I’ve never really found the Vive uncomfortable. Sure it may have been front heavy, but once you ratcheted the straps to your face it was perfectly functional. The real reason I was interested in the deluxe audio strap wasn’t the new fit, but rather the inclusion of integrated audio into the strap (or maybe its just that I have to own ever Vive product I can).
I haven’t been able to do much VR development, but when I am working I find myself skipping out on headphones just because it is too cumbersome to add and remove them over and over and over again. I also find it annoying to have to deal with when giving demos, or when the headphone cable gets unplugged during a flailing sword attack.
I purchased the Deluxe Audio Strap from the Microsoft Store and received it within 30 hours from FedEx (FedEX FTW). After waiting weeks for headsets, trackers and RMA controllers, receiving the audio strap so quickly was shocking, and perhaps borderline unnerving. Is this how things are supposed to be?
The packaging was lightweight with some great presentation. The instruction video for replacing my tattered, old headstrap was one of the most polished presentations I have ever seen. The whole process of swapping it out took less than 7 minutes, and aside from some terrifying applications of force on the side swivels, was extremely easy. Already it felt like a brand new headset… and I hadn’t even put it on yet.
Overall, the new fit is great, and distributes the weight more evenly over your whole head. Strangely, however,I found more pressure on my brow, but it can’t be any more than what it was when I pulled the old headset to circulation inhibiting levels. Putting the headset on is much easier, and the cable management is a welcome addition, although some members of the Vancouver VR Community said they preferred when the cable ran out of the back.
While the Deluxe Audio Strap is really expensive (in Canada), so far I’ve found it surprisingly useful in ways I never initially desired or even considered. I never noticed the ‘residue’ or dissolving foam issue that others initially reported, so I can’t really speak to that, but everything has exceeded my expectations. That said, I can only really recommend it fully to people who use their Vive a lot!
Yesterday was the one year anniversary since the HTC VIVE reached the much-anticipating grabby hands of the consumer (we were one of them, and even stood outside for the delivery person), and to celebrate, there’s a Steam sale through this weekend, and we figured to share our top 10 (5 from myself, and 5 from Megasteakman) favourite VR experiences to date. These picks are in no order at all, it was already tough enough to pick only 5!
— M. Lovecraft (@VRmyofDarkness) April 7, 2017
M. Lovecraft’s Top 5 Picks
- Accounting VR by Squanchtendo, Crows Crows Crows
- Holopoint by Alzan Studios, LLC
- Audioshield by Dylan Fitterer
- Smash Party VR by Viacom NEXT (animated by Chris Prynoski of Titmouse)
- VR The Diner Duo by Whirlybird Games
Accounting VR for whatever strange reason it may be… Is still my favourite VR experience to date. Perhaps I am so engaged in the world that Justin Roiland throws his Rick and Morty viewers into, I felt like Accounting VR was the first time that made me realize the narrative potential of virtual reality: the strange, the unknown, the surreal. The voice acting is on point as we can always expect from Roiland, and I’m looking forward to what else Crows Crows Crows and Squanchtendo have in store for VR.
Holopoint is by far, one of the most active games for virtual reality, and with that said: I completely suck at it. Even though I’m terrible, I still really enjoy the challenge of keeping up, and it makes a great cardio work out if you can make it far! I can’t wait for wireless VR headsets because it’s natural for first time users to tangle and coil the cord.
Audioshield is another great light cardio game that allows you to use music from your PC’s library, or YouTube (albeit it takes some processing time) and will generate a level where you punch red and blue (sometimes purple) balls flying towards your face. I once did Savant’s ‘Zion’ album in full on hard mode. I don’t recommend doing this to yourself.
Smash Party VR gives me the nostalgia factor I never thought I would get in virtual reality. One of my favourite shows when growing up in the 90s was MTV’s Downtown, and Goat makes a little cameo as one of the watcher’s of the cage arena. It’s a simple game and there’s not a lot to it, but I found it enjoyable, and it’s awesome seeing other people such as Chris Prynoski creating for VR.
VR The Diner Duo is an asymmetrical multiplayer game, which is something I want to see a lot more of, and PSVR kills with it. The person in the headset is a cook, putting together burgers with different ingredients, and another player has a game controller, and is a waiter, yelling out the orders. Or just saying it normally… I’m just a yeller. Insanity ensues! A lot of fun.
— M. Lovecraft (@VRmyofDarkness) January 29, 2017
Megasteakman’s Top 5 Picks
- Vanishing Realms By Indimo Labs LLC
- Battle Dome By Bad Bird Studios
- Google Earth VR By Google
- VRChat By VRCHat Inc.
