Last week there has been the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3). Before that, everyone was waiting this exhibition, expecting some big news about VR. All VR enthusiasts (me included) were waiting for some big buzz news, like the realease of Half Life 3 VR… but, instead, it has been a great delusion.
Let’s be honest: E3 has had a little focus on VR and there no really big VR news have been announced. Anyway, there have been some interesting news and I’ll write them here. If you’re interested in a more detailed report of all VR announcements, my advice is to read all the round-up that VR magazine Road To VR has written. I’m so kind that I’ll put here the links for you:
Ok, let’s go with what I think that have been the most important announcements!
AAA games coming to VR
The most important announcement, in my opinion, has been the one that some of the most important gaming sagas will release a virtual reality version. I’m talking about:
- Fallout: Bethesda has announced Fallout 4 VR, a complete VR porting for Fallout 4. With “complete VR porting” I mean that they didn’t just substituted the camera of the game with a VR camera, declaring that now the game has VR support… but they completely re-engineered the game to be optimal for VR. So everything has been studied so that the VR version of the game is perfect to be played in VR. Game will support full locomotion, so you can start forgetting that boring teleporting mechanic: the choice has been made to foster the exploration of the game environment. Game will be out for HTC Vive, but Bethesda has annouced that it is planning support for as many platforms as possible. Release date is still not completely clear, but should be around Q4 2017. Gamers in US can already preorder it via Amazon or Steam. The price? $60, we’re talking about a AAA-game, baby;
- Doom: Id software has announced Doom VFR, that is a VR experience for Doom. Unlike Fallout, this is not a VR porting of the 2016 version of Doom, but a completely new experience inside the Doom world, conceived with VR in mind. Players will be able to fight with monsters using weapons in VR! Movement will be through teleportation (boring!), but action should be super cool! Expected release date is Q4 2017 as well, and the game can be preordered for $29.99 on the PlayStation Store, Steam and Amazon.
- Skyrim: Sony has announced a VR version of The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim for PSVR. The game seems like a complete VR porting of Skyrim and will be played using motion controllers to cast spells and such. Game should be out in November as a timed-exclusive for PSVR. This means that initially the game will only be available for Playstation, but later it will add support for other platforms as well (SteamVR for sure).
Apart from these super-cool consumer games, Bandai Namco has also announced some VR games for Japanese arcades regarding Mario Kart and also Dragon Ball.
Why do I think that this is the most important news of the E3? Well, as I’ve always stressed, one of the major issues of VR is the lack of content. Having three AAA games ready to become available for VR is surely a great news for all the VR ecosystem, means that all VR players of the world will have great content to play with. And these are long games… Fallout 4 VR will let the user explore all the wasteland, for endless hours of fun.
Furthermore, we’re talking about famous game brands. Robo Recall is cool, but if I told someone to buy a VR headset to play Robo Recall, he’d surely answer “Robo…what???”. On the contrary, telling him that he could have the opportunity to play immersively Skyrim, casting spells directly from his hands, he would just react like this
Fallout, Skyrim, Doom are all powerful brands with lots of dedicated fans, they can make people actually buy a VR headsets just to play with them. I hate the idea of a VR killer application, but Fallout 4 VR will surely be one of the various killer applications. Trust me, this will mean a lot for our ecosystem.
Xbox One X announced, won’t support VR for now
There have been a lot of hype around the upcoming Xbox, codenamed Scorpio, that should have be super-powerful and with VR support. New Xbox has actually been revealed, but its name is not Scorpio, but Xbox One X. Honestly I don’t like it, I find it unpronounceable, but that’s just my opinion (Two ‘x’ in the same name are weird, unless you’re in porn, of course).
