The VR Conundrum

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Blade Runner 2049

Cool little freebie dropped today. A Blade Runner mini adventure using new volumetric 'hologram' footage capture. Here's some examples



Pretty impressed . You can see some outline trimming and such, but used as holographic entities & recordings they totally pass muster. Really cool to see volumetric vid capture like this that you can move around and approach etc. How they use this in more classical narratives I'm not sure, as all the story elements were really playing to the tech's strengths. Eye contact would definitely be an issue, as of course they can't track you like a normal NPC would. Actor exchanges would certainly work though.

EDIT: Although having seen how they capture it, I've just remembered that this 10 minute experience was a 10GB download

__________________
Virtual Reality chatter on a movie site? Got endless amounts of it here. Reviews over here



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Quick Look: Farlands

This kiddie-friendly, collect-em-all isn't really my jam, but the execution is super slick for a free launch title. The beasty animation, sense of place, cute tilt-shift aspect to the map, and orbital vibe are all great, even if the gameplay kinda isn't . Here is a quick vid of me eyeballing a space chicken, surviving an overly excitable robot guide, and poking around the orbiting space module...



(I know these 'one eyed' vids don't really communicate the fun of VR, but I can't help but keep trying )

Bizarrely content was so limited at launch that this has a 'come back tomorrow for unlocks' structure (it's genuinely not a micro-transaction thing, it just seems to be gating content so it's not consumed in one day). And do you know what, I want to see the jungle so I probably will dammit... (Probably helps that they teased a pretty awesome space whale in the intro )

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Steaming Halloween Sales:

Oh the excess... :/
  • Obduction (12) - My biggest punt, but that's a lot of content potentially, and their last patches have address some key concerns (poor motion controller use, performance hitching).

  • The Vanishing of Ethan Carter VR (1.39) - A whole world of puzzle-adventure for that money. Still got fears about performance and comfort, but that's a lotta game

  • Please Don't Touch Anything 3D (4.39) - I'm pretty fond of these 'play with anything you can see' room puzzlers, and this seems to have a decent pedigree. Good 'puzzle and hint density' apparently.

  • Adrift (3.75) - Got this for the Gravity-style space vista vibe and drama, less for the slightly sickly motion system and repetitive 'hunt the oxygen' gameplay.

  • Infinity Fall (2.75) - Another clamber-around-inside-a-spaceship Zero-G indie...

  • Downward Spiral: Prologue (0.63p) - Super short, but fairly swish it seems

  • Coffin Dodgers (1.79) - A one track MarioKart rip off, but hey, cheap...

Plus a 2.72 bundle buy that got me:
  • Alice VR - Very mixed reviews for this, but I reckon there may be some decent walking sim astro escapism tucked away there.

  • VRobot - Look it's giant robots smashing up a city



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Update: Hotdogs, Horseshoes and Hand Grenades

The tiny dev team definitely are churning out the updates. Not making the game hugely more coherent, but they're creating more uses for their guns at least

This month they've got swept up in full-on feature creep, presenting a 50s-era zombie mode. Cute use of 'character' load outs, proc gen weapon loot, music and voiceovers...

This vid is just 50% me filling my pockets, 45% me dying (and 5% me struggling to use a zippo). Does show the bones of this new mode though, and some of the gun physics...



Given that it's mainly just an endless wave mode, it's still neat. The use of the weapon drops is cool, given how wide the pool of guns is, and how differently they behave. (It makes me think of GTA when you had to get straight into a car and learn to drive it on the spot).

It's really crying out for some proc gen picket-fenced suburbia and giant farm barns though. As it is it's all tree dodging and hiding in outhouses . Supposedly they're at least going to add some of more eccentric melee weapons (broadswords and shields etc) to the mix once the balance is settled.

EDIT: Day 1 Patch!

They added houses . And faster zombs. And some new difficulty curves and stuff. The guy doesn't sleep...




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Nice, an actual long-play of Skyrim VR:



Still PSVR, so a bit scrubby, but can imagine a lot of aspects being cool in VR here. Big takeaways for me were:
  • They've got an 'on foot' option working: They've gone for 'Onward' style locomotion, which is the neat traversal technique which causes no real nausea. Basically you point where you want to go and mix that with turning physically in the real world (plus added 'snap turns' where needed). It works well, and once you're happily walking about everything's a ton more immersive. Only downside is you can't always point where you want to go and use that weapon simultaneously. Pros and cons :/.

