I Really Do Not Like VR... Right Now
I know it is a tad cliché/trendy to be hating on VR ever since the Oculus Rift’s price announcement, but as someone who’s been firmly weary/critical of Oculus since the Kickstarter, I feel I have a right to throw an opinion or two out there. I am not a fan of VR as it currently exists. I have been one of the biggest naysayers about VR since the day the Oculus Rift became more of a thing than just a Kickstarter campaign. Hell, I would go as far as to say I have ACTIVELY criticized the current future of VR as a bunch of fancy and misleading tech demos. Don't get me wrong, I have been impressed by VR on multiple occasions. At the 2015 E3 I got the Hololens, the Oculus Rift, and the SONY VR (at the time, Morpheus) on my skull, and each time was very impressed with what VR as an idea had to offer and immediately went back to my somewhat sour stance on the topic the moment the headset was off my head.
Before I take the restraints off and begin to revel in my temporary victory against the VR future hopefuls, I would like I say I want VR to work. I desperately want the .hack/Total Recall/Sword Art Online/Holodeck/Ready Player One future I have been promised where instead of sitting down to play a game, I either drop a mask on my face and experience body paralysis as all my thoughts become in-game actions or enter into some kind of room with a body suit the replaces the world outside. If I live long enough to get the chance to lock myself inside some kind of tube, tank, or ball that will take care of all my body needs until I die but lets me essentially go full virtual world with my mind, you will never see another video from Something Wicked Studios EVER AGAIN!
What I have issues with is the modern reality of what VR is, and well, it kinda sucks. For all intents and purposes, VR is a peripheral. The potentially coolest peripheral ever, but a peripheral nonetheless. What makes VR a peripheral? Well, the fact that it requires somewhere between stuff, to lots of stuff to work as intended. The computers required to run VR correctly are not your average home PC. Hell, they’re beyond your average gaming PC with some frequency. As someone who recently built a new PC knowing that the moment I finalized my order, the recommended specs feel like even more of a slap than the inevitable day where I am required to start downgrading my in-game settings. Beyond the hardware, you have VR systems based around moving around in a mapped environment. I live in an apartment--it’s a decent sized apartment, and I would still have to move all my furniture out into the hallway to even be able to start lying about having enough space to utilize this functionality. Beyond all this, all you can currently purchase is the headset. None of the interface options are available yet, and there is no pricing available at the time of this article.
Moving on from the physical, we have the topic I care significantly more about: games. Have games been announced? Yes, sure. Technically, they exist, but for the most part they are more or less tech demos. E3 2015 was full of cool VR experiences, but a lot of the coolest ones were often augmented with some interactive add-on like enviromental equipment or someone tossing you something or required an arcade cabinet’s amount of equipment to replicate. I am aware that Oculus comes with two games, but neither of them look especially amazing. I am also aware of the PC modding scene making games like Half-Life 2 VR compatible, but just because you can make an existing gaming function does not make it a good experience.
Perhaps I am being hard on the current state of VR with my criticism, but its lack of games and its peripheralness make it a very hard thing to get excited about. Have I bought a console long before it had any games that justified the purchase? Absolutely. But as comparable as the prices may be trying to compare any VR headset to a console is unfair to the console since in many ways the better comparison would be to a TV since just owning the viewing device in no way solves the issue of content and you have to buy other stuff to get the most out of it.
In general, I am excited about what VR could become, it just has not progressed enough to make me care about it. The current price of entry is too high, and once you factor in all the extenuating factors, there are still too many promises that have yet to be delivered on, and I cannot shake the overall feeling that while the idea of VR is damn cool, what we are currently getting is still somewhat half-baked.