On Friday, after a day of hard work, I decided to relax a bit playing “Eleven: Table Tennis VR”, a ping-pong game for virtual reality made by For Fun Labs that is available on Oculus Store and Steam and that you can play for free this weekend (If you’re reading this article before 2018/02/12, give it a try immediately!). Actually, the game didn’t relax me (it also made me angry some times), but it has been worth playing for sure…
The gameplay is quite simple: you have to play ping pong and arrive at 11 points before your opponent, having two points of advantage. On your right Touch Controller, you have a paddle, with which you play ping pong, while on the left hand you have some control keys (e.g. to activate the menu). When you must serve, you use your left hand to throw the ball in the air, so that the right hand can smash it. I appreciated that fact that next to the left hand controls keys that there’s always a tooltip that explains you their use: without any tutorial, I was able always to pick the right key for every occasion (trigger the menu, launch the ball, etc…). From a usability standpoint, this is an awesome thing, so kudos to developers for that.
As you can see, there’s nothing to say about the gameplay: you just play table tennis. The real question is: “How do you feel as really playing table tennis?”. And my answer is “not that much”. I mean, I’m not a table tennis champion, but I spent some time at university playing table tennis with my friends after lunch (eh, awesome times… I had lots of fun in those moments… we didn’t play to win the game, we played just to have fun together… ok, now I’m moving, so let’s stop talking about my memories!), so at least I know how to use a paddle and make some points during a match.
When I started table tennis VR, I decided to start my first match against the AI and I was ready to have fun. For some reasons, my brain thought that the “Legendary” AI level was the simplest one (I’m a genius, I know), so I started the game and I lost 11-0 with an opponent that continuously sent me balls that had the same speed of the Space X rocket just launched by Elon Musk. I understood that something was wrong, so I picked up the “Amateur” AI level and I was able to play at a more fair level. I lost 11-0 the same.
I couldn’t score any point. And it is not a fault of the physics of the game because it is really well emulated. They did a great job in this. And it is not the fault of the AI because it is good as well. The problems have been:
- The paddle didn’t feel real: the Oculus Touch controllers have a different weight and weight distribution than a real racket; furthermore, you also hold them in a different way. I tried to use the paddle as it were a real paddle, but doing this way I missed all the shots. Furthermore, without any tactile feedback, it is hard to understand how much force you’re applying to the ball and in which direction. Table tennis is a game of precision, where you have to tune every move accurately… if the perception of the paddle and the ball is wrong, there’s no way to win a game;
- The table wasn’t real: sometimes, when I did a smash in real life, I leaned on the table and performed the shot. Here there’s no real table to lean on;
- There was not enough space: when playing table tennis with my friends, I loved doing funny things, as running to left and to the right and sliding on the floor to catch a ball. But playing VR inside my office, I always feared running against a wall, so I almost played only staying stationary. This fear made playing the game in a bad way, because I didn’t feel safe to take all the balls.
My conclusion is: if you want to play table tennis in virtual reality, make sure you have a big play area and get used to how this game wants you to play table tennis. You have not to play ping-pong as in real life, you have to play it as this game wants you to play it. You have to be patient and learn how to move inside the game and how to use the paddle. Once you learn how to do that, you can have fun. I got angry a lot of times because the ball never went as I wanted it to go, but slowly I learned how to use my virtual paddle and in the end, after half an hour or such, I managed to win my first match! WHOOOOHAAAAA! 成功！
To train in using the paddle, the game offers you a set of little minigames that help you in practicing in serving and in use the paddle to direction the ball as you want. They’re very well made, they’re good in helping you improving, but of course, they are just training sessions, so they’re not funny as playing a match. My advice is to start with these minigames, then play with the AI and then try some multiplayer matches. I had no time to play multiplayer (sorry Mati, I would really have loved to play with you!), but I think that it may be funny.
Regarding the graphics, they are nice and very neat. You see yourself and your opponent as just a virtual reality headset, a left touch controller, and a right paddle. There’s no way they try to emulate the real body of the players, and actually, it sounds good anyway. In multiplayer, you can also select a gaming environment and customize a bit your avatar (choose a different head, for instance). When playing against the AI, it is very funny that its avatar makes some gestures to show that it is happy because it has scored a point or that is sorry for having lost. These are the small details that make me love a game.
Another epic detail is the mirroring: the game is mirrored on the external PC monitor, but not as a copy of what the player is seeing. External viewers can see the match from a camera that sees it from a vantage point, so they can enjoy the match as if they were watching it on a TV. That’s awesome: my friend Max was able to have fun watching me playing (and insulting the AI), understanding perfectly what was happening during the match.
The game offers also an “Instant replay” feature: if you’ve scored an awesome point, you can see the replay of the action again and also save it to enjoy it again.
After having played it for some time, I can tell you that “Eleven: Table Tennis VR” is a very interesting virtual reality party game. You can gather with some friends and have fun playing virtual table tennis and while one plays, the others can enjoy the match seeing it on the screen and commenting it saying stupid things. This way, the time can fly. The only things to take in mind, as I’ve said, is that you have to reserve a large playing area and you have to remember that it is different from the real table tennis, so you have to spend some time to learn how to use the virtual paddle. Of course, featuring the multiplayer and various AI levels, it is also very good to be played alone, for various hours of fun.
You can find the game on the Oculus Store for around $20, discounted at around $10 (or even free to play these days). I think that if you love table tennis, it is worth purchasing.
Hope you loved this review… and if it is the case, why don’t you click on those fancy sharing buttons that are here below the article? 🙂
(Header image by For Fun Labs)
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