  • Hands are ideal for spells and bows: Ok, you can see some aiming issues with the spells in particular. But if they've got the essentials down I could live with some Beth jank here. (Weapons I just don't expect them to get right, although that'd be cool if they did )

  • That scale: Can see the mountain views, bigger cities, giants, and even claustrophobic caves being properly cool here.
So yeah, still Skyrim. Been there done that, and the textures / 3D modelling are unlikely to stand up to great scrutiny. But good to see it working well at least . Looking forward to it hitting PC down the line now... (And to F4 having comparable motion at least)....



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Herobound
+(+)



Found myself weirdly sucked into this one. Which is odd because there's nothing really innovative here in terms of VR usage. You can aim projectiles with your gaze, and you're sitting above the playspace like a minor deity in a cloud, but neither aspect is a game-changer here. I regularly wanted them to at least entice me to look down and amongst the platforms for puzzle solutions, but it was never rewarded, so I just sat in one stock position. Aside from a bit of minor vertigo in the cloud city, it was essentially just a classic platformer.

(The more recent Lucky's Tale felt much more like a living cartoon under my control, possibly thanks to the closer playing angle & sprucier graphics. Ultimately it was just too linear and simplistic on the combat front to fully intrigue though.)



Ultimately though, it's a pretty tightly designed platformer, with a decent mix of enemy scaling, lite fight mechanics, pretty satisfying 'slide the block' style puzzles, a coherent 'complete the room' format, and a slightly free-roam way of linking the rooms and broader levels. The challenge escalated pretty well and pretty fairly, leading to some terse swearing at the odd boss stage, and proper head scratching at some of the physics puzzles. A few mechanics weren't explained hugely well (you can evaporate your water sprite, just so you know...), some of the block sliding took a bit longer than was strictly necessary, and the final boss was perhaps a bit straight-forward. But for a free game that clocks in around 8 hours I really can't complain



+(+)



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Batman: Arkham VR


This was genuinely stunning at points. Even though it's more a series of set pieces than an outright game, they absolutely nail the tone and the quality levels. Seeing a concerned Alfred glide in to admonish me, a mo-capped Robin clamber perilously outside the cage I'm trapped in, a tricksy Joker sucker me into some mind games... those were all properly classy moments. And even though they pad much of the rest of it with some lite puzzling to mixed effect, pulling levers in the majorly operational Batcave really struggled to get old...



It's a very short experience, but assuming you get it in a sale, well worth the admission price. Definitely expect the grimmer end of the Dark Knight world. (In fact I took a pause initially, after VR intensity + poring over a backstreet assault proved a dark immersion too far for that evening).

The puzzle easter egg hunt that attempts to re-use the locations is pretty thin, but worth a play into the tail end. On the plus side, they've got one of the best 3D puzzle mechanics I've encountered, with really weighty feel, and other set pieces like spinning a metal model of Gotham city round to complete a simple puzzle all really worked well. The rest were pretty dialled in though.



This experience is all about standing high up on Gotham roof tops and feeling the vertigo, being seemingly at the mercy of vicious criminal mutants, using some cool Bat toys, and doing some detective work in the dark hours. And on those fronts it does pretty much knock it out of the park




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Mission:ISS
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Another Oculus freebee with some great production values. Manoeuvring is successfully executed via the now familiar hand-grip technique. (You can also use gaze-led thrusters, but it's a slightly defunct technique which can cause a bit of nausea in some circumstances, best not to rely on them wholesale). Drifting around inside the station, batting objects about and learning about the different locations (mainly via canned vids) is all cool, and the mission to dock a new payload using the external arm genuinely involved (and extra neat because you do it by peaking out of the infamous 'cupola' window). What really makes this shine is the ability to go full spacewalk at will though. Just go to free mode, enter the airlock, and the menu lets you head outside for a truly majestic push and glide session







[Short, Free, High Quality]



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XING: The Land Beyond
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Step through the doorway onto the lovely island. Walk past the fountains spouting painful aphorisms. Fling away the tablets inscribed with insipid stories, told in wretched rhymes. Turn off the music piped from a Hong Kong soap opera, close your eyes to the cod philosophy...

