Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Thoughts on GDC 2014 so far

Well, it's definitely the year VR takes off, that's for sure.  Everywhere you look, VR VR VR!  Absolutely impossible for a developer to ignore the trend now.    I saw several booths utilizing the Rift as though it was just part of everyday life.   And still more booths showcasing technologies that will clearly benefit VR content.

I noted a couple of new entries into the market:  SeeBright and Sulon.   Both are touted as VR/AR devices, with radically different approaches.  SeeBright has adapters to use different smartphones as the display, and apparently will use the rear-facing camera of said smartphone in a periscope to look down in front of you for AR and positional tracking.   Did not try it out.    Sulon just launched their product today (giant banners inside the convention center!), taking preorders at $499.  They are demoing their prototype outside in a closed room where you can walk around, and I did try this one out.   Interesting to see an example of passthrough AR in practice!   But, their prototype is clearly a work in progress, with slow tracking (both head and marker tracking) and the AR view looked rather zoomed in.   It shows promise but I think they should have waited for the product to mature a bit more before demoing it.

After all... just inside GDC is the amazing Oculus Rift DK2!    The thing is, it's probably only *amazing* if you tried the Couch Knights demo.  If I'm being honest, the EVE Valkyrie demo wasn't quite ready to be a central showpiece at an event like GDC.  The game itself looked fun and engaging, but I am guessing that the CryEngine Unity Rift integration is probably not up to date with full DK2 support, because I saw heavy chromatic aberration, too-small FOV with giant black borders on the sides, and in my particular case, the IPD was very wrong (I didn't think I was that far off from average IPD).   I tried Couch Knights afterwards and was blown away by how much better the experience was -- not to mention the game itself is incredibly fun and surprising.   I think I was grinning.  :)   Oculus was a well-oiled machine in getting plenty of people to demo the DK2, and it was a bit surreal to see the familiar faces of the Oculus staff standing around talking and interviewing.   Later I went to stand in a very short line for Sony VR, and was told I need a ticket that is only given out at 10am.   I don't understand why Sony didn't let the lines just queue up and offer demos to everyone -- that would be good PR?   So, I went back for more Couch Knights. 

I have not seen GameFace or CastAR yet, gotta look around some more for those.

EDIT: Apparently EVE:V is using Unity, not CryEngine.  My bad!

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