Over the three days of PAX Australia 2016, we here at OK Games were lucky enough to go hands-on with heaps of different virtual reality (VR) games. While we like to think we do a good job of putting our experiences into words, this can be very difficult to visualise. After all, VR is very personal. You put the headset on and jump into another world, how you choose to perceive and interact with this world is completely up to you, and you’re usually going at it alone. Using captured footage of what you’re seeing through the headset helps to give an audience a perspective on how you’re interacting with this world, but it can feel like a distant experience when you’re not in control. HTC is trying to solve this problem using mixed reality.
The mixed reality setup that HTC had in place involves a 5m x 5m booth with the base stations setup as normal. The major difference is the use of a green screen covering the entirety of the booth. This allows an output to be displayed which shows the player in the middle of the world they are seeing. In the video included you will see the mixed reality display, with my view in the bottom right. HTC hopes that using this form of display will enable everyone to get involved in VR, whether or not they’re in the headset. An obvious consequence was people crowding around the booth, to watch on the big screen as the player ran around attempting to gun down the approaching forces. It also helped everyone feel involved, as the wait to get into the VR Freeplay area was very lengthy.
The game itself was called Front Defence, a World War II shooter developed by HTC’s internal startup, Fantahorn Studio. It was nothing more than a simple shooting gallery; A playground for different weapons. The reloading of weapons is janky, though, firing them was fun and simple enough. The setup was an encamped American soldier fighting off approaching enemies who have no regard for their own lives. At your disposal were grenades, pistols, machine guns, a mounted gun and a rocket launcher. I was also wearing a force feedback vest to give the guns a bit more kick. This helps, but holding a rocket launcher one-handed is still a weird experience. I’m sure they will have more to show off later in development and when we get to try the game out for longer than five minutes.
As you can see from the unfinished build in the video, the concept is definitely far from complete. Glitchy creepy hands, floating helmets, body clipping grenades and other bugs were all on show. The end result was still a pretty awesome video I can show my family and friends to explain what VR is all about.