And this game is a properly chilled and beguiling experience . Wondering around overgrown Aztec-style architecture and pushing puzzle pieces to the correct conclusion feels like something VR was made for. The scale of the locations, the soft awe of the larger elemental shifts, the ability to size up and pace around the physical puzzles laid out before you. The game's focus, and where it often excels, is in getting you into a state of quiet contemplation as you move around these environments and individual puzzle zones...



The puzzle motifs are built around finding the right environmental settings (night/day, stormy/dry etc) to allow items to be manipulated and progressed, often involving a throw or set of jumps to be executed along the way. While never getting deeply fiendish or completely fantastical, both the puzzle difficulty and atmospheric endeavour ramp up after a fairly anodyne and easy first map. The core elements slowly layering up in a pretty satisfying fashion, occasionally getting their own twists and tweaks, and taking place in a surprising number of locations by the end too.

With cliff edges your only peril, and respawns forgiving for the most part, the biggest frustration that impinged on this zen experience was the jump detection, which would occasionally insist you hadn't made what seemed to be well-timed leaps (even passing you through the physical platforms in question). I can only assume it was calibrated to some central standing position that I'd wondered from on those occasions.



The slowww walk speed also suited the tone but would would have benefited from a sprint option at times. There's a fair bit of back and forth as you flip environmental settings and enact your theories. (Combine this with the odd glitched jump that had no convenient reset and it did start to get counter-zen at times...)

Overall though, these 15 hours of super-chilled unwinding, for 15, makes this one of the best bang-for-buck VR titles to date. And those hours bore many hallmarks of thoughtful quality along the way which belie their indie origins

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EDIT:

Just a quick moment of XING zen I grabbed:




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First Look: Tales of Glory


Tooled up

As far as I can tell, this Early Access melee-fest is aiming to be like Mount & Blade, minus the NPC aspects. So essentially, lots of sieges, much stalwart defending by spawn points, some hot horse-on-horse action...

I am liking what I've seen so far. The sword and board isn't the most nuanced, but it's meant to be used in giant disorganised brawls, so works for all that. The opponents are pleasingly nippy and cagey at points, and show some variety between classes. Currently it's the mix of scale and little details that's most pleasing though (even if I've had to smash the visuals through the floor to get the big scenarios working). I like being able to pick up a dropped weapon to try a new approach on the fly, the little acts like raising your weapon to prompt a snarled speech and boost local moral. The fairly generous weapon attachments meaning I can be both archer and dual sword wielder as I attempt to lead a motley crew of AI along some battlements. The fact that I always take my horse behind enemy lines one too many times and get stuck there .



It's definitely not the prettiest, but I opted for it (at 20!) because it's another passion project that seems to be working to a fairly focused philosophy, while also churning out sizeable updates. I can see this guy getting the offline campaign working for sure. (Whether he untangles the complexities of online by early 2018 as he hopes, I guess we'll see )

And hey, in the meantime you can fight the Black Knight with a flaming sword, what's not to like?




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NOVEMBER LOSES AN A...

Dammit, LA Noire got pushed back to December as well. That's all the big AAA retrofits fully shunted to Xmas then :/

So looks like it's a AA month. Payday 2's free VR beta drops on Nov 16th, which is something. Not quite the hit of cream I was looking for though.

Soooo.... I've opted to splash my squirrelled cash on the AA delights of From Other Suns as my November treat instead.

FIRST LOOK: FROM OTHER SUNS [BETA]

So I haven't played FTL, but in theory this is it in VR...


^^enclicken for more screenies and thoughts^^

Things you can definitely do, and which seem good/promising, are:
  • Raid randomised ships & stations with your randomised weapons (atmosphere and gunplay seem decent)
  • Stalk around your own giant ship, repairing breaches & modules (or assigning your crew repair jobs from a map view).
  • Upgrade your ship (although ship fights are static affairs, and there's no flight within systems generally).
  • Be reborn as a surviving crew-member if you die.

Ultimately I suspect it's more streamlined than FTL, and it seems less deep than Pulsar Lost Colony on the ship management co-op. The atmosphere and core intents were solid though. If/when the price is right can definitely see myself getting it ultimately. The remaining questions are: How much mission variety is there? Will I find anyone to Co-op with?

If they added 'away missions' to cheesy 60s planets I'd be totally sold though

To space!



