Is 2016 the year of VR?

Publisher All
Developer
Platform(s) Previewed PS4 PC
Welcome to our first article on a very big deal that is coming this year, as the title suggest VR is making a comeback, but unlike 3D hopes are high that this will have a much longer and loved entrance.

This will be in no small part to the huge work, effort and technical minds behind these new endeavours this year with Sony putting much R&D over the years into its own Morpheus now officially titled the PSVR.

Not only this but one incredibly clever chap by the name of John Carmack has also been recruited by Facebook and the Oculus Rift to get the long in development machine complete and released in 2016.

This is joined by Steams or Valve’s 2 prong approach from its steam machines partnered with various hardware manufacturers it has followed suit with at present only HTC and their new Vive headset..exciting times.

We also have other options in GearVR with mobile and some other less High end aiming machines but for this video I will concentrate on the big 3 and the far, far more important titles that will be spearheading this new leap into helmet wearing gaming in this article.

The most likely biggest question is the age old How Much? And When..will I think I have some answers and where not some educate guesses, so lets take a look at the hardware.

First up in no particular order is the daddy of modern VR Oculus Rift.

Oculus Rift

Launch Date:- June 2016 (E3) Expected

Price:- $599/499/550e

Spec tester for your PC = https://shop.oculus.com/en-us/cart/

Contents:-

Headset, sensor, Oculus Remote, all connecter cables, XboxOne Controller,

EVE:Valkyrie, Lucky’s Tale

Recommended Specs:-

GTX970/R9 290 or better with HDMI 1.3

I5-4590 or better/==

8GB System Ram (no speed set)

3x USB 3.0 + 1 USB 2.0 port (4 free ports in total)

Windows 7 64-Bit or better


Extra = Touch controller allowing dual handed controls with triggers/buttons and analogue sticks on both sides. Allows hand movement with accelerometer’s and other sensors to detect movement. THIS IS AN EXTRA COST

The system itself has 3-axis gyros, accelerometers and magnetometers to handle user head movement and track view.

SPECS

2 x OLED screens (2160x1200 combined resolution) low latency with integrated Audio or can use own headset. Lenses can be adjusted to suit the player. Current DK2 (that I have used) only has 1080p across both eyes. But final system has improved here along with a 1000 Hz adjacent reality tracker to reduce lag in movement tracking.

90Hz current target for games screens may possibly achieve 120Hz refresh-rate

HTC VIVE/STEAM VR

Launch Date:- Expected April 2016 (To be first to market)

Price:- Unknown expect $599-$749 or maybe more if they can


Contents

Headset, sensors which include full 360 degree tracking in room

Recommended Specs likely to be the same as OR:-

GTX970/R9 290 or better with HDMI 1.3

I5-4590 or better/==

8GB System Ram (no speed set)

3x USB 3.0 + 1 USB 2.0 port (4 free ports in total)

Windows 7 64-Bit


Currently this was the most popular in terms of spec and quality, sadly I never got a chance to test it for myself but I will certainly give you a hands on report once I do.

But what do we know. Actual specs now before final confirmation SPECS From developer editions final consumer model may improve as per Oculus Rift

90fps/90Hz 1080x1200 across both eyes which brings it in-line with the OR at 2160/1200 display with the PSVR being 960x1080 per eye

Use own headphones

PSVR (AKA Morpheus)

Launch Date:- April 2016(Q1) (E3)

Price TBC:- Predict $399-$499/299-349pounds/350 Euro

Contents Headset, sensor, Breakout Box (this is smaller than a Wii unlike widely reported as bigger), has external processing but ONLY for VR games and for the distortion for the normal HDMI screen display. All time warping work will be done with the GPU on the PS4.

Allows full 3d tracking and with move sticks both hands can be used in game and position tracked

Recommended Specs:-

PS4, Controller and Move(s) along with camera (eye Toy) for tracking which is the same 1000hz as the OR system

SPECS

5.7” OLED screen split across both eyes gives a 960x1080 for each eye all at 120fps/120Hz 100° FOV

Sound from TV or use own headphones

Latency is quoted as being < 18ms

Now what we have learned is the early targets from both OR and Vive have set the 90Hz level but this may change later/before release and head for the same 120Hz target of Sony’s machine. But with these both having much higher target specs requirements to work this makes the aim to achieve this easier. And this can be expected with PC VR games having much higher requirements and better visuals, this is not saying that what the PSVR will produce is bad, far from it. With its base target of 120fps for all games this does not mean that all games need to hit this level though..this may confuse some. More so when I say that the PC sets can also and will also use these techniques to achieve better visuals and a more consistent and comfortable experience, motion sickness is a real thing.