Apart the name, the device has kept all its promises: it is more powerful than previous Xbox and actually is able to support VR. The problem is that everyone went mad because Microsoft has completely ignored VR at this event. No VR demo for this Xbox, no stress on its VR capabilities. As Microsoft has stated
We believe that right now a Windows PC is the best platform for mixed reality as its open ecosystem and enormous installed base offer the best opportunity for developers, and Windows offers the most choices for consumers. Therefore, our primary focus is making our Windows Mixed Reality experiences a success.
Then has added to Road To VR that
PC is where [Microsoft is] focusing on [VR] this year
While everyone has talked about a U-turn of Microsoft on console VR, I’m one of the few people that haven’t beaten an eye. If you remember well, while talking about its upcoming cheap VR headsets, Microsoft had already stated that. I’ll autocite myself from this article
On the hardware side there’s another news: next Xbox, Scorpio, will support virtual reality but this support will come in 2018. This shows how Microsoft roadmap on *R technologies has a very long term vision.
Honestly I’m kind of surprised that people can’t remember what has been said just three months ago, but this is none of my business…
Kopin VR headset
Kopin is a display manufacturer that has managed to create a mini-display of 1-inch size and astonishing resolution of 4K and framerate of 120 Hz. Using two of such displays, one for each eye, it’ll be able to produce VR headsets that are lighter, simpler, more compact and more comfortable. Let’s just think about that for a moment: we’re talking achieving something like 3x the resolution of present time headsets like HTC Vive, but with a smaller screen.
This is awesome, but comes with a cost: since the screen is so little, it’s harder to produce optics that are able to transform it into a VR visualization with a great field of view, so a headset made with these screens would present all the above advantages, but would also have a lower FOV, granting less immersion. Kopin claims that is able to offer 110 degress FOV, but no one has been able to look through its headset to verify the resulting imaging quality (big FOV can actually be reached with this kind of displays, but at the price of distorted images). Surely the company is working on this, for example producing slightly bigger screens to reduce these issues.
Intel Wireless solution
Intel and DisplayLink have presented their wireless VR solution, that uses DisplayLink’s DL-8020 chipset and the DisplayLink XR codec. Using Intel’s WiGig technology, this add-on is able to offer wireless behaviour to the HTC Vive, in a similar way to what we’ve already seen with TPCAST. DisplayLink is not interested in creating a device by itself, but wants to work with manufacturers to create headsets wireless add-ons, or directly with headset producers to offer next-gen wireless VR HMD. Their add-on has been created and tested with a HTC Vive headset, but the company states that it can surely work with all kind of headsets (this is something everyone says, but I haven’t seen yet anyone showcasing a wireless Rift, apart from Oculus itself).
Journalists that have tried this solution are all super-enthusiasts: they all say that you can’t notice the difference between a tethered Vive and a wireless Vive using DisplayLink solution. They tried to put it in trouble as much as they could, but with little luck. They also tried to occlude the communication between the wireless emitter and the antenna (the kind of waves they use are terrible in trespassing objects, so you can easily stop the communication by putting something between the emitter and the receiver), but the only result they got has been a reduction of quality of the rendered images: the tracking never halted. Very good. The receiver has to be put onto the headset and it’s still a bit bulky (it has to include the battery), but it’s super-light nonetheless, so the headset remains comfortable. The emitter has to be put in a high position so that it’s less likely that an object blocks the communication with the receiver (I don’t find this thing very user-friendly, but at the moment it’s the only possibility). Battery duration is of at least 2 hours, the company says. Ah and the delay due to the transmission is around 3-5ms.
The only fear I have is that journalists have been able to try this only for 10 minutes, and as I’ve noticed with HoloLens, it’s with long term usage that real problems come to light.
Anyway, this seems really a great product and it is expected to be released in early 2018… and this thing makes me wonder again if my prediction for a Vive 2 timing are right…
And that’s it! These are in my opinion the most important news of the E3. If you want more, my advice is that you read all Road To VR articles I’ve linked you above. During the E3 I also published my super-scoop about Leap Motion, that is going embedded-only… so if you missed it, click the link and read that, too! 😉
(Header image by E3 Expo)