Bonus: Here's some fella playing a bit:

I'm sceptical that it'll be much more than the Beta at launch (Nov 14th). So a solid rogue-like FPS adventure, in VR, but of limited meaningful variety and longevity. Just enough to make the 25 pre-mod price worth the punt, in lieu of stiffer competition.

I'm guessing it should at least see me good on my new VR bang-for-buck minimum metric at least: 5-per-hour-of-fun... Kinda full-fat movie hire levels...

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EDIT: And ok, if my AAA November is to be thwarted, I'm doing it. I'm going full Walking Sim. I'm going games as art...





It's 5 in the horror sales, although appears to be more docu-drama than anything. Intriguing...



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LA NOIRE TEASES:



Ok so finally the official LA Noire teases begin . And the confirmations are pretty solid:

The Good:
  • Full open city to drive and run around in.
  • Full body representation.
  • Lots of physics interactions IE: flipping gun barrels open, pulling records from sleeves, remastered mission items etc.
  • Fisticuffs and shoot outs.
  • Ludicrously hands-on driving...
...the driving still conducted in first-person is a comprehensive rendition of being in control of a 1940s car. Players must turn the key in the ignition, grab the steering wheel and use the motion controllers to pilot the vehicle upon its route.
  • $30 price tag (so hopefully in the 22 range)

The Mixed:
  • The mobility stuff sounds a mixed bag (teleportation and arm swinger, and possibly the dubious gaze-tied motion). Easy to avoid nausea like this, but not the most immersive. (Or in the case of arm-swinging, maybe too immersive ). Would like to see more nuance there.
  • The main world is slightly dated, but the faces stand up to close inspection

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Summary:

Those are most of the touchstones I was hoping for

On the face of it they've done it justice, given it some AAA flourish, and made good use of existing assets. Sounds like it's impressed all the hands-on guys (lots of talk of actually dusting off their personal VR kit again etc ). Possibly looking like the first peek at a 'killer app'? (Although it will be too short and niche at launch to fully qualify I suspect, and I'd def like to see more movement options).

I'm definitely psyched to spend some time in this 40s world for sure. (And in any Red Dead or Grand Theft worlds it makes possible ). Fingers crossed...

Sources:

EDIT: Some bonus pull quotes on locations and interactions:

I picked up a still-burning cigar and waved my hand through the smoke, opened the bullet chamber of Phelps' highly detailed revolver with the flick of a wrist
A nearby record player emits soothing jazz. I swap vinyls by pulling a new one from its sleeve and placing it on the turntable. I pick up the phone and raise it to my ear, and smile as the operator asks the familiar line, How can I help you, detective? As I pick up the handset, I notice that my sleeve pulls back to reveal my watch. It is the small touches like this that show why L.A. Noire is perfect for VR. It is a game about picking objects up and taking a good look at them, and there is no better platform than the virtual reality for that kind of business.
And there was a lot of reaction to the actor capture in VR too. Can totally imagine that stuff working really well. It has almost all of the strengths of the volumetric film capture shown in the recent Blade Runner mini-game, with all the benefits of a current interactive NPC. Promising...

As she spoke, it felt pertinent to monitor both her face and her body language, in the way we do with real people. And thats the nugget of L.A. Noires interrogation system of course, but the fact that it worked so well startled me. I had momentarily behaved like I would in front of a human, and Ive never done that in VR before.



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^^^generic online snap, but yeah it looks like this. Just in 3D. And with goofy aliens.^^^

Farlands

This Oculus freebie has delicious visuals and really evocative alien locations, tied to some of the most tedious gameplay ever envisioned . It seems to have be an experiment in gating limited launch content, as you're made to wait a day to view new unlocked territories and items. Which turn out to be less and less impressive after the initial shimmering reveals.

Here's a quick vid trying to capture what is impressive about it though. Primarily the locations and the caricatured creature behaviours:



Eyeballing 6ft bipedal frogs and giant space elephants is actually pretty cool, even though the scale doesn't really come across in the vid.

I was almost tempted to plow through til the end. The central mechanism of tempting alien creatures into displaying new behaviours to be photographed is actually neatly done. And the space whale they teased at the beginning looked well worth a full viewing. But as the unlocks turned into flower gardens and other busy-work errata the wonder was progressively pissed upon from greater and greater heights...

