Callie Petch Goes to Eurogamer 2013, Part 6: Oculus Rift, and Redshirt

On the 27th and the 28th of September 2013, Callie Petch attended the Eurogamer Expo with the intention of playing as many games and attending as many panels as they could stand standing in lines for.  The following posts chronicle their adventures…

I am not ashamed to admit that I had no idea what the Oculus Rift was before I turned up in London the day before the Expo.  It was one of those things that I’d heard a bunch of people talking about, in hushed yet highly positive tones, but no-one seemed to bother telling me just what it is.  All they kept saying was how it was “going to revolutionise the way that we experience videogames” and how it was “the future of the gaming medium”.  As such, I was resolved to get my hands on the thing as soon as possible at the Expo.  Then, the night before my Friday escapades, I found out what the Oculus Rift was, a Virtual Reality headset, and my cynicism meter kicked up several tens of notches.  This kind of crap had never worked on me before and 3D, and other such visual gimmicks, only ever left me with a severe headache and feeling rather nauseous.  But, nevertheless, I felt that I should give it a shot, so up I queued for an hour first thing Saturday morning.

Guys…  Girls…  It works.  It actually works.

There is no bullsh*t attached to that statement and I’m not looking back on it with rose-tinted spectacles, either, my time with the Oculus Rift was fantastic and the technology worked!  Of course, the initial set-up process for me was worrisome.  Because I have to wear glasses all of the time in order to see even two feet in front of me, the guy running my part of the stall’s suggestion to play without glasses was not applicable, considering that everything on screen came off really blurry. Fortunately, and much unlike when I have to wear 3D glasses over my normal glasses for 3D films, the headset itself is very comfortable; at no point did it feel like my glasses were being pushed into the sides of my skull.  The picture took a while to fully stabilise, however, and the guy running my section of the booth advised me to stay still in order to keep the demo looking to the quality that it was capable of.

Afterwards, however, it was nothing but smooth sailing.  The picture was surprisingly high quality and ran ultra-smooth throughout, never actually dropping in quality or, at least, dropping enough to make it noticeable that there was a drop in quality.  There was an almost perfect simulation of depth, my eyes could accurately make out just how far away objects were and where everything was in relation to the rest of the environment.  Near the end of my five-minutes of time with the Rift, I decided that I needed to swing my view to something that was at the bottom-left of the screen and I instinctively moved my head in that direction instead of moving the mouse!  And it worked!  There I was, looking at the set of tools at the bottom-left corner of the table!  I had spent, and been told to spend, the entire demo locked in one position for optimal results, yet I had instinctively moved my head and saw more of the game world.  I know how trite and cliché the following phrase is probably going to sound but sod it, because playing with the Oculus Rift was the closest I had ever come to having a videogame feel real!

Surgeon Simulator 2013Talking about the game I tested the Oculus Rift out on, Surgeon Simulator 2013, honestly feels redundant at this point for two reasons.  A) It’s Surgeon Simulator.  Chances are that you’ve experienced the strangely masochistic thrills of Surgeon Simulator before, so you don’t need me to sit here and tell you about it.  B) The experience of playing Surgeon Simulator was secondary to the experience of the Oculus Rift.  The technology genuinely works and managed to enhance my enjoyment of Surgeon Simulator tenfold (good thing too, because my stupid console gaming fingers never managed to successfully keep a hold of any of the various pieces of equipment, so I spent most of my game time trying to cut through my patient’s ribcage with a scalpel)!  I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I could honestly see myself using this in the future when the technology is more widespread and cheaper.  It’s fantastic!

Of course, reading about the Rift fails to accurately get across the experience of using the technology.  More than any of the other subjects that I talk about in these articles, you need to experience the Oculus Rift for yourself because then and only then will you understand why ever other person has been going mad for it.  Every 8 or 9 year-old has dreamt of VR technology for years and now, finally, we have something that comes close to it.  AND IT WORKS!

RedshirtAlong a similar vein of “things that I can’t believe I enjoyed as much as I did and would be willing to sink a lot of time into”, Redshirt.  The premise: you are a new recruit on a spaceship for a big uncaring company that’s a lot more shady than its highly impersonal messages and memos would have you believe and your job is to ignore all of that and attempt to foster relationships through the ship’s social networking site.  Start romances, make friends, socialise, schmooze your way up the corporate ladder and occasionally get sent out on dangerous recon missions that, more often than not, will wind up killing most of your fellow crew.

It’s basically one long satire of Facebook, with jokes towards sci-fi tropes and uncaring big corporations thrown in for good measure, and it’s completely done by clicking through various graphs, menus and other such almost -database stuff.  I know that this all sounds absolutely abysmally dull on paper, a game entirely based around unrewarding busy-work, but the game has an ace up its sleeve: great, funny writing.  You’re not going to hear any highly original or highly memorable or belly-laugh inducing jokes, but the game’s writing is consistent.  It’s consistently giggle-worthy, it’s consistently witty and it’s consistently strong; all helped by an extremely dry and very British sense of humour that delivers it all expertly.  It’s what keeps you playing, even with the lack of any real rewards or incentive for doing so.

Because, and I’m not kidding here, I sunk at least 15 minutes into this thing without even meaning to.  By the time I finally dragged myself away, in order to have a game of Mashed in the Retro Zone before the Expo shut for the Friday, an actual plot was also starting to form on the fringes of my attempts to butter up my supervisor enough that he’d accept my application for a promotion.  If the finished product ends up this inexplicably addicting, then developers Tiniest Shark and Positech Games may have quite the little time-sinker on their hands.

The Expo adventures will continue in further blog posts every weekday between Monday and Thursday until Callie Petch has ran out of articles here on GameSparked!

Callie Petch is not a religious man but they think we better pray for the girls.

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