Away from the hustle and bustle of New York?s Herald Square and around the corner from the Empire State Building lies VR World NYC. A neon lit beacon in an otherwise mundane looking neighborhood, it is a place where folks can give virtual reality a go without having to worry about the constraints of their living spaces. This place happened to be an excellent venue for HTC to host an event showcasing their latest product offering, HTC VIVE Virtual Reality System Tracker. Joined by events editor Benny Rose, we attended this event to see the latest from HTC.
HTC VIVE Virtual Reality System Tracker
After checking in to the event, we were shuffled into a room with two Vive setups each with a unique title (Duck Season and Super Puzzle Galaxy) as well a table strewn with several black items. This was where we first laid eyes on the tracker, which at first glance reminded me of a thicker version of the pizza saver, the device which prevents your pizza box from collapsing onto your pizza during delivery. Compared to the wired base station that comes standard with the Vive, these are slightly more compact and less prone to breakage when mounted to devices (like baseball bats, as ). With a 4-5 hour charge, it will last longer than any VR play session should last. We also saw 2 racket like objects, a wrist strap and gun peripheral which bares an uncanny resemblance to a certain 8 bit console?s zapper. These accessories are meant as mounts to the tracker, allowing for unique experiences in VR.
Duck Season w/ Hyperkin Virtual Blaster
The first peripheral I picked up was the Hyper Blaster which is the gun peripheral which one could deduce was heavily inspired by the NES Zapper. The blaster felt like it had a sizeable heff to it and felt good to hold, unlike most plastic accessories which flooded the market during the Nintendo Wii?s heyday. I was then asked if I wanted to check out a title which was tailored to the blaster, at which I was lead to a station had Duck Season running. A title from Stress Level Zero, at first glance it would seem like VR remake of Nintendo?s Duck hunt, with the exception the dog can be shot and will react to gunfire. However the person at the demo station hinted that the game wasn?t what it seemed, at which I asked is it similar to Pony Island or Doki Doki Literature Club, and the person did nod.
The duck shooting aspect was fun, somehow I managed to hit all the ducks without having to position my blaster millimeters from the screen. The environments held little easter eggs for those willing to take a look around. This was an instance of VR done right and this slice that was presented to us today would make a great tool to sell VR hardware to the masses. The Hyper Blaster will also be compatible with the following titles: Arizona Sunshine, The American Dream VR, Operation Warcade, TacticalAR, and Practisim VR.
Virtual Sports w/ Racket Sports Set
When I was done pumping enough virtual lead into the dog in duck season, we were lead to another vive set up, this time with a green screen. I was given a ping pong paddle with the tracker mounted at the center.. This was one half of the Racket Sports set that was being offered with the tracker (the other being a Tennis racket accessory). Like the Blaster, this racket a weight comparable to a real ping pong paddle and swinging it while wearing the headset, it was toll to tell it was way more expensive than a run of the mill paddle. Our next demo was Virtual Sports, a pack in with the Racket Sports Set, upon putting on the headset I was transported to a David Lynch-ish penthouse where I was greeted by a limbless, but not handless gentleman named Zhang. While not as visually striking as Rockstar?s Table Tennis, the game controlled excellently and really does a great job of mimicking actual ping pong. I managed to decimate my virtual opponent to the point where even the staff operating the demo was impressed, however I assumed the difficulty was turned down.
Benny goes to war against the West Coast in Front Defense
Before we left the event we made sure that events editor Benny Rose got a chance at putting on the headset, and the game he got to play was Front Defense. This is a World War II shooter with standard Vive controls. The twist here was he would be playing online against the development team back in San Francisco. Two things stood out about this game. Locomotion was in a way where you would point to where you want to go, and suddenly you would witness the movement in 3rd person, despite the game being a 1st person shooter. The second thing was players were able to drop their weapons, and boy did Benny demonstrate that in spades. I would witness him running toward the enemy and dropping his weapon mid-run. Despite his slippery fingers, he and local counterpart was able to defeat the team out in San Francisco. So we salute your service Benny.
VR can still be a thing
Shortly after Benny dropped his weapons one last time we proceeded to exit the venue. After reviewing what we saw, we both agreed that this time VR has a chance at gaining mass acceptance. Unlike the Virtual Boy, which we did see displayed at VR World, this current generation of VR is capable of delivering excellent experiences that we have not gotten in the past. With HTC?s continued support and contributions to the field, we?re surely getting one step closer to the Holodecks which appear in Star Trek.