- Quanero VR By LaserBoy3000
This experience was so spellbinding and mind blowing that I kept having to take breaks to ground myself before adventuring onward in what felt like a first person Zelda game. I had never before felt so immersed in a virtual world, and can’t wait to journey back for chapter 3!
While it unfortunately doesn’t have the player base it used to, I use to love hopping into this game every weekend for really tense and strategic firefights. Squatting behind cover was a great workout that left me sore for days.
I nearly cried after the introduction. The scope of this app was beyond what I thought was possible, and seeing my parents visit the places they grew up entirely from memory really made me feel a strange sort of transcendance from being a meer human meat puppet.
Social interactions in VR are absolutely insane. Positional audio coming from characters of all shapes and sizes in a shared virtual space is a game changer, and something that I think will become much more common place as adoption rates go up. VR Chat does it right!
— M. Lovecraft (@VRmyofDarkness) February 22, 2017
As a filmmaker, this one got me really excited about virtual reality storytelling. Being able to rewind time to get a different vantage point made me feel like a director lining up the perfect shot, and definitely showcases a brilliant way for audiences to become participants in a linear narrative.
A lot of our top choices are FREE, or are on sale for the Steam VR Anniversary sale this weekend so be sure to nab any titles you’re thinking about getting!
What are your favourite VR experiences to date? What do you hope to see on the HTC VIVE in the year 2017?
Well, we did it. It was 2AM and the HTC VIVE Trackers just went live on the HTC VIVE accessories webpage at the end of March. We had ourselves an adventure since the trackers came out in the United States before Canada, and we drove down for some Target browsing (I personally enjoy their cosmetics section haha), and of course, a trip to the states isn’t complete without Mexican food. Kial is playing around with a lot of mocap (motion capture) and I’m really just along for the ride (and usual QA, calibration sorts).
— M. Lovecraft (@VRmyofDarkness) April 3, 2017
As another note, when the HTC VIVE Trackers were released in Canada, I was pleased to see that HTC changed its stance on its ludicrous standard $65 shipping, no matter what you purchase. Last year, I ordered an extra link cable, and cable box which were very small items, and HTC insisted that $65 was the standard shipping. At the time of writing this, I believe they changed their shipping to $35 for tracker shipping in Canada.
What’s in the box?
The boxes are in line with the HTC VIVE branding with an all-black exterior, and bright blue labelling.
The tracker was nicely packaged, with the tracker to greet you upon opening the box, and the dongle and appropriate technical literature sitting below the tracker’s cardboard tray.
One thing to note right away is that the dongles are essentially “married” to their tracker and it’s probably important to not mix them up. Similar to wireless mice and keyboards, if you buy two of the same wireless keyboard, the dongle that it comes with, will not work with any other keyboard other than the one it came with. Also it’s interesting that the dongles require 18 inches of space away from the computer. I kind of wish the technical guide said why that is, but perhaps we can chalk it up to interference, or reach.
Mounting the HTC VIVE Trackers
I had begged Steve Bowler of Cloud Gate Studio to reveal his secrets in mounting their trackers, but found that a lot of devs and makers are forced to create their own mounting solutions for the time being. It’s pretty awesome that HTC decided to go with the standard 1/4″ inch screws, which are compatible with a lot of camera tripod mounts and accessories. Steve recommended that I didn’t go his custom metal route as his team ended up with bouts of metal splinters, and that he is hoping to sell their metal mounting clips in the future.
While waiting for Steve and his team to hit the market with their solution, we had to find our own.
After hunting for hours on Amazon Canada, here’s what we’ve ordered:
- Luxebell Clip Mount, 360 Degree Rotating Backpack Hat Fast Clamp Rec-mounts for Gopro Hero 4, Session, Black, Silver, Hero+ LCD, 3+, 3, 2, 1 and Sj4000, Sj5000 Cameras
- Neewer Universal Conversion Adapter (1/4 Inch 20) Mini Tripod Screw Mount Fixing GoPro Accessories to Sony Olympus and Other Action Cameras(4 Pack)
- Neewer Stainless Steel D Shaft D-ring 1/4″ Mounting Screw 0.39″/10mm Shaft for Camera Tripod Monopod or Quick Release (QR) Plate -5 Pack
- 2X Black Buckle Basic Strap Mount For Gopro Hero 3 2 Camera Camcorder
(Note that we are still waiting for some of the items as some of the products weren’t available for Amazon Prime unfortunately.)
Initially we used the clip mounts to attach to regular shoes instead, but Kial found a “better” (ugh) solution. He found some knock-off crocs from the Japanese $2 store Daiso. As much as I had to admit, the solution was great as we only needed to use one mounting screw – very simple!