Still totally worth a download and an initial bask in the alien though... (if you can survive the chirpy robot guide that is... )

Graphics & Vibe:
+
Gameplay:



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Mythos of the World Axis



^^Terribly stretched mirror image in the wrong aspect ratio - the demo looks a bit scrubby, but not that scrubby!^^

Bonus shout out to this great little proof of concept. Best example I've seen of a 'living diorama', where you really feel like you're guiding a tiny hero through legitimate scenery. The magic spells and the physics of the barrels are nice touches. The super-sampling is crazy low, so it's fairly pixely, and it's super super short, like just some walkways in a cavern. But well worth the download.




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Vivecraft



All the Right Moves:

In theory simply a mod that adds VR to the original Minecraft, this thing is actually so comprehensive that it completely destroys the official Minecraft VR version. It's not just the insane spread of locomotion customisations, allowing for numerous novelty propulsions and nausea-free spelunkings. It's the enthusiastic and intuitive use of hand tracking that really seals the deal here, making you feel like you're totally there adventuring amongst these endless blocky worlds...

Want to swim by swimming? Knock yourself out. Fancy clambering up blocks, or pulling back your bow for added damage? To swing your sword for a killer blow, or reach into your backpack to grab a favoured tool? Go for it! Want to mine by hacking away manually? Don't be a fool! (But you can totally do that too )

And because it's using the Java version you can combine it with other mods, if you want to get complicated. One day I will totally investigate the dynamic light source mod that makes holding a torch up in a cavern that much more Indiana Jones...

Modulate your Expectations:

Despite being completely painless to install as a mod, it does involve some faff if you really want to get the best out of it. Luckily I found a friendly server that allowed myself and a non-VR mate to play together, but usually that would involve all kinds of high end mod-juggling to ensure compatibility. And it's playing with mates online that still provides ongoing intrigue for me with Minecraft, so I expect to fire fight further problems just to keep this giant Indiana Jones ball rolling...

Big Blocky Summary:

There is something hilarious about having quick demonstrative hands in this world. Something continually startling about the enemies suddenly being '2 metres tall'. (Hell, even being mobbed by a cows as you feed them is strangely endearing. And also a tiiiiny bit terrifying... ). Something wonderful about fighting vertigo to construct a giant folly, and then admiring it towering over yourself and the landscape.

This game is thoroughly ludicrous, but in VR I'm loving the damn thing all over again




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** VIRTUAL REALITY REVIEW - 3 MONTHS IN **

Wordier 1 month review here, which essentially still holds true. I tried to do a TLDR this time, and failed

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Two sentence review:
The upsides are totally triumphing over the downsides . But the downsides are still significant...

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BREATHLESS POSITIVES:
  • Immersion: Is just fricking hard to overstate. Games that invite you to get lost in their environments benefit the most, for sure. But everything from racing sims to twitchy arcaders can have their atmospheres improved, and then their game aspects amped up too, thanks to the instinctive reactions and depth perceptions that the tech brings into play. When done right this 'presence' business is the secret sauce. It can convince your body it's inside a different functioning reality, and it's no exaggeration to say that **** can be a game changer... (apologies )

  • Hand control is great: Having them right in the game for fine control, for exploring physics, for shooting guns etc makes for a novel and badass new interface. Both reliable and intuitive, it feels like there are solid new gaming norms already established here, and flexible possibilities waiting to be explored too. The Rift controllers are neatly ergonomic and generally grand to use, to the point that you often forget they're there. (Having your hands 'in the game' also draws your body in that much more, doubling down on the immersion aspect. Add in responsive environments that reward naturalistic tinkering and there are a lot of positive feedback loops going on here...)

PROS & CONS:
  • Indie Experimentation: Can be a lot of fun . It's the Wild West right now as everyone figures out what works and where the edges are. This means dross abounds, but it also means little leaps of genius get more attention in the sparser market, and passionate devs can then breath life into their little worlds sustained by the increased airtime as they go. It's not ideal, it's often Early Access, but it's delivering some rough diamonds along the way...

VERY PRESENT NEGATIVES:
  • The gaming ecosystem & bang for buck still aren't in the best place, compared to what we're used to. A fair amount of shopping around is required (unless you're loaded), there are far fewer AAAs launched that you can delve into for ages, and a lot more reliance on indie & AA output to fill the gaps (with all the quality issues that implies).

