Immerse Yourself

We talked a little bit about realism in games earlier this week with Forza Horizon 4 as a simulation racing game. Today, let’s explore how graphics in games have improved over the years and what more can be done to increase the realism of video games. Take a look at how much has changed in these screenshots from the game series Doom.

Doom ClassicDoom, 1993

DOOM 64Doom 64, 1997

DOOM 3Doom 3, 2004

DOOM newDoom, 2016

It’s amazing how much has changed in a series that is over 20 years old. Just like other technologies, video games are constantly changing and improving. We are at the point on both consoles and especially high-end PCs where games can look comparable to real-life. So what is next? What more can be done now that games look this good? Of course games can continue to look more realistic until we can’t tell the difference between them, but we can also become immersed in these worlds through virtual reality.

DOOM VFRDoom VFR, 2017

Virtual Reality (VR) has been around for longer than most people realize (with the concept starting as early as the 1950s), but technological limitations kept VR from advancing until recent years. When you put a VR headset on, it puts you, the player, “into” the gaming world. Some VR systems simply let you look around where others allow you to move in the worlds using special controllers and sensors. There are numerous VR headsets on the market (especially for mobile) but the big three for PC and console gaming are the Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, and PSVR. Each of the VR headsets have their positives and negatives and they are nowhere near perfect technology, but at the end of the day each one of them put me into a gaming world and it was amazing.

I have been fortunate enough to try each of the big three and I’m going to share with you three times where virtual reality blew MY MIND!

Adr1ft

The first experience I had with any true VR was with a game called Adr1ft on the Oculus Rift. In the demo I used a normal controller to move, but was fully immersed in the world using the headset and noise-cancelling headphones. Adr1ft takes place in space and my mission was to move about the destroyed space-station to save myself along with my crew. During the mission you are also required to collect oxygen canisters to make sure your character has enough air to live; when you would get low on oxygen your character’s vision would blur some and you could hear (in the headphones) a quicker pace in their breathing. At the end of the demo, I took off my headset and noticed that I had starting taking more shallow quicker breaths! It’s similar to how you may feel thirsty watching someone in a movie walk through a desert. I don’t know all the psychology behind it, but it surprised me.

Portal VR

The second experience I had with VR was with the Portal demo on the HTC Vive. Portal is an amazing game series from the developer, Valve. In this demo you are tasked with repairing a robot named Atlas. I felt like Iron Man when he interacts with his virtual computer, Jarvis, in the early films. I was amazed by the sheer detail the demo had to offer and felt like I belonged in the sarcastic and crazy world that is Portal. At one point in the demo, the floor comes out from beneath you and I jumped back because I thought I would fall! We will definitely talk more about Portal in a future blog post about co-op games.

Loading Human

The third experience I had with VR was with the game called Loading Human: Chapter 1 on the PSVR. I played a demo of this game at a gaming conference and there was a demo guide to help you learn how to navigate using controllers in each hand. The demo was about 10 minutes long and had some very simple objectives like start coffee, open the window blinds, get a flashlight and use it to turn on the light switch somewhere in the room, and last, find a keycard to get out of your apartment. At the end of the demo, I had found the keycard and it was in my left hand. The person helping with the demo had asked for the controllers back first before taking off the headset. As I handed the controllers back to him, I released the trigger on the controller which caused the keycard to fall in the game. I said, “Oh crap” and the person helping asked if I was okay and I realized that I hadn’t actually dropped anything physical at all, it was just in the game. In 10 minutes or less I was so involved in that digital world that my mind had thought I had dropped something in real-life.

These are just some of the examples of reactions I have had in virtual reality. Who knows how gaming will change in the future, but I look forward to more innovation as the years go on. What do you think about virtual reality? Have you tried it or would you like to?

“Science isn’t about why! It’s about why not!” Cave Johnson, Portal 2, 2011

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