All posts by Daniel

VRecap #5: Void Meets Avengers, Sony Buys Insomniac, Win The Tower 2!

Get yourself out of Gamescom, find a quiet spot with decent WiFi and dig in; VRecap #5 is here!

Even without throwing in our recent trip to Germany, it’s been heck of a busy week. First up, Sony acquired one of the biggest VR developers out there, Insomniac Games. They did games like The Unspoken and the upcoming Stormland, exclusively for the Oculus Rift. What does that mean for the developer’s existing relationship with Oculus? Could we see Insomniac on PSVR? Oh the possibilities!

Elsewhere, we’ve got an update from The Void that confirms the company is working with both Marvel and Sony Pictures on new location-based VR projects. Perhaps they’ll create a reality where Spider-Man is still in the MCU?

Too soon? Sorry.

Oh and, yes, we’ve been to Gamescom! We’ve got a quick preview of our adventures in Cologne this episode before we round up the week’s releases. We saw a heck of a lot of VR games out there, so keep an eye out for a bunch of previews heading your way over the next week or so. In fact we’ve already got a few ready for you, like Iron Man VR and Espire 1!

As for the competition, this week we’re offering up free copies of The Tower 2. This VR obstacle course makes full use of room scale tracking and gives you quite a workout. If you want to be in with a chance of winning, just follow this link.

Okay, time to get out of here and enjoy the weekend. What are you going to be diving into this weekend?

The post VRecap #5: Void Meets Avengers, Sony Buys Insomniac, Win The Tower 2! appeared first on UploadVR.

No Man’s Sky VR PC Review: Fully-Realized Virtual Universe

No Man’s Sky VR support has officially arrived in the Beyond Update and we’ve got our fully finalized official review for the PC version of the game right here. 

Every game of No Man’s Sky begins both exactly the same and completely differently for each person. New players always awake on a strange, unfamiliar planet with nothing but a space suit and displaced spaceship awaiting repairs with the guidance to follow an identical set of instructions to get up and running — it’s the same, but different.

You see, No Man’s Sky is built on top of Hello Games’ ambitious procedural generation system that crafts billions of planets across millions of star systems and simulates plants, animals, terrain, alien species, economies, and more throughout the entire universe as a whole. Initially released three years ago, No Man’s Sky has evolved over the years and dramatically improved itself up until now, the Beyond Update, which is officially 2.0 for the non-VR version. With this update comes a revamped multiplayer experience, tons of new game mechanics like creature taming and expanded base building, and most importantly, complete VR support. At least, the 1.0 edition of VR as Sean Murray from Hello Games puts it.

Video Version Of The Review:

The premise alone for No Man’s Sky is almost too good to be true, especially when you add VR support into the mix, and that’s probably why it’s taken over three years post-launch to get to this point. This is a game in which you can explore a vast, massive planet full of unique flora and fauna, go mining, dig caves, explore underwater, terraform, build bases, and uncover ancient relics — then take off and fly to another planet or solar system and do it all over again without ever hitting a loading screen. It’s remarkable. And seeing it all from inside of a VR headset is a rare kind of escapism I haven’t seen executed this well before.

I’m frankly envious of someone that can don a VR headset for the first time and experience a game like this as their introduction to the medium. There is so much to do and see it will likely sour the taste of future experiences. Even though I could be considered a VR veteran at this point, it still caught me by surprise just how staggering the sense of scale was or the illusion of presence as I stood on my starting planet, stranded and alone. It’s the difference between wanting to finish the tutorial so you can get to the real game and wanting to find the necessary resources to keep surviving. It’s a connected universe that feels much larger than just a game.

Truth be told No Man’s Sky is a bit like several games jammed together into one package. While there is a main storyline about aliens, ancient civilizations, and solving mysteries, that’s far from the point of it all. This is basically, “it’s not the destination that matters, it’s the journey” boiled down into a video game. The sense of discovery is so ingrained into No Man’s Sky’s DNA that players can rename everything they discover from planets and solar systems to animals and flora.

no man's sky water planet island

With that ambition though, to let No Man’s Sky offer a bit of everything, is the caveat that none of the individual pieces are as refined or as deep as they could be. I wouldn’t go so far as to say it’s as vast as an ocean and as deep as a puddle, but there are whiffs of that notion throughout. For example, combat is about a bare bones as it gets — especially on foot. You point and shoot your mining beam for rudimentary attacks early on or point and shoot your boltcaster and other weapons you’ll eventually unlock later in the game. There isn’t a stat-based progression system of any kind, no abilities you unlock, it’s just very basic. Obviously you can install new technologies on your exosuit and ship to get that sort of gradual advancement, but it’s rarely combat focused. 

