 and Half Life 2 for DK1 were great. Since then several of Valve's key VR folks left for Oculus. This seemed like great news at the time but now we don't have those people working for Valve to encourage game ports. The current DK2 port of Half Life 2 is not as good as the DK1 port. Darker areas look like 8 bit coloring. It looks rather nasty. Maybe if you'd never seen the DK1 version you'd love it but I'm not impressed.

3. The DK2's integration into windows is not pleasant
On both of the windows 7 computers I installed it on, the DK2 came up rotated in the wrong direction and I had to fight with it for 5 minutes on each one to get it to work properly. Multi-monitor support has never been simple but they need to address this problem in the final consumer product.

4. The DK2's colors are bad
I'm not sure what is going on but most things have a blue/red border around them. I find this to be worse than the screen door effect because it ruins immersion.

I would also like to see a headphone jack on the headset.

Using the DK2 reminds me of running a game on Windows 3.1. You have to fight with stuff a lot to make things go. I know it is a development kit so I expect issues but... the DK2 feels like a huge step backwards from the DK1 in terms of ease-of-use.

I think today's consumers expect it to just work when you plug it in. If Oculus can't figure that out and have a solid library of games available during their initial launch, it is going to be very rough start for them.

VR is the future but we are probably 5 years out from a product that works well in the home with a large library of games.

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