It is the time of MWC Shanghai and HTC has showcased some very cool stuff. The Taiwanese company has made people see demos of the Vive Focus features showcased at the Vive Ecosystem Conference: Gesture Detection, VRidge streaming, etc…
One of the features that were announced was the possibility to use your phone as the controller for your VR headset, so that you could for instance play the guitar in VR. Yesterday, that guitar game, called Flashing Beat, has been released and I’ve tried it. So I’m writing you a guide on how to properly install it (it is mostly undocumented) and give you my first impressions.
Let’s start from the installation: go on Viveport M on your Focus and search for the Flashing Beat game: if you’re doing it in these days, you’ll find it in the newest apps section. Spend 48 renminbi (around 6 euros) and buy the game (yes, it is not free). Ok, now you have the game, but you have still to download the companion app on your smartphone. I tried looking for it everywhere, but with no luck.. and no one gives instruction on how to install it. Until I read carefully the description of the game: there was written that I had to follow HTCVIVE account on WeChat, then write them “Flashing Beat” and get the link to download the companion app for the smartphone. What the f system is this? Is it like a treasure hunt? :O I did that since I have Wechat, then I got a link, I clicked it and it appeared me in WeChat a completely white page with a very little Chinese sentence telling me to open the link in my browser. But I had no URL to put in my browser. What the f v2.
Long story short, I used my nerd powers to get the link, download the apk and then install it on my phone. Since I want to avoid you the same hassle (and I think you don’t want to install Wechat just to follow HTC Vive, that will start sending you news in Chinese), I’ll give you the link to the APK here: http://measlyurl.com/focus625 . Download it and then install it on your Android smartphone (it can be of whatever brand, this features is not HTC only).
After that, make sure that your phone and your VR headset are in the same Wi-Fi network and then you can open the companion app, that, of course, is all written in Chinese (as all the Flashing Beat game, what the f v3). Configuring this app is not difficult: you have to tap on that edit box showing you an IP address and type there the IP address of your Vive Focus. You can get the IP address of your VR device by selecting “Settings -> More Settings -> About device -> Status” inside the headset and then looking for “IP address”. Otherwise, you can use the command line command
adb shell ip addr show wlan0
with the headset connected to your PC, if you feel super-nerdy.
Once you have inserted the IP address, you can press the button on the companion app, then put on your Vive Focus and launch the Flashing Beat game.
If all the connection process succeeded, you should see the screen of your smartphone showing Chinese stuff + a big azure and a big red stripe. If this is the case, hold your smartphone with your left hand, as if it were the handle of a guitar, making sure that you can press the azure stripe with your index and the red stripe with your ring finger. With the right hand hold the Focus controller. At this point, use your controller to select the song that you want to play: there are three difficulty levels… I suggest you to start from easy. The screen will show you instructions in Chinese, then the game will start.
What you have to do at this point is: select the color with your left hand (pressing azure stripe for blue, red for red and azure+red for purple) and then play the guitar with the right hand at the right time, that is when the objects coming towards you will be in some predefined spots. Of course, you have to match the selected color with the color of the objects coming towards you. The program takes also in count the orientation of your guitar, that you can control by tilting your phone: sometimes it will require you to put your guitar in a certain position (e.g tilted), so you’ll feel more rock’n’roll. The more you play correctly the music, the more you score and make combos. It is a bit like Guitar Hero, Sound Boxing, Beat Saber and all these music-themed games. Here you are a video of me having fun with it, so that you get better how it works.
I admit that this kind of games is not my genre (I prefer shooting at stuff… any other fans of Unreal Tournament out there?), but I enjoyed playing Flashing Beat anyway. It is surely original that if offers the possibility to use your smartphone as a secondary controller for your VR games… I liked it. Due to the shape of the phone, that resembles a bit the handle of a guitar, and the movement of the controller that was similar to playing, it also gave me more sense of presence inside the game. The game results enjoyable, especially if you start following the music and dancing at it. Time passes by fast.
As always, I have some critics:
- The way to download the companion app is a nonsense: considering that this is a paid experience, I should have the companion app for free and without any registration;
- Everything is too China-oriented. There are Focus devkits now in the West and since this is a revolutionary title, a translation in English would have been appreciated;
- The companion app requires the user to specify the IP address of the device. This is a wrong choice since makes it unusable from the average consumers. Come on, there are multicast channels to perform IP address exchanges, why haven’t the devs used them?
- The phone (especially if you have a phablet like me) is too big to be held in the hand like a guitar handle. It is not very comfortable;
- The gesture with the controller doesn’t get always detected (my advice is to move the hand quickly, so it gets detected better, even if it is more tiresome);
- The experience seems a bit rough… it seems more a beta title than a complete game.
The impression that I have from all these shortcomings is that they had to hurry to release the game for MWC Shanghai and so they have not refined it. Probably in the following updates, they’ll translate everything into English and remove the need to type the IP address. Anyway, as I’ve said, the game results enjoyable.
In any case, I enjoyed the idea of using my phone to play a VR game: it is a device that I already have and that can offer a new kind of interactions thanks to the screen being all touch sensitive. For instance, I could swipe, zoom and do all these gestures on my phone to see my VR experience react in an appropriate way. Very interesting. And it is also not that bad to play the guitar…
(Header image by HTC)
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