The one tracker clip mount we still have is still a very high profile, so hopefully one of the other items will allow us to lower that profile, creating less jittery movement when it’s mounted onto a belt clip. We’ll update later this month once it arrives!
Hoping this gives other folks some ideas for mounting their trackers, and if you have a better solution, please share it with us, we’d love to hear from you!
In the meantime, here’s our pal Ace doing some dancing to do some troubleshooting. Best troubleshooting ever:
Troubleshooting VR crocs always looks awesome. Dancing solution. pic.twitter.com/AG0uvMisre
— M. Lovecraft (@VRmyofDarkness) April 5, 2017
Animation is tough. Like REALLY tough. Like most other creative endeavors, the techniques to learn and possible workload are endless, but animation is also magical. NVRMIND has brilliantly designed a VR animation program that captures and streamlines the magic of animation in 3D space. ANIMVR succeeds in bringing the difficulty of making animation down while still keeping robust features that make the process way faster.
While I’m not an animator personally, I’ve used countless animation programs with varying levels of success. Creating a good animation interface is extremely challenging: there’s a ton of tools, settings, keyframe interpretations, modes and other options that can really clutter and distract from the process of creation. ANIMVR excels at keeping everything out of the way, while keeping important options easily accessible. The button layout was perfect, and after 15 minutes everything became second nature.
Since I’m pretty bad at making traditional animation (the kind that doesn’t interpolate a model or rigged 2D drawing between keyframes), I was quite intimidated at having to redraw the character in 3D space on every frame, but luckily the inclusion of ‘timelines’ allowed me to break up the characters I made into different objects which could be cloned and moved independently per frame.
I wished there was a way to group these timelines together so when I cloned or deleted a frame it would do the same for all the other pertinent objects. I found the best way to work was to animate one object until the end of my project, remember the amount of frames and then animate the other objects for the same amount of frames, but I found everything would often get out of sync (thankfully the developers put in a frame offset for each individual timeline, so I’d often be able to put the elements back into sync).
The ‘timeline’ layers were extremely powerful while being incredibly simple and easy to understand (everything on that timeline layer flashes when you select it, so you can see how many objects you accidentally drawn on that layer). Everything on this the app had an incredible level of polish, although I had problems with the eraser tool not being able to destroy small sections of my lines, and the colour brush lacking some important customization like brush size (or at least no feedback for brush size). Overall, nothing got in my way of making some really fun stuff in under an hour.
While I really enjoy VR gaming and experiences, my real excitement for the technology is in making computing more natural and less abstracted. The mouse and keyboard, while extremely efficient and precise, don’t feel as fun (or as healthy) as manipulating objects through more human gestures and actions. Crouching, reaching, stretching, walking as you draw an animation in the air not only breathes life into your creation, but into your body as well! Here’s to the future!
ANIMVR is currently in beta and looking for other artists to try out their app! See more details on their Twitter:
We just released the AnimVR Beta! https://t.co/zcFP22t83x
— NVRMIND (@NVRMINDIO) March 4, 2017
Full disclosure: This press key was provided for the creation of this content.
People think I am joking when I say that one of my favourite virtual reality experiences is “the Doritos game”, but I’m not. I’m really not.
There’s a few things to note here:
- Yes, there is a Doritos game.
- Yes, there is a Doritos game that is built to use ground-breaking technology.
- Yes, there is a Doritos game that is built to use ground-breaking technology and it’s really fun.
So, there’s really a virtual reality game based on those flavoured nachos? What exactly do you do?
Doritos VR Battle is a game that requires almost no explanation but the rules are simple as displayed underneath the title screen:
- Grab Doritos
- Avoid dangerous objects
There’s no teleportion mechanics, just you in your playspace as the game moves you at a leisurely pace through an obstacle course polluted with flying glowing Doritos – an MLG meme dream come true.
It’s a short but sweet experience – raking in approximately 5-6 minutes of gameplay, but does a great job managing the level difficulty during progression while incorporating other worldly elements for a rather quirky experience. While the first two levels focusing on grabbing Doritos, the next two levels use a laser gun, shooting Dorito shapes in grids. By allowing the player to only be hit once (literally YOLO), every move and choice matters.
What does Doritos VR Battle get right for virtual reality?
While I could see many complain about the length of the game, I see Doritos VR Battle as an excellent way to introduce someone to the possibilities of room-scale virtual reality. The game makes you move, and the presence of the obstacles is very convincing. I’ve put several new-to-VR friends into “the Doritos game”, and they’ve all shrieked with “OH MY GOD!”s as giant obelisks would swing at them from the walls.
