Welcome to my post about the second day I’ve spent here at Gamescom in Cologne, Germany (you can read the summary of the previous ones here and here). Today has been another interesting day: it has started with us running to try to enter the Cyberpunk 2077 booth (but with no luck) and has finished playing with an Oculus Go. So, here you are what I did today.
NVIDIA RTX 2080 videos and photos
In the entertainment area of Gamescom, NVIDIA has put some RTX graphics cards on the desks of some booth of partner companies, like ASUS and Microsoft. At ASUS booth I’ve been able to shoot some photos of the RTX 2070 graphics card (the hostess said it was a 2070).
While at Microsoft booth there was a premium RTX 2080 Ti, that I’ve been able to take in my hands so to make a video where you can see it from all angles. I’ve also zoomed on the VirtualLink connector: it is actually just a USB-C, but it is strange to me seeing it on a graphics card, especially because I think that all those big cables that at the moment carry data from the PC to the headset can be substituted by only one cable with only one tiny connector. That’s powerful.
bHaptics has been one of the best demos that I’ve tried here at Gamescom. It is a Korean company producing haptic devices for virtual reality. Its main product is a haptic vest, but it also sells haptic arm bands and haptic headset covers. Yes, for real, you’ve read it well: this company produces a cover, a facemask, that you can install on your VR headset and that can vibrate to give you feedback on your head. This kind of feedback can be interesting for instance during action games: when you are shot, you can get vibrations in the exact point of your body where you have been shot… and if you just got headshot, well, then you have to feel something on your head.
I tried it in a paintball gaming against Stuart, the guy of bHaptics stand, and I had tons of fun: haptics really add a new dimension to virtual reality, that lets you feel it more real. I also played Beat Saber with the suit vibrating following the music and I found it very interesting, too. But I also noticed that too many haptic vibrations on the body can be annoying… after I have been in the booth, I continued feeling some strange vibrating sensations on my torso for some minutes. So it is ok to use them for instance when you get shot (something that happens once in a while), but are no good to follow the soundtrack of the game, for instance.
The haptic system works thanks to a lot of tiny vibrating motors installed in all parts of the vest. bHaptics is built by modular parts: this means that for instance, you can use only the vest or only the face cushion, you are not forced to use them all together. The company is providing a Unity and UE4 SDK so that interested developers can develop for it. The device is, of course, an enterprise one (the vest costs around $500), but the company aims at releasing a more affordable enthusiast version before the end of the year. Really cool stuff.
Thanks to Max, I’ve been able to enter Ubisoft’s booth and have an unofficial chat with a Ubisoft representative. Unfortunately, I have not been authorized to film stuff, so you have to trust my written words.
The little talk with a person of the company has been interesting: he said in clear worlds “VR is a tiny niche for us” and added that they are continuing investing most of their efforts in successful sagas like Assassin’s Creed. AAA studios really operate at a different order of magnitude from indie ones, so a potential market of just some millions of people in the world is too little to make them earn the money that they need to survive.
But he clearly specified “We believe in virtual reality. We are now putting some fiches on the table with these games (Transference, Space Junkies, etc…) that are developed by really talented people. Then we’ll follow how the situation will evolve.” It is great to see an AAA studio believing in VR: of course, they can’t go full-VR now, because the target market is too little, but the idea of experimenting now to increase maybe investments in the future is great. Shows the long term vision of this company.
Then the company made me try Space Junkies. Space Junkies is… well, I love it. One of my favorite games of all times is Unreal Tournament because I just love to shoot and kill without thinking too much… or better, without thinking AT ALL. Space Junkies is like that.
You are in a no-gravity settings and you can move around the game maps by using your Touch Controller thumbsticks and your head: the direction you look at with your head is the direction you move towards; the left thumbstick, if pushed, can give you a boost; and the right thumbstick can be used to go upwards or downwards. What I didn’t love of the movement schema is the fact that you move in the direction you’re looking at, and I think that it is completely unnatural and wrong on so many levels for an action game. Then you grab the guns with the grab trigger and shoot with the main (index) trigger. Some weapons require two hands to be used (like the Vulcan), otherwise, you can have two different weapons in your two hands. From your back, you can grab a melèe weapon (a sword) and a shield. There were many weapons: guns, miniguns, shotguns, etc… Of course I had my favourite one that was the shotgun, that you have to hold with one hand and reload with the other one (this is a bit complicated in VR, because you don’t have the haptic feedback of when the reload operations has been successful). The graphics were absolutely good.