Other aspects like ship and exocraft controls feel very wonky and floaty in VR at first, taking some real getting used to. UI navigation is mostly intuitive with lots of holographic menus that you point at to make selections, but it gets tedious after a few dozen hours. Quick gesture commands in place of hot keys could have helped a lot. And targeting icons when using the Analysis Visor, something that was already tough to do in non-VR at times, is nearly impossible in VR. The lack of a crosshair just makes it painfully frustrating to accurately pick what you want to tag on the horizon when icons are cluttered together.

Hello Games have stopped just short of establishing this as a true MMO, but most of the pieces are here. The whole universe is persistent and players can see your bases on your planets and find things that you’ve named in real-time. If you’re on the same planet as another player at the same time, you’ll probably see them even if you’re not in a “group” together. But you can absolutely link up with friends and go exploring together or visit the new Space Anomaly social hub that includes a Nexus full of group multiplayer missions.

no man's sky vr ship warp drive
no man's sky planet upload centauri

No Man's Sky VR New

Hopefully the networking issues are resolved soon though, because it makes it difficult to enjoy a lot of the new functionality. While playing in a group with friends, there is a weird desyncing issue that pops up where you can see their icon and hear each other like you’re on the same planet, but cannot see each other. Like they exist in a separate but identical dimension. Avatars freeze in place and stop moving forcing a reload as well. Not to mention the slew of bugs that still exist like container items suddenly not letting you interact, your ship spinning in circles instead of landing at the Space Anomaly, or objects and terrain clipping through your base sporadically. 

There are a lot of moving parts here and a lot of those parts are still broken, especially in VR.

The Nexus missions in the new Space Anomaly hub offer great replayable variety with good rewards, too. Hunting down a pack of space pirates as a group, for example, can net well over 200,000 units. Some missions even task you with things such as establishing colonies and outposts on planets or taming creatures.

This is an incredibly dense and complex game. I’ve logged about 40 hours since the VR update released, a bit of which has been outside of VR to compare things, and I still feel like I’ve barely scratched the surface. I’ve still got some base building tutorial missions left uncompleted in my log because I keep getting sidetracked with other activities.

For example, one of my recent livestreams consisted entirely of myself and some friends spending almost three hours setting up a base on a home world I dubbed Upload Centauri. We dug holes into the side of a huge mound of terrain, built the base into the mountain, and snaked it back out the other side so it overhangs like a cliff. You can see it in the image below. We’ve even got a landing pad for ships:

no mans sky mountain base 2

No Man’s Sky is all about diversions like this. You could do any one of a thousand things that may seem trivial or boring at first, and then realize you spent six hours digging holes and stocking up on resources for your next base building expedition. I’ve flown around in space, hunting pirates and blowing up asteroids for precious minerals for hours while listening to podcasts and music while inside the headset, like an intergalactic bounty hunter. I’ve also sat in my cockpit while acid rain pours down with my eyes closed, relaxing, while I listen to the droplets bounce off the glass. 

When playing No Man’s Sky in VR it’s easy to not only get lost in terms of finding purpose and direction with what to do next in this nearly infinite procedural sandbox, but to get lost mentally as well; to lose yourself and forget about reality. It’s an overwhelming and captivating feeling that amplifies everything else the game does so well. 

There are just so many things to do and see it’s hard to summarize my thoughts and experiences, let alone articulate the breadth of it all.

As far as VR ports are concerned, No Man’s Sky is head and shoulders above its peers in terms of pure functionality. Performance issues aside, they’ve done tremendous work to get the game running and feeling “right” inside a headset. Everything from the inventory interactions, terraforming planets, driving vehicles, flying ships, shooting guns, building bases, and more is completely changed to fully support VR motion controllers. I’d even go so far as to say that building bases, manipulating terrain, and mining resources feels better than it does in non-VR mode because of the spatial awareness and 3D presence offered in a headset.

One of the most intuitive parts of it all is the wrist-based menu system that has you point at your wrist to pull up holograms of components for building or even a tiny hologram of your ship prior to summoning it. Reaching out with your hands and pointing feels extremely natural, albeit a bit clunky for some things. It’d be nice if there was a single gesture or button that opened your inventory since you spend so much time looking at it instead of having to twist your wrist and laser point at the right spot each time first.

Comfort

Comfort options are pretty standard in No Man’s Sky. You can switch between both smooth and teleport-based locomotion as well as both snap and smooth turning. There’s also a field of view dimmer. On PC it’s currently motion controllers only, but hopefully gamepad and/or mouse and keyboard will be added. Technically you can move around the room while playing on PC for roomscale, but if you get too far away from the “center” of the play space it asks you to return or recenter manually. There are plenty of options to keep No Man’s Sky as comfortable as possible while playing, but the real bottleneck so far on PC has been performance.