Without needing complicated controls, it’s very easy and intuitive to for a person who is just introduced to virtual reality to pick up the game. There is no need to use the trigger to grab objects, which is a more natural interaction (however yes, you do use the trigger to shoot the laser gun, which again, makes complete sense from an intuitive design view.)
There is no motion sickness because the pace that you move through the levels is so slow. Your body has the time to “catch up” to the movement and isn’t working against you.
I always ask myself: “Does this need to be in virtual reality?” when I am designing for VR, and when it comes down to Doritos, I say – Sure! Why not! This game is fun, simple, and the graphics put you into a world that we saw in the 80s movie Tron. Your hands even become a part of the fractal universe, and I enjoy the gender ambiguity as sometimes I get a bit weirded out when my hands are a man’s model hands. With that said, virtual reality is a technology we were all dreaming of, so it’s not perplexing why we are aching for neon grids et al aesthetics. We want to be a part of that world.
The final verdict
I personally loved Doritos VR Battle. The game retails for $2.99 USD on Steam, but boasts a lot of replay value when it comes down to doing demos for friends. (Because let’s face it: Anyone who has an HTC Vive wants to share this technology so much!) It’s definitely on the beginner’s playlist for us.
For more VRMY of DARKNESS culled recommended experiences for beginners, check out: Recommended Experiences
If you’re good to go on a short and simple experience, and whether or not you are in with the cool meme kids of the Internet, Doritos just makes sense either way. Your Facebook friend who is constantly sharing Shooting Stars memes, or your own mother – they will get it. It doesn’t need to make sense and this game knows it.
Think you’re ready? The Dutch made trailer is ready for you too:
(Note: The gameplay footage appears to feature an earlier version of the game.)
Chillin’ by the sakura, plucking out falling hens with your bow and arrow, and slicing up tatami poles: all in a day’s life of a samurai.
Take a stroll in a peaceful VR sanctuary high in the clouds. Empty your mind, focus and unleash your combat skills. With your robot companion, explore the archipelago to reveal its secrets and become a true samurai. (Glitchr Studio)
In a world of short attention spans, Sky Sanctuary stands solid in its focus on mastery and progression with its training simulator for those who dreamed of becoming a samurai (and I may or may not be one of those kids growing up with the likes of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.) The environment is absolutely gorgeous and achieves the virtual reality experience of zen. For those who feel somewhat isolated in VR, you are accompanied by an adorable robot named Delios-sensei, who encourages you to be your best (gambatte!~).
Note: Sky Sanctuary is currently in early access, and will be developed and refined further by the 3-person team with the aid of community feedback.
So what’s Sky Sanctuary all about?
Extremely friendly for VR beginners, you’re welcome to a calm and peaceful landscape by a floating robot, similar to the aesthetics of Portal (nothing can go wrong here, right?). Controls for teleporting, grabbing objects, and mechanics for menus and pocket storage are easy to follow and gentle for VR users from all experience ranges.
Still in its early development, the Sanctuary that’s placed above the clouds in the sky, there’s three main areas:
- The temple, where you can view leaderboards
- Kyudo: Bow and arrow training
- Tameshigiri: Katana training
- (There’s also a small area for tutorial training)
As you wander around, there’s a handful of interactables such as smoke bombs to toss and the ability to light up some fireworks in the air.
What do you know about that bow and arrow?
Possibly my worst skill yet across all of virtual reality would be the bow and arrow (I wished my Green Arrow cosplay good-bye at this point) and unfortunately Sky Sanctuary was no different but it didn’t take away from the fun and upper arm work you can get.
There’s four modes, all unique:
- Precision: Stationary targets
- Dynamic: Moving targets
- Skeet: Hens that are shot from cannons
- Triathlon: A mix of all modes, one after another
I could definitely feel my upper arm get sore after half an hour of play time. For those who want to utilize the game for a work out and want more of a challenge, I would suggest even adding some glove weights.
Time to slice and dice boys
The katana exercise is not for the faint of heart – you must be precise, quick and attentive. Big moves are encouraged, and small flicks won’t get you far. Be sure to keep your distance as you will be swinging your arms!
Mind the angle of your blade with your controller and be sure you slice within the guided angle of the hitbox. It can be pretty tricky, but although a simple game, it has a high replay value and I found that time flew by as I pushed myself to do better. Delios-sensei, I’ll do it for you!
You can check out a preview of the gameplay here:
What does Sky Sanctuary get right for virtual reality?
Glitchr Studio kept VR users from all experience backgrounds in mind with a top notch simple and easy-to-follow tutorial, and could very well be in the list for introducing new users into VR. Virtual reality allows you to be in the presence of the unreal, and being in a well-designed Japanese-inspired zen temple in the sky takes full advantage of being immersed into the fictional realms.
