The second Oculus Connect 2 conference in Los Angeles didn't have as much to reveal about Oculus Rift in terms of pricing and official release date, however that doesn't mean the company has been idly sitting by.
In addition to perfecting the VR hardware, there's been a huge focus on pushing out content for the head mounted display.
The official addition of 360-degree videos to Facebook timeline means there will be more to watch. Oculus also announced that Minecraft is heading to virtual reality on both the Rift and Samsung Gear VR, along with a slew of arcade games.
Various studios have been diligently developing games to use with the Oculus Touch controllers since they were revealed in June. While not available at E3, Connect 2 had eight games for everyone to try out.
FPS lovers, meet Oculus Touch
The last time I used Oculus Rift and the Touch controllers, only Toybox was available to mess around with in the virtual space. Though still rough, it was an impressive experience.
During Oculus Connect 2, there were eight games to choose from but sadly, demo time only allowed two play throughs.
I wasn't able to upload many photos because most of them were blurry messes. The games I played had me moving around too much for the demo giver to take a solid picture. While it's unfortunate there aren't more pictures of me looking silly, it should tell you just how fun the games are. In comparison to Toybox which was basically a teaser of Touch's abilities, these games were action packed and very well made - though still not exactly ready.
The first one I played was Dead & Buried which was developed by the Oculus Studio Team. It's a wild west shooting gallery that progressively gets more difficult as you go. After pulling a lever on the right with your Oculus Touch hand, a cowboy ghost pops up to give a tutorial. A six shooter then appears holstered on your right hip. I had a hard time unholstering it because the controller wouldn't register what I was trying to grab. The further I turned to look with the Rift, the further away the gun appeared. I felt like a dog chasing its tail in circles, unable to catch it.
After this awkward moment passed and I finally made contact with the gun, the rest of the game went pretty smoothly. You end up with two guns - both six shooters that need to be reloaded by flicking your wrist to empty the chambers, then flicking back again for bullets. There are stationary targets and moving targets to shoot with the last bit of the demo providing a speeding train with targets to shoot at.
Though super fun, playing Dead & Buried felt like a warm up for Epic Games' first person shooter, Bullet Train. Apparently the "it" demo to try, I was eager to see what the buzz was all about. This game is the reason there are no good pictures of me with the Touch controller - it was far too fast paced for me to really stand still.
Though you're playing as an invincible character where the bullets don't harm you, the large amount of baddies coming for you is alarming, and exciting. Epic cleverly added the ability to teleport by pressing the X button on the left Touch controller, allowing you to move around. The locations are designated spots next to different guns - shotguns, pistols, assault rifles, grenades. I'm not sure if you'l be able to teleport more freely in the rest of the game or if set destinations are all you've got. I'm hoping it's the former option; the latter makes sense since it was a "training" session in the game but if you can't move around freely, then it feels a bit too limiting.
The auto aim is pretty helpful while you're getting used to the Touch controllers. It's especially cool since you can pluck bullets and missiles from the air to throw back at enemies.
Here's the video of Bullet Train Oculus released at Connect 2.
Oculus is for artists too
Medium is the new art-focused, sculpting tool that Oculus will ship with Touch when it launches next year.
CEO Brenden Iribe said every platform needs its own Paint app during the keynote, but he didn't say Medium is Paint on steroids.
This is the video Oculus released for the program.
I wasn't really sure what to expect during my demo so I was pleasantly surprised at how intuitive and fun it is to sculpt with Medium.
The program is still being developed but there were plenty of tools to use. You start with a block of "clay" that can either be a cube or a sphere. From there, you can shape it, take out or add in pieces, smooth it and paint with a large palette of colors. Then you're done, you're able to take a screenshot of your masterpiece. Due to the time constraint (and I guess my lack of artistic talent), mine turned out to be a weird blob.
What Oculus didn't mention during its keynote is that Medium is a social experience. Two people can hang out and build something together - at least that's what I was told during my demo. This was similar to my Toybox experience where two people with Rifts could hang out in VR together. With Medium though, you can create something amazing with another person, reinforcing another concept Oculus is trying to emphasize: that virtual reality doesn't have to be a solo endeavor.
The upcoming gaming titles prove that virtual reality is the perfect haven for gaming, Medium shows that VR can be more than gaming and increasing creation of videos and films allow even more accessibility.
Essentially, Oculus and many other companies are prepping the space as much as they can before the headset launches which is exactly what needs to happen. Nate Mitchell, VP of Product at Oculus, told me that "there's still time" before the Rift launches in Q1, and in that time Oculus will continue to tinker away on the hardware making sure it's ready. He couldn't specify what is still being worked on, but he's confident it will be delivered on time.
I have to say, as much as I want my own Oculus Rift right now, I genuinely appreciate the time and effort Oculus has put into its headset. Every time I use the Rift and Touch controllers, it makes me even more excited for virtual reality. It's apparent there are still bugs to be squashed in the games and the comfort level could be upped for glasses-wearers like me but I'm like Mitchell, I feel like the team will be prepared to deliver come 2016.