  • Graphics are a downgrade from what we're used to on a flat screen, as the 90fps-per-eye requirement is pretty hight. (It may help that I've been brought up on far worse, or that I'm used to juggling graphics about to get the best out of them on PC, but this is still rarely bothering me much. The 'being there' boon takes the edge off massively. It is definitely more enjoyable when you get the classics in place like decent aliasing, textures and lighting though, which isn't always the case.)

  • The stupid cable & accidentally hitting things both occasionally cause bother, although are mainly manageable and don't impinge. Before the year is out I will have punched my glass light fittings though... :/

  • Doing standard non-gaming things, like switching to surfing the net, or doing it in parallel, are much harder in the Rift at the moment. (Although Minority-Report style in-game app windows etc are due in December). Writing anything of substance is currently slowwww. Chatting with people in the room is totally possible (the in-built headphones are very good for this), but not entirely ideal.

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GRATUITOUS SUMMARY:

It says something that I'm still hyped about VR despite those downsides. It is properly cool . It's just also a bit less accessible than the current gaming world, requiring you to put a bit more energy in to get your bonus fun out right now. Will be interesting to see if the AAA revamps launching this December help it get close to a place where you can just buy a game, plug and play, and go revel in it for a prolonged period. As it is currently I'm pretty cool with jumping between genres, and riding on indie output to get my daily gaming fixes. But I am definitely desirous of classic AAA having its day too



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A fella got his Skyrim PSVR copy early...





Fave moments, amongst the earnest fumbling, were him nailing a bee's nest shot on a whim (end of first vid), and being moved to chuck his ghost dog under the chin (first third of second vid).

It is odd to see this ancient game touted as a flagship launch, but as he says, it's kinda like playing it at PS3+ levels, but just you're 'in' the game. (That's kinda how I feel about Elite, a game I had prior to VR. It's like playing it back on my old GPU's settings, but I'm in the pilot's seat . The payoff has felt worth it in those cases so far).

Menus look a bit clunky with the Move controllers, and he has some tracking issues. But once he got out on that classic opening trail I was thinking: Yeah, this could work . (And that Dogmeat in F4 is gonna be sweet )

Melee still looks pretty flimsy, but hey, no difference there . (Guess it'll depend on block tracking and AI dynamics ultimately for sword and board. Not expecting that bit to be much more than flappy n scrappy though )



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Lost in Minecraft ...

^^^I know this looks awful, but making 'giant things' is great . This is an entirely unnecassary bio-dome for growing cactuses... which are required to make more bio-domes ^^^

I have got the bug bad again . Playing on a Vivecraft server with my mate on normal PC has been pretty monumental

Having this huge, totally malleable, eccentrically 'alive' playground in VR is a treat. (Partially because those experiences are in short supply in VR, but partially because it's also genuinely a good fit ). Biggest downsides are when I can't voice-chat (which is often). The virtual keyboard is slow enough when it works, but as this is a mod, half the time it's less biddable than a wolf puppy, disappearing and flitting all over the place


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Skyrim Fever?

Damn, the Reddit responses to Skyrim VR are solid. Lots of caveats in there about the distance view being fuzzy (making clocking foe behaviour tricky, and lessening outdoors awe despite the scale), various control idiosyncrasies, and various bugs naturally (players being shrunk to dwarf size being an amusing one ). But... mainly a stream of positives so far, and from the same users discussing the downsides

Some fun themes. Definitely the sort of thing I was hoping to hear on what VR could add if done right:


NPCs being a bit more impactful:

NPCs feel more like real people than before. I find myself stopping and listening to random conversations more than I usually do. I felt pretty freaking rotten after getting a minor character killed during a mission. The emotional immersion is upped too!
EDIT:
Interacting with NPCs in VR feels amazing. The lip movements when speaking are actually done pretty well, and definitely adds to the immersion. Walking among the townsfolk feels great, and gives the the game a depth it never had before. NPCs will look at you when you walk past them, and you can size them up as well. It definitely adds a connection with the world that the game never had outside of VR.

Rummage and roam zen factors:

I've always like Skyrim, so I'm probably biased, but as a previous commenter had already said, it's the little differences. I notice more, I'm actually stopping to read all the books and don't feel rushed to push on. The first time I came out of the starting caverns was night time and seeing Secunda and Masser hanging in the air behind clouds was surprising and exhilarating because I had always come out in daylight before. That told me I'd spent more time just staring at things. I also realised how much I'd missed, noticing chests and areas that I completely bypassed. Bleakfalls barrow felt completely new. At the end of four hours I stepped into Dragonsreach. I stood there just taking it in. It also felt like such a different space and they nailed why the Nords would revere it so much.
I never bothered with horse riding in the original, I cant get enough of it in VR. Just laid back and enjoying the landscape.

