So it’s been a couple of weeks since I got my Rift and I finally had time this past weekend to really give it a go. Here are my initial impressions on the two platforms.
I call them platforms because you can very much see how they’re positioning themselves to be much more than just display devices. Each has their own ‘hub’ that is a full 3d environment where you launch games/apps from. It’s also where they want you to buy your games.
The Vive uses SteamVR. This has an awesome Portal themed setup process that is quite fun. This set up has you blow up balloon animals, shoot party poppers, and then destroy the balloons with a laser. It serves as a great way to get you familiarized with the controllers.
Then you launch into SteamVR, which dumps you to an empty flat grid space where the only objects you can see are the lighthouses and Vive controllers. You can open a window using the controllers that is essentially Steam Big Picture mode. It’s simple and functional.
I have had a few issues where sometimes applications won’t launch properly because they’ve popped up a ‘Launch application as admin’ window in the background and won’t tell you about it, you just have to raise the headset enough to see your desktop and acknowledge the prompt before you get into the action.
The Rift hub is ‘Oculus Home’, which is a fully 3d rendered futuristic looking place that has all of its menus floating in front of you. It is, unsurprisingly, very similar to the way that you launch your stuff on the Gear VR. It’s pretty basic at the moment, with only very basic social functionality.
It has also had applications request ‘Launch application as admin’ but it detects that there’s something going on and it will prompt you to take off the headset and check it out. It’s a small thing, but I appreciate it.
I have had fewer issues with the Oculus Home application. Occasionally Steam VR won’t detect my headset and I’ll have to reboot before it will play nice. Sometimes apps will just fail to open and not give any warning in the headset. Oculus Home just works all the time and never gives me any guff.
On the other hand, Oculus Home feels pretty bare bones when compared to SteamVR. I’ve already spent TONS of time in the Steam interface so it is more familiar and I prefer the way that your games are categorized and sorted better than the simple interface of Home. The social features of Steam are light years ahead of anything Oculus can do. I also appreciate the ability to sync my phone to the headset and see my texts and things. You can also launch any non-vr game in SteamVR Home Theater mode and play the game on a big projected screen in a VR environment. Not something I personally use, but I like the idea.
Now we come to the big one. This is the one that everyone is talking about, and it is a pretty noticeable difference at the moment.
The Vive controllers are extremely good. The tracking is 100% spot on unless you run past a boundary, which usually means you’ve crashed into a wall. In which case, the on screen image of your controller floating away into space is usually not the first thing on your mind.
I like the way they feel in your hand when using them as a wand or pointing device. The button placements are all quite good. I was afraid that they’d be too heavy for long sessions, but I’ve not run into any problems with that thus far.
Having motion controls in game definitely helps with the sense of presence in many games. In most games figuring out which button to use is only clunky for a minute before it starts to feel natural. This all depends on the game of course, but it generally feels great and is a big part of the experience.
One of my controllers has a pretty serious issue at the moment. It thinks you’re pressing down on the D-pad of the touch circle all the time. This can cause major issues in menus, and the only work around that I’ve found so far is to turn off that controller and use the other one for all the menu stuff, then turn it back on in game. Not ideal.
The rift comes with a simple remote that works well for movies and such and also an Xbox One controller with Wireless Adapter. I’ve not had any use for that controller, since I prefer my Elite controller, but the Wireless Adapter is much appreciated.
Since I’m a fan of the Xbox controller already, using it is second nature. So there’s not really much to say on this point. Almost all of the Oculus games are meant to be seated experiences so it definitely works. But there are occasions where I can’t wait for the Oculus controllers to come out.
I want to start out by saying that the visual fidelity of these two are damn near identical. When you’re actively playing a game, you will not notice a difference between them. I say this with confidence, since I just played Windlands on both.
So don’t put too much stock in the online arguments you may have seen about FoV or DoF. They’re meaningless at the end of the day.
The Vive is slightly more front heavy and I have noticed a little bit of neck soreness after extended play sessions that I haven’t noticed with the Rift. This may be that I got the Vive first and built up the muscles enough, or it may just be the way they’re balanced.
Of the two, I find that the Vive has more room for my glasses and is thus more comfortable for longer wear with my glasses on.
The Rift is a bit lighter and smaller and the built in headphones are pretty good. Of the two, I find the Oculus to be more comfortable to wear without glasses. But I’m too blind for that to be a good option.
The real issue here is that wearing my glasses in the Rift HURTS after about an hour. There’s just not enough space in front of my eyes for my glasses, so they get pressed pretty forcefully against the bridge of my nose and it’s rather unpleasant. It really makes me want to go get some contact lenses again.
I’ve not yet had a chance to fully try out all the games I’ve bought for both platforms, so I’ll probably have to revisit some of this in the future, but here’s where I stand now.
My favorite game on the Vive right now is definitely AudioShield. I’ve always been a fan of the rhythm games and since this game lets me load in anything I want without bothering with DLC, I can just spend hours dance fighting these flying orbs to my all HUM mix tape and no one can stop me.
Tilt Brush is also amazing and every time I get in there I realize that I suck at drawing in 2D and I DOUBLY SUCK at drawing in 3D. But it’s hard to stay away.
Also if I’m going to pick nits, I wish I could calibrate the angle that my gun is mapped to in HoverJunkies. The grip angle feels like it was programmed by someone who is accustomed to the Glock grip angle. I prefer a slightly shallower grip angle. But I won’t go into that too much.
My favorite game on the Rift right now is Lucky’s Tale. The little guy is damn cute and the gameplay is a well implemented Mario 64 rip off. Which works better in VR than I expected.
Since I installed Elite Dangerous on Oculus Home, I can’t make it launch on the Vive anymore. Which is weird, but I’ve purposefully been avoiding this title. I’ve already spent 100+ hours in Elite NOT in VR, but DAMN the sense of presence when playing with my HOTAS is strong. Being able to look around in dog fights helps tremendously. I might even be able to hang with real players online in VR. Maybe.
The biggest disappointment for me when it comes to content on the Oculus is Eve Valkyrie. I’ve been super excited to play this game with my HOTAS since it was announced. And they currently only support the Saitek X52. Period. My X55 simply doesn’t react or respond in any fashion. So I can either play with the Xbox controller or find some Xbox controller emulator software and try to hack in my own profile. But that sounds like a lot of work, so for now I will just wait for the support that they’ve promised.
So that’s it for now. I’ll be back soon with more thoughts on games and experiences.