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Oculus counting on indies for virtual reality success
Oculus counting on indies for virtual reality success Exclusive
October 11, 2012 | By Kris Graft

The promise of the Oculus Rift is a new generation of high fidelity virtual reality -- full-on digital immersion that places players in the worlds created by game developers.

Key leaders at major studios like id Software, Epic Games, and Valve have expressed a high level interest in the headset, even though it's still only a prototype. But for Brendan Iribe, CEO of Oculus, it's indie developers who will be key to the initial success of the promising device.

"Both us and big, key people who we've been talking to -- big, key, triple-A developers -- have said 'indies are going to be largely your secret to success.' Indies are going to be a big part of the beginning of this, and certainly the whole process, but especially the beginning.

"That's because right now, from a triple-A developer you're going to get ports. They're not making made-for-VR content today because there's no market. Can you convince a publisher or a big developer that needs to pay 100 people to make a VR game for a non-existent VR market? That's pretty hard. So you'll just get triple-A games ported over."

He said triple-A developers will be able to do a good job of creating game modes that support Oculus, but you're unlikely to see a "holy grail" VR-tailored experience with a port. Right now, Oculus is demoing the prototype with id Software's Doom 3.

Oculus had a blockbuster Kickstarter campaign earlier this year, overshooting its $250,000 goal and hitting over $2.4 million. The first version of the Oculus SDK is slated to go out in December.

Game Developer magazine editor Patrick Miller sporting the Oculus prototype

Out of the box, Oculus will support Epic Games' Unreal Engine 3 and UDK, which can give the company an advantage if it's trying to attract game developers of all sizes.

"Ultimately, you really will want made-for-VR games. The indies are going to be the ones who do that right away," Iribe said. "Indies can get in with two, three, or four guys and say, 'Let's make a VR game. We don't need thousands of units sold. We just want to make something fun.' They'll make the bite-sized VR experience that is made for VR. That's going to be where you start to see the 'holy grail' experiences."

Effects that today's player take for granted, such as steam or the texture of a brick, are just more enthralling using Oculus' VR. Indies can leverage the unique advantages of being "in" a game without having to spend a lot of money, or creating an intense experience like Doom 3.

"Indies will be much faster to make made-for-VR experiences of all different kinds. They'll also bend it and challenge it and beat on it," said Iribe. "And we want to be beaten on, and we want them to do totally different things with our SDK than we intended."

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Freek Hoekstra
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I personally am really looking forward to having games where your head is seperate from where you are aiming, in games like Hwaken, or flying fighter games this wuld be great.

still having worn a few head mounted displays I am still a bit concerned about the input lag.
the slightest amount is very noticable, and really disturbs, so highframerates are a must.
(or an expanded render view which would allow you to even with lower framerates get instant head rotation feedback.)

so far I have not seen a truly convincing product, about time that changes.

Jacob Pederson
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If you are interested in input lag, watch the Carmack all-things-VR keynote where he goes off on input lag for about 4 hours straight :)

ok its only 3 hours . . .

Jeremy Alessi
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I backed this on Kickstarter and plan to integrate it into Swap Fire and any other FPS or other similar immersive titles that make sense. As far as a game designed specifically around VR, that's something to think on.

kevin williams
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Support what they are doing to the hilt - just need to feel assured that the hardware for the long exposure in consumer games is up to the job?

k s
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I'm just not that interested in wearing a screen on my face, now if you can show me something closer to a holodeck I'll be interested.

Jacob Pederson
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Think about how expensive a "holodeck" type device would be. It would need at minimum 1 large room per person, 6 projectors, omni directional treadmills, pcs with 4 graphics cards, custom software, head tracking (for stereo parallax), and that's before you can touch anything in the world. We are talking in the millions of dollars.

Now compare that to a vr headset, which is a sub-1k device, can run off a $300 console or pc, and uses largely existing tech that is already proven mass-producible (with the one exception of low-latency 6DOF head tracking.) Which do you think has a chance of being made :)

Matthew Doss
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If you've got the cash I'm sure you could build a setup similar to what's used by the military for training (at times). While impressive and somewhat immersive, you're still standing in a room and staring at projectors.