Smaller details like weapons not being affected by gravity make it easier to switch weapons, as well as not having to hold down grip buttons, or any additional controls. Very user-friendly and holding both the katana and bow and arrow feels natural. Physics are important in VR, and having it feel good makes it easier for the exercises to come naturally.
I’m hoping to see more sandbox objects (it’s in the plan) as anyone knows that throwing objects and lighting things on fire is oddly so entertaining. There’s a little bit of our inner child in all of us!
The final verdict
While I would have liked to see some “quality of life” changes such as an unlimited practise mode, I also think that perhaps it would effectively ruin the main theme of the game which is progression and growth. When visiting the temple, you’re presented with a graph of how you’ve performed in all the areas. It’s interesting to note that multiple users for a Steam Account may affect the graph.
For those looking for a deep narrative experience, Sky Sanctuary may not fulfil that desire, but for those who are looking for another game to add to their VR winter work out regime, and enjoys improving upon their skills, Sky Sanctuary is a step in the right direction.
As someone who enjoys mastering a game (former Tetris champion here), I really enjoyed what I saw of Sky Sanctuary and I’m looking forward to seeing what the devs have in store as they come to finalizing the game.
You can check out the environments you can be a part of in the teaser trailer here:
Sky Sanctuary launches on February 15th, 2017 (tomorrow) for early access.
Official Sky Sanctuary website: www.sky-sanctuary.com
Sky Sanctuary on Steam (early access): store.steampowered.com/app/526130
Glitchr Studio on Twitter: twitter.com/glitchrstudio
Photos provided by the Sky Sanctuary press kit
Full disclosure: This press key was provided for an unbiased review.
I’m a fan of Ricky and Morty and I’m also a fan of weird friendships forged through chance so with that said, I figured Accounting by Crows Crows Crows and Squanchtendo (new VR studio from Justin Roiland) would be something I would look forward to.
… That feeling couldn’t be more right.
So, what’s Accounting all about?
You’re an obedient office worker who gets instructed into doing tasks that aren’t your usual TP report. You may or may not get somehow roped into uncomfortable scenarios that involve meeting the King of VR, stomach acid, and tiny lawyers… That escalated quickly.
On the Accounting VR website, it describes this application as a “game”.
I’m always reluctant to calling virtual reality experiences as ‘games’ because I feel like it would involve some form of problem solving or activity, but the thing with these experiences (and the same goes for Accounting VR) is that you are actually living it… So in that sense, maybe life is just a game… Just maybe. There’s some minor problem solving in Accounting VR, but it’s no more challenging than finding where the bagels are in a CostCo. (Sorry that was the best example I could come up with…)
Regardless, Accounting VR throws you into an intense world – the strange limbo that bridges the gap between Office Space and well, literally Hell. It all seems reminiscent of the same humour that Rick and Morty fans are used to. (And as a warning, if you aren’t used to it, it’s probably best to watch the show as a pre-requisite as the presence of some of these characters can be overbearing to the unfamiliar.)
Think you can handle it? Take a look at the trailer for yourself. I personally couldn’t stop watching it – perhaps this says too much about me as a person but my immediate thought was, “finally – someone is using virtual reality for the things I want!”… Yup. That’s what I said. Take a look for yourself:
Did I play Accounting VR, or did Accounting VR play me?
This game might be an experience without major objectives, or mechanics, but I found this to be enjoyable – It’s one of my favourite virtual reality experiences to date: it’s whimsical, chaotic, and unique. I’ve never seen anything like it, or been a part of anything like it for that matter.
Definitely an intermediate experience, I wouldn’t advise anyone to go into Accounting VR as their first VR experience as the characters you meet are quite intense.
Also if you ever wanted to see which of your friends you’d want to hang with you on a deserted island, maybe this would be a show of what exactly their moral compass is.
Recommended play time: Approximately 20 minutes.
Take. Your. Time.
I’ve seen several folks go into this experience, really enjoying it but perhaps because we are using it holding down buttons on our controllers, we aren’t really listening to the characters. The script and dialogue in Accounting VR is absolutely hilarious. Some dialogue doesn’t happen at all if you move too quickly, and I would urge everyone to not miss out.
If you hate Rick and Morty, you might not appreciate the humour in Accounting VR, but on the other hand, I would probably still put someone who doesn’t like Rick and Morty humour in the Accounting VR world because it would be funny to me.
Accounting on Steam: http://store.steampowered.com/app/518580/
Photos courtesy of Crows Crows Crows’ press kit