Virtual reality (VR) gaming should be coming to the average consumer’s PC in 2015 according to Michael Abrash, the leader of Valve’s Research and Development team. At Steam Dev Days, a conference for video game developers Valve hosts in Seattle, Abrash announced that “compelling, consumer-priced VR hardware is coming, probably within two years.” This is not surprising, considering how closely Valve has been working with the company Oculus on their own VR headset project, the Rift.
Valve also debuted their own VR hardware at Steam Dev Days. David Hensley, a developer for Tripwire, described it over Twitter as “very much like a holodeck.” Valve announced that they would be giving the technology to Oculus as part of a continuing partnership in developing home VR technology.
Though Valve has stated that they may still consider commercially releasing their own hardware in the future, for now they are collaborating with Oculus as the two pioneer the technology.
Since the beginning of their Kickstarter campaign in August of 2012, Oculus has made over 50,000 Rift development kits available to various video game developers for $300. The company hopes to stick to this price when the technology becomes commercially available.
So far, a number of Rift projects have already been announced, including “Hawken,” “Half-Life 2,” “Minecraft” and “Team Fortress 2.” Most recently, Untold Games announced their newest project for the Rift, entitled “Loading Human.”
In “Loading Human,” gamers will take on the role of a writer with a degenerative memory. His wife, a Nobel Prize winning scientist, has devised a way to transfer his consciousness into a robot in an effort to cure him. His memories must be entered into the robot exactly as they happened, or he will die.
In order to overcome his memory deficiency, his wife’s memories will serve as the template while the player enacts the character’s memories. As the story unfolds, the player will uncover secrets in the characters’ pasts.
The most important concept in this game is interaction. According to Untold’s website, “this means that each object has its unique interactive script. You can take a vinyl, take it out of the box, put it on a gramophone and put the needle on the disc, and voilà! You’ll be hearing the song you chose.” They hope that this kind of interactivity and immersive environment should be a perfect showcase for the possibilities of home VR gaming.
Three gameplay videos are available on Untold’s website. The player tries out the example with the vinyl, dials and listens to a cell phone, and demonstrates the range of movement in front of a bathroom mirror. The graphics are not high definition yet, as Oculus is still working on increasing the Rift’s resolution, but the level of interaction is still far beyond that of any traditional game on the market today.
In the early ‘90s, virtual reality was seen as the future of gaming and entertainment in general. Twenty years later, Oculus and Valve are working hard to make those predictions come true. If “Loading Human,” one of the earliest original games designed for the Rift, is any indication, virtual reality will cause a paradigm shift in the gaming industry.