Ultimately our level of technology simply isn't high enough to bridge the gap. IMHO, the goggle type setup while not a room you can walk around in does address a lot of problems that the current setups don't address. Having your shadow appear on walls displaying distant locations, etc, would really interfere with using the system for games.

Like Jacob said, $300 vs having to set up a multi-room facility (the simulation room is run from a separate room) to mimic Star Trek's holodeck... Well not only is the latter not feasible for most people, but for the price it really under delivers unless you're using it for some sort of training program.

All I've really got to say is don't get your hopes up. We'll probably see a matrix style interface allowing more realistic VR before we see holo deck VR. On that note, I think it would be rather interesting to try to combine the electrode setups with these goggles. Looks like I've got some SDK's to buy...

Carlos Sousa
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This is really exciting. What held back VR from becoming standard devices was really mainly the performance issues, if the new apparatus solves these than we are indeed back on track to the "holy grail".

If this is really the case we are on the edge of a paradigm shift on games, especially the FPS genre!

Ben Droste
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As soon as both the headset and controller are wireless - so I can spin freely in circles in my chair - I'll never play using a screen again!
But in the mean time I'm looking forward to getting my hands on one of these anyway. They sound fantastic!

Tyler King
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"Indies can get in with two, three, or four guys and say, 'Let's make a VR game. We don't need thousands of units sold. We just want to make something fun."

I hope they are not basing their entire business model on the hope that indies will step up because they just want to do something fun. Even indies are looking to be able to make money and theoretically be able to support themselves as well as make something fun. It reminds me of xbox live indie channel where Microsoft said, 'Hey indies will want to make awesome games for us just because its awesome that they can make games on the xbox.' There was a lot of excitement for it at first, but once the indie devs realized that they weren't selling thousands of units they lost interest.

Michael DeFazio
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given the response and outreach from companies like Valve and Epic and the like ... highly doubt indie devs are " their entire business model"... what they have now (from KickStarter) is a prototype and it garnered much buzz... but they seem to be smart enough to realize that "software moves consoles" hence releasing the dev kits early to allow devs to build prototypes and give feedback (for the final/customer version)...very smart play IMHO.

Douglas Hill
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I wonder how many video arcades still exist in the world? This would be great hardware for video arcade games, especially with the ability to hook up more than one user. Very efficient use of floor space, too. Could be a big draw.

Lex Allen
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I don't think indies can't afford to develop for something like this. I mean, they would have to start from nothing for the most part, and most of us don't have the time nor the resources to make our own engines.

Michael DeFazio
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from Wikipedia:

Epic Games, creators of the Unreal Engine, have announced that the engine will integrate support for the Oculus Rift. David Helgason, CEO of Unity Technologies, has announced support for the Oculus Rift with the Unity engine. John Carmack of id Software has stated that he plans to make the Oculus Rift a concurrent part of the Doom 4 development cycle to ensure that it works well with the game at launch.

David Amador
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Yeah I would like to get my hands on this too, but I can't afford one. Most indies wont be able to

Jacob Pederson
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This is a 300$ dev kit. That's basically cost for the device. Similar consumer devices (with pathetically low fov), will run you 1k$. There is absolutely no way to get lower cost VR.

Jacob Pederson
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I am most certainly not a developer, but I signed on to the Oculus kickstarter as soon as I could get a ping through and bought Miner Wars as soon as they announced support for the Oculus rift. This is the device I've been waiting for since I first peered into my VB back in 95. I'll be the first in line for the consumer Oculus also, provided they don't go out of business.

This indie VR stuff feels like it puts the Nerd back into gaming. While the triple A's are releasing their 24fps 100ms+ lag 75 fov bro "FPS" games, the indies can come in from behind and create some 120fps 5ms lag 90 fov games that will lack in the production value department, but blow some serious gray mater in pure immersion.

One thing about the name though. Oculus Rift sounds a little too much like corneal erosion if you ask me :P