Combat works also pretty well from the horse, though I hit my table several times while axing some wolves down.

More intense 'in the moment' stuff:

Using the move controllers and playing on expert, I feel like I just went through it for the first time. I was mentally exhausted afterwards, and breathed a sigh of relief when I exited.

Seriously...I feel like im there. By the way....Wielding torches is INSANELY cool!
...And that first arrow that whipped past my face as I charged a bandit archer....what a rush!
EDIT: And of course, spiders


Magic wielding & bows being cool:

...the first time I dual-casted the flame spell was amazing. A real blast of sound, and wow, the visual was really nice. As an archer, the aiming is spot-on, although you do have to raise your angle to compensate for distance (ala the original Skyrim). VERY accurate...if you have played the archer in Ancient Amuletor and found it to be frustrating...so did I. I feel like a Khajit Legolas in Skyrim.
...spells is where its at. Conjured a familiar last night, and man, just awesome (looks like a damn dire wolf).
I am sooooooo in love with Move-magic-casting. Im burning baddies down with one hand while daring them to get close enough to use my axe in the other.
EDIT:
Then, I used my Ritual Stone power of resurrecting the dead around me while entering Bleak Falls - and FWOOSH! This gorgeous green and bright light surrounds me, fills the whole dungeon, and one by one dead bandits and skeevers rise up as reanimated corpses around me, their bodies glowing in the dark room. The depth and scale of the power, the bodies rising up, and the sound and visuals completely around me sold me on the idea that yes, this is going to be an awesome ride once again

EDIT: Sword and board might be fun?:

I assumed this would be slight, as it's very easy to make it feel that way in the VR melee I've tried, if the feedback is poor and the AI wooden. (Which it was in the original). Possibly they've taken the chance to up their game here though?

Q: Can you block with a sword only?

A: Only a long sword, as far as I'm aware.. It doesn't seem as effective as a shield and I couldn't get along with it, whereas the shield is fantastic IMO I literally hold it up in a panic sometimes, iv caught arrows in it lol then removed and kept for myself hehe
"The biggest strength of this game is the combat."

... something I never thought I'd hear about an Elder Scrolls game. But I don't disagree! The Moves make it so fun!
(source)

Still wait and see on this, but seems functional at least


EDIT: Novel physics fun:

So of course you can dump bowls on NPCs heads with more elan with your hands, but it seems novel options are afoot...

Someone balanced a bear trap on his sword and bamboozled the bandits, many interesting things here boys!
Not to mention the new game of googly eyes using the Move controllers



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Some pure negative nuggests in there too, from guys who felt their $60 is a bust (mainly VR heads so far who feel it's a compromise too far / doesn't hit the quality of more compact games like the recent RES 7 etc). And I suspect melee stuff is still ultimately pretty light and spammy. But generally, promising . And good to hear lots of Skrim vets finding the experience fresh. I am genuinely worried about the potential timesink this represents if it hits PC



there's a frog in my snake oil
A Moment of XING Zen...

Found this footage from the puzzle game XING that I grabbed and thought it worth an upload. The water reflections on the rock arc had transfixed me for a moment. Think it gets across the super chilled vibe and pacing of the environments and the puzzle zones:



First Look: From Other Suns

Haven't had a chance to get further than the 10 jumps that the Beta offered yet, but have seen some new scenarios, and finding all the fundamentals that were good about it still in place. Loving the look of the environments (if saddened still that they're not interactive, as the poker chips in the mess hall beg to be flung about...).



The 'grab that weird gun and see what it does' mechanic of survival on station raids is fun, and they've added 'controller-led' locomotion, which is great .

The crew management and ship upgrades are lite but functional so far. I'm seeing more minor flux from aspects like random crew joining you after a successful mission and chance offers from NPCs. It seems that the long-term loop is that you can gain permanent unlocks in the form of improved starter ships etc. Now to see if I can survive my way to earth...




there's a frog in my snake oil
While blundering around looking at LA Noire previews, I stumbled on this cool Father and son bond over game piece from Eurogamer.

