Interview: What does the industry think about Oculus / Xbox and the future of VR?

(Image Credit: Oculus)

Head of Xbox, Phil Spencer, took attendees by surprise when he took to the stage during Oculus' pre-E3 live stream to announce a partnership between the two huge brands. There are plenty of opinion articles surrounding the announcements - but we thought we would get the thoughts from two people within the VR industry. 

For this interview we spoke to Dan Page, Organiser of the South West VR Conference, and Lukas Roper, Lead Developer at Opposable Games

Sony announced its 'Project Morpheus' VR headset back in March 2014 which left eyes on Microsoft to see what their response would be. Under the stewardship of Spencer, the Xbox team has been taking fewer risks and ensuring that gamers come first before other entertainment features. 

"Microsoft has been looking at AR with the HoloLens - I think they see more enterprise applications with that. VR was maybe viewed as a bit of a gamble. What I think they did was keep a close-eye on Oculus to see if the Rift would eventually become compatible with the Xbox One," says Page.

When it comes to virtual reality, there is no safer bet than industry-leader Oculus. The company has dedicated years of time and money to advancing VR research and breaking down barriers which has prevented its adoption such as latency, vertigo, and eye-strain. This leadership is the reason why Samsung decided to partner with Oculus for their mobile-centric 'Gear VR' headset. 

Oculus is bringing a device with a lot of developer interest to the Xbox which could help foster those important relationships; whilst bringing the premier virtual reality experience to players of the console and Windows 10. In return, Microsoft is shipping their popular Xbox One controller with every Rift headset. 

Ensuring that developers are happy will be Microsoft's key goal here to ensure that the Xbox once again becomes the place where most games choose to be released - as was the case with the Xbox 360. We asked Luke whether the announcements had an effect on his choice to develop Oculus games: 

"Oculus has officially announced a method of input - that was the biggest obstacle to understanding how we approach and design our games. People are going to have different expectations of VR, but achieving 'true' immersion is going to be an interesting challenge. I'm not sure Oculus has solved the movement in a 3D environment - but having a unified form of input should make it much easier to develop experiences for Oculus." 

One of the biggest hurdles is that every game will require a different method of interaction - some titles will be better with physical controls, some with touch, and others with gestures. "If you're playing a racing game you probably don't want to use gestures, but you may want a steering wheel. If you're playing a shooter, you will want something different in your hand," says Page. 

He continues: "A lot of people when I've seen them trying VR will put their hands out expecting to see them in the game - and you want that - but that has been the let-down of VR for the past couple of years because you get the excitement followed by the disappointment." 

At launch, few games are likely to take full advantage of 3D. Most titles will either be viewed in 2D or current games - particularly racers - will be adapted with basic functionality such as the ability to look around the cockpit. We wanted to know how easy the current development kits are to add VR functionality into your current games... 

Roper provides his experience: "We do quite a lot of prototyping and it's all pretty simple to be honest - maybe half a day's work to get a stereoscopic experience running? That's just getting the functionality in there not designing whatever you're doing around the VR functionality." 

Both the consumer version of Oculus Rift and 'Project Morpheus' will launch in early-2016, which is when we should begin to see VR take-off as developers of AAA titles begin to see the technology as less of a risk and more of an opportunity. Strap-on your headsets gamers, this is going to be an exciting year.

What did you think of the announcements made at the Oculus event? Let us know in the comments.

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dirk
15 Jun 2015, 7:35 p.m.

Confirmed my decision to get a Hololens is the right choice.

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