Speaking of performance issues, there are a lot of them right now still even over a week after launch. We’ve tested the game out on everything from a 980Ti and 1080 all the way up to RTX 2080 cards on Rift S, Valve Index, and other headsets and none of them really perform that well. There are lots of framerate issues and stuttering. It’s still very playable, but pales in comparison to the non-VR experience in terms of stability. Thankfully, most of the crashing issues appear to be resolved already with stability patches releasing nearly every day.

If you adjust the settings and take some extra steps to optimize things it runs decently well, but trying to stream or capture at the same time from a single PC introduces more chugging than any other VR game I’ve ever played. But when it does work and it all comes together to offer something smooth and enjoyable — it’s remarkable.

For the sake of this review I played only the PC VR version using a Rift S, but you can see a side-by-side graphics comparison in the video above. It’s the same game at its core, but the controls and visuals are obviously very different. You can read Jamie’s PSVR-focused review soon for more on the differences.

No Man's Sky VR New 2

No Man’s Sky VR PC Final Verdict

No Man’s Sky is very much more than the sum of its parts. When looked at under a microscope individually, each element can show significant blemishes with plenty of room to be more polished, more dynamic, and more expansive, but to focus too intently on the moving parts and not take it in as a collection of its immersive ambitions would be missing the point. Performance issues and some non-game breaking bugs aside, to appreciate what makes No Man’s Sky VR so special is to appreciate the underlying appeal of VR as a medium. They’re both about exploring a vast, endless sea of fantastical destinations. They’re both about embodiment and unrivaled immersion. And above all else they’re both about becoming who you want to be by exploring the far corners of seemingly limitless potential.

When No Man’s Sky VR is clicking, and that’s the vast majority of the time, it’s unlike anything else out there. Sean Murray called it the “perfect kind of sci-fi dream” and I find it hard to disagree.


No Man’s Sky is available with optional VR support on both PC and PS4. This review is specifically focused on the PC version using an Oculus Rift S. For more on how we arrived at this score, read our review guidelines.

And for more on No Man’s Sky VR, read our guides on base building, changing your appearance, and getting started with beginner info from a VR perspective. Or you can read our detailed interview with Sean Murray himself.

You can read our PSVR-focused version of this review here.

Editor’s Note: Due to the game’s scope and size, this article was originally published as a review-in-progress on August 16th, 2019. It was updated and expanded with significantly more detail and a final verdict, with a score, on August 23rd, 2019.

The post No Man’s Sky VR PC Review: Fully-Realized Virtual Universe appeared first on UploadVR.

No Man’s Sky PSVR Review: Fully-Realized (But Blurrier) Virtual Universe

No Man’s Sky VR support has officially arrived in the Beyond Update and we’ve got our fully finalized official review for the PSVR version of the game right here. 

Every game of No Man’s Sky begins both exactly the same and completely differently for each person. New players always awake on a strange, unfamiliar planet with nothing but a space suit and displaced spaceship awaiting repairs with the guidance to follow an identical set of instructions to get up and running — it’s the same, but different.

You see, No Man’s Sky is built on top of Hello Games’ ambitious procedural generation system that crafts billions of planets across millions of star systems and simulates plants, animals, terrain, alien species, economies, and more throughout the entire universe as a whole. Initially released three years ago, No Man’s Sky has evolved over the years and dramatically improved itself up until now, the Beyond Update, which is officially 2.0 for the non-VR version. With this update comes a revamped multiplayer experience, tons of new game mechanics like creature taming and expanded base building, and most importantly, complete VR support. At least, the 1.0 edition of VR as Sean Murray from Hello Games puts it.

The premise alone for No Man’s Sky is almost too good to be true, especially when you add VR support into the mix, and that’s probably why it’s taken over three years post-launch to get to this point. This is a game in which you can explore a vast, massive planet full of unique flora and fauna, go mining, dig caves, explore underwater, terraform, build bases, and uncover ancient relics — then take off and fly to another planet or solar system and do it all over again without ever hitting a loading screen. It’s remarkable. And seeing it all from inside of a VR headset is a rare kind of escapism I haven’t seen executed this well before.

I’m frankly envious of someone that can don a VR headset for the first time and experience a game like this as their introduction to the medium. There is so much to do and see it will likely sour the taste of future experiences. Even though I could be considered a VR veteran at this point, it still caught me by surprise just how staggering the sense of scale was or the illusion of presence as I stood on my starting planet, stranded and alone. It’s the difference between wanting to finish the tutorial so you can get to the real game and wanting to find the necessary resources to keep surviving. It’s a connected universe that feels much larger than just a game.