Well worth a read! But the short story is, it lauds the detail they put into the world recreation (essentially flagging it as the most personable aspect of the game, which is probably true). And it also shines a light on some genuine 'angel and sinner' behaviour of the cops at the time, due to the writer's granddad being on the force, and his dad, who's reminiscing with him, having grown up during that period.

The dad's summation of the experience is cool:

"Viewing L.A. Noire was an exciting and thoughtful experience. For a few hours I was able to re-explore the L.A. I knew in the late forties and early fifties with my son. The city was dark, but even with the period's dim street lighting and within the slightly truncated map of the city, we were able to find our way around. The prizes for me were the Richfield Building, Angels Flight (located where it belonged next to the 3rd Street tunnel - it has since been relocated one block south) and the wonderful cars of the era. I was able to remember exactly how to get around from both the towering City Hall and the slightly uncomfortable space of Pershing Square. This seemed a refreshingly thoughtful-almost intellectual-scenario that I would not have expected in something called a game.

"The accuracy with which the city structures and roadways are recreated is really astounding, and the details were almost perfect! Minor faults would not be evident to most who did not live in the city at that time. For sure this was a real as well as a virtual return for me to that complex and dark city at that time.

"To be able to experience it again with my son who was born 20 years after I first left the city was, I think, wonderful for us both."
Puts me in mind of that time Peter Bradshaw met Red Dead Redemption

Reason I'm putting it here is because that's an aspect I've got high hopes for in the VR version. Having an expansive, well realised 40s world will be cool, even if it is primarily as a backdrop.



there's a frog in my snake oil
I Expect You To Die:


The launch trailer communicates everything that's great about this seated physics puzzler...

They've nailed the tongue-in-cheek 60s Bond tone. For some reason wearing a trilby and smoking a cigar really does make puzzling better. Who knew? (Possibly it's the fact that you can accidentally set fire to your hat with the cigar that makes it... And then use the hat to set fire to a stuffed killer bear by throwing it onto its head. It's probably that )



Right from the lavish indulgence of the Saul Bass style introduction (an excellent use of the VR, as the twirling cartoon batons and stylised symbols twirl and extend around you), to the louche and lush settings, they capture the vibe and don't let it go.

Where the game lets itself down, unfortunately, is in the limited amount of content, and the reliance on repetition. With progression designed around circumnavigating a series of death-traps, there's an inevitable amount of repetition as you re-do the opening challenges to take on the greater death which claimed you. This is actually fairly well executed in the main, and flipping through the tasks with elan is somewhat enjoyable. The problem comes when your progress is reset by a fairly cruel or unpredictable design or interface, which although not that frequent, is doubly frustrating when it occurs. And triply frustrating if it then takes a few goes to fully understand and execute the desired action.



For the most part joy washed over these concerns, thanks to the stylings, broad interactivity, and ludicrous scenarios. (The stand out was probably the submersible, but all of the settings were neat and had their highlights). Ultimately well worth 11 in a sale, but the odd design blips and the slim pickings on the map front (only 6 locations, 4 hours play for me) mean I can't really rate it higher than:

+++

EDIT: I also enjoyed the two bonus DLC scenarios that have dropped since launch, set on a lavish Indian train and in a classic villain's lair.

The added dev commentary is also decent at points, offering some insight into the specific trials of designing for VR (changing the reticule size in a stepped manner to stop perceptual doubling / angling a window so you can be both close to it and not smooshed up against it etc). Also reveals how you can slide into making a Saul Bass intro when on a slender budget



there's a frog in my snake oil
So the 'Minority Report' beta is out. People's first use? To put things into Elite Dangerous to keep them amused



Looks neat. I'll probably let everyone knock the rough edges off first, but being able to access desktop stuff from in-game is going to be a big step up

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EDIT: Oh I kinda like this. I'm not hugely bothered about the home locations and all the cosmetic stuff, but the possibility of slinging a home-made statue in there is strangely appealing:

Well be adding tons of new content throughout the year, including new items and decorations built by the community. Well also make it easy to bring your own content, like Medium sculptures, into Home in 2018.
Supposedly you'll be able to invite people over to your home location, play mini-games etc down the line. If that's functional eventually, all cool. (Altho also doubtless part of long-term Facebook master plans to own all personal data evaaaaa...)