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Hands-on: HTC Vive

The virtual reality race is about the kick off next year and we got our hands on the HTC Vive during the Paris Games Week. The Vive isn’t just a copy of other VR systems such as Oculus or PlayStationVR but really brings some innovating stuff to the table. We entered a little dark room in real life but entered several unbelievable virtual ‘rooms’ thanks to the HTC Vive. Let’s tell you why we’re excited for it!

Playing with some balloons

As said in the introduction, my virtual adventure started during the Paris Games Week. I had an appointment with HTC to test their Vive headset. The demonstration was held in a dark little room with no objects in it; this to create the perfect conditions for virtual rooms of course. The moment the headset was activated, I wasn’t standing in the empty room no more, instead I was standing in a light room filled with virtual billboards including ‘Google’ and ‘YouTube’. The second thing I noticed where the two virtual controllers, which were actually the real HTC Vive controllers that were handed to me. I picked up the controller and I could start inflating balloons using my triggers of the controllers in my hand. By touching the touchpad on my left controller, I could change the color of my balloon. Once the balloon was airborne, I could interact with it, hitting it with my hand resulted in a virtual hit on my virtual balloon. It’s strange how quickly your brain takes this new virtual reality as the real reality.

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Blowing up balloons was a fun introduction to the virtual reality but things really kicked off with the first ‘real demo’; time to dive to the bottom of the ocean!

The ocean demo 

Diving to the bottom of the ocean was something completely different and something I haven’t experienced in any other game. The demo was played on a wrecked ship, surrounded by little fish. I could walk around, by walking around in the real room and I could look where I wanted to look. If I looked at the ground, I saw the old wood of the ship, if I look up; I saw the endless blue of the ocean. It was an amazing experience for sure. The ship and ocean were created with high definition graphics and high-resolution textures; my brain thought the ocean was my real world.

The controller was used to interact with the fish but the demo reached its climax when a huge whale dropped by for a moment. You could really look in his eye and believe it was a real creature. I stepped back when he whipped his tail close to the ship however. The ocean demo was a crazy experience since it was hard to believe the things weren’t real. The human brain believe what it ‘sees’ and at that point, the ocean was my world. Too bad it didn’t last that long and we were forced to jump to the second segment of the demo.

A day in the office 

The second part of the demo took us to a virtual office. The controllers represented my virtual hands. By turning around the controllers, my hands would also turn. Making it easy to once again experience this virtual room as the real one. The tasks in the office were easy but were meant to show the precision of the Vive and controllers. I had to take an empty mug for example, place it under the coffee machine and add some sugar to my coffee. Simple actions but a lot of input was needed to get there. With my right trigger I needed to grab the mug, place it under the machine and drop it by releasing my trigger. Afterwards I needed to once again grab my mug, place it on the desk, grab the sugar, turn my controller upside down and pour sugar into the cup. It’s really impressive that all those inputs work without delay. In real life, I was just messing around with my controllers but it actually felt like I was pouring coffee in my mag.

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Besides that, there were some smaller tasks like eating donuts or gathering files from our desk but every task felt very intuitive and real. It’s hard to explain in words but the office felt like something that would happen in real life. After the office, it was time to be a little more artsy.

They see me painting

The next room that opened up for me was a dark room in which I could paint whatever I wanted. The demo was a bit too short to really exploit all tools but it gave us an idea of what is yet to come. I painted using my right controller and selected different tools and colors using the touchpad of my left controller. I could use regular brushes or more creative ones as smoke or star brushes. My painting appeared right in front of me and I could walk around it, adding details from every angle and creating true 3D painting in an empty room. This was a more creative demo so we didn’t really got much time to see what it’s all about but we’re sure you can create some sick designs using this technology. The precision of the controllers was spot-on; the lines always appeared exactly where I wanted them to appear. A ‘slower’ demo, so the team decided to end the demonstration with a bang.

The zombies are getting closer

The final part of my demo was Zombie shooter ‘Arizona Sunshine’. I could use both controllers (hands) to pick up my guns in the virtual world. Shooting the guns felt natural and it wasn’t hard to shoot down the bottles in the tutorial. To help your aim, the game features a red dot, indicating where your bullet will land. By using your controllers as guns, you aim for the zombies and shoot them down. This isn’t like any other zombie game we’ve played however. Remember you’re playing in virtual reality and zombies can attack from every direction.

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I was shooting two zombies on my left for example and if I turned to the right to check out the environment, a zombie was already running towards me for a kill. Needless to say, it scared the sh*t out of me! Shooting down that zombie was a combination of reflexes and pure survival skills. Later on I got my hands on a shotgun and sub-machine gun, both really inflicted massive damage. The shotgun worked best if I allowed the zombies to come really close to me, shooting them down resulted in a loot of blood everywhere.

The game really felt like the real thing thanks to the subtle and yet important effect. Each time you fired a gun for example, a little light flash blasted in front of your eyes, mirroring the light of a real gun when it’s fired. This and the impact of your bullets, transformed this innocent zombie game into a scary, close-to-real experience.

Conclusion:

The HTC Vive presentation was mind-blowing to put it in simple words. The demonstration showed us, in a short period of time, what the device is capable of. The Vive can create worlds and environments that look like the real deal and it can even create more innovating and creative tools like the drawing tool. Besides that, the library of games that could support this in the future is huge thanks to the support of Steam. We are convinced by its potential and can’t wait to check out a lot more of it when it releases next year!

Got interested in games since I could read. Started with Nintendo but evolved into an all-round gamer. I love all kind of games; triple A games to Indie. If the vibe is right, I'll enjoy playing it.