Truth be told No Man’s Sky is a bit like several games jammed together into one package. While there is a main storyline about aliens, ancient civilizations, and solving mysteries, that’s far from the point of it all. This is basically, “it’s not the destination that matters, it’s the journey” boiled down into a video game. The sense of discovery is so ingrained into No Man’s Sky’s DNA that players can rename everything they discover from planets and solar systems to animals and flora.

With that ambition though, to let No Man’s Sky offer a bit of everything, is the caveat that none of the individual pieces are as refined or as deep as they could be. I wouldn’t go so far as to say it’s as vast as an ocean and as deep as a puddle, but there are whiffs of that notion throughout. For example, combat is about a bare bones as it gets — especially on foot. You point and shoot your mining beam for rudimentary attacks early on or point and shoot your boltcaster and other weapons you’ll eventually unlock later in the game. There isn’t a stat-based progression system of any kind, no abilities you unlock, it’s just very basic. Obviously you can install new technologies on your exosuit and ship to get that sort of gradual advancement, but it’s rarely combat focused. 

Other aspects like ship and exocraft controls feel very wonky and floaty in VR at first, taking some real getting used to. UI navigation is mostly intuitive with lots of holographic menus that you point at to make selections, but it gets tedious after a few dozen hours. Quick gesture commands in place of hot keys could have helped a lot. And targeting icons when using the Analysis Visor, something that was already tough to do in non-VR at times, is nearly impossible in VR. The lack of a crosshair just makes it painfully frustrating to accurately pick what you want to tag on the horizon when icons are cluttered together.

Hello Games have stopped just short of establishing this as a true MMO, but most of the pieces are here. The whole universe is persistent and players can see your bases on your planets and find things that you’ve named in real-time. If you’re on the same planet as another player at the same time, you’ll probably see them even if you’re not in a “group” together. But you can absolutely link up with friends and go exploring together or visit the new Space Anomaly social hub that includes a Nexus full of group multiplayer missions.


no man's sky vr ship warp drive
no man's sky planet upload centauri
No Man's Sky VR New

Hopefully the networking issues are resolved soon though, because it makes it difficult to enjoy a lot of the new functionality. While playing in a group with friends, there is a weird desyncing issue that pops up where you can see their icon and hear each other like you’re on the same planet, but cannot see each other. Like they exist in a separate but identical dimension. Avatars freeze in place and stop moving forcing a reload as well. Not to mention the slew of bugs that still exist like container items suddenly not letting you interact, your ship spinning in circles instead of landing at the Space Anomaly, or objects and terrain clipping through your base sporadically. 

There are a lot of moving parts here and a lot of those parts are still broken, especially in VR.

The Nexus missions in the new Space Anomaly hub offer great replayable variety with good rewards, too. Hunting down a pack of space pirates as a group, for example, can net well over 200,000 units. Some missions even task you with things such as establishing colonies and outposts on planets or taming creatures.

This is an incredibly dense and complex game. I’ve logged about 40 hours since the VR update released, a bit of which has been outside of VR to compare things, and I still feel like I’ve barely scratched the surface. I’ve still got some base building tutorial missions left uncompleted in my log because I keep getting sidetracked with other activities.

no mans sky psvr screenshot 1

No Man’s Sky is all about diversions like this. You could do any one of a thousand things that may seem trivial or boring at first, and then realize you spent six hours digging holes and stocking up on resources for your next base building expedition. I’ve flown around in space, hunting pirates and blowing up asteroids for precious minerals for hours while listening to podcasts and music while inside the headset, like an intergalactic bounty hunter. I’ve also sat in my cockpit while acid rain pours down with my eyes closed, relaxing, while I listen to the droplets bounce off the glass. 

When playing No Man’s Sky in VR it’s easy to not only get lost in terms of finding purpose and direction with what to do next in this nearly infinite procedural sandbox, but to get lost mentally as well; to lose yourself and forget about reality. It’s an overwhelming and captivating feeling that amplifies everything else the game does so well. 

There are just so many things to do and see it’s hard to summarize my thoughts and experiences, let alone articulate the breadth of it all.

As far as VR ports are concerned, No Man’s Sky is head and shoulders above its peers in terms of pure functionality. Performance issues aside, they’ve done tremendous work to get the game running and feeling “right” inside a headset. Everything from the inventory interactions, terraforming planets, driving vehicles, flying ships, shooting guns, building bases, and more is completely changed to fully support VR motion controllers. I’d even go so far as to say that building bases, manipulating terrain, and mining resources feels better than it does in non-VR mode because of the spatial awareness and 3D presence offered in a headset.

One of the most intuitive parts of it all is the wrist-based menu system that has you point at your wrist to pull up holograms of components for building or even a tiny hologram of your ship prior to summoning it. Reaching out with your hands and pointing feels extremely natural, albeit a bit clunky for some things. It’d be nice if there was a single gesture or button that opened your inventory since you spend so much time looking at it instead of having to twist your wrist and laser point at the right spot each time first.