But what are these techniques and how can this be done, black magic? Wizards…no more technology being used intelligently.The upscale or increase of the framerate is the biggest mystery for these device’s using the hardware and software to predict and reproject the missing info, allow me to explain.


Make it so

Time Warping is the most common which is really leaving the headset position poll until as late as possible. If we use an example of The Assembly that I played at EGX and spoke to the developers who kindly spent time answering them for me and giving me some footage which you can see here and I can use for this demo.

They (at the time at least) are hitting a native render time of 16.6ms so 60Hz for each new image. Now based on Sony’s 120hz target for all games means this the reprojection method is needed here (although it will run on all games to keep the experience solid and counter for any pipeline discrepancies).


Now with the target being half of the needed 8ms budget each new image needs by a clean 50% so it needs to achieve 2x this rate. This means that for every second frame the method has to create new image based on the fully rendered previous frame and the poll from the new head position. The pixels are then warped using this algorithm to shift based on the new movement and the data from the previous frame. The thing to remember is that for this example every second frame will be generated using reprojected information. So the system must have a mid-point lock step that mixes the previous frame with the most recent poll from the player to fill in the gaps and present the final image. To go in-depth here is not relevant but it will be one that I will most certainly delve into.

But not all games will have this large leap and some may be at or nearer the 120Hz target which means the system can be used to mask the deficit of the missing information and could be managed within the full render stage.Now by knowing how long the scene will take to render means that you can poll the movement very late into the render stage. With Post effects being a known quantity before this is done, we will say that 2ms of the total 16ms budget are needed to render the post effects so at the 14ms time slot (within the render stay with me here) the poll request checks the new position and takes the created image and shifts the objects by reprojecting from its rendered location and where it would be now. This would and should only be small regions as a human head would not move as quickly as a gaming mouse for example. To simplify this here let’s say this screen moved 2 feet in game from render information but I had moved my head 3 feet, then a motion blur could be added to the object at both ends to extend this or the objects could all shift a foot or a few hundred pixels to compensate. Now this would only work with this kind of movement and with the 60fps being a minimum natural rate every game will need means that diminishing returns helps this as the difference between 60Hz to 120Hz is visibly smaller and thus noticeable than the jump from 30hz to 60hz.

But all this tech aside how do they play and what kind of experience can we expect from these, well I can give you some info on 2 games I played on the OR and the PSVR at EGX.


Eyes Up

I played the Heist with the VR, first experience was great the headset fitted well with no real “leakage” that you get from some and the comfort was high, display clear and none of the mesh behind a fly screen look that the DK2 gave me although I am sure this has been resolved for the final release. The fit is good and allows a good level of comfort, but I never found the OR unconformable.

The game was a driving section within a truck as you escape the heist being chased by the police. The driving is taken care of for you with your partner in crime, leaving you free to take out the persuading horde. Armed with an Uzi you shoot at the cars, vans and Choppers as they try to stop your escape. Aiming was easy with the move stick in my right hand I could aim and see my virtual hand and then when I ran out of bullets I reloaded by bringing the 2 sticks together and the action causing the reload to shoot.

The display and visuals are very good and clean with the screens working very well and delivering a really crisp display. Motion was very smooth with no real lag issues as I looked around the interior of the cab as the motorway flyovers zipped past, the feeling of being in a genuine chase was superb and although I would not like to spend long periods of time in any VR environment the sheer fun factor and experience for around hour or so blasts are going to be superb. And where it will really come alive is with friends taken care of the breakout box that all PSVR’s will come with and the OR and Vive options will also allow the display back to the screen so that others can enjoy your experience.

In terms of this The Deep was a demo I wanted and will look forward to trying as that will work well and I hope comes with the device, as we have seen with Oculus Rift horror and jump scares work well.

But with my other game that I tried here on the Oculus Rift device was the Institute that looks to merge the horror suspense vide with an intriguing premise that I enjoyed. The demo consisted of you being strapped into a chair as you are delivered inside your new place of work. A secret facility deep in the Arizona desert, check out my look at this games with my more in-depth video which includes some direct footage and a short interview I conducted with the developers last year. It is certainly on my list of VR games to look for this year, as it will be available at launch on all 3 main contenders at launch.

But it is these games and more that we can look forward to and we have compiled our Top 10 VR games to hit these machines over this year and possibly next so please check that out along with all our other content.

Other articles you may enjoy
#
What will power the PS4K, XboxNext and Nintendo NX?
Times have certainly changed, with digital games now being a much larger portion of game sales now.…
#
What is Resolution? A deep dive into some techniques in use
It seems that Remedy and the XboxOne have been at the heart of another scandal after its latest…
#
Pro Evolution Soccer Review
As Konami celebrates 20 years of PES we are treated to its finest, most in-depth version yet across…