Playing with it is great, it is a bit like playing Unreal Tournament. After a tutorial session, we played a team multiplayer match (I was also one of the best players of the session!) and I immediately learned how to move (so it is not as hard as with Echo Arena) and how to shoot. I had just to move, grab weapons, armors and then shoot whenever I saw a blue player. My red team always lost, but I had so much fun that I would have liked to continue for a lot of time. I think that it is a game with huge potential for people loving the pure action genre like me.
After lots of time talking with him via e-mail, I finally met in person Pawel Gajda from Carbon Studio. I was super happy, thanks to my job I know virtually so many people and when I finally meet them in person it feels so special.
Pawel showed me his PSVR porting of The Wizards: you surely know that game, I’ve also reviewed its first version here on my blog. It is a quite successful VR game where you can cast spells using gestures made with your hands: for instance, you can throw fireballs or bolts of lightning from your hands… isn’t it cool?
Carbon Studio has just finished the porting of the game to PSVR and The Wizards will be released for that platform as soon as Sony approves the title (usually that requires 2-3 months). I tried the PSVR porting today and I can only say that it works flawlessly. I’ve also appreciated how the game has improved a lot from the time I reviewed it. Carbon Studio has gathered all the feedback from the users and has adjusted the game accordingly. Now it is far better than before.
It has been also a pleasure to interview Pawel and ask him about the porting process (it required months) and about how a VR indie game studio can become successful. If you’re interested in this, just watch the below video (sorry for the bad audio, I have to buy a mic, i know).
This has been also the first time I played with PSVR (really, I never managed to try it before). Of course, I can’t give you a review from 20 minutes of use, but my first impressions are that:
- It is comfortable;
- Visuals are IMHO not that bad as someone says: yes, the Vive Pro is better, but these ones are good anyway;
- The fact that there is not integrated audio is very bad for a modern headset;
- The controllers are really terrible: they’re not ergonomic and continuously lose the tracking. In an action game, where you have to move hands fast, they’re absolutely unusable.
When Oculus Go has been launched, one of the titles that I was more interested in trying was “They suspect nothing” from Coatsink. This was because the game had this original story of you embodying a human being inside a world populated by robots and you have to hide the fact that you are a human and let them believe you’re actually a bot.
Today I’ve been able to try it: the game has a lovely cartoon graphics and works very well with the Oculus Go device. It is composed of various little minigames, all of different kinds (some are more puzzles, some are more of the action type), that are actually tests that the robots make you do to verify that you are not a human. The minigames are all of different kinds and I’m sure that according to your tastes, you are going to like some of them and dislike some others. Anyway, from a technical standpoint, they are all well made.
So, the game is like a collection of fun mini-games, glued together by the story that I introduced you above (and that discloses during the whole game) and by a lot of humor (for instance, the game is full of funny captions when you select objects).
Interviewing Kane of Coatsink, I’ve been able to learn that such a game required more or less 30 people working hard for 11 months. This just to make non-developers understand how even a VR game that may seem simple requires really a lot of effort to be produced. Coatsink has been able to make it also thanks to the help of Oculus, that has been the producer of the game. And looking at the results, I think that the support has been well deserved.
He also advises little indie VR game studios to start with something simple and to not stick with things that do not work: he told me that they actually developed more than double the number of the minigames present in the final build, but they discarded half of them because they were not funny enough. A necessary step is sometimes recognizing that you’re doing something wrong and abandoning it, even if it has cost\ you a lot of time and effort.
And that’s it for this second day of Gamescom. I really hope that you are enjoying all these experiences of mine… and if it is the case, please share this post and subscribe to my newsletter!
Now, I need some rest…
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