Comfort

Comfort options are pretty standard in No Man’s Sky. You can switch between both smooth and teleport-based locomotion as well as both snap and smooth turning. There’s also a field of view dimmer. On PSVR you can use both PS Move controllers and the DualShock 4 controller at any time, freely. A good method is to stand with Moves while out of a vehicle and then sit with DualShock when inside of a vehicle. Technically you can move around the room while playing, but if you get too far away from the “center” of the play space it asks you to return or recenter manually. There are plenty of options to keep No Man’s Sky as comfortable as possible while playing, but the real bottleneck on PSVR is the visual difference.

No Man’s Sky PSVR Final Verdict

No Man’s Sky is very much more than the sum of its parts. When looked at under a microscope individually, each element can show significant blemishes with plenty of room to be more polished, more dynamic, and more expansive, but to focus too intently on the moving parts and not take it in as a collection of its immersive ambitions would be missing the point. Performance issues and some non-game breaking bugs aside, to appreciate what makes No Man’s Sky VR so special is to appreciate the underlying appeal of VR as a medium. They’re both about exploring a vast, endless sea of fantastical destinations. They’re both about embodiment and unrivaled immersion. And above all else they’re both about becoming who you want to be by exploring the far corners of seemingly limitless potential.

With regard to the PSVR version specifically, it’s no small miracle that the game runs on Sony’s headset at all. But the game takes a significant hit in the visuals department. Planets and space stations are really blurry, which is a massive shame for a game all about exploration. You can also expect longer load times when first booting the game up. The game is still entirely playable, but there’s no question that the PC VR version is the superior of the two. There’s currently no difference between the standard version of the game on PS4 and the PS4 Pro, so there’s hope that Hello Games could improve the latter version later on.


No Man’s Sky is available with optional VR support on both PC and PS4. This review is specifically focused on the PSVR version using a standard PS4. For more on how we arrived at this score, read our review guidelines.

And for more on No Man’s Sky VR, read our guides on base building, changing your appearance, and getting started with beginner info from a VR perspective. Or you can read our detailed interview with Sean Murray himself.

You can read our PC VR-focused version of this review right here.

The post No Man’s Sky PSVR Review: Fully-Realized (But Blurrier) Virtual Universe appeared first on UploadVR.

Oculus’ Head of Mobile Max Cohen Departs Facebook

It appears another high-profile Oculus executive has left the Facebook-owned company. Max Cohen, an early key member of the Oculus team and VP of mobile, has left the company earlier this week, as first reported by Variety.

Cohen joined the Oculus back in 2014 just weeks before Facebook acquired the VR startup for $2 billion. During his five years at the company, Cohen led the Gear VR program in partnership with Samsung and also led the development of the Oculus Go. In addition, he started the initial work on the Oculus Quest, which proved to be a significant milestone for the company and its mobile VR efforts. According to Cohen’s LinkedIn profile, his role at the Facebook-owned company “was variously the Oculus Head of Mobile, Head of Oculus Product for Mobile and Platform, and Head of AR/VR Media Product.”

The news of Cohen’s departure comes just one week after Oculus co-founder, Nate Mitchell, announced that he exited the company. Mitchell was the last of the original Oculus co-founders still working on VR at Facebook.

While Facebook declined to comment on Cohen’s decision to leave the company, his LinkedIn profile now currently lists his occupation as “explorer”, and states that he is “pursuing learning new skills incubating ideas.”

The post Oculus’ Head of Mobile Max Cohen Departs Facebook appeared first on Oculus VR News.

Hands-on: ‘Down the Rabbit Hole’ is a Delightful Miniature Wonderland Filled with Puzzles

Cortopia Studios, the Stockholm-based team behind the spellcasting combat game Wands (2016), showed off their next entry into the realm of VR at Gamescom 2019 this week. Called Down the Rabbit Hole, I got a chance to go hands-on with the third-person adventure game, which tasks you with solving a variety of puzzles while leading a lost girl through a miniature world inspired by Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland (1865).

Strapping on an Oculus Quest, I find myself looking at a two inch-tall pair of characters, a girl (simply called ‘The Girl) and a little playing card-shaped knight, the so-called 4½ of Spades.

Grabbing onto a large root suspended below the scene, I pull the diorama of the dark forest closer to me, and absentmindedly brush my fingers through a river and play with the leaves of the bonzai-sized trees.

Image courtesy Cortopia Studios

The narrator tells me that the plucky duo is searching for something called the King’s Keep on their quest to follow the White Rabbit, and as luck would have it, a tiny Cheshire Cat is there to help.

Much of my 15-minute demo was played in the third-person; character locomotion is achieved by either moving the pint-sized people via Touch’s thumbstick or drawing a path to the desired destination (the latter is especially useful when you have to backtrack through complex pathways). However at times you’ll also snap into a first-person mode too. Walking close to the Cheshire Cat, I’m presented with a dialogue tree populated with a few options to interrogate the curious kitty.

Image captured by Road to VR

If you know your lore, you’ll remember that Cheshire Cat is pathologically incapable of answering straight forward questions though, so he instead saddles us with the important task of rounding up five pesky butter-flies—literal sticks of butter with wings, which is the overarching task for the demo.

Although I say ‘most’ of the game is in third-person, I can’t really be sure of that from what I’ve played. As with dialogue trees, some of the puzzles I encountered were actually in the first-person too, so it feels like there’s going to be plenty of latitude for interesting and varied interactions between the two.

Ambling my characters separately through a few adjacent rooms to complete some door puzzles—all of it in service of those hidden butter-flies—it becomes clear to me that it’s actually I who is down the rabbit hole. The numerous dioramas eventually create a cylinder around me, and the black void above and below me keeps revealing more and more little rooms stacked on top of each other. Using the same locomotion method as when I leaned in to get a better look, I shift the world around me and climb around by using the many roots as handholds.

 

Eventually we run into more familiar faces, including the hookah-smoking Caterpillar himself, and a pretty suspicious-looking King, who is really just a low-numbered card with hastily painted on whiteout and a big ‘K’ scribbled on his chest. That’s some low-key Swedish comedy for you.

Image courtesy Cortopia Studios

The demo’s puzzles, both first and third-person, were fairly simple, although were varied enough to keep my attention. A puzzle with a singing bird and musical set of flowers was the most difficult for me personally, although that’s because every musical instrument I’ve ever laid my fingers on turns to dust and flies out the window in a magical tornado conjured by the ghosts of classical musicians past.

In the end, it appears the game isn’t going to offer a single prescribed ending either, as Cortopia say that you’ll be able to make “many choices about the girl’s backstory” and how you want to deal with the various characters, something they say will ultimately determine the ending of the game.

Down the Rabbit Hole is slated to arrive on PSVR, PC VR headsets, and Oculus Quest sometime in December 2019. Check out the gameplay trailer below to get a taste of what’s in store:

The post Hands-on: ‘Down the Rabbit Hole’ is a Delightful Miniature Wonderland Filled with Puzzles appeared first on Road to VR.

Hands-on: ‘The Wizards – Dark Times’ Brings More Intuitive Spellcasting, Story-based Gameplay & More

Carbon Studio, the Poland-based team behind The Wizards (2018), is bringing a standalone expansion to the series to PC VR headsets early next year called The Wizards – Dark Times?. We got a chance to go hands-on with a 10-minute slice of Dark Times here at Gamescom 2019.

I had an opportunity to pop into the original Wizards back when it arrived on Early Access in 2017, and although the team has since released the full version into the wild, now dubbed The Wizards – Enhanced Edition (2018), I haven’t really had the chance to jump back into the magical realm of Maloira to experience for myself just how enhanced it has become during its year in Early Access. So while I’m not a professed disciple of the series, I can say that on its own merit that the Dark Times demo I played checks some significant boxes in a few departments, the most noticeable of which is its more intuitive spellcasting system and its cohesive and striking visuals.

Moreover, the game is said to be more of a linear adventure and less arena-based, offering what Carbon calls a “short but lore-rich story from Meliora’s chronicles,” making it less of a points-driven wave shooter and more of a proper dungeoning experience, replete with its own story line.

The demo (played on Rift S) plopped me into a post-tutorial level, giving me a few spells at my disposal, including gesture-based spells such as fireballs, frostbow, throwable ethereal shields, and a force push that can knock down enemies.

 

Although this sounds pretty similar to the old system, Dark Times is also bringing secondary functions to many of its spells. For example, the frostbow can be transformed into two powerful frost-spears by simply bringing your hands apart.

What is radically different about Dark Times though is these spells do elemental damage more in line with standard RPGs, i.e. an ice attack can freeze an enemy in its path so you can transition to a more powerful spell to deal more damage. Mixing the elemental spells is also more intuitive too: freezing an enemy with a few frost-arrows or well placed frost-spear will freeze them, and a fire spell will again release them.

 

It gets a little more complicated than that though, as it also depends on which environment you’re in at any given time. If you’re sloshing around in a wet spot along the path?, enemies standing in water will automatically become resistant to fire magic, but also be more vulnerable to lightning spells too. You can replicate this vulnerability at any time by freezing an enemy, lighting them on fire (which makes them wet) and then shocking them with a lightning spell—something that provides a little more realism and solidity to the world.

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The studio maintains that all of the game’s spells have been reworked to play different roles in typical combat situations, which in end effect aims to get players to think more tactically about the spells they should use, and not continuously mashing the same ones over and over.

Besides the spells themselves, which did feel simple and reliable to use, I was also pretty impressed by the visual side of things too. In comparison to the studio’s previous titles Alice VR (2016) and the Early Access version of The Wizards, Carbon seems to really be hitting their stride with Dark Times, as lighting, textures, art direction, voice actors, and overall performance are all pretty much on point. Of course, a 10-minute demo can only reveal so much, although it looks like the standalone continuation of the series has really puts its best foot forward here.

The Wizards – Dark Times? is slated to launch in Q1 2020 on the standard slew of modern SteamVR-compatible VR headsets. Carbon Studio is also planning an Oculus Quest version, and says that a PSVR version is also a future possibility.

The post Hands-on: ‘The Wizards – Dark Times’ Brings More Intuitive Spellcasting, Story-based Gameplay & More appeared first on Road to VR.

‘The Matrix’ Sequel Announced With Roles Reprised by Keanu Reeves & Carrie-Anne Moss

Seminal VR film trilogy, The Matrix, is returning to the big screen once again. The series famous for introducing ‘bullet time’ and expanding the world’s collective imagination regarding the ‘what-ifs’ of virtual reality and AI is coming back to life for a fourth iteration.

A fourth Matrix film is set to be written and directed by Lana Wachowski, one of the original directors, reports Variety. Expected to begin production in 2020, the film will has been confirmed to include the return of Keanu Reeves (as Neo) and Carrie-Anne Moss (as Trinity).

For those out of the loop, The Matrix series prevalently depicts a virtual reality prison in which humans are trapped and fed on by a race of sentient machines. Meanwhile, the unassuming office worker Neo, master hacker Trinity, and shadowy liberator Morpheus establish a human resistance both inside and outside of the virtual program.

With filming for the fourth Matrix film not expected until 2020, it’s not too late to catch up. The original film begins celebrates its 20th anniversary on August 30th and will see anniversary screenings between August 30th and September 8th at over 135 specified AMC ‘Dolby Cinema’ theatres.

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Totalled together, the original Matrix trilogy has topped $1.6 billion at the global box office since the first films release in 1999. It’s uncertain whether the fourth film will exist as a prequel or sequel, given the state of things at the end of the original trilogy, or whether Laurence Fishburne will reprise his role as Morpheus.

While some fans have already been spotted asking around for Warner Bros. Pictures to produce a VR tie-in experience, no such thing has been announced.

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Full Science Schedule Today After Spacewalk and Rocket Launch

NASA astronaut Andrew Morgan
NASA astronaut Andrew Morgan is pictured working outside the International Space Station during a six-hour and 32-minute spacewalk to install the orbiting lab’s second commercial crew vehicle docking port, the International Docking Adapter-3

Russia’s uncrewed Soyuz MS-14 spacecraft is on its way to the International Space Station following its launch just a few hours after Wednesday’s spacewalk. The Expedition 60 crew is back on a full science schedule today and preparing to send a U.S. cargo craft back to Earth.

NASA astronauts Nick Hague and Andrew Morgan called down to Mission Control today to discuss yesterday’s spacewalk when they installed the station’s second commercial crew vehicle docking port, the International Docking Adapter-3. The duo, including NASA Flight Engineer Christina Koch, talked about normal technical issues and task challenges they faced before, during and after the spacewalking job.

Koch spent most of Thursday tending to lab mice living aboard the station. Scientists seek therapeutic insights not possible on Earth by observing the rodents due to their genetic similarity to humans.

Hague spent a portion of his day contributing to experiments designed by middle and high school students researching a variety of space phenomena. Luca Parmitano of ESA (European Space Agency) continued exploring ways to manufacture safer, more fuel-efficient tires before moving on to more cell differentiation research.

Morgan is preparing the SpaceX Dragon cargo craft for its return to Earth next week. The crew will be packing Dragon over the weekend and into Monday with the results of numerous space experiments for analysis. Robotics controllers will command the Canadarm2 to release Dragon from its grips on Tuesday at 10:42 a.m. EDT. It will splashdown in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of southern California a few hours later for retrieval by SpaceX personnel.

The first unpiloted Soyuz spacecraft launched yesterday from Kazakhstan about nine hours after Hague and Morgan completed their spacewalk. The Soyuz MS-14 is orbiting Earth today headed toward the station following a successful 2.1a booster test during its ascent. Commander Alexey Ovchinin and Flight Engineer Alexander Skvortsov will monitor its automated approach and rendezvous when it docks Saturday to the Poisk module at 1:31 a.m. EDT.

AR App Lets Kids Customize Their Own Prescription Glasses

The future of children’s eyewear is looking bright.

Fitz Frames is a new, modern solution to purchasing glasses for kids. The company, which made its official launch earlier this week, uses AR technology to offer parents of children ages 3-and-up a convenient and accessible method for customizing kids sunglasses and prescription eyewear.

“Nearly 20 million kids in the U.S. need prescription glasses, but the options available are limited and don’t reflect the unique personalities of our children,” said Fitz Frames Co-CEO Gabriel Schlumberger in an official release. “We are excited to offer kids and parents customized, 3D-printed glasses that are fun, stylish, and most importantly made specifically for them.”

The app starts by measuring the child’s face using an AR filter, analyzing the dimensions of their individual expression in order to provide a proper fit. Once scanned, kids can then “try on” a catalog of face-tracking augmented frames from a variety of angles. Currently, Fitz Frames offers six frame shapes in eight different colors.

Once they’ve settled on a pair they like, Fitz Frames 3D prints the frames to match the child’s specific measurements and sends them directly to your address. This removes the hassle of going to the store and trying on tons of glasses with an easily distracted kiddo.

Image Credit: Fitz Frames

Founder and Co-CEO Heidi Hertel, who has three kids herself, was inspired to launch Fitz Frames after experiencing her own struggles buying and replacing her kids’ glasses.

“When something happens to a kid’s glasses, solid replacement options are extremely limited.  You can not simply saunter into your local department store and purchase an off-the-rack option,” Hertel said. “Even once you find an optometrist, the kid’s selection will be very limited. If you don’t have an identical pair to what they are used to, it can be really difficult for kids to adjust to something different on their faces.”  

Image Credit: Fitz Frames

“Not only will they often have to wait a week for glasses,” she continues, “they will also be dealing with the grief of losing the pair they loved and the image they have of themselves with the glasses they put on every day.” 

To resolve this turmoil, Fitz Frames offers both a one-time purchase option for $95 a frame, as well as a subscription service starting at $185/yr that includes replacements and prescription sunglasses.

Image Credit: Fitz Frames

“They’re expensive, they break, they’re frequently lost or they just don’t fit their little faces properly,” Hertel said. “We’re thrilled to finally be able to offer parents a convenient solution that enables kids to see the world more clearly.”

The Fitz Glasses app is available to download for free on iOS.

Featured Image Credit: Fitz Frames

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Fortum Nuclear Power Plant Uses VR For Control Room Training

Fortum looks to VR to provide cost-effective training for its operators.

VR is quickly becoming the go-to training solution for a growing number of industries. So far we’ve seen the technology used to enhance medical training, educate employees on critical soft-skills, even prepare store associates for major holiday shopping events. Just recently, Walmart employees credited their VR training as having helped them stay alive during the horrendous El Paso shooting that took place earlier this month.

When it comes to training for dangerous situations, VR allows you to learn and fail without the fear of real-world consequences. This is why Fortum, one of the largest nuclear power generation companies in the Nordics, has begun using VR technology at its Lovissa production site as a way to train employees in how to handle a variety of potentially deadly situations that could happen within the control room.

Fortum’s Loviisa production plant / Image Credit: Fortum

The VR training program uses a Varjo VR-1 headset to deliver immersive training to power plant employees scenarios that range from basic day-to-day work routines, such as monitoring displays, to full-blown life-threatening emergencies. 

Program Lead Joakim Bergroth, an expert in human factor engineering with 10 years of experience in the nuclear power industry who leads the program for Fortum, told TechHQ, “In safety-critical environments and process industries, human errors can lead to serious accidents and production losses.” 

When it came to choosing a VR headset, Bergroth said the Varjo VR-1 was able to deliver an experience that he’s never been able to get with any other off-the-shelf VR headset, saying, “I was actually able to read manuals and distinguish the smallest digits from a control room display during a VR simulation.”

This level of detail is made possible thanks to Varjo’s use of foveated rendering, a technique that reduces rendering workload by tracking the user’s eyes and decreasing the visual quality of everything in their peripheral vision.

Obviously, when it comes to nuclear power plants, work precision is critical. The slightest error could be costly, with the potential to impact millions of people; therefore the training needs to be just as precise.

In-headset comparison of the HTC Vive Pro and Varjo VR-1 / Image Credit: Varjo

A big benefit of VR training is that it is cost-effective for the company. Training in VR is less expensive than training in a physical room because you can get more employees through the training faster. “Physical simulators are usually fully booked, which doesn’t leave much time for additional testing or evaluations,” said Bergroth. Data shows that employees retain more information through VR training in less time, which opens up opportunities for follow up discussions and enhanced training.

Fortum’s VR training room is located at its site in Loviisa, Finland, where 90 percent of the employees have already completed the training. VR training will soon launch at other control room locations for other employees.

Featured Image Credit: Sky UK Ltd ©, HBO

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