VRTO 2019: VR & the Road to Now…& Then – feat Blake J. Harris, Blair Renaud, Keram Malicki-Sanchez
In this uncompromising chat set at the VRTO 2019 Virtual Reality & Augmented Reality conference in Toronto, author Blake J. Harris discusses his insights from time spent with with Palmer Luckey during the time Oculus was acquired by Facebook, the future of consoles and concerns around privacy. Indie game developer Blair Renaud dukes it out with VR investor Tipatat Chennavasin about how to price VR games on the Oculus Quest, and everyone gets into the fray to discuss what will ultimately make VR successful in the eyes of the public and the people who invested money and time to get it there.
There were many fascinating releases in the Virtual Reality gaming spectrum in 2018, and we are delighted to see the industry iterating, exploring and improving. These were our favorites – the best, well…that’s someone else’s problem.
from Crypton Future Media
“Vocaloid and VR fans were treated this year to a Hatsune Miku game that was finally done right. After Miku’s first foray into VR wasn’t so well-received due to lack of gameplay, Crypton Future Media listened to fan feedback and made a fun rhythm game more in vein with the franchise’s previous titles.
Not necessarily a ground-breaking VR project, Hatsune Miku VR provides a decent amount of fan service and catchy, popular Vocaloid songs sung by Hatsune Miku. Try Hard Mode if you’re really looking for an intense workout.” ~ Michael.Duhacek
This is a game with all the pedigree of the Dada movement – it started out as a game jam between developers from The Stanley Parable and Minit as well as Rick and Morty co-creator Justin Roiland – and the propensity of a leprechaun. While it may not satisfy all gamer types, it plays to the idea in which VR pulls you by the collar into its own bizarre whims without ever truly hurting anyone.
Its game-within-a-game approach is delightfully meta as well as adrenaline-fueled – playing on a GameBoy analog in class without getting caught is a tense exercise in divided attention.
More important than its clever play of Augmented Reality within Virtual Reality, though, is that Pixel Ripped 1989 is fun in every way, from its nostalgic call-backs to ’80s-era video games to its tight 3D platforming action.
From the same company that gave VR its first Emmy award with their trailer for Sleepy Hollow, Secret Location has made several VR games on the road to what may be their best so far.
Transpose is a single-player title that has you playing out multiple versions of yourself called Echoes that interact with future and past versions of you in what amounts to an uncompromising series of sci-fi escape rooms.
A fascinating and ideal demonstration for spatialized gameplay that may not be for those who hate challenging puzzles but may be a little slice of just-have-to-solve-it for the rest.
Tequila Works showed they could put a fascinating spin on the classic ensemble murder mystery with 2017’s The Sexy Brutale. Designed specifically for VR, their follow-up is just as compelling a twist on the classic formula, complete with a plot based on the Internet’s favorite historical inventor, Nicola Tesla.
“The Invisible Hours is like the murder mystery dinner party you sat through in the ’90s, but without the overcooked fondue and dried out sausage rolls. It’s stepping into an Agatha Christie novel or reliving your childhood playing Clue. The story and immersive theater elements captivate gamers and non-gamers alike. Watching people experience the game who haven’t picked up a console since the Atari VCS and become completely lost in the narrative is thrilling. What makes The Invisible Hours an essential addition to the list is its ‘gateway drug’ effect for whetting the appetite for immersive and interactive storytelling.” ~ JaneHasNoThumbs
Never send a man to do the work of a mouse! Moss ramps up the enchantment early with the introduction of Quill, the rodent heroine of the storybook adventure. Her minuscule stature is amply detailed, and leaning in for a close-up of her is like watching a Calico Critter come to life. She also frequently acknowledges your presence, and it’s nigh impossible to watch her reach up to touch your face without feeling a tug at the heartstrings.
With the player represented as a disembodied human-sized presence, there are frequent visual reminders that the dangerous world Quill is braving very much belongs to human beings. Guiding Quill while simultaneously solving environment puzzles can lead to some head-scratching moments, but it never detracts from the enormous joy of piloting the tiny adventurer through this whimsical realm.
Beat Saber took all the things that were working from Soundboxing, Lightblade VR and Audioshield and mashed them up into the most perfect combination of Rhythm Game, combat training and fitness workout.
With a kick-ass music library, perfect haptics to enhance strikes and blade-mashing, and an international e-Sports community consistently growing around it, Beat Saber pleases casual to hardcore gamers alike and may have given VR – for the first time ever – the break-out hit it desperately needed.
This week’s top five Oculus releases incorporate a little of everything, from cooperative heists to alien agriculture. There’s also plenty on offer for mobile VR users – no Rift required.
Slime Rancher: VR Playground
We loved the original version of this game – so much that we named it 2017’s Game of the Year on our sister site – so of course we’re beyond excited about the VR version.
A cute farming simulator inspired by classic JRPGs that – at least for us – can turn into an unsettling metaphor for industrial agriculture surprisingly quickly, Slime Rancher is fascinating and addicting.
Its simple “suck and blow” mechanic (using a vacuum tool) is easy to pick up and belies the complexities at play beneath the surface as herds of slimes eat, breed and mutate.
A big part of the fun is exploration the wilderness around your ranch, and Slime Rancher: VR is a stand-alone experience letting you explore three of its environments. While it doesn’t include a full implementation of the entire game, there’s plenty to suck and blow, and the focus seems to be more on the relaxing and exploring elements than the factory farming bit, which is fine with us.
Directed by Eric Darnell (best known for Madagascar), this week’s most hyped VR release is an animated retelling of a Native American legend and featuring the voice of Oprah Winfrey, John Legend and Constance Wu, among others and was featured at Cannes.
A clever two-person cooperative concept based on heist movies, Covert makes good use of an asymmetric dynamic in a similar vein as Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes. The VR player is the thief, physically breaking in to highly guarded locations, while a non-VR player acts as the hacker, breaking into the security systems to assist the thief in getting away with the goods.
Crawl acrobatically through laser grids like Catherine Zeta-Jones in Entrapment! Hack like the hackers in Hackers! Live out other film-based fantasies, maybe even from movies that came out past the 1990s!
We’re suckers for well-made, old-fashioned shoot-’em-ups, and Voxel Fly combines the entomological science fiction aesthetic of classics like Space Invaders and Yars’ Revenge with a voxel-based, blocky approach to graphics that’s one part Zaxxon and two parts Zenzizenzic.
Honestly, you had us at “space bugs,” but multiple game modes and different ships to select – from classic space fighters to blimps – just add to the fun.
We’re also suckers for well-made tower defense games, in or out of VR, and Voronium – Locus Sols definitely delivers on that front. Combining tower defense and FPS mechanics with a science fiction narrative, this is